Jesus Claimed to Be Equal to Elohim

    Now, let us look as Jesus's claims of divinity using the same method.

The Event or Concept Must Be Important.

    Jesus's claims for himself are critically important. This is especially true if he claimed to be divine. If Jesus claimed to be divine, the New Testament authors would not sweep it under the rug because it would critically alter the person that they are representing. If Jesus did not claim divinity, the honest authors would not and could not invent this claim by embellishing their sources. Even if they were only somewhat honest they could not create this lie. To understand this, we must understand Jewish theology. All of the New Testament quotes the Old Testament (The Hebrew Bible) as authoritative; so we know that the New Testament authors, some of whom were Jews, took Jewish theology very seriously. To Jews, Elohim is the only entity worthy of worship as divine. This is doctrine of the strongest order. This is what makes Jews, Jews. Once a Jew accepts some other person or entity as divine, they cease to be a Jew. This understanding of Jewish theology is clearly visible in both the Old and New Testaments. From the Old Testament, we have the first commandment: "You shall have no other Gods but me" (Ex 20:1-6). We also have "Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone!" (Deut 6:4). From the New Testament, we see that Jesus's claims of divinity are what caused the Jewish leaders to push for his execution. His blasphemy was of the highest order. I will get to the quotes in a moment.

There Must Be General Agreement among The Authors.

    Here, I will initially break the authors into three groups. There are the synoptics: Matthew, Mark, and Luke; there is John's Gospel; and there are the various letters. At first, the synoptic authors appear to be giving very different representations of what Jesus said about himself than John in his Gospel. It is commonly asserted that the Johannean writings make Jesus divine, while the synoptics do not. This is not the case. With honest analysis, we realize that the synoptics and John's Gospel have the same understanding of Jesus. The only real difference is one of style. The synoptics state Jesus's divinity simply and only occasionally. The Gospel of John describes his divinity strongly and frequently. If the Gospel of John never existed, our understanding of Jesus would be much the same, though perhaps more muddled. In order to demonstrate this, I will emphasize what Jesus said in the synoptics and show the similarities in John. Paul and the other letter writers agree with the synoptic authors and John about what Jesus was, but they do not say as much about what Jesus actually said. What Paul and the other letter writers said about Jesus is important; but I will not discuss it much here, because here I am concerned primarily with what Jesus said about himself.

    Note that in future sections, I will not follow the above process so carefully, because the issues are less vital and less surprising after we already accept that Jesus was resurrected and claimed to be divine. However, if there is any particular point that you believe requires more care, I leave that to you as an exercise.

Messiah and The Son of God (Elohim)

    All the Gospel writers are explicit that Jesus presented himself as the Messiah (the king of Israel promised in the Old Testament by God) and the Son of God. The synoptics all have the trial of Jesus before the Sanhedrin, a high Jewish court.

"If you are the Messiah, tell us," but he [Jesus] replied to them, "If I tell you, you will not believe, and if I question, you will not respond. But from this time on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God." They all asked, "Are you then the Son of God?" He replied to them, "You say that I am." Then they said, "What further need have we for testimony? We have heard it from his own mouth." (Lk 22:67-71; parallels in Mt 26:62-65; Mk 14:61-63)

The phrase, "You say that I am," is unclear in current usage, but from the response of the council we have no doubt as to its meaning. It means "You are correct." Notice that they say the Son of God, not a Son of God. The Gospels are uniform on this point. His blasphemy is to claim to be equal to God, as the true Son of God must be. This is why the council immediately wants to kill him.

    John does not say explicitly what happens at the trial, but he does imply that it occurred. See John, chapter 18. However, Jesus does make the divinity and kingship claim explicitly elsewhere in John. In Jn 1:49, he is called the Messiah and the Son of God by Nathaniel. In Jn 20:28, he is called "My Lord and my God!" by Thomas. Jesus confirms this identification in both cases by accepting it without argument. In Jn 5:17-18, some Jews attempt to kill Jesus because he states that he is the Son of God.

    These are not the only examples of when Jesus either refers to himself as the Son of God and the Messiah or accepts that acknowledgement.

He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter said in reply, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." Jesus said to him in reply, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father." (Mt 16:15-17)

Jesus consistently refers to God as his Father, not our Father. See Mt 18:10,19,35, 20:23, 21:33-41, 26:53; Lk 2:49; Mk 14:36; 120 places in John. The quote from Mark is especially telling. Here he refers to God the Father as Abba, which translates to Dad or Papa rather than Father. This implies an intimate relationship with God that only a true son could have. The use of Father for God is rare in the Jewish literature of the time and the use of Abba is non-existent.[*]

    We see now that Jesus claimed explicitly to be the Son of God as well as the Messiah. Either this claim is true, or no man in history deserved to be crucified more than he.

Power to Forgive Sins

    Jesus claims the power to forgive sins, and he supports this with miracles.

They came bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd, they opened up the roof above him. After they had broken through, they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Child, your sins are forgiven." Now some of the scribes were sitting there asking themselves, "Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming. Who but God alone can forgive sins?" Jesus immediately knew in his mind what they were thinking to themselves, so he said, "Why are you thinking such things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise, pick up your mat and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth"– he said to the paralytic, "I say to you, rise, pick up you mat, and go home." He rose, picked up his mat at once, and went away in the sight of everyone. They were all astounded and glorified God, saying, "We have never seen anything like this." (Mk 2:3-12; parallels in Mt 9:2-7; Lk 5:18-26)

This story is not in John. In John, though, John the Baptist says that Jesus takes away the sins of the world; and Jesus accepts this honor (Jn 1:29). Now you may ask, "Why is forgiveness of sins a sign of divinity?" C.S. Lewis said it best:

Now unless the speaker is God, this is really so preposterous as to be comic. We can all understand how a man forgives offences against himself. You tread on my toe and I forgive you, you steal my money and I forgive you. But what should we make of a man, himself unrobbed and untrodden on, who announced that he forgave you for treading on other men's toes and stealing other men's money? Asinine fatuity is the kindest description we should give of his conduct. Yet this is what Jesus did. He told people that their sins were forgiven, and never waited to consult all the other people whom their sins had undoubtedly injured. He unhesitatingly behaved as if He was the party chiefly concerned, the person chiefly offended in all offences. This makes sense only if He really was the God whose laws are broken and whose love is wounded in every sin. In the mouth of any speaker who is not God these words would imply what I can only regard as a silliness unrivalled by any other character in history. (Mere Christianity, Book 2, Chapter 3)

Full Equality with Elohim

    Jesus also made many explicit claims that he was equal to Elohim. Most of these claims are in John and Matthew, but we have already seen so much evidence in Mark and Luke that these claims are to a large degree superfluous. I include them for completeness and to bury you in the evidence.

Then Jesus approached and said to them, "All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age." (Mt 28:18-20)

"I [Jesus] pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for the ones you [Elohim] have given me, because they are yours, and everything of mine is yours and everything of yours is mine, and I have been glorified in them." (Jn 17:9-10)

"All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him." (Mt 11:27)

"No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day. It is written in the prophets:

    'They shall all be taught by God.'

Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father." (Jn 6:44-46)

The father and Jesus are in each other – they are one. (see Jn 10:30-39)

Jesus said we could do nothing of significance without having a right relationship with him. (see Jn 15:1-8)

Jesus spoke of the future church as his church and that they would meet in his name. (see Mt 16:18, 18:20)

To know him was to know God (Jn 8:19, 14:7); to see him was to see God (Jn 12:45, 14:9); to believe in him was to believe in God (Jn 12:44); to receive him was to receive God (Mk 9:37); to hate him was to hate God (Jn 15:23); and to honor him was to honor God (Jn 5:23).


    We now can be sure, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Jesus said that he was the Son of God the Father, with all the rights, privileges, and duties thereof. This is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition to know that Jesus is the Son of God.


[*] Joachim Jeremias, New Testament Theology, p. 66.

This page was last changed on 2011/08/27