In Part 2 of this series, we observed that there are only two categories of the title god in the Bible. There is the category of true God (consisting of Yahweh alone) and false god consisting of everything else. One could be made “like God” or “as a god” to someone else if he is the representative of the true God, but this does not make him a true god by Yahweh’s definition of the term. A true god is worthy of worship, can proclaim the future, and created the universe.
Now, we shall examine Scriptures about Jesus Christ and compare them to Old Testament Scriptures about Yahweh to determine Who Jesus Christ really is. According to Mr. Burch:
“The implication of the phrase ‘Jesus is God’ is that He must somehow be the same being as God the Father. But it is not at all necessary to press this point… The Son of God can be called God because He represents God the Father not because He is somehow the same as the one God.”
This oversimplifies the problem. Trinitarians do not argue that Jesus Christ “is God” and shares the same Being as God the Father simply because of statements about Him being “God” (although there are important passages like this). Trinitarians believe the way they do because of the volume of Scriptures that force such a conclusion. The Islamic apologist constantly demands that Jesus had to have said “I am God, worship me” for them to accept the deity of Christ. Such a statement is not necessary when there are other ways the Scriptures conclude that Jesus Christ clearly “is God.”
Has anyone ever seen God? The Old Testament is full of accounts of people seeing Yahweh.
- Abraham saw Yahweh (Gen. 17:1; 18:1; Act 7:2).
- Yahweh appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Exo. 6:2-3).
- Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and 70 rulers of Israel saw “the God of Israel” (Exo. 24:9-11).
- Isaiah saw Yahweh seated on a throne and surrounded by angels (Isaiah 6:1-3).
There are many others that could be listed. However, we also have this testimony from Yahweh Himself: “Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live” (Exo. 33:20). The Apostle John declared that “No man hath seen God at any time,” but that Jesus Christ has explained (or “exegeted”) Him (John 1:18). Jesus said that the prophets declared that God’s people would all be taught from God, but that no one has seen the Father except Jesus Himself, and that they must believe in Jesus Christ to have eternal life! (John 6:45-47) The Apostle Paul said of God that He dwells in unapproachable light and no one can or has seen Him (1 Tim. 6:16).
What, then, are we to make of these apparent contradictions? How can Yahweh say out of one side of His mouth that people have seen Him, yet say that no one has ever seen Him or is able to see Him? Well, we obviously know that people saw Jesus when He was on earth. The question is, Who did they see? John said that Jesus Christ is the One Who has “exegeted” the Father. Is it possible that when the saints of old saw Yahweh in the Old Testament they were really seeing Jesus?! If Jesus is not Yahweh, how could we make sense of these Scriptures?
“But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him:
That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?
Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again,
He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.
These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him.
Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue:
For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.”
Let’s examine a very potent passage of Scripture. Jesus performed many miracles in the sight of the Jews, including raising Lazarus from the dead after he was dead for four days! Yet, many did not believe on Him because Yahweh declared this through the prophet Isaiah. John quotes both Isaiah 53:1 about the Suffering Servant and Isaiah 6:10 about the reaction of the people to His message.
However, let’s look closely at the context of these quotes–John 12:41. “These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory and spake of him.” Obviously, in both citations from Isaiah, the Person of whom is being spoken is Jesus Christ. The question is, who did Isaiah see?
“In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord [Adonai] sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.
Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.
And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD [Yahweh] of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.”
The context of John’s citation of Isaiah 6:10 is Isaiah’s temple vision of Yahweh seated on the throne. Notice that Isaiah said that he saw the Lord and that the seraphim said that the earth is full of His glory. John said that Isaiah said these things concerning Jesus because he saw His glory and spoke concerning him (auton). The word auton in the Greek demands that the antecedent of the one spoken about is the one of whom Isaiah saw glory. Is John saying that Isaiah saw Jesus in his temple vision? Didn’t Isaiah say that he saw Yahweh? This would seem like an open and shut case. But wait, there’s more!
As I said in Part 2, the Septuagint plays an important role in discerning the Old Testament quotations found in the Greek New Testament. It is clear that the quotation of Isaiah 6:10 comes from the Greek LXX (Septuagint) because the past perfect tenses of the verbs come from the Septuagint rendering rather than from the Hebrew Masoretic text. If that is the case, let’s see how the Septuagint renders Isaiah 6:1 about what Isaiah saw:
“In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.”
–Isaiah 6:1 (KJV translation from the Hebrew Masoretic text)
“And it came to pass in the year in which king Ozias died, [that] I saw the Lord sitting on a high and exalted throne, and the house was full of his glory.”
–Isaiah 6:1 (LXX)
Why is there this difference between the texts? It appears that there is a variant rendering in the Septuagint versus the Hebrew where glory is found filling the temple instead of skirts or train. One possible reason is that a king’s flowing robe could have been referred to as his “glory.” Whatever the reason, knowing that John is quoting from the Septuagint, we see that Isaiah “saw the Lord” and “his glory” all in the very first verse of Isaiah 6! Let’s compare the Greek of Isaiah 6:1 (LXX) with the Greek of John 12:41.
… εἶδον (I saw) τὸν κύριον (the Lord)… καὶ (and) πλήρης (was full) ὁ οἶκος (the house) τῆς δόξης αὐτοῦ (the glory of him) — Isaiah 6:1 (Greek LXX)
… εἶδεν (he saw) τὴν δόξαν αὐτοῦ (the glory of him), καὶ (and) ἐλάλησεν (spoke) περὶ (about) αὐτοῦ (him/the same) — John 12:41 (Greek)
The parallel between Isaiah 6:1 and John 12:41 is striking, indeed. It is clear that John was referencing the Septuagint where Isaiah said that he saw the Lord and His glory. John said that Isaiah saw “his glory” and spoke about “him.” Yet, many Jews believe on “him.” The jury has reached a verdict.
If you ask Isaiah, “Who did you see?” He would say, “I saw Yahweh and His glory.”
If you ask John, “Who did Isaiah see?” He would say, “Isaiah saw Jesus and His glory.”
If it quacks like a duck
Many more instances of the New Testament writers’ use of verses about Yahweh from the Septuagint in reference to Jesus Christ could be listed. Let’s look at another important one. Remember in Part 2 that one of the qualifications of a true God was that He could declare the future? Well, of course God gave His words to the mouths of prophets in the Old Testament plenty of times, but that doesn’t make them true gods. However, Jesus makes a startling claim to deity based on this qualification, demonstrating that His ability to declare the future was His own.
“I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me.
Now I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am he.”
Much is made of the many times Jesus used the phrase “I am” (egw eimi) to identify Himself with the name of Yahweh in the Old Testament (the “I AM”). This is certainly true of John 13:19, but the proof of the deity of Jesus Christ as Yahweh is not limited to this. Once again, John consults the Septuagint in his record of the words of Jesus about Himself. It is clear that Jesus was quoting from Isaiah 43:10.
“Be ye my witnesses, and I [too am] a witness, saith the Lord God, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know, and believe, and understand that I am [he]: before me there was no other God, and after me there shall be none.”
–Isaiah 43:10 (LXX)
In John 13:19, Jesus is declaring the future–that Judas Iscariot will betray Him. He tells His disciples that when this prediction comes to pass, it will indicate to them that Jesus is “I am” (egw eimi). In Isaiah chapters 40-48, Yahweh is putting the false gods (idols) on trial and challenging them to present their case that they are true gods worthy of the worship of the Israelites. The primary qualification throughout and up until this point is that a true God can declare the future (Isaiah 41:22; 42:9). Thus, is Jesus declaring Himself to be Yahweh? Let’s compare the Greek of each verse to see:
ἵνα (that) γνῶτε ([you may] know) καὶ (and) πιστεύσητε ([you may] believe) καὶ (and) συνῆτε ([you may] understand) ὅτι (that) ἐγώ (I) εἰμι (am) — Isaiah 43:10 (LXX Greek)
ἵνα (that) πιστεύητε ([you may] believe) ὅταν (and) γένηται (understand) ὅτι (that) ἐγώ (I) εἰμι (am) — John 13:19 (NT Greek)
Let’s see the verses when some words are removed:
ἵνα … πιστεύσητε … ὅτι ἐγώ εἰμι — Isaiah 43:10 (LXX Greek)
ἵνα πιστεύητε … ὅτι ἐγώ εἰμι — John 13:19 (NT Greek)
As you can see, the Septuagint rendering of Isaiah 43:10 and the Greek of John 13:19 contain identical words! It is abundantly clear that John’s quote from the Septuagint of Jesus’ claim to deity by declaring the future is a reference to Yahweh’s self-identification as the only true God against all false gods! What’s more, what are the words that come next if Jesus were to finish the quote from Isaiah 43:10?
“before me there was no other God, and after me there shall be none.”
I believe I am left speechless!
My Lord and my God!
Few passages cause as much controversy and debate as when doubting Thomas saw the risen Christ.
“And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.
Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.
And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.
Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”
For most Christians, the statement by Thomas is enough to prove that Jesus Christ is Yahweh, because he called Jesus, not just “Lord” or not just “God,” but “my Lord and my God.” Jesus did not warn him about idolatry, but rather commended him for believing.
One argument against the typical understanding of the word of Thomas to Jesus is that Thomas called Jesus “my Lord and…” and then exclaimed “my God!” like someone would say “Oh, my God!” today. The problem, of course, is that Jesus should have reprimanded him for taking God’s name in vain as an interjection rather than simply commending his belief. Another reason this idea is untenable is that the grammar gives no indication of such as possibility. Lord and God are both in the same case and the grammar of the phrase in the Greek requires that both Lord and God are referring to the same Person.
Another argument against Thomas calling Jesus “My Lord and my God” is the idea that Thomas was actually not addressing Jesus, but rather God (the Father) concerning what he observed. Thomas was allegedly praising God for raising Jesus from the dead. However, we cannot overlook the fact that Thomas said “to him” (Jesus) these words. This is the word αυτω, which is in the dative case. This simply and obviously means that the words of Thomas are directed to Jesus.
The Jehovah’s Witness or Muslim raise raise a challenge even to this by noting that the words of Thomas are in the nominative case rather than the vocative case. The vocative case is often used if someone is being directly addressed, such as when Jesus exclaimed to the Father, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 24:46). He used the vocative form Θεέ for “God” rather than Thomas’ simple nomative form θεός. The problem with this argument is that it is indeed possible in koine Greek to use a nominative for a vocative. An example of this is Mark 9:25 in which Jesus tells a demon “Spirit, I charge thee, come out of him,” but He uses a nominative rather than a vocative.
Now, the last argument against John 20:28 being a shut case proving that Jesus Christ is Yahweh is Mr. Burch’s attempt to diminish the title god to anything to which someone is subject. Why couldn’t Thomas call Jesus “my Lord and my God,” and not intend to mean that He is the One True God?
Given that the Jews were ready to stone Jesus for blasphemy for calling Himself “the Son of God,” it would be a stretch to believe that Thomas would be looser with the term; especially when Lord and God are both words that can reference Yahweh in the Greek. The combination of the two is quite a strong statement. In fact, literally rendered, the phrase in Greek means “the Lord of me and the God of me.” If Jesus is not Yahweh, but He is “the Lord of me and the God of me,” what does that make Yahweh?
The Septuagint, as we have seen before, can shed more light on our dilemma, since it was the Old Testament to the culture of this time. In Psalm 35:23, King David speaks to Yahweh some interesting words.
“Awake, O Lord, and attend to my judgment, [even] to my cause, my God and my Lord (ὁ θεός μου καὶ ὁ κύριός μου).”
–Psalm 35:23 (LXX)
David calls Yahweh, “My God and my Lord.” If we look at this phrase in the Greek of the Septuagint, it says
ho theos mou kai ho kurios mou
What Thomas said to Jesus was
ho kuros mou kai ho theos mou
These phrases are exactly the same, except the words for Lord and God are swapped. Another note of interest is that Lord and God in Psalm 35:23 in the LXX are in the nominative case, but are clearly used as vocatives. O Lord earlier in the verse is a vocative, and “my God and my Lord” follows verbs that are imperative. If words have meaning, why should we not accept that calling Yahweh “my God and my Lord” has the same implication as calling Jesus “my Lord and my God”? Only a presupposition of unitarianism forces one not to accept the obvious.
The Great Shepherd
Likely, you have Psalm 23 memorized. This is the classic and beautiful song of King David proclaiming that “the LORD (Yahweh) is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” Asaph calls Yahweh “O Shepherd of Israel” (Psalm 80:1). Isaiah said that Yahweh would “feed His flock like a Shepherd” (Isaiah 40:10-11). Jeremiah said that Yahweh would scatter and regather His people “as a Shepherd does his flock” (Jeremiah 31:10).
However, in the New Testament, we see Jesus declaring Himself to be the Great Shepherd.
“I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.
But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you.
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:
And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.
My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.
I and my Father are one.
Jesus is the Great Shepherd. He is the One leading His sheep. Yet, David said that Yahweh was the Shepherd leading him beside the still waters. Yahweh was the one who prepares a table (pasture plain) before David in the presence of his enemies. In other words, as a sheep, David was protected by the hand of Yahweh, and none of his enemies would be able to snatch him out of the Father’s hand. Both Jesus and the Father are the Shepherd! We see a similar statement of Yahweh in Isaiah:
“Yea, before the day was I am he; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand: I will work, and who shall let it?”
Yet, Jesus declares His oneness with the Father in the salvation of the sheep. No one can snatch the sheep out of the Father’s hand and no one can snatch them out of Jesus’ hand. Yet, this Great Shepherd would be smitten:
“Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the LORD of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered: and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones.”
If Yahweh is the Shepherd and Jesus is also the Great Shepherd, why cannot Jesus be the being of Yahweh? Let’s observe another parallel concerning the Crucifixion of Jesus:
“And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.”
“And again another scripture saith, They shall look on him [Jesus] whom they pierced.”
“Behold, he [Jesus] cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.”
Yahweh (my Shepherd) says that Israel will see “me whom they have pierced,” yet we see that this was fulfilled in Jesus (the Great Shepherd) who was smitten and the sheep were scattered. Then, when Jesus rose from the dead, He asked Peter if he loved Him and told him to “feed My lambs” and “feed My sheep.” We see that Peter did indeed obey the Lord Jesus Christ; for, as an elder of a church, he instructed the elders to do what he was doing:
“The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed:
Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;
Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.
And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.”
–1 Peter 5:1-4
Peter tells them to “feed the flock of God” (tou theou = “of the God”). If the flock is God’s, that would make God the flock’s Shepherd (like David calls Yahweh). Peter then talkz about Jesus’ second coming. He calls Jesus “the chief Shepherd” who “shall appear.” We know that the Father is not expected to appear, but rather the Son. If Jesus is the chief Shepherd, what does that make ho theos, if Jesus is not ho theos?
The Apostle Paul also tells the elders at the church of Ephesus a similar command regarding the church as God’s flock:
“Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.”
Here we have, in no uncertain terms, a reference the Jesus Christ as “God” (tou theou again). In fact, Paul is saying that “the God” purchased the church with His own blood. Does God have blood? Well, if God took on human flesh, then He can certainly bleed in that flesh!
It is clear even when we find indirect references and Scriptural fulfillments that Jesus is Yahweh, even if Jesus does not satisfy the Muslim by saying, “I am God, worship Me!”
- Les Burch, It Isn’t The Way We Think It Is: Seven Common Beliefs That Aren’t in the Bible (Mustang, Okla.: Tate Publishing & Enterprises, LLC, 2013), 89.
- http://www.bcbsr.com/greek/gcase.html; http://ntgreek.org/learn_nt_greek/nouns1.htm