Did Jesus claim to be Divine?

  • Our question

    Jesus stands with hands raised holding up the planet earth.

    Historians have spent a lot of time analyzing the evidence surrounding the historical Jesus. Among the many questions they work on is the question of how Jesus regarded himself. That is also our question here. We mean to ask here, not necessarily whether Jesus believed he was God or Divine in some sense, but whether he specifically self-identified—erbally or non-verball—as God or Divine.

“Yes, after all…
  • Paul taught Jesus was God

    Paul taught that Jesus was God, at least in some sense.

    This page analyzes 6 arguments:.

    • Paul’s letters say it explicitly, e.g. Rom 9:5 — “Christ, who is God”; Phil 2 — “in the form of God”; 2 Pet 1:1 — “Our God and savior, Jesus”; Titus 2:13 — “Our God and savior, Jesus”
    • Paul’s letters imply it overtly, e.g. in how Paul often uses "Lord" in the YHWH-sense to refer to Jesus, or how Paul uses OT descriptions about God to describe Jesus, the way he inherited prayers to Jesus and taught others to use them, and in how Paul said people were "in Christ" (just as they are in God).
    • Paul believed Jesus was God, which we can see--for example--in how it prayed to Jesus as God (e.g. in 2 Cor 12:8-9, Paul casually writes how he prayed to Jesus).
    • The Jerusalem church believed Jesus was God (e.g. we see them teaching prayer to Jesus [e.g. "Maranatha!" means "Lord come!"--an address to Jesus himself]), and since Paul's teachings aligned with the Jerusalem church's, we can expect Paul taught the same--he even prayerfully recited "maranatha" himself to Jesus in 1 Cor 16:22.
    • Paul's churches believed Jesus was God. (We know this, among other reasons, because Paul’s letters assume they believe it).

    Paul's teaching that Jesus is God is evidence that Jesus claimed to be Divine because Paul converted to Christianity as a result of Jesus's supernatural appearing to him on the road to Damascus, and commissioning Paul to preach and represent him. The point is that, if Jesus endorsed Paul, then Paul's testimony regarding Jesus's self-conception should be given benefit of the doubt. So if Paul regarded Jesus as God, that is good reason Jesus did in fact regard himself as God or Divine.

  • Jesus taught people to pray to him

    Among other indications that Jesus felt he was God was his insistence that followers pray to him as to the Father.

    For example,...

    • Jn 14:14 — “If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it. (See also Jn 16:23).
    • The earliest Christians were praying to Jesus,1 and rather than being a practice that showed up later, it is best seen as something stemming from Jesus's teaching--at least across the 40 days after His resurrection whence he was appearing and teaching early Christians (see Acts 1:2-3).

    This is relevant because this is not something a mere prophet would say. Jews like Jesus, who were rigid monotheists, were insistent that God (YHWH) alone is to be prayed to.

    But no...

    • The to "me" part is an interpolation.2
    • Elsewhere Jesus says to not pray to him.3
    1. Consider three evidences that early Christians were praying to Jesus:
      • First, Paul relays Jewish-Christians traditions wherein Jesus is prayed to, as when he cites “maranatha” in 1 Cor 16:22.
      • Second, Paul also tied Old Testament prayers to God ("Call on the Lord... be saved") to Jesus, such that in Rom 108-14 and 1 Corinthians 1:2 it is Jesus--as God--who is receiving this prayer from us).
      • Third, Luke-Acts reports early Christians praying to Jesus; see Acts 1:24-25 where the apostles prayed to Jesus; Acts 7:59-60 where Stephen did, and Acts 22:12, 14-16 where Ananias also prayed to Jesus
    2. There are two reasons offered to think this is an interpolation. First, some manuscripts exclude “me,” and second, the phraseology is awkward. But in response:
      • The “to me” part is redundant; a bare statement like “whatever you ask in my name I will do” is still prayer to Jesus.
      • The phraseology is not awkard: e.g., 1 Chron. 16:8, "call on him in his name"; Ps. 54:1, "save me in your name," translating literally).
      • [i] The “me” manuscripts are much older (and diverse etc.){It is found in early papyri from the second and third century (P66 and probably P75), the Vaticanus, Sinaiticus, and Washington codices of the fourth and fifth centuries, and many other manuscripts. We should also consider the lectio difficilior principle which suggest “me” was original.

        “The best explanation for this omission is that some copyists indeed thought it odd that Jesus should speak about addressing prayer to him in his own name, so they omitted me. When modern commentators agree with the riants that omit the word, this is usually the reason given. — see: E.g., F. F. Bruce, The Gospel of John: Introduction, Exposition, and Notes (Eerdmans, 1983), 301.

    3. We read in Jn 16:23In that day [i.e. after Jesus’ resurrection] you will not question Me about anything Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you. By by “question Me” Jesus did not mean we wouldn’t pray to him; he meant that they would already have the answers they needed.
  • Jesus called himself the Divine "Son of Man."

    Among other reasons to believe Jesus thought himself divine, consider his claim to be the divine “Son of Man” (Jesus's favorite title for himself). This comes from a famous passage in Daniel:

    • Daniel 7:13-14 -- In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

    Now compare this to some of Jesus's best attested sayings:

    • John 5:26-27 -- For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.
    • Mark 13:24-27 -- At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. (Matthew 24:30) So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time. But in those days, following that distress, ‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’ At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.
    • Luke 21:27 -- At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
    • Matthew 26:63-66 -- The high priest said to him, ‘I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.’ ‘Yes, it is as you say,’ Jesus replied. ‘But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.’ Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, ‘He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?’ ‘He is worthy of death,’ they answered.

    Also consider that Jesus saw the Son of Man as having existing prior to his birth by Mary:

    • John 3:13 -- No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man.
    • John 6:62 -- What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before!
    • Craig Blomberg: “Jesus may even be indicting His interrogators by this way of phrasing things, But He does not stop here. He goes on to add, "and you will see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of Heaven: (Mark 14: 62b). This reply combines the allusions to Daniel 7:13 and Psalm 110:1. In this context, 'Son of man' means far more than a simple human being. Jesus is describing Himself as the 'one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of Heaven' who 'approached the Ancient of Days and was led into His Presence' and given authority and power over all humanity, leading to universal worship and everlasting dominion (Daniel 7:13,14). This claim to be far more than a mere mortal is probably what elicited the verdict of blasphemy from the Jewish high court.” [Jesus and the Gospels 2nd ed. (B&H, 2009), 397.]
    • F.F. Bruce: “It is implied, if not expressly stated, that in Daniels vision this Being was enthroned… [Jesus] linked these two scriptures when the high priest of Israel challenged Him to declare His Identity". [The Real Jesus; Who is He? In The Jesus Library. Ed. by Green (Hodder & Stroughton, 1985), 64-65.]
    • Robert Stein: “On the lips of anyone else the claims of Jesus would appear to be evidence of gross egomania, for Jesus clearly implies that the entire world revolves around himself and the fate of all men is dependent on their acceptance or rejection of him.” [The Method and Message of Jesus' Teachings (Westinminster, 1978), 118.]