04 January 2010

Reinventing Jesus (Pt. 3)

The holiday weekend allowed me to catch up on a bit more reading than usual, so I was able to finish this book I have been discussing, Reinventing Jesus. Picking up with part four of the book, this section deals with the divinity of Jesus. Some of these modern writers like to claim that Jesus was only "declared" diving centuries after his death at the council of Nicaea. I found this, as well as section five to be probably the highlight of this whole book, as far as things I really wanted to know more about. OK, so I think I could probably say the same thing about part three. Actually, this whole book has been a fascinating read, and I highly recommend it.

Jesus' establishment as "the Son of God" was officially proposed and voted on by the Council of Nicaea.
- Dan Brown
The Da Vinci Code, 233
There is nothing recorded in the Gospels showing that Jesus clearly affirmed his own divinity.
-Shabir Ally
Muslim apologist on PAX's Faith Under Fire program
November 27, 2004
It is astounding to me that such statements could be made considering the plain language of the Scriptures and Jesus. However, then I realize that some of the more revealing language is more Hebrew type language/terms that these ignorant men would not catch the power of. "Even scholars who do not personally embrace the divinity of Jesus readily recognize that the New Testament authors did. Somehow this fact escaped the attention of Leigh Teabing, the scholarly gadfly in Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code. Speaking of the Council of Nicea, an ecumenical meeting of bishops that took place nearly three hundred years after the time of Jesus, Teabing declared, "Until that moment in history, Jesus was viewed by his followers as a mortal prophet...a great and powerful man, but a man nonetheless." (p. 169)

Sadly, this kind of totally ignorant comment will be eaten up by readers ignorant of the historical truth, and then the lie gets propagated further and further. The terms Son of Man and Son of God hold significance when it come to divinity, and this is evident throughout the New Testament Gospels. Those familiar with the Hebrew understanding of these terms would know just what weight they hold and what their use implies to the Hebrew mind. Jesus' very name means "God with us" (Matt. 1:23) and his proclamation at the end of the gospel of Matthew, stating "I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Matt. 28:20) likewise show his claims to be more than a mortal prophet. The gospel of John declares "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was fully God...the Word became flesh and took up residence among us." (John 1:1) which sure seems pretty clear to Jesus divinity to me. These gospels were written, circulated and believed by the early church for hundreds of years prior to the Council of Nicea.

Those familiar with the Bible and Old Testament events, know that at various times when angelic being appears, men were prone to fall down and worship them. On those occasions we always find the angel telling the person to not do that, as they are just a fellow servant of the Most High. Worship was preserved only for God, and that was the full Hebrew understanding. Yet, also in the Gospel of John, after Jesus' resurrection he appeared to Thomas, who after touching him declared "My Lord and My God!" (John 20:28). Now, if this were a normal case of "mistaken identity" then we would expect to find Jesus rebuke him for using such terms of divinity towards him, but that is not the case. I guess a question is, why is Jesus' divinity so infrequently "exposed" and why do we not find many more verses speaking of Jesus being truly God? The book quotes from former principal of Wycliff Hall, Oxford University and commentator R.T. France, saying we should be surprised that

explicit use of God-language about Jesus is infrequent in the New Testament, and is concentrated in the later writings.... It was such shocking language that, even when the beliefs underlying it were firmly established, it was easier, and perhaps more politic, to express these beliefs in the less direct terms. The wonder is not that the New Testament so seldom describes Jesus as God, but that in [a radically monotheistic] milieu it does so at all. (p. 174)
The many miracles were evidence that Jesus was more than a mere man. Yes, many men were able to duplicate some of these type things through trickery, but those who walked with and witnessed these miracles knew he was going way beyond the realm of trickery. In Mark 2 we read of the story of the lame man who is lowered down through the roof of a house to be healed by Jesus. He was helaed, but Jesus also said to him "Son, your sins are forgiven" (v. 5). The religious leaders immediately were up in arms, accusing Jesus of blasphemy, because only God can forgive sins (v. 7). This is yet another clear evidence that Jesus himself was declaring himself to be divine...God in the flesh.

Another example of the claim to divinity by Jesus himself, is found in Mark 14:62-64, where Jesus is on trial and asked if he is Christ the Messiah, to which he affirms he is. Then he goes further to state "...and you will see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of the Power and coming with the clouds of heaven." This sent the hears into an uproar, again screaming blasphemy. What was the big deal? People assume the term "Son of Man" refers to his human nature, but in fact that is a powerful Jewish term found in Dan. 7:13-14, and implies divinity. Also, Jesus saying he would come on clouds was yet another powerful claim to divinity, because God was known in the Hebrew Scriptures as being the only being to "come on clouds" which is a reference to coming judgment on a nation (Exod. 14:20; 34:5; Num. 10:34; Ps. 104:3; Isa. 19:1). Jesus was claiming to be the Son of Man, sitting in the most powerful position, the right hand (Ps. 110:1), and to be the judge who would come against the Jewish nation, riding a cloud as God had done many times before. All three of these were startling claims to being divine, and I guess these modern day writers totally missed the implications found here due to ignorance of what was actually being said by Jesus in Hebrew terms.

There is more to unpack in this section, and I will do so in my next post.

Continue to PART FOUR