Does the Bible Teach the Divinity of Christ? Pt. II
Recently, 6sman has made a rejoinder to my response towards his initial article, Decisive Biblical Evidence Against Christ’s Divinity. In a similar vein to what I had noted earlier, once again we find that he is thoroughly restrained and quite courteous in his reply to me. It must be admitted that he elucidates the Muslim position quite well and though it may very well be the case that we will not come to an agreement on the matter of what God desires for us to believe, it has been a pleasure discussing with him all the same. That said, insofar as he has defended the Muslim position yet again, I am compelled to give the reason for the hope that is within me. I will not say that my response will be short but it will certainly be worth one’s time. Once again, the general theme of my post will be consistency vs. inconsistency and I hope to show how the Muslim understanding is thoroughly inconsistent with the text in question—the Bible—and in particular, the New Testament.
As I surveyed the article to which this response will concern itself with, I took particular note of the fact that the author chose not to defend the 5 syllogisms to which his earlier article consisted of. Instead, the author took a slightly different approach by abandoning his initial proofs (i.e. the syllogisms) altogether. Now given that I had claimed that his syllogisms were refuted and that we have found ourselves with no defence of them, I will thus stand by my initial conclusion.
I appreciate we have arrived at sort of commonality, that is your submittal to the fact there exists ‘one set of evidence’ in the Gospels showing Christ Jesus to be exclusively human in nature, but then you present another set which you purport is the New Testament’s main theme; the ascertainment of Christ’s Divinity, and as such it would seem to suggest there exists internal in-consistency within the New Testament and the Bible as a whole. — 6sman
In all things, it is good to have the habit of placing the matter into perspective. While the above may have some form of truth, I do not believe it to be so—both for what was actually agreed upon within our discussion, and from the conclusion we can gain as it concerns the Holy Bible and the New Testament as a whole. In the above, the author implies that the ‘two sets of evidence’ are in contradiction as to what they wish to prove regarding the person of Jesus Christ. This is incorrect. When it comes to Christ, the New Testament seeks to teach that Christ is the God-man. To this end, we find evidence for Christ’s humanity and evidence for Christ’s divinity. There is as little inconsistency to this as there is concerning the fact that scripture teaches that the individual is both mortal and immortal. The body succumbs to physical death and yet the soul is untouched—the individual continues to exist forever. Finding fault in the dual nature of Christ is like finding fault in the duel nature of man. To then say that the evidence is contradictory makes little sense when the message is supposed to be one where dual natures must play some part. If the Bible teaches that man is both mortal and immortal, how then can one try to find fault with it by claiming that it contains passages which teach man’s mortality and others which teach man’s immortality? If such a thing is utter nonsense in the case of the mortality and immortality of man, on what basis can we then suppose that the same argument (with all its faults) will suddenly become logically sound simply because we are now discussing the person of Jesus Christ in particular?
The fact of the matter is, one can only come to see the dual-nature of Christ as a contradiction if they start from the position that the Bible teaches Christ to only be a man (in the same way that one could only come to the conclusion that the bible claims that the soul–once created–does not exist forever if they already believe that man is only mortal). What must the unbiased individual do when the very people who call Christ a man also go on to call him God? What must the unbiased individual do when the very person who describes himself as man also describes himself as eternally God? The only logical conclusion is to suppose that both are in fact being affirmed without contradiction. As such, it isn’t that there is one set of evidence which describes Christ as being ‘exclusively’ a man and another which describe him as being exclusively divine, rather, there is only one set of evidence which describes the Christ as the God-man and this one set comprises all the passages where Christ’s humanity and divinity are affirmed by both himself and those around him. In the above the author implied that I agreed with him that the Bible taught two different things and that is false, here are my words again:
The Christian claim has always been that Christ is both God and man. This is why one is able to find passages to the effect that Christ quite clearly is a man and yet at the same time find passages which declare that Christ is in fact the One true God Himself. Notice that the opponent of the Christian cannot make sense of these passages where Christ is quite clearly presented as God […] It is only the Christian position which can make sense of everything the Bible says concerning Christ and this has been—and continues to be—seen throughout this response to 6sman’s article.
As Christians, we take the above not merely on faith but rather, reason compels us to.
The reader would’ve noticed larger amount of quotations presented in favor of Christ’s[p] Divinity are not really his. These are extra-Injilic statements like those of St.Paul (who by no means was a full-blooded Trinitarian [See: 1 Corinthians, 8:6]), or some anonymous NT writers, even John’s prologue wasn’t his own but was part of the Gospels later redaction — 6sman
What the reader should note concerning the above (aside for the incorrect claim that Paul wasn’t thoroughly trinitarian) is that the argument has suddenly changed from “the Bible shows that Christ is not divine” to “if we ignore what the Bible says concerning the divine inspiration of its writers (in this case, St. Paul) and thus ignore vast sections of the Bible, we can then claim that the Bible does not show Christ to be Divine”. Well the fact of the matter is, if we ignore vast sections of anything then we could certainly prove almost anything therefrom. In fact, if we ignore vast sections of the Qur’an, we could prove that it claims that Muslims are allowed to drink alcohol, that according to the Qur’an, Christ is the greatest individual who has ever lived, that the Gospel isn’t corrupt (as Muslims claim), and that it is the revelation intended for Mankind (and not just exclusively to the nation of Israel as most Muslims claim), among other things. Yet are these actually what this book teaches? Furthermore, the claim that the Bible only teaches the humanity of Christ does not come from an adherence to the words of Christ from the Bible (as we shall soon see) but rather from a veiled attempt at advancing the Qur’an’s perspective as the Bible’s. The reader should make no mistake about it: The basic premise underlying 6sman’s argument is “the Qur’an claims Christ to only be a man, hence the Bible claims Christ to only be a man, therefore any biblical attestation to Christ’s divinity is false and must be discounted”. Such is faulty argumentation and before we delve into a refutation thereof, here are a few other statements where the author once more asserts that Christ is not God:
[…] all these statements can easily and evidently be interpreted otherwise towards comparatively more harmonized theme with the Old Testament which incidently carries not shred of evidence for the Trinity concept, one simply has to presume it’s veracity in order to locate ‘suitable’ citations.
Aside from the erroneous assertion that the Old Testament contains no shred of the Holy Trinity (if so, then I’d welcome an answer to the question I posed here), it is also claimed that the words of Christ can be ‘easily and evidently’ watered down to exhortations of possessing no such thing as divinity. Let us then see if such a statement is at all correct. In fact, let us at this time ignore what I think, let us ignore what 6sman thinks, and let us turn to individuals whose qualifications on the Old Testament and whose authority on matters thereof could be challenged by no one, save God himself. I speak of course of the Jewish temple aristocracy during the time of Christ. If the claims made by Christ could so easily be made to fit into the Jewish (and I suppose, in some sense, with the Islamic understanding) of sonship, then we should see this evidenced in their dealings with Jesus Christ:
And the high priest arose and said to Him, “Do You answer nothing? What is it these men testify against You?” 63But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest answered and said to Him, “I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!” 64Jesus said to him, “It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” 65Then the high priest tore his clothes, saying, “He has spoken blasphemy! What further need do we have of witnesses? Look, now you have heard His blasphemy! 66What do you think?” They answered and said, “He is deserving of death.” — Matthew 26:62-66 NKJV
In reading the above we see that the reaction to Jesus’ claims was disastrous and emotionally charged. The high priest tore his very clothes—the quintessential expression of grief and/or righteous indignation in biblical times (such as when the holiest artifact in Judaism, the Ark of the Covenant, was captured by the Phillistines in 1 Samuel 4:11-12; or again as an expression of the highest grief in 2 Chronicles 34:26-27)—and this should alert us to the grave nature of it all. The question we must then ask ourselves is, what exactly was blasphemous about Christ’s statement?
The importance of this saying is that it forms the climax of the interrogation before the high priest. In Mark’s presentation it is the claim which constitutes the point of his final rejection by the Jewish authorities, and leads immediately to the decision to have him killed. The claim is judged by the high priest and his council to be blasphemy. It is not immediately clear why this should be blasphemy. Certainly the claim to be Messiah is not blasphemous, for other messianic claimants soon before or after this were not condemned for blasphemy. Most probably the reason is the combination of ‘seated at the right hand of the Power’ and ‘coming with the clouds of heaven’. This implies that Jesus is to be at the right hand of God on his throne. But if while ‘seated’ he is also ‘coming’, he must be actually sharing the mobile Merkabah-throne of God. This Merkabah-throne is the chariot-throne on which God is seated in Ezekiel 1. Already at the time of Jesus this imagery bulked large in the imagination and descriptions of Jewish mysticism (called Merkabah-mysticism). Such a claim would give good grounds for the charge of blasphemy. […] In the prophecy preceding this vision Daniel describes four great beasts, representing the four great empires which persecuted and oppressed the Jewish nation. The son of man, in his turn, represents the nation itself, at last vindicated and triumphant, and finally to rule over the whole world with God’s own authority. Mark understands the expression, well-known to have been characteristic of Jesus, to be this son of man, sharing God’s power and authority. However in this final saying he goes beyond the prophecy, to represent Jesus as sharing the throne itself of God. The trial scene is, then, for Mark the climax of his presentation of the mystery and meaning of Jesus. — Dom Henry Wansbrough
This monumental declaration should not be lost on us. The Saviour has just been asked whether he is the promised Messiah and he answers this in the affirmative and yet within the same breath he declares something astounding—he claims to sit on God’s very throne! This is something unprecedented. It goes without saying that the Messiah was to sit on his father David’s throne (Isaiah 16:5), but for Christ to supersede even this and claim to be seated on the throne of God himself is nothing short of blasphemy should such an assertion be untrue. To be seated on the throne of God is to rule as God and to in fact be God just as to be seated on the throne of the king is to rule as king and to be the king, there is absolutely no question about this. This then is why the Sanhedrin was so mortified and why the council agreed to the sentencing of death. We see this again in John 19:7 where the Jewish leaders claim that the law demands that Jesus ought to be killed for making himself out to be the Son of God. Quite clearly, there would be no issue with this if the Christ described his sonship in terms which were within the limits of acceptable Jewish thought (for throughout the Old Testament, various individuals are termed son(s) of God) and yet he didn’t. His sonship was markedly different and this can be seen by the Christ’s repeated claims to divinity. This then is why the unbelieving council could charge him under Deut. 13:6-10 seeing as they incorrectly understood Christ as setting himself up as another god instead of being the One true God of Israel (though one doubts that they’d believe this either). It is telling that no other Messiah-claimant (such as Simon bar Giora of Geresa, Simon Bar Kochba, Sabbatai Sevi, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson) was charged with blasphemy for claiming to be the Messiah because as has been seen, to claim to be the Messiah is not a blasphemous claim at all to make. To claim to be God on the other hand, certainly would be seen as blasphemy deserving death.
I see your main defense against those arguments is the hypostatic unity hypothesis, wherein Jesus[p] is described of possessing both human and Divine (God-man) natures but choosing, for some odd reason, to veil his true identity. To which I ask, why? If God literally visits us (incarnates) in person why then should He hide Himself and make not things clearer when the need to do so is evermore increased? — 6sman
The simple answer is that he did make this clear, repeatedly in fact—to the point where he presented himself before the highest Jewish authority of that time and declared himself to be God and this instead illicited shouts of anger and derision by those very individuals who claimed to worship him, YHWH. The above objection is baseless and betrays a thorough misunderstanding of the text seeing as the principal parties were all clear as to what Christ was preaching. He claimed to be the promised Messiah and yet to be YHWH in the flesh.
Moreover, when Jesus[p] was telling us he couldn’t do this and didn’t know that should we not accept his words in their simple connotation as opposed to hiding behind the veil of hypostasis? And if this theory be granted then what tool are we left with in order to determine which statement of Jesus[p] is true in meaning and which is superficial? If statements wherein humanity is emphasized can be taken as allegories, why not adopt a far more safer and rational due course in interpreting those “Divinity claims” as likewise metaphoric? When Jesus[p] says “I and the Father are one” Christians are quick to point toward his Divinity ignoring altogether he was in his human nature, but when he says “my Father is greater than I”, his human part was speaking. If statements wherein Jesus[p] is seen denying his Divinity are waved off as un-real due to human form, those proclaimed ‘Divinity statements’ become even more susceptible to denial. The problem with the veil hypothesis is that Jesus[p], or any else one fancies, remains God however much he may want to deny it! — Ibid.
Once again 6sman misunderstands the Christian claim as being an allegorizing of his humanity. This is wholly incorrect, in fact this is the heresy called Docetism which the early church, in its bid to remain faithful to the truth of the Gospel, vehemently combated. Christ is both God and man. I should also say that I am thoroughly displeased with 6sman’s claims that I insinuated that we should treat those words of Christ dealing with the limits of his humanity, as metaphoric—I never said any such thing. However, I recall saying: “The Second Person of the Trinity truly did become man and as man he veiled his full glory to the point where he withheld from himself the free exercise of his divine prerogatives and relied solely on the Father. […] The Son is both God and man and as man he certainly was limited but as God he was without any constraints. ‘The Son’ refers to the God-man and as such Christ can truly speak of ‘the Son’ not knowing the day nor the hour because while he veiled his glory in his humanity, it certainly was the case that he did not allow himself access to this knowledge. …” Notice my repeated insistence on the reality of Christ’s humanity (and the limits thereof)? Where then do we get the sense that the Christian claims Jesus’ humanity to have only been a chimera? Also, 6sman tries to present the issue as one in which we must treat one set of claims as wholly metaphoric and yet this isn’t the case. While he tries to take issue with my position for supposedly choosing claims of divinity over those of humanity, this once again is untrue and ironically enough, he is the one who is effectively picking and choosing which set of claims to believe. The Christian, on the other hand, believes both to be equally true. We have yet to be presented with evidence for why this is illogical and as such I, for one, must wonder why this line of thought is employed (while wholly unproved) in my interlocutor’s argument.
It is in-conceivable, even un-intelligible to think created and un-created, finite and infinite, omniscient but un-aware mind exists, and if Jesus[p] had two different minds then they couldn’t be one same person. — Ibid.
The above plays on words and concepts yet does little in actually proving one’s point. I have already spoken at length concerning the matter in my Of Gods and Men article and have yet to come across any Muslim rejoinder. Until we can find ourselves with a logical reason for as to why the Christian understanding fails, I will just ignore the above and once again (for perhaps the second or third time) point my interlocutor to the aforementioned article. Also, the mind is quite the wonderful thing and we would not even need to posit two separate minds in order to make sense of the Gospel account. The full scope of the divine conscious could merely reside within the subconscious of the human Christ so that we would not need to multiply consciousness (incidentally 6sman’s argument borders on Apollinarism, another heresy) and yet still find ourselves with a distinction between human and divine knowledge. Clearly, all objections fall by the wayside.
Talking of which, you need explain whether there was one Jesus (God, the Son) who humbled himself of former glory in partaking humanity, or two Jesus’, one seated in heaven as God and the other suffering and dying on earth? Regardless, Jesus is still well and truly alive with God and they along with the Holy Spirit live happily ever-after. So all the fuss about the great ‘Divine sacrifice’ is hyperbole after all. — Ibid.
One Christ. One Death. One Resurrection. And One Glory. If, however, you wish to say that given that Christ is truly alive (and forever more!) then his death wasn’t a true sacrifice, I would have to say that this assertion has more to do with your misunderstanding of the matter of sacrifice as God laid out in the Old Testament. According to the criteria found therein, the sacrifice of Christ qualifies and this certainly is all that matters. For more on this, see here.
Some of our oldest English translations of John chapter 1, prior to King James indicate thisimpersonality when they speak of the word as ‘it’ instead of the modern ‘he’ [Tyndale Bible (1530), Geneva Bible (1560)]. So just as God’s speech in Genesis 1 became physical creation, so also did God’s Word became flesh (Jesus) and dwelt among us. […] To read John 1:1 as if it said; ‘in the beginning was the Son and the Son was with God…’ is not only a pre-supposition but also very problematic;for in that case we would have to read the verse as follows: ‘… and the Son was with the Father, the Son was the Father…’ and no Christian subscribes to that. The Son, therefore, is not Logos: the Word became the Son, here’s a very acute distinction often misapprehended. — Ibid.
I certainly don’t see 6sman’s point when I can point to an even earlier English translation (Wycliffe’s Bible) which uses the equivalent for ‘him’ instead of ‘it’:
JN 1:1 In the bigynnyng was the word, and the word was at God, and God was the word.
JN 1:2 This was in the bigynnyng at God.
JN 1:3 Alle thingis weren maad bi hym, and withouten hym was maad no thing, that thing that was maad.
JN 1:4 In hym was lijf, and the lijf was the liyt of men; and the liyt schyneth in derknessis,
JN 1:5 and derknessis comprehendiden not it.
that said, what use is pointing to an English translation from an age where scholarship on the matter wasn’t particularly the best? Why is it that 6sman cannot point to a Greek manuscript to confirm his claims? Better yet, could he give us a literal translation of the Greek? Furthermore, ‘it’ does not immediately give itself to claims of impersonality seeing as even in our English language, we ask questions such as “is it a boy or girl?” etc. We should also mention that the claim that ‘it’ must mean something impersonal is a rather recent development, in fact Samuel Taylor Coleridge was an early advocate of this and this was only in the 18th century—long after Tyndale’s Bible and the Geneva Bible were published! So clearly, in this respect, 6sman’s argument is wholly unfounded, relies on bad scholarship and is in actuality deceiving. If that weren’t all, the very text in question tells us that the word is the Son!
14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. — John 1:14 NIV
Earlier in the prologue, the disciple John claimed that the Word created everything (flesh included) and here we see something even more astounding, the word itself assumed flesh. Notice the distinction here: first the word created and made all things, then the word itself becomes part of what it has created and dwells among men. The glory of the Word was evidently seen by all, that being the glory of the only Son of the Father. How can anyone read the above and then make the claim that the prologue does not identify the Logos to be the Son? If one can read the above and disagree with the Christian position than this tells us a lot less about clarity than about the character possessed by such an individual.
The author goes on to claim that identifying the word as the Son would lead to the word being the Father and this is false. The being of God is not uni-personal, rather, the One God consists of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. As such, the word God can refer to one of these persons, two of these persons or all of these persons—context determines subject. The above is only a problem if one believes God to be uni-personal and given that the Christian does not, then all objections give way.
Eventually, the author of the article to which this rejoinder is directed at, makes use of Acts 4:24-30 and particularly the phrase “against your holy servant Jesus” to claim that Christ is not God himself. At this point I must confess that it’s become quite aggravating to consistently be presented with arguments such as the above where the author picks and chooses parts of quotes which they can best use to prove their point while ignoring the actual message. Herein, the author makes his case from the words of Peter and John so then let us suppose that these are a viable authority (for we would not be presented with the quotation if 6sman did not wish for us to conform to what they claimed). Let us see what exactly Peter and John thought of this Jesus, the Christ, the righteous servant of God. Insomuch as 6sman has made his case on the words of these inidviduals, one must wonder if he also agrees with John when he calls Christ life itself and claims that he preexisted with the Father (1 John 1:1-4), when he states that the blood of Christ purifies us from all sin (1 John 1:7), or when John declares that there is no salvation apart from believing that Jesus Christ is the Son of God:
We accept human testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. 10 Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. 11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. — 1 John 5:9-12 NIV
If John is to be believed than all other religions including Islam are false. If John is to be believed then God himself has given his testimony concerning his only-begotten Son and there is salvation in no one else (Acts: 4:10-12).
The same is true of Peter. Should we believe Peter when he says that Christ is “the author of life” and that he was killed and raised to life (Acts 3:15), or that Deut. 18:15-18 applies to Christ and not Muhammad (Acts 3:21-23)? Should we believe him when he says that Jesus Christ is “our God and Saviour” (2 Peter 1:1), or when he says that the writings of Paul are inspired by God:
Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. 16 He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction. 17 Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen. — 2 Peter 3:15-18 NIV
If we are to believe the words of Peter when he calls Christ the servant of God, we must also believe his words when he calls Christ our God and Saviour, and we must certainly believe him when he places his seal of approval on the writings of Paul. Imagine with me, if you will, that we were at a trial and 6sman (after having claimed that we should not believe the words of Paul) calls the venerable Peter to the stand. St. Peter takes his place at the stand and after swearing to tell nothing but the truth (so help him God!) 6sman questions him as to the words of Acts 4:24-30 and particularly the instance of him calling Christ the servant of God. Peter does indeed say to the court that Christ is the servant of God to which then 6sman states that he has no more questions. Imagine now dear reader, that it was time to cross-examinate this individual. Imagine that Peter was asked to confirm the claim of having called Jesus of Nazareth, “our God and Saviour”. Imagine that Peter was asked to confirm whether he believed the words of Paul to have been inspired by God and finally imagine—as the evidence has clearly shown—that St. Peter answers these series of questions in the affirmative as well. Now dear reader, I ask you, which case has been shown to conform to the truth, the Muslim position or the Christian position? Let us remember that the very witness on whose testimony 6sman based his case has completely refuted him and has instead confirmed the Christian truth. Truly, which position is actually in keeping with the Bible?
More than this, it should be asked whether 6sman will now believe his own witness—the very witness whom he had wanted us to believe when he had thought that he had a case against Christian teaching? This isn’t an isolated instance either, we could make the same case and ask him the same question when it comes to the testimony of John (and I have already asked him this when it came to the subject of James 1:13-14) or of Jesus himself when he claims to sit on the very throne of God! The fact of the matter is that, as I had mentioned earlier, the Muslim position is not one in which they allow for the Bible to speak for itself. Rather, they seek to subvert it by carefully trying to present the Qur’an’s perspective as that of the Bible and this is clearly evident by the situation we find ourselves in right now. If 6sman believes that his argument at all conforms to the truth of the bible instead of the message propagated by the Muslim holy book, he will agree with what has just been presented herein—if he doesn’t, then his position was never based on the Holy Bible in the first place.
Let us not mince words, the Muslim position is thoroughly against what God has revealed in the Bible and it is only Christianity which conforms to the truth thereof.