The Humanity of the Second Adam
Does the Bible claim preexistence and Deity for the Jewish Messiah? Did his birth produce a God/man? Too many, even to question the Deity of our Lord draws a strong emotional response is considered to be the worst kind of heresy. Listening to one side of a story, however cogent and convincing, may cause us to ignore the possibility of hearing the rest of the story. Paul faced the problem in Rome. His statement follows: "Go to this people and say, 'You will keep on hearing, but not understand. . .for the heart of this people has become dull. . .And they have closed their eyes lest they should see." (Acts 28:26, 27) However, there are eminent churchmen of both the Protestant and Catholic camps who beg to differ with the accepted orthodoxy (Jesus as preexistent God). The Roman Catholic writer Thomas Hart registers his complaint:
"The Chalcedonian formula [the councils' decision declaring Jesus both God and man] makes genuine humanity impossible. The councilor definition says that Jesus is true man. But if there are two natures in him, it is clear which will dominate. And Jesus becomes immediately different from us; he is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. He knows exactly what everyone is thinking and going to do. This is far from the ordinary human experience. Jesus is tempted but cannot sin because he is God. What kind of temptation is this? It has little in common with the kind of struggle we face."
Many are reluctant to consider the evidence in spite of the warning words of the Apostle John in 2 John 7, indicating the possibility that a different view could be entertained.
"For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus coming in the flesh [en sark, as a human]." The translators New Testament render the text this way: "Many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not accept the fact that Jesus came as a human being. Here is the deceiver and the antichrist."
Writing on the subject central to our discussion, the Deity and preexistence of the Messiah, the noted scholar James D.G. Dunn offers some sage advice: "But all should bear in mind that to truly hear the New Testament writers speaking in their own terms requires the listener to be open to the possibility that some of his preconceived ideas will be challenged and have to be rejected even when others are confirmed."
Except for his sinlessness and origin, was Jesus the same as the rest of humanity? What did the first-century Church believe about the Messiah? Note the observation of one Hebrew scholar, Pinchas Lapide:
"Whoever knows the development of the history of dogma knows that the image of God in the primitive Church was unitary [one God], and only in the second century did it gradually, against the doctrine of subordinationism, become binary [two equal Gods]. For the Church Fathers such as Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and Tertullian, Jesus is subordinate to the Father in everything, and Origen hesitated to direct his prayer to Christ, for as he wrote, that should be to the Father alone.
"The total picture which arises from history is almost like an arithmetic progression. In the first century God is still monotheistic in good Jewish fashion. In the second century God becomes two-in-one; from the third century onward God gradually becomes threefold.
"This is not speculation. These are verifiable historical facts. It was as if a curtain was slowly drawn over a totally Messianic Jewish scene. When the curtain parts it is Martin Werner's observation that "the dogma of Christ's deity turned Jesus into a Hellenistic redeemer-god, and thus was a myth propagated behind which the historical Jesus completely disappeared!"
Old Testament References
How do OT writers view the Messiah? Is he part of the human family? In this struggle to, as Prof. Boobyer puts it, recover "the reality and normality of Jesus' manhood," we will start in Gen. 3:15. This is acknowledged to be a prophecy concerning the Messiah. God's warning to Satan is, "And I will put enmity between your seed and her seed; and he [the Messiah] shall crush you on the head and you shall crush him on the heel" (NAS, margin ref.). Whatever else Jesus was, he was to be a product of the human family from Eve.
Moses was told of a coming prophet in Deut. 18: 15: "The Lord your God will raise up a prophet like me from your countrymen, you shall listen to him." Stephen quotes this scripture in Acts 7:37 just before his death: "This is the Moses who said to the sons of Israel.'God shall raise up for you a prophet like me from your brethren. '" Note, again, the Messiah is from the human family—a tribe of Israel.
Daniel testifies to a coming human king/Messiah in 7: 13, 14: "I was watching in visions of the night and I saw one like a human being come with the clouds of heaven; he approached the Ancient of Days and was presented to him. Sovereignty and glory and kingly power were given to him, so that all people and the nations of every language should serve him . . . His kingly power was never to be destroyed."
We are not attempting to exhaust the OT references to Jesus' humanity, which formed the mind-set of the first century church. But Psalm 110:1, the most often quoted verse in the NT, gives us a prime example of the distinction made between deity and non-deity, God and the Messiah. "The LORD said to my lord 'sit at my right hand while I make your enemies your foot stool'" The first Lord named is YAHWEH—God, the Father. The second lord is ADONI, obviously referring to the Messiah. Adoni is never used of the Supreme God in any of its 195 appearances. It is never used of deity. The standard Hebrew lexicons render the word adoni as "lord," "master," or "owner."
The New Testament View
The idea of a God imploding into the body of a woman and emerging nine months later as a helpless baby boy seems to have scant scriptural backing. The Messianic story begins in the Gen. 3: 1 5 account and predicts a Messiah from the seed of Eve. But the method of creation is not clearly revealed in Genesis. We know Adam was made of clay and God breathed the breath of life into him and he became the first human and was called the son of God by Luke. Eve came from the body of Adam and became the mother of all humans. One could say both were the result of a special miracle by the Creator God.
Gabriel presents Jesus as the result of a different miracle but still from the Creator God. Gabriel says Jesus was to be conceived by Holy Spirit in the womb of Mary (Luke 1:35). This is the beginning of the Messiah. In this narration there is no recorded thought of a being from eternity. The gestation period of nine months was the same as any other human. As Adam, Jesus was also called the Son of God. His beginning was clearly in the womb of his mother, Mary.
Here we are given a simple creation story of three human beings: Adam, a human; Eve a human; and Jesus, the seed of Eve, another human—all created differently, but all human.
Paul gives a short history of Jesus and tells of the time of his arrival on the human scene in the 2nd and 3rd chapters of his first letter to Timothy: "For there is ONLY ONE God, and there is only one mediator between God and humanity, himself a HUMAN being, Jesus Christ" (1 Tim. 2:5, JB). "And great beyond all questions is the mystery of our religion" (3:16). "He was manifested IN THE FLESH, Vindicated in spirit, and Seen by angels: He was proclaimed among the nations, believed in throughout the world, Raised to heavenly glory" (3: 16, REB). Note the explicit human references to Jesus from Gal. 4:4 onward: (1) But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, "born of a woman," (2) In 1 Tim. 2:5 a human mediator was (3) manifested in the flesh. Why no reference to a preexistent Being? Shouldn't this have been part of Jesus' resume? If we understand Paul, it would seem as though the Messiah's work started after his human birth.
Karl-Josef Kuschel, the German Catholic scholar, notes that Paul does not celebrate Christ as a preexistent heavenly being but in good Jewish fashion recognizes him as a human counter part to Adam in Rom. 5:l4ff: "Nonetheless death reigned over all men from Adam to Moses. He prefigured the one who was to come. If death came to many through the offence of one man (Adam) how much greater an effect . . . as a free gift through the ONE MAN Jesus Christ."
Paul's continued reference through the remainder of the chapter to the "ONE MAN JESUS" in Rom. 5 should not be ignored. Nor should we pass on the fact that Adam "pre-figured" (was before) Jesus in time.
Hebrews seems to continue the dating of the time of the Messiah's work on earth, confirming that his history started with his human birth. Heb. 1:1: "At many moments in the past and by many means, God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets, but in our time, the final days, he has spoken to us in the person of His Son, through whom he made the ages."
The finale of the 2nd verse, "through whom he has made the ages," has been seized upon as "proof' that Jesus was involved in the creation. The Protestant scholar James Dunn acknowledges that Hebrews "seems to be the first New Testament writing to have embraced the specific thought of a preexistent divine Sonship, but Dunn's conclusion differs and should be noted:
"'It would certainly go beyond our evidence to conclude that the Author has attained to the understanding of God's Son as having had a real personal preexistence. In short, a concept of preexistent Sonship, yes, but preexistence perhaps more of an idea and purpose in the mind of God than a personal divine being.'"
IGNORE THE SCHOLARS?
Prof. Dunn's comments might be suspect if they came from the pen of someone touting monotheistic dogma. The highly regarded professor was roundly criticized for his destruction of most Trinitarian arguments in his monumental work Christology in the Making. For those of us who have been brought up to consider scholars "four-eyed pinwhiskered fools," we might consider the not uncommon integrity of these academics who propose a Jesus who is not a God/man. They have everything to lose by their unorthodoxy. Nor should they be looked on as intransigent liberals clinging tenaciously to theological fads. Note the exchange between a professor at the Catholic Boston University and Anthony Buzzard. Anthony wrote:
"I have read your interesting account of early Christianity and gained much from your research and vigorous writing. I do have an observation on a point that has been of concern to me as a teacher on New Testament and biblical languages. You say in From Jesus to Christ, p. 139, that Psalm 110:1 refers to the Messiah as Adonai. But this is not actually so. The Hebrew is not the divine title Adonai, but adoni, my lord (RV, RSV, etc.), the non-Deity title.
"It seems to me this is a rather crucial issue, since the early Christians were not thinking of Jesus as the Lord God, as kurios = Yahweh, but as the human Lord (cp. Luke 2:11). Adoni, as opposed to adonai, is not the divine title in all of its 195 occurrences in the Old Testament.
"The difference between God and man is no small matter! And Psalm 110: 1 is the New Testament's master Christological text, quoted constantly.
"Thanks for your stimulating writing,
Note the tenor of the reply.
"Dear Mr. Buzzard,
"Thank you for this note. I have grabbed my JTS TNK [Old Testament]: You are absolutely right. I made a mistake, my English transliteration is wrong (also misleading), and I will take advantage of your notice to fix this in the next printing. I am terribly grateful to you for bringing this to my attention. We all depend on each other.
"Yours with thanks."
My purpose in citing this exchange is to help us realize scholars look for evidence either to refute or sustain their thesis. Their work can be of benefit to us as a means of assessing and weighing the evidence of our own beliefs. No one likes to be in error, but errors happen and we need evidence from various disciplines, historical, linguistic etc., to make valued judgments. It was never a question with Professor Fredrickson of fending off some assault on the professor's beliefs. Nor did it matter what beliefs Anthony held. It was primarily a technical problem of language. The same questions could be asked and answered by an atheist familiar with the Hebrew language and they would have no less validity.
The question was, were the professor's assertions valid? Did lexicons, the Hebrew Scriptures, etc., validate his assertions? Would you trust someone who has never really made a study of biblical languages to be your authority on a technical point of language? That would be like taking your ailing, highly electronically advanced Ferrari into a bicycle shop for repairs.
Am I saying that we need to be highly trained linguists in Oriental languages to understand the Bible? Absolutely not! If we follow plain creedal statements, the plain words of Jesus, the Old and New Testament writers, the words make sense to any open mind.
Augustine's 'Only' Problem
We stated that without knowing the technicalities of Aramaic, Greek and Hebrew we could still arrive at truth by the use of creedal statements. Some seem traumatized by the Biblical use of the word "one." One cannot be divided. It can be fractionalized but God cannot be divided. The theme goes something like this:
The Father and the Son = one God.
It would seem reasonable to assume that one Father plus one Son should equal two Gods. In this formula the rules of logic, language or mathematics are not assaulted. To insist that "they," two separate beings, are one being may be made acceptable from a speculative theological point of view, but does it have any meaning in reality? Can one be two or two be one?
The concept of proclaiming the existence of two supreme Creator beings (this is never stated in the Bible and has to be assumed and read back into the text) seems to be unnecessary. One all-powerful and every-other-superlative Being should suffice. Isaiah 43: 10 declares this to be the case: "No God was formed before me, and after me there will be none" (NAB).
Others seem to stumble over the word "only." For example, John 17:3: "This is eternal life that they know you the ONLY true God."
So plain and clear was this passage understood by Augustine that he had to rearrange the verse to say what it really didn't mean, because it was devastating to his dogma of a preexistent Jesus/God.
My question: If John 17:3 is not totally destructive to the two-God binitary or three-God Trinitarian dogma, why did Augustine attempt to change it? What is happening here? Are we, by the accepting the Jesusis-God concept, unwittingly accepting the main body of Catholic error?
Augustine knew the import of John 17:3. His solution? Change the text!
The history of the struggle from the third century to the sixth and the gigantic wars that were fought have been brilliantly documented by Prof. Richard Rubenstein in his book When Jesus Became God. The general thesis is that it was not until the sixth century that the orthodoxy of the Trinity finally carried the day. This was against the Arians, who believed that Jesus was not God. The struggle was won by force of arms and predominates to this day. However, even today there are Catholic, Jewish and Protestant scholars who beg to differ with the orthodoxy of Jesus as a preexistent God.
But Who Do You Say Jesus Is?
One question has been asked since the beginning of the Christian era. Jesus asked his disciples, "But who do you say that I am?" The answer Peter gave had the Messiah's approval: "And Simon Peter answered, 'Thou art the Messiah, the Son of the living God.'" Jesus told him that he was a blessed man because this was God-revealed. (Matt. 16: 17). Presumably we would give the same answer.
It is beyond question that Jesus as the Messiah and the Son of the living God was the common teaching in the first-century Church. When we ask John why he wrote his epistle, his answer is without ambiguity: "But these things have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in his name." What a wonderful time for John to also tell that he wrote this book to explain that Jesus was the preexistent God Creator as the other Apostles had failed miserably to mention this awesome fact.
The problem was not that the Jewish leaders were denying Jesus his position as part of the Godhead. That thought would have been outside of these monotheistic Jews' thinking. They were denying that he was the Messiah, the Son of God. That is what Jesus said. He wanted the record put straight. He had made it plain that there was "only one true God, the Father!" (John 17:3). John quoted Jesus saying, "You do not seek the glory that is from the ONE and ONLY God."
But the charge of saying Jesus was claiming to be the Son of God, a Messianic title, constituted a threat to the establishment.
John was a thoroughly monotheistic Jew. When he recorded the story of the death of Lazarus, John records Jesus telling Martha, "'Your brother shall rise again.' Martha said to him, 'I know he win rise again in the resurrection on the last day.' Jesus said, 'I am the resurrection. Do you believe this?'" Now we learn the depth of the understanding taught by the NT Church. This was why John wrote his epistle: "Yes, Lord; I believed that you are the Christ, the Son of God, even the Coming One [a messianic title]" (John 11:27).
HUMANITY OF THE PRIESTHOOD
The writer of Hebrews calls our attention in 1:5 to the Messiah's place as the firstborn Son and his superiority to angels—and with special emphasis on his beginning: "For to which of the angels did he ever say, 'You are My Son, today I have begotten you?'" If Jesus were God, he would have no beginning. It is clear by this passage that Jesus' beginning was as the firstborn of God: "His only [uniquely] begotten Son."
Note also Heb. 2; 1Off: "In bringing many sons to glory it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings; for he who consecrates and those who are consecrated are all of one stock. That is why he does not shrink from calling men his brothers." Vs. 14: "Since the Children share in flesh and blood, he too shared in them, so that by dying he might break the power of him who had death at his command. . ." Vs. 16: "Clearly they are not angels whom he helps, but the descendants of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every way so that he might be merciful and faithful as their high priest before God. . . Because he himself has passed through the test of suffering, he is able to help those who are in the midst of their test" (REB).
If "he had to be made like his Israelite brothers in every way," wouldn't that take him out of 1he God/man category? And if he were God, he couldn't be a high priest. The whole priesthood of Melchizedek was founded around a human high priest:
Heb. 5:1-3: "For every high priest is taken from human beings and is appointed to act on their behalf in relationships with God, so he can sympathize with those who are ignorant or who are gone astray because he too is subject to the limitations of weakness" (NJB).
Some have declared that Melchizedek, the OT High Priest at the time of Abraham, might have been the one who became the Jesus of the NT. However, the translation by William L. Lane of Heb. 7: 1ff. found in Word Biblical Commentary, Vol. 47 A, should be helpful:
"Now this Me1chizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High. Translated his name means first 'king of righteousness'; then also 'king of Salem' means 'king of peace.' His father, mother, and line of descent are unknown, and there is no record of his birth or of his death, but having been made to resemble the Son of God, he remains a priest continuously.
"Consider how great A MAN this must have been to whom the patriarch Abraham a tenth of the spoils of war."
THE TIME FRAME FOR PETER
There seems to be a remarkable consistency among New Testament writers in maintaining the time of the revealing by the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. "For he was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you" (I Peter I: 20). And Peter persists in referring to Jesus as HUMAN after Jesus' resurrection.
Acts 2:22 records Peter's first sermon after the resurrection: "You who are Israelites, hear these words, Jesus the Nazarean was a MAN commended to you by God with mighty deeds, wonders and signs, which God worked through him in your midst, as you yourself know. This MAN delivered up by the set plan and foreknowledge of God, you killed."
Never in the lifetime of Peter's ministry did he acknowledge Jesus as God. With Jesus' death, he considered him another failed Messianic pretender. Until he recognized Jesus after the resurrection, he was on his way to return to his business.
Peter's statement as to the Messiah being foreknown is quite consistent with the foreknowledge of "the Lamb that was slain [in sacrifice] from the foundation of the world" (Rev. 13:8). God's plan through his Son was conceived before the world began. His Son was the reason for creation. His humanity through his mother, his life of service to his Father, set the example and the goal for all humanity. He died suffering the fate of all men's appointment with death. And his Father resurrected him. This is also part of the human destiny God wants for all mankind. His Father granted him great power. He said that He could do nothing of himself. He was always subordinate to his Father's will and powerless as in himself as all of us.
Yes, Jesus was the centerpiece, the reason for creation, and the King of God's coming Kingdom. He takes over the dominion where Adam failed.
"So also it is written, 'The first MAN, Adam, became a living soul.' The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However," Paul says, "the spiritual is not first, but the physical." If there be any question that the two Adams were physical beings?
We can be part of the reward of the first Adam or of the second Adam. We can honor Christ's Father as our Father; his God can be our God We will share his death, and we can share in his resurrected reward. Paul did say, "Don't you know that the saints are to manage the world?" (I Cor. 6:2). This world is our training ground, as it was of the Messiah, who learned by what he suffered. He was not a flower in a vase but a man who faced the harsh world of reality in an evil age and conquered it as a servant of God, not a hybrid God/man developed by Greek and Roman philosophers and theologians.
The Messiah's Human Reactions
In spite of the wall of Jewish monotheism, Hebraic thought, and the life of Jesus that cried out for a return to "the reality and normality of a man," that wall was soon breached, and by the second century the walk to a Greek God/man emerged. Cannon H. L. Gouge noted that "when the Greek mind and the Roman mind, instead of the Hebrew mind, came to dominate the Church, there occurred a disaster from which the Church has never recovered, either in doctrine or practice." This new God/Man was quite suited to the Greek world, which made gods of the Caesars, and among its other gifts to Christianity gave us an ever-burning hell and immortality to fuel its flames. Others emerged to challenge the man whom God had sent as His agent.
The concept of a being who is both God and man could cause one to ask the question, Was he of two minds? If so, which one would dominate? Obviously the God mind would dominate.
Greg Deuble makes a valid point about the problem Christianity has created by a "double-natured Lord"—actually a hybrid—by ignoring the Jewish man who is the Messiah and theologically transforming the "Christ" into something extra-biblical, the Jesus created by the theological world and legislated into being by Constantine "as fully God." Constantine's invention brought about a political harmony between warring factions 300 years after his death, a fact of history that obscures the Jesus of history. The Jesus of flesh and blood who lived a real human life as Israel's promised Messiah is made into a hybrid God/Man/Creator, something that he never was, or claimed to be.
As Deuble points out, many examples can be given to show Jesus was a man limited by human boundaries. Even at the climax of his life in Gethsemane, Jesus is proven to be a man. As flesh and blood he is utterly shaken by what is before him. He quakes so much he sweats "as it were great drops of blood." It is obvious that Jesus did not consider himself God manifest in the flesh, a member of the Trinity (or the Binity). The Messiah he certainly was, the One chosen to offer the supreme sacrifice for the world, but at base he is seen in Gethsernane as flesh and blood and no more. "All things are possible to You," he prays, implying that all things are not possible for him. And then: "not what I desire, but what You desire," his submission to God, not the completion of a purpose of his own making. We see here the Son of God submitting to God, not God submitting to God.
But, Thomas, Who Do You Say I Am?
The well-known words of Thomas to Jesus, "My Lord and my God," in Matt. 20:28 are thought to be decisive in contending for the full Deity of the Messiah. But this is in spite of Jesus' denial of his Deity in his argument with the religious leaders of his day in John 10:34ff. They had accused him of saying that as a man he "had made himself God." Jesus hadn't said that but had said he "was the Son of God." What is missed by readers of the New Testament is that the word God can have a secondary meaning when applied to God's representatives. Jesus used Psalm 82 in his discussion with his adversaries. He answered them, "Is it not written in your law, I said, 'You are gods'? If it calls them gods to whom the word of God came can you say that the one whom the Father has consecrated and sent into the world blasphemes because I said 'I am the Son of God'?"
There is a principle here that is acknowledged by many scholars. Professor Boobyer takes notice that "when they [the early Church] assigned Jesus such honorific titles as Christ, Son of man, Son of God and Lord, these were ways of saying not that he was God, but that he did God's work. The earliest interpretation of the Christ found in the New Testament is predominantly not ontological [talking about his essence of substance] but functional [what was his work]. Oscar Cullman has stoutly maintained that the functional remained dominant throughout the New Testament. He wrote, "When the New Testament asks 'Who is Christ?' it never means primarily 'What is his nature?' but 'What is his function?' "
In one moment of brilliant insight the former skeptic Thomas recognized that the resurrected Jesus had now proved that he was indeed the promised one, fulfilling of all the Messianic hope for the new age. Here was the one who was to function as God's agent to restore Israel and the replacement for the god of this evil age, Satan.
We have mentioned John's reason for writing his Gospel: to prove Jesus was the Messiah the Son of God. That has not stopped this book from being, as one theologian stated, the playground of heretics. The particular passage that has commanded the most attention is John I: I:
"In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God . . . HE was. . ." Consider four points:
(1) John was a Jew, and a monotheist. He had plainly asserted that there was only one God in 5:44 and 17:3.
(2) A word is not a person. The Hebrew equivalent of the Greek word logos is davar. Davar in the Old Testament means "word," "matter"--often "promise" or "intention" but never a person. The "word" should never have been capitalized.
(3) The word "he" in the Greek language could have just as legitimately been translated "it." It was by translators' choice starting in the King James Version that they used "he," not "it."
(4) John always uses the preposition para (with) to express the residence of one person with another. Yet in the prologue he chooses pros, suggesting that "the word" is not meant to designate a person alongside of God.
There is good evidence that the Hebrew prepositions im or et, meaning "with," can describe a relationship between a person and what is in his mind or heart.
A Historian's View: What Was Jesus' Function?
Canon Tom Wright of England: "Jesus was known, among many other things, as someone who could speak with power and authority. But it is the sort of things he said that most stood out. When the synoptic evangelists say that 'he taught as one having authority, and not as the scribes, 'they were not merely referring to the tone of his voice. Nor are they simply saying that, instead of quoting some learned authorities upon which he relied (or even debating the rights and wrongs of the opinions of some rabbinic school), he appeared to be founding a new school of his own, a new branch of Torah interpretation. Rather, they are saying something, backed up by all the words they record, about the actual content of his proclamation.
"Jesus was announcing a message, a word from Israel's covenant God. He was not simply reshuffling the cards already dealt, the words of YHWH delivered in former times. Modern western culture does not have many obvious models for the kind of thing he was doing and that may be just as well. If it did, we might be tempted to make them fit despite residual anachronisms. But we may catch something of the correct flavor if we say that Jesus was more like a politician on the campaign trail than a schoolmaster; more like a composer-conductor than a violin teacher; more like a supervising playwright than an actor. He was a herald, the bearer of an urgent message that could not wait!
"He could not become the stuff of academic debate. He was issuing a public announcement, like someone driving through a town with a loudspeaker. He was issuing a public warning, like a man with a red flag heading off an imminent rail disaster. He was issuing a public invitation, like someone setting up a new political party and summoning all and sundry to sign up and help create a new world. The fact that he was not arrested sooner was due to his itinerant style and to his concentration on villages rather than major cities, not to anything bland or unprovocative about the content of his message.
"For this reason (among others), the old picture of Jesus as the teacher of timeless truths, or even the announcer of the essentially timeless call for decision, will have to go. His announcement of the Kingdom was a warning of imminent catastrophe, a summons to an immediate change of heart and direction of life, an invitation to a new way of being Israel."
Here is one who is greater than Solomon. He had no qualms about his job description. He was highly talented speaker who inspired temple guards who were sent to arrest him to return empty-handed, saying, "No one ever spoke like this." He perfected the art of public relations when he took the widely know resurrected Lazarus on his final journey to the Temple.
Who Did Jesus Say He Was?
The question is, Was Jesus claiming His Divinity when he said in John 10:30 "I and the Father are one"? The Gospel of John does seem in some places to set up a tension with the other Gospels. However, remember that John's own stated reason for writing this Gospel was to assert that he wrote "these things that you may know that Jesus is the Messiah the Son of God."
Another difficulty is knowing the mind-set of the Jewish people, particularly in regard to the Creator. It is best expressed in Romans 4:17, speaking of Abraham: "As it is written, I have made you father of many nations [he was appointed our father] in the sight of God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and speaks of the nonexistent things that [he has foretold and promised] as if they [already] existed."
Jesus implored God, "Now glorify me, Father, with you, with the glory that I had with you before the world began." Then in verse 22: "And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one as were are one." From these words it is easy to see that it was the anticipated future of which Jesus was speaking. The oneness he referred to was the singleness of God's purpose, held by the Messiah and the apostles.
Never did Jesus say, "I am God." Never did the synoptic Gospel writers say they were in the company of a preexistent Creator God. This would have had to be recorded, because it would have been a complete departure from what they had been taught from early youth. Note the Jewish historian and theologian Pinchas Lapide's observation:
"The confession that Jesus acknowledged 'as the most important of all commandments' [Mark 12:28ff], and which is spoken by every child of Israel as a final word in the hour of death [was]: 'Hear, 0 Israel! The Lord our God is one' (Deut. 6:4). What the 'Shema Israel has meant for the inner life and survival of Judaism can only with difficulty be understood from without. As orthodox, liberal or progressive as one might be in one's religiosity, the oneness of God raises faith to a central height before which all other questions shrink to secondary ones. Whatever might separate the Jew on the fringe from a Jew at the center, the oneness of their God makes secure the oneness of religious consciousness.' "
The Final Judgment
New Testament writers never claim that Jesus is the only true God or Israel's Creator. To overcome this oversight, orthodoxy frequently cites Isaiah 43:3: "For I am the LORD your God, the Holy one of Israel, your savior."
The reasoning goes like this: We know Jesus is God because he is our savior.
But there is a fallacy in that line of reasoning. Note Jude: "To the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory and majesty, power and authority, before all time and now to all the ages" (NASB, marginal reference).
Without question Jesus is the agent God has used to rescue this chaotic world. But a supreme mind is behind it all to end global catastrophe by the establishment of His Kingdom through His Son. Paul makes clear the mind and the agent for the final event in unregenerate man's rule in Acts 17 :24ff: "This God who created the world and everything in it . . . God has overlooked the age of ignorance; but now he commands men and women everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day in which he will have the world judged, and justly judged, BY A MAN whom he has designated, of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead."
This judge at the end of history still clings to his humanity: "I, Jesus, have sent my angel to you with this testimony for the churches, I am the offspring of David, the shoot growing from his stock, the bright star of the dawn" (Rev. 21:16).
Paul looks beyond the 1,OOO-year period of the Messiah's reign and notes to the end that Jesus is still subordinate to his Father (1 Cor. 15:24-28):
"Then comes the end, when he delivers up the kingdom to God the Father, after disposing every sovereignty, authority, and power. For he is destined to reign until God has put all enemies under his feet; and the last enemy to be disposed is death. Scripture says, 'He has put all things under his feet.' But in saying 'all things,' clearly he means to exclude God who made all things subject to him, and thus God will be all in all!"
Copyright © 2003 Charles Hunting. All rights reserved.
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