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Section 2 .. Reasons To Believe/Jesus

 

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The Deity of Jesus Christ. Was He Lord, Liar,
Or Lunatic? Part IV

Part IV - Rebuttal Arguments

Carol Brooks
 

Detailed Index To All Five Sections

PART I - Introduction and How Jesus Was Viewed By Those Who Knew Him.
Those Who Knew Jesus Referred to Him as the Logos and Theos

PART II - What Jesus Said About Himself
 Considering the claims Jesus made, the titles he gave Himself, and the worship He accepted, the only possible conclusion one can come to is that He suffered from grandiose delusions -  or He was the Son of God as He said.

PART III - Jesus' Claims - Authenticated By Some Very Impressive Evidence
Miracles, Prophecy, and The Strikingly Significant Parallels between Yahweh in The Old Testament and Jesus in the New

PART IV - Rebuttal Arguments
Five passages often used as proof that Christ was not Deity.

PART V - Explaining The Unexplainable and Conclusion
So how can all this be explained? How can Jesus and the Father be one, yet distinguishable from each other?
Last, but far from least, one has to come to a decision about Jesus.

 

Bible1-Bar 

ON THIS PAGE
Five passages particular are often used as 'proof' that Christ was not Deity -
Matthew 24:36 - No One Knows
 Luke 2:52 - Jesus Increased In Wisdom And Stature
Philippians 2:5-8 -Jesus "Emptied Himself"
Matthew 19:16-17 - There is None Good
Colossians 1:15-18 - Firstborn Of All Creation

 


Matthew 24:36
Few Biblical passages have caused readers to scratch their heads as much as Matthew 24:36 and its parallel in Mark 13:32. Both Gospels relate how one of the disciples, apparently taken with the splendor of the temple, commented on it's size and beauty and the immensity of the building's stones from which it was constructed. At which Jesus made a dire prophecy that the time was coming when not one stone would be left still standing on another.

Some of the disciples then asked Jesus in private when this would come to pass, and when the end of the age would come (24:3). Jesus' answer was not immediately forthcoming but, a little later in the chapter, He said that no one except the Father knew the day and the hour of the Second Coming.

    "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. (Matthew 24:36 NASB)

The problem (which to some people is a considerable one) is if Jesus was God, how could He say that he did not know the day and hour of a future event? All three of the most reasonable explanations have been presented here. However, each probably has as many shortcomings as merit.

Make Known
Some believe that the verb translated "knows" sometimes means to "make known" or to reveal. They appeal to 1 Corinthians 2:2 in which the word can be understood in that sense.

    For I determined to know (Gr. eido) nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:2)

In other words, Paul resolved to teach nothing but Jesus Christ - - to preach the Gospel and make Jesus known. If eido is used in the same sense, Matthew 24:36 would read 

But of that day and that hour no man will make known, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father (only will announce it).

Maybe, maybe not.

Jesus' Human Limitations?
The Bible Knowledge Commentary says

    "... Christ was obviously speaking from the vantage of His human knowledge (cf. Luke 2:52), not from the standpoint of His divine omniscience." And that "In His Incarnation Jesus voluntarily accepted human limitations, including this one" [07]

However, this is far from a satisfactory answer since the Gospels are replete with examples of Jesus' supernatural knowledge. For example, in Matthew 17.27 Jesus knew that the first fish Peter would catch would have a coin in its mouth, enough to pay the temple tax for both of them.

    "However, so that we do not offend them, go to the sea and throw in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for you and Me." (Matthew 17:27 )

Also note how many times in the New Testament we are told of Jesus "knowing" things that no human could

    Jesus told Nathaniel that He had seen him under a fig tree and knew him to be a man without guile (John 1.48).

    And knowing their thoughts Jesus said to them, "Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself will not stand. (Matthew 12:25 )

    But He knew what they were thinking, and He said to the man with the withered hand, "Get up and come forward!" And he got up and came forward. (Luke 6:8 )

    "But there are some of you who do not believe." For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him. (John 6:64 )

And that was far from all. In the verses between the asking and answering of the question about the timing of His return, Jesus was able to warn the disciples about the many signs that would precede His coming. For example, in Matthew 24 He ... warned the disciples of false christs (Vs. 4-5). Wars, famines, plagues and earthquakes which will be the beginning of sorrows (Vs. 7). Persecution of his followers (24:9-10). Apostasy from the truth and false prophets (Vs. 10-13).  The Spread of The Gospel in all the earth (vs. 14). The Abomination of Desolation (Vs.15). The Severity of the Great Tribulation (Vs. 21-22), Warning against False Christs (24:23-28). The conditions immediately preceding the appearance of the Son of Man, and the fact that He will return "the clouds of heaven with power and much glory" (Vs. 29-31)

See The End Of The Age Part II... The Seven Seals.
A comparison of Jesus' words in Matthew 24 with the Seals of Revelation 6.

This last fact alone makes it more than a little strange that Jesus was ignorant of the time of His return, or is it possible that the original Greek says ...

Nobody Has Known
A third school of thought believes that the English translations do not accurately reflect the original Greek. They say that although nobody knows is a linguistically possible sense of the Greek, the literal translation should be:

Concerning that day or the hour nobody has seen (known). This could very well mean that 'nobody has known in the past'.

(Note that Young's Literal Translation of the Bible does say nobody has known)

However, for Jesus to answer a question of when "these things" would come to pass, with a nobody has known doesn't make a whole lot of sense. The answer seems not to fit the question very well.

Conclusion
None of these interpretations are without difficulty and although theologians have forever wrestled with this matter, the fact is that Jesus' plainly stated that he did not know when the end of the age would come and we, quite simply, do not have the slightest idea of what he meant.

However, this simply cannot be used to prove that He is not Deity since He had already given the disciples innumerable details of the many signs that would precede His return. So let us focus on the overwhelming lesson of this chapter - an important warning to be very aware of the times and seasons.

A similar argument has been made for the verse which states that ...



Jesus Increased In Wisdom And Stature - Luke 2:52
To some, this is not the only puzzling statement in the Gospels. For example Luke 2:52 tells us that Jesus increased in wisdom and stature.

    And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. (Luke 2:52 )

However, I see little or no problem with this statement. It is highly unlikely that Jesus was completely aware of His mission from the day He was born. For example, can one imagine Jesus as a baby or a toddler being aware that the world was created through Him or that He was going to be crucified for the sins of mankind?

What makes far more sense is that, regardless of the fact that He was God, Jesus quite simply "increased in wisdom and stature" as He grew into adulthood. The knowledge, and burden, must have become ever more crushing as He got older, finally reaching it's culmination in the garden of Gethsemane, when He "fell on his face, and prayed"...

     "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will." (Matthew 26: 39)



Philippians 2:5-8... Jesus "Emptied Himself"
is one of the most controversial passages in the Bible - usually interpreted according to the pre-conceptions of the reader

    Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:5-8)

The discussion centers around what the phrase "emptied Himself" means - whether or not Jesus was God prior to coming to earth -  and whether or not He retained His Divinity when He took human form. The answer to these questions has huge implications because it defines how a person views Jesus. However, as said in my article Context is Crucial,

No Biblical author simply strung together a number of lofty sounding phrases disconnected from one another. Since each verse is an integral part of a particular point the author was trying to make, no one should read, much less base their beliefs on stand alone verses. The reader can only be accurately informed by God's Word the way it is written... in its context, which means understanding what overall message the chapter is intended to convey.

Since virtually all individual verses in the Bible can only be fully understood and assessed as part of the surrounding verses, which form the setting, or the big picture, you should ignore verse numbers and read at least several paragraphs, if not the whole chapter more than once... perhaps several times. This will almost always result in the discovery of a very clear theme, and distinct message, which will often illuminate, or throw a different light on a particular verse. In other words, the verse may not mean exactly what you had previously been lead to believe, or thought it meant. See Context is Crucial

Philippians 2:5-8, like so many other verses, has been wrested from it's context, which has led to more erroneous interpretations than a dog has fleas. What we have to do is examine the overall context, especially the verses leading up to the passage in question. 

From the general tone of the epistle to the Philippians, it seems that there was little in the church in Philippi that required rebuke. Paul, who never shrank from strong words of condemnation when it was deserved, largely wrote to the Philippians in a very affectionate vein. The only problem in Philippi seemed to be some disunity. Paul pleaded with them to live in harmony and avoid strife, adding that they should do nothing through conceit or selfishness, but consider the welfare of others before their own. Read it for yourself

    Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. (Philippians 2:1-4 NASB)

Paul then went on to tell the Philippians to have the same "mind" as Jesus Christ - to develop a Christ-like attitude. (Philippians 2:5 NASB)

What attitude did he want them to adopt? The next few verses say that Jesus 

    who, although He existed in the form (Gr. morphe) of God, did not regard equality (Gr. isos) with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied (Gr. kenoo)  Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:6-9 NASB)

In other words, Paul wanted the Philippians to humble themselves, just as the Son of God humbled Himself by coming to earth "not to be served, but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45). I have no idea how it could get any simpler. But humans, being what they are, seem determined to read all kinds of nonsense into this passage, which is a clear statement of Christ's Deity. 

Form Of God
Some Christians believe form of God means the visible appearance as God. This makes no sense whatsoever because the parallel form of a servant uses exactly the same Greek word morphe. Just as Jesus did not just visually appear to be a servant but was a servant, He did not just visually appear to be God but was God. Remember what John said, "And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us" (John 1:14)

No Reputation
The King James version has translated verse 7 so - "But made himself of no reputation and took upon him of a servant..." (I would be curious to know how they came up with that one). kenoo - the Greek word, used used only five times in the NT, means to make empty or void

    For if those who are of the Law are heirs, faith is made void (Gr. kenoo) and the promise is nullified; (Romans 4:14 NASB)

    For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void (Gr. kenoo) (1 Corinthians 1:17 NASB)

Emptied Himself "Of"
One other problem is that it is often assumed that verse 7 says Jesus emptied Himself "of" something. While some say that He emptied Himself of His glory or His privilege, I have heard it said that He emptied Himself of His divine attributes and characteristics, which would means He was not God during His time on earth.

However, we are reading into the text what is simply not there. The verse does not say Jesus emptied Himself "of" anything, just that He "emptied Himself", which makes perfect sense in the context in which it was written.



Matthew 19:16-17... There is None Good

    And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good (Gr. agathos) Master, what good thing (Gr. agathos) shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good (Gr. agathos)? there is none good (Gr. agathos) but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. (Matthew 19:16-17 KJV).

    And someone came to Him and said, "Teacher, what good thing (Gr. agathos) shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?" And He said to him, "Why are you asking Me about what is good (Gr. agathos)? There is only One who is good (Gr. agathos) ; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments." (Matthew 19:16-17 NASB)

Agathos (good) is a very generic term used of both people and things. For example

    so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good (Gr. agathos) , and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Matthew 5:45 NASB)

    "Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered together all they found, both evil and good (Gr. agathos) ; and the wedding hall was filled with dinner guests. (Matthew 22:10 NASB)

Many sects believe that Jesus was denying His own goodness - a characteristic of God alone. However, in the New Testament, Jesus was described by two Greek words - dikaios (righteous), and hagios which is the 'holy' in "Holy Spirit".

    "But you disowned the Holy (Gr. hagios) and Righteous (Gr. dikaios) One and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, (Acts 3:14 NASB)

If the same word is used to describe both the Spirit of God and Jesus, it is hardly likely that Jesus was saying that He Himself was not "good". Which leaves us but one sensible option, as outlined by J.P. Holding...

    In Jewish thought, God was pre-eminently good, so that the ruler was indeed offering Jesus a compliment usually reserved for God. Since it is quite unlikely that the ruler truly believed that Jesus was identifiable as God the Son, this looks more like an effort by Jesus to make the man think about what he is saying before he blurts it out or engages in indiscriminate flattery. [08]

Jesus was not denying that He was "good", but was essentially asking the ruler if understood the implications of his own words. Whether he realized it or not, by calling Him "good" the Jewish man was identifying Jesus with God.

Note too that Christians are also instructed to be both Holy (hagios) and Righteous (dikaios). See What Is Holiness?

 

Colossians 1:15-18... The Firstborn Of All Creation
Colossians 1:15-18 says

    (15) He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. (16) For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things have been created through Him and for Him. (17) He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. (18) He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.. (Colossians 1:15-18 NASB)

The words "firstborn of all creation" are a perennial cause of debate. Some claim that although Christ my be 'the first and highest' of God's creation, the fact remains that He was created and therefore not God and not eternal. However, there are numerous problems with using the phrase as proof that Christ is not Deity especially if we examine the next verse along with Colossians 2:9

    For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness (Gk. pleromato) dwell in Him, (Colossians 1:19 NASB)

    For in Him all the fullness (Gk. pleromato) of Deity dwells in bodily form, (Colossians 2:9 NASB)

In the New Testament the Greek word pleromato means "complete" or literally "full". . For example,

    "When I broke the seven for the four thousand, how many large baskets full (Gk. pleromato) of broken pieces did you pick up?" And they *said to Him, "Seven." (Mark 8:20 NASB)

    I know that when I come to you, I will come in the fullness (Gk. pleromato) of the blessing of Christ. (Romans 15:29 NASB)

    But when the fullness (Gk. pleromato) of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, (Galatians 4:4 NASB)

So when Colossians says the "fullness" of the Godhead dwelt in Christ, it means that He was 'full up' with Deity.

The interpretation that Christ was a created being and not deity is also inconsistent with the immediate context that clearly states that all things were created "through Him and for Him" (Verse 16). It also contradicts the rest of the New Testament, which often affirms Jesus' role as creator. For example,

    All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. (John 1:3 NASB)

    in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. (Hebrews 1:2 NASB)

Note: the Jehovah's Witnesses New World Translation adds the word "other" five times to Colossians 1:15-20, a word that is not found in the original Greek. See Footnote V

"Firstborn"
Firstborn or First Created?
The word firstborn was rendered from the Greek prototokos that is derived from two other words... protos (foremost in time, place, order or importance) and tikto (to produce from seed)

In other words prototokos clearly means first-born as the very few other NT occurrences show

    And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn (Gr. prototokos) son: and he called his name Jesus (Matthew 1:25 KJV)

    For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn (Gr. prototokos) among many brethren; (Romans 8:29 NASB)

    By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of the blood, so that he who destroyed the firstborn (Gr. prototokos) would not touch them. (Hebrews 11:28 NASB)

Does that mean God had a Son as we understand the term?

Not at all. 


Jesus Was God's "First-Born" - to Immortality
Similarly Jesus was the first-born of the dead. While Jesus was not the first person ever to be raised from the dead, the others like Lazarus, whom Jesus Himself raised, undoubtedly died again. . Jesus was the only one who rose to immortality

    He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. (Colossians 1:18 NASB)

    and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood-- (Revelation 1:5 NASB)

When Scripture says Jesus was the the firstborn from the dead, it implies that there will be others after Him. And so there will be. This was foretold centuries ago by the third of seven annual feasts the Jews were required to keep.

The Seven Feasts of Israel
God introduced the Seven Feasts to the nation of Israel during the time they were encamped at the foot of Mount Sinai. They were called the feasts of the Lord because He Himself instituted them- a fact that made these Feasts hugely important in the Israeli calendar. They were holy convocations that took place at "appointed times".

The historic and prophetic significance of the Feasts is one of the most fascinating of all Biblical studies. Although believers are not required to keep them, every Christian should be very familiar with the Feasts, as they not only celebrate a historical event in Israel's past but are also a prophecy of future events that concern us all. They were types that, in Christian theology, are actual historical events that were a rough draft or a glimpse, of one or more events yet to occur. These subsequent happenings (the antitype) were certainly much more important than the original type.

The Type
The Feast of First-fruits, on the 17th day of Nisan, was a celebration of the harvest, when a sheaf representing the very first of the harvest was waved before the Lord, as a symbolic gesture that dedicated the coming harvest to Him. (This sheaf was likely to be barley, which was the first crop to ripen).

The Antitype
Jesus rose from the dead on the Feast of First-fruits. His resurrection was like a wave offering presented to the Father as the first-fruits of the harvest to come at the end of the age. The Apostle Paul said...

But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ's at His coming, (1 Corinthians 15:20-23 NASB) See The Seven Feasts of Israel

Typology
In Christian theology typology is the study of types - prefigurative symbols in Scripture. They can be 1) An actual historical thing or event which, at the time it occurred, was a rough draft or glimpse, of one or more actual events yet to come, although the significance may not have been apparent at the original occurrence. Or 2) A person who prefigured the Messiah in some way. These 'personal' types were in addition to the many specific Old Testament Messianic prophecies. In short, a type was one or more event or person that foreshadowed, pointed to, and culminated in one final and very important event (or person) called the antitype. 

 

ALSO SEE

The End Of The Age
The coming Kingdom of God which Jesus said He was sent to proclaim is no pie in the sky ethereal place 'somewhere out there' but matches, in every respect, the world most men and women would choose to live in... a place of peace and safety, where there is no crime, hunger and disease, no war and, above all, no death. (See The Message of The Bible) However, no unbelieving, unrighteous, evil, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful, murderous, insolent, arrogant, malicious, greedy or deceitful person will ever be a part of His eternal Kingdom. Which means, He has to first 'clean house'.

The catalogue of man's greed, ruthlessness, and inhumanity to his fellow man is one that has no end. Increasingly, modern society flaunts its sins with impunity. But, as the prophet Isaiah said, "Woe to them! For they have brought evil on themselves" (3:9). There is a day looming on the horizon when mankind's iniquity exhausts the patience of God Himself, at which point in time He will pour out His wrath (retributive justice), on the earth, punishing transgressors and ending all the injustice and suffering in this world.

This will be the darkest time in human history, when even the heavens and earth will tremble at His power and fury, the moon will turn to blood, and the sun will no longer gives out its light. In order to understand exactly what is in store for this planet and its inhabitants, we need to turn to Revelation, the last book of the Bible, in which, the horrendous conditions in the last days are described by the metaphorical images of Seals, Trumpets and Bowls, which some say run concurrently, while others are of the opinion that they are different and succeeding series of judgments. While neither point of view is correct, there is little doubt that conditions get progressively worse, and more devastating, as the end times progress. The final straw will be the Seven Bowls when He will, as the prophet Zephaniah said, cut man off from the face of the earth (Zephaniah 1:2-3

 

CONTINUE ON TO PART V - Explaining The Unexplainable - How can Jesus and the Father be one, yet distinguishable from each other? In light of Jesusí statement that He "came forth" from the Father (John 16:27-30), Second century apologist, Justin Martyr's analogy goes a long way towards understanding this difficult concept.  Conclusion: Last, but far from least, in light of his claims one has to come to a decision about Jesus.  HERE

 

Footnote V...
The Jehovah's Witnesses New World Translation of Colossians 1:15-20 reads so

    [15] He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; [16] because by means of him all (other) things were created in the heavens and upon the earth, the things visible and the things invisible, no matter whether they are thrones or lordships or governments or authorities. All (other) things have been created through him and for him. [17] Also, he is before all (other) things and by means of him all (other) things were made to exist, [18] and he is the head of the body, the congregation. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that he might become the one who is first in all things; [19] because [God] saw good for all fullness to dwell in him, [20] and through him to reconcile again to himself all (other) things by making peace through the blood [he shed] on the torture stake, no matter whether they are the things upon the earth or the things in the heavens. [http://www.watchtower.org/e/bible/col/chapter_001.htm]

The four occurrences of the word "other" is not in the original Greek

    (15) He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. (16) For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things have been created through Him and for Him. (17) He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. (18) He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. (19) For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, (20) and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. (Colossians 1:15-20 NASB )

 

End Notes
[07] Walvoord, John F., and Zuck, Roy B., The Bible Knowledge Commentary, (Wheaton, Illinois: Scripture Press Publications, Inc.) 1983, 1985

[08] J.P. Holding. Did Jesus deny being God in Mark 10:18? http://www.tektonics.org/lp/mark1018.html

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Artwork provided courtesy of James "theo" Theopistos.