The Divinity of Christ 


The Divinity of Christ

by Jude Walker

This essay is an excerpt from a letter written to a family member who believed in Jesus Christ the man, but could not accept Him as God. I believe this argument is effective in convincing those possessed of intellectual honesty. I have also left several Jehovah’s Witnesses scratching their heads with this one. Much of the information in this essay was gleaned from "Radio Replies" by Frs. Rumble and Carty, and "To Know Christ Jesus" by Frank J. Sheed.

"The unique and altogether singular event of the Incarnation of the Son of God does not mean that Jesus Christ is part God and part man, nor does it imply that He is the result of a confused mixture of the divine and the human. He became truly man while remaining truly God. Jesus Christ is true God and true man. During the first centuries, the Church had to defend and clarify this truth of faith against the heresies that falsified it." (CCC Catechism 464)

God revealed the true religion to mankind gradually, first feeding him the more simple doctrines, and thus preparing him for greater truths. He sent Moses the lawgiver, and after him a series of prophets to explain the law and to predict the coming of the Messiah.

Man has always had a religion taught by God. This religion falls into four general divisions:

· The religion of Adam, who was instructed immediately by God. This is known as the religion of innocent man.

· After his fall, Adam handed on to his children the truth about God, and the duty of worshipping Him. Even though Adam’s descendants handed down the traditions, memories eventually faded. Still, conscience always dictated what was naturally right, and this period could be called the period of natural law. However, God gave occasional revelations to various individuals, such as the Patriarchs, over and above the natural law, and this period is often called the period of Patriarchal religion or pre-Mosaic unwritten law.

· After the repopulating of the earth from Noah, men again began to forget God, and God gave Moses a clearer illumination of religious duties to be put into writing. This is known as the period of written law, or that of the Mosaic religion. (Judaism)

· Finally, God sent His own Son to give the more perfect law -- the Christian law -- which Mosaic law foreshadowed. This is the law that the Catholic Church teaches today in its fullness, and will continue to teach, immutably, until the end of time.

For over two thousand years the prophets of the Old Law declared that God had revealed to them the coming of the Messiah, who was to be the Redeemer of the world. Many prophecies were made concerning the Messiah, and all were fulfilled in Jesus.

Christ Himself always claimed to have fulfilled the prophecies. In John 5:39-40, He says to the Jews, "You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness to me; yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life." In fact, the entire fifth chapter of John is full of examples of Jesus claiming to be the only Son of God [1], given authority by the Father to heal, raise the dead, and execute judgment. Verses 45-47 say, "Do not think I shall accuse you to the Father; it is Moses who accuses you on whom you set your hope. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?"

Luke 4:16-21 finds Jesus in the synagogue, reading from the books of the prophet Isaiah: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord." When He had finished reading, He sat down and said, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."

In John chapter four, Jesus is having a conversation with a Samaritan woman at the well. Presently she said to Him, " ‘I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ); when He comes, He will show us all things.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I who speak to you am He.’ " (John 4:25-26)

When Jesus is asked by the High Priest, "Are you the Christ [Messiah], the Son of the Blessed?" Jesus plainly answered, "I am." (Mark 14:61-62) For this, He was condemned to death as a blasphemer. St. Peter declares the Messiahship of Jesus in one of the defining moments of the Catholic Church. Beginning in Matthew 16:13 Jesus says, " ‘Who do men say that the Son of Man [2] is?’ And they [the disciples] said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter replied, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.’ "

Jesus was an affront to some of the Pharisees most cherished convictions. In Matt. 15:2 they confront Jesus concerning the failure of His disciples to follow ritualistic hand washing before eating. Among other things, he tells them, "Hear and understand: not what goes into the mouth defiles a man, but what comes out of the mouth defiles a man." In John 5:1-18, when Jesus healed the paralytic at the pool of Bethsaida, Jesus commanded the man, "Rise, take up your pallet and walk." Now this was done on the Sabbath, and when the Jews saw the man who had been cured, they said to him, "It is the Sabbath, it is not lawful for you to carry your pallet." Imagine their chagrin when he told them that he was commanded by Jesus to do so! Even more so when Jesus answered them, "My Father is working still, and I am working." Remember that the Pharisees believed that God Himself rested on the Sabbath.

In these two episodes, we see not-so-subtle clues as to Jesus’ equality with God. The prophet had said, "Thus saith the Lord..." The scribes often said, "Thus it is written," when referring to the Law. Jesus, on the other hand was often heard to say, "It was said to them of old, but I say unto you..." Who was this carpenter to speak with such authority? He was the Son of God; God incarnate -- but this was a concept that most of the Jews were not prepared to accept.

It was no wonder then, that their anger was further kindled against Him when He made even bolder statements pertinent to His relationship with God. When the Pharisees complained to Jesus because His hungry disciples had plucked ears of corn on the Sabbath, He reminded them of how David and his companions had eaten the sacred bread in the temple, which was lawful only for priests to do.

He said: "I tell you, something greater than the Temple is here. And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice’ [Hosea 6:6], you would not have blamed the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath." (Matt. 12:6-8) In Luke 5:33, the Pharisees said to Jesus, "The disciples of John [the Baptist] fast often and offer prayers, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours eat and drink." And Jesus answered them, "Can you make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? The days will come, when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast is those days." This was a particularly inflammatory remark, because in the Old Testament, God was the Bridegroom of Israel.

In fact, as Jesus’ statements concerning His divinity became more blatant, the Jews desire to kill Him became more decided. When He said in John 10:30, "I and the Father are one," the Jews took up stones to stone Him. Indeed, He had only recently before narrowly avoided being stoned. In John 8:39, we see Jesus engaged with the Pharisees in a discussion concerning Abraham. This passage includes some of the most scathing accusations that Jesus made against the Pharisees. Presently, in verse 56 Jesus tells them, "Your father Abraham rejoiced that he was to see my day; he saw it and was glad," to which they replied, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?" Jesus answered, "Truly, Truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am." the Jews immediately took up stones to kill Him.

Why should the Jews be most especially outraged at this statement? On the surface, it does not appear nearly as offensive to the Jews as some others He has made. Actually, in the eyes of the Pharisees, it was possibly the most damning statement He could make, and it is worthy of closer examination.

Note that the verb here is in the present tense; "I am" instead of "I was". This particular usage of "I am" is the same "I AM" that is used in Ex. 3:14. This is where God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM," (or, "I AM WHAT I AM," or "I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE.") The Hebrew word used here is hayah, which means, "to exist." When Moses asked God whom he should say sent him to deliver the Hebrews out of Egypt, God replied: "Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you... The LORD [3]... This is my name for ever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.’ "

So, when Jesus said, "Truly, truly, [expressing the grave solemnity of what He was about to say,] I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM," He left no doubt in the mind of those present that He was claiming to be God. This was the name that God had been known by throughout all generations; as disciples of Moses, the Jews knew exactly what Jesus meant by its usage, and they reacted immediately. However, His time had not yet come, and the Bible tells us that He "hid Himself, and went out of the Temple." (John 8:58-59)

There is no doubt that Jesus was an actual historical figure. Many people have written about Him, and even His detractors agree as to the excellence of His character. He certainly claimed that He was God the Son, the Messiah, prophesied in the Old Testament. If His claims were false, then we cannot even say that He was a good man. St. John says in I John 5:10, "He who does not believe the Son has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne to His Son."

God does not deny anyone of truly goodwill sufficient grace to believe. When I began studying Catholicism, it was with the sole intention of learning all I could about it so that I could refute it. I was receptive to the truth, however, and it found me. You can believe the truth if you will only accept the truth. Until you have examined the evidence of Jesus’ divinity, you should not say, "I do not believe in the divinity of Christ." You should say, "I have no opinion on the subject; I have not studied the evidence." When you have studied the evidence carefully, you will have found at least three things:

1. The documentary evidence concerning Christ is perfectly sound.

2. Christ certainly claimed to be God.

3. He certainly did things for which God alone could be responsible.

Whether, after this, you will accept or reject what Christ has taught, will be a matter for your own choice.

Endnotes:

[1] "The Second Person of the Holy Trinity, who became man to suffer and die for the redemption of mankind. Christ is therefore the true, natural Son of God, as testified by the Father in the vision recorded at the baptism of Jesus, 'Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased' (Luke 3:22)", (Rev. John A. Hardon, S.J.; Catholic Pocket Dictionary, Image; New York, 1985).

[2] "The most frequently used title of Christ in the New Testament, occurring 82 times. A messianic title (Daniel 7:2-14), it identifies the Heavenly transcendence of the Savior while stressing His humanity, in contrast with the title 'Son of God,' which emphasizes His divinity." (Ibid)

[3] Where the word LORD appears in the Bible in capital letters, it stands for the divine name YHWH, "self-Existent," which is derived from hayah, "to exist."

Jude Walker


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