Did Jesus Think He was God?

Dale Martin is an American New Testament scholar. He is Woolsey Professor of Religious Studies at Yale University.

Professor Dale Martin says it’s unlikely that Jesus taught his followers that he was divine since after his death, different disciples had quite different ideas about whether or not Jesus was divine. Even if they believed he was divine, they differed about in what sense or to what degree he was divine and when he became divine. Was he low-level divine a really high level divine? Was Jesus designated as son of God upon his resurrection, as some believed? Or was he adopted at his baptism or perhaps at the transfiguration? Was he a pre-existent Messiah, or a created Messiah? Messiah could mean human, angelic or godlike, as could ‘son of man.’

It took the full second century and a good bit of the third century for these ideas to get straightened out to become what became orthodox Christologies. That is why Professor Dale Martin thinks the different Christologies we find in the New Testament, suggest that beliefs in Jesus’ divinity arose only after his death. Otherwise we would expect more uniformity among his later followers. “If he had taught that he was divine in any kind of clear sense, then I do not expect that you’d have all the various ways of conceiving him to be divine or not, in the earliest Christianity.”

Contemporary Jewish texts do hint at how his disciples later elevated him to divine status by connecting him to that kind of divine messianic tradition. When his disciples came to believe he was raised from the dead they put that together and said that he has a divine Messiah and therefore the Son of God that can be thought of as God himself.

We do have Jewish texts from before and around Jesus time that depict the Jewish king or a son of man or messiah figure as a son of God, as begotten of God, and even addressed as God. Certain songs, later Greek translations of those Psalms, a text or two from the Dead Sea scrolls and other Second Temple Jewish literature, rarely, but do indeed depict a divine Messiah, though one certainly subordinate to God himself. ‘Son of God’ itself need not have meant divine status. Jewish readers of the songs would have seen the human king called ‘Son of God’ without necessarily taking that to mean those kings were actually divine in the way Zeus or Augustus were said to be Gods.

As in Egyptian and Mesopotamian texts, the Hebrew Bible calls the Jewish king, ‘son of god.’ The title points to a special relationship between god and the king. The Jewish king may or may not have been thought to be a god. Isaiah 9:6 calls the future eschatological king the ‘Mighty God’—a title whose meaning is not explained in the text. The Greek translation of Psalm 110 (109 in the Greek Psalter) expresses the idea of the ‘rightful king’s’ preexistence. The ‘Son of Man’ in the Book of Enoch (1 Enoch 37–71) is described in language which is heavily influenced by the ‘Son of Man’ in Daniel 7. He is preexistent and, like God, he sits on a throne of glory and judges—traits that may suggest his divinity.

In another apocalyptic book of the period, 4 Ezra, chapter 13 speaks of a future Davidic ruler who is both heavenly and preexistent. Thus, both the Hebrew Scriptures and early Jewish literature contribute to the view that the future eschatological leader (the Messiah) is both preexistent and divine, although these texts speak of him in other ways as well. The Dead Sea Scroll fragment, 4Q246, refers to a figure with the words “Son of God he shall be called, and they will name him ‘Son of the Most High.’ ”

In other words, there is not a unified Christology in the New Testament. Much less, if we consider what other followers of Jesus (who didn’t make it into the cannon) were believing at the time.

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Categories: Bible, Christianity, Christology, God, Gospels, History, Jesus, Judaism, New Testament scholarship, Palestine, Theology

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15 replies

  1. BTW Paul, do you accept this part of what he wrote?

    “… The Jewish king may or may not have been thought to be a god. Isaiah 9:6 CALLS THE FUTURE ESCHATOLOGICAL KING THE ‘Mighty God’—a title whose meaning is not explained in the text. The Greek translation of Psalm 110 (109 in the Greek Psalter) expresses the idea of the ‘rightful king’s’ PREEXISTENCE. The ‘Son of Man’ in the Book of Enoch (1 Enoch 37–71) is described in language which is heavily influenced by the ‘Son of Man’ in Daniel 7. HE IS PREEXISTENT AND, LIKE GOD, HE SITS ON A THRONE OF GLORY AND JUDGES—TRAITS THAT MAY SUGGEST HIS DIVINITY.

    “In another apocalyptic book of the period, 4 Ezra, chapter 13 speaks of a future Davidic ruler who IS BOTH HEAVENLY AND PREEXISTENT. Thus, BOTH the Hebrew Scriptures and early Jewish literature contribute to the view that the future eschatological leader (the Messiah) IS BOTH PREEXISTENT AND DIVINE, although these texts speak of him in other ways as well. The Dead Sea Scroll fragment, 4Q246, refers to a figure with the words ‘Son of God he shall be called, and they will name him ‘Son of the Most High.”’”

    Man this stuff is gold and I think I am going to use these quotes in a new post.

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    • Do you also accept this part?

      “Contemporary Jewish texts do hint at how his disciples later elevated him to divine status by connecting him to that kind of divine messianic tradition. When his disciples came to believe he was raised from the dead they put that together and said that he has [sic] a divine Messiah and therefore the Son of God that can be thought of as God himself.”

      He admits that Jesus’ disciples believed and proclaimed that Jesus is a divine Messiah who is the Son of God in such a way that he can thought of as God himself as a result of their belief in the resurrection, all of which the Quran denies. Therefore, if you agree with this why are you still a Muslim?

      Like I said, fantastic stuff for me to now use. Thanks for these quotes.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Shamoun, understand this: Never use the Tor’ah as evidence that Jesus is God because of the following:

      You are not Jewish, nor are these books part of your race, culture or religion. No amount of Christian Pagan posturing will change this reality.

      Jesus is not mentioned in the Tor’ah.

      God is One Alone & not a man in the Tor’ah. Jesus is a man, therefore he is not God.

      Premise 1: God does not have a male nature.
      Premise 2 : Jesus has a male nature.
      Conclusion: Jesus is not God

      If the premises are true, the conclusion is necessarily true.

      Furthermore, if you accept that the concept of Jesus has been exaggerated and that theology regarding his nature has been developed and still developing, as Nabeel Qureshi admitted in a debate with Shabbir. Then you agree that there has been a historical trend towards higher christology which therefore agrees with the Islamic theology that in the beginning Jesus did not claim to be God but it was being developed. This is mentioned in the Hadith. But all scholars of the Bible agree that Jesus did not claim to be God nor was he a Trinitarian.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. “But all scholars of the Bible agree that Jesus did not claim to be God nor was he a Trinitarian.”

    How do you know? Have you asked them all?

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    • I agree Erasmus. Many do believe Jesus was God and see indications of this in the gospels.

      Liked by 1 person

    • The mainstream scholarly class of Methodists etc as well as representative Catholic scholars in addition to the Ehrman types clearly state that even the Devil preached that Jesus is not God and Jesus preached the same when both the Devil and Jesus are ARGUING

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    • Again I think you are mistaken. Catholic priest professor Raymond E Brown was quite ‘liberal’, but still professed belief in the deity of Jesus. He was perhaps the greatest NT scholar of the late 20th century.

      In a detailed 1965 article in the journal Theological Studies examining whether Jesus was ever called “God” in the New Testament, Brown concluded that “Even the fourth Gospel never portrays Jesus as saying specifically that he is God” and “there is no reason to think that Jesus was called God in the earliest layers of New Testament tradition.” He argued that “Gradually, in the development of Christian thought God was understood to be a broader term. It was seen that God had revealed so much of Himself in Jesus that God had to be able to include both Father and Son.”

      Thirty years later, Brown revisited the issue in an introductory text for the general public, writing that in “three reasonably clear instances in the NT (Hebrews 1:8-9, John 1:1, 20:28) and in five instances that have probability, Jesus is called God,” a usage Brown regarded as a natural development of early references to Jesus as “Lord”.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raymond_E._Brown

      Liked by 1 person

      • If I were you, I would ignore MUHAMMAD IS BURNING IN HELL, since he is another cowardly troll who is too ashamed identify himself, and who also doesn’t understand his sources or has no honor or qualms about butchering what he reads from the scholars. This is why I gave him my email so we can have a debate in order to record the shellacking I will unleash on him for all to see.

        Liked by 1 person

      • “This is why I gave him my email so we can have a debate in order to record the shellacking I will unlea…”

        O shut the f up you filthy fraud. No one cares about your pathetic illusions of grandeur.

        Liked by 1 person

      • OK folks that enough bitching.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. //is described in language which is heavily influenced by the ‘Son of Man’ in Daniel 7. He is preexistent and, like God, he sits on a throne of glory and judges—traits that may suggest his divinity.//
    The question is how did people at that time understand that “preexistent” and that “divinity” for human beings? In which sense?
    I believe we may answer this question, so let’s read this episode in John’s gospel which is considered by all trinitarians the best gospel for their theology.
    “Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God. Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’?” If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken, do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?”

    Accordingly, Jesus was a very bad teacher for the Trinity! Indeed the title (son of God) doesn’t mean the equality with The (only true) God, and that’s why that very gospel has Jesus declare that the Father is the (only true) God because this declaration doesn’t contradict the view of the author, but it definitely contradicts the view of christians today.

    The question of how some jews and christians got this view in which the human beings can be mingled in their identities with divine beings is a topic by itself. However, it’s very clear that the environment they lived in had a big role in this deviation. The Greco-Roman world had views about the divinity to be understood as (substance). It can be poured in human beings, and it can be emptied from divine beings. As a result, we can see half -divine beings because they only received the half of that divine substance. Also, we can see in their world that some divine beings become fully human because they emptied themselves from that divine substance.

    In Islam, the answer is very clear
    “The Jews say, “Ezra is the son of Allah “; and the Christians say, “The Messiah is the son of Allah .” That is their statement from their mouths; they imitate the saying of those who disbelieved [before them]. May Allah destroy them; how are they deluded? They have taken their scholars and monks as lords besides Allah, and [also] the Messiah, the son of Mary. And they were not commanded except to worship one God; there is no deity except Him. Exalted is He above whatever they associate with Him. They want to extinguish the light of Allah with their mouths, but Allah refuses except to perfect His light, although the disbelievers dislike it. It is He who has sent His Messenger with guidance and the religion of truth to manifest it over all religion, although they who associate others with Allah dislike it.” QT.

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  4. “Accordingly, Jesus was a very bad teacher for the Trinity! Indeed the title (son of God) doesn’t mean the equality with The (only true) God,”

    If it’s a title that many share but Jesus claimed to be the unique Son of God.

    “do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?”

    You claim that Jesus is bringing himself down to the level of the gods to avoid the charge of blasphemy but we say he is elevating himself above them to the point that he is not blaspheming because he is the unique and only son of God.

    This is the natural and obvious meaning of the text.

    If Jesus was just one of the gods of the psalm why would he declare himself to be the unique Son of God? That would not make any sense.

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    • John’s gospel has Jesus argue that if it’s ok to call those men in Psalms by the word (gods), yet it’s not considered blasphemy and equality with God, then how could it be blasphemy and equality with God to use the title (son of God) for a great messenger of God! Simple and clear!

      However, how could that arguemnt make sense for trinitarians? Well, it doesn’t! If Jesus had really wanted to make a point about his divinity in the sense of what christians understand today, he would have simply answered jews that because (I’m God Himself). He would’ve not brought any argument about men called (gods) in their scriptures. To understand my point better, imagine if the jews asked the Father, why do you claim to be God, and the Father answered them ( because men in your scriptures are called gods)! It’s very absurd.
      That’s why the same gospel has no problem to have Jesus declare that the Father is the (only true ) God because this declaration doesn’t contradict the author’s view, but it definitely contradicts the view of christians today.

      Like

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