Jesus’ Divine Nature and Identity
Throughout the human history, people perceived the personality of Jesus in different ways. During Jesus’ ministry on the Earth, the religious leaders at that time, namely scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees, in most cases addressed him as teacher and accused him of blasphemy when Jesus referred to God as his Heavenly Father. Sometimes they even claimed that Jesus performed the miracles with the power of Beelzebub. Besides, common people regarded Jesus as a teacher or a prophet as well. However, his disciples, namely Peter claimed that Jesus is “the Son of the living God” (King James Version, Mt. 16:16). Nevertheless, Jesus Himself not only directly but also metaphorically declared that he and God the Father were one. Certain Bible verses, interpretations of Jesus’ teachings, his actions as well as testimonies written about him in the years that followed his resurrection are important sources for the discussion of the question about the divine nature of Jesus. The concept of Jesus’ Hypostatic Union must be also taken into consideration (Swinburne 74). The thesis of the paper asserts that Jesus’ nature reveals his true identity of being God and one of the personalities in the Holy Trinity.
Jesus acted as God more than once in his lifetime on the Earth. He forgave sins and said openly that if not through him no one can come to the Lord. An example may be the case when Jesus healed the paralyzed man: “Some men brought to him a paralyzed man, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, “This fellow is blaspheming!” Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “Get up, take your mat and go home” (Mt. 9:2-6). His ability to forgive sins equaled his measure of might with that of God the Father. Jesus also claimed authority over Sabbath that is ordained by God in the Old Testament, which tells a lot about his identity, “For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath” (Mt.12:8).
Jesus often referred openly to himself as God; rarely did he mention this directly, but his words pointed to the statement that he is God. According to Jesus, to know him was to know God; to see him was to see God; to believe in him was to believe in God; to receive him was to receive God; to hate him was to hate God; to honor him was to honor God. It is said in the Gospel, “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus’ personal attitude towards God was no different from his attitude towards the human. Even though he alluded to his divinity, Jesus was also profound in his testimony that he had a Father. On the cross, he cried out, “Father, if it is your will” to mean he was at the command of the Father. Consequently, it is evident that Jesus is the Son of God and a personality of the Holy Trinity (Morwood 88).
Jesus has both a divine and human nature; his divinity is obvious because of his high moral standards. Jesus is often thought as a moral reformist. He often condemned the most religious of the Jews by setting himself as a benchmark. In the society that had lived under oppression and neighbors who had no compassion for the poor and were remarkable for the lack of any morals, the Jewish community was relatively of high moral standards. This nation upheld a high sexual ethic and strict adherence to the law. However, Jesus often rebuked the Pharisees of their moral failures while credibly defending his superior morality. His human nature is manifested in his flesh and actions. Jesus as a man was tempted by the devil in the desert, even though he did not succumb to it. He also grew in wisdom according to Luke 2:32. The passage in the book of John 9:35-37 refers to him as the Son of Man. The two-sided characteristics of Jesus’ divinity and human nature attests to his incarnation in flesh (Ryan 747).
Five verses explicitly refer to Jesus as God in the New Testament. These verses are: “Thomas said to him, ‘My Lord and My God’” (Jn. 20:28); “Christ, Who is God over all, forever be praised! Amen.” (Rom. 9:5); “Our Great God and Savior Jesus Christ…” (Titus 2:13-15); “But about the Son he said ‘Your Throne, O God’ will last forever and ever” (Heb. 1:8); “The righteousness of our God and Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:1). These texts are clear proof that the Bible recognizes Jesus as God. Other texts in the Old Testament and some in the New Testament also support the fact that Jesus is God, albeit not always directly. An example is the reference to God as a Redeemer in the book of Isaiah and Jesus as a Redeemer in the text in 2 Peter 1:1.
It may be better to speak of God’s identity rather than his nature to distinguish between him and the Son. From the teachings of Jesus, his Father and he are inseparable. Jesus assumes a unity with God, and God also manifested himself in his Son’s baptism as well as transfiguration. Moreover, Jesus proclaimed that whoever believes in him, shall not perish but will gain eternal life to seal this bond of closeness. These words as well as the manifestation of God support Jesus’ claims that he and the Father are one: “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one” (1 Jn. 5:7) This is one of the passages that shows the ones of Jesus and God in the Holy Trinity.
The early Christians did not refer to Jesus as God because of various reasons. The main reason the early church did not use the name God when talking about Jesus is because it was blasphemous, and it might attract punishment from the authorities. In the environment that prevailed after the resurrection of Jesus, Christian persecutors were still common in Rome. Thus, Jesus was not even accepted as the Son. Interpretations of Jesus’ teachings and the Bible as a whole were not advanced during this era. Therefore, the knowledge of Jesus’ divine nature might not be clear enough for the early Christians. As a result, it cannot be argued that Jesus is not God because he was not called God by the early Christians. (Swinburne 74).
Literature outside the Bible also attests that Jesus is God. Texts from epistles of Matthes to Diognetus support this assertion. Epistles to Diognetus are a highly affirmed patristic account that argues that indeed Jesus is God. One of the passages in the epistle says, “But the truly all-powerful God himself, creator of all and invisible, set up and established in their [Christians’] hearts the truth and the holy word from heaven, which cannot be comprehended by humans. To do so, he did not, as one might suppose, send them one of his servants or an angel or a rule, but he sent the craftsman and maker of all things himself. The epistles continue to describe Jesus as the creator and the alpha and omega in plain language.” (7.2) (Schmidt, p40).
Incarnation in relation to Jesus transcendence refers to his willingness to take on a flesh outlook when he was indeed a Deity. His distance from sin is particularly an exceptional point. Jesus does not sin in his entire lifetime because “in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Col. 2:9). He also distances himself from his family; even at a young age of twelve he starts focusing on the godly things and considers his place in the temple: “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” (Lk. 2:49). This attests that he indeed has divine nature; moreover, he is God (Schmidt 44).
In conclusion, Jesus’ own words and actions testify that he is God. He is an incarnation of God in human flesh. Besides, the teachings of the Bible, that is texts from the Old Testament and scriptures from people who interacted with Jesus personally, all attest that he is a part of God and, therefore, he is God himself.