Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Jesus as God

I'm going to post a few pieces around the place on Jesus as God. I thought I'd begin with the famous quote from John Knox (not the 16th century reformer, but the 20th century NT scholar).

“I, for one, simply cannot imagine a sane human being, of any historical period or culture, entertaining the thoughts about himself which the Gospels, as they stand, often attribute to him.”

(John Knox, The Death of Christ [1959], p. 58; cited in I. Howard Marshall, The Origins of NT Christology, p. 43).


Justin Jenkins said...

Reminds me of that oft quoted phrase by C.S. Lewis ... and it's quite true ... and cracks me up when people just say “He was just a good teacher.”

However (as you well know), many Jewish Scholars just outright claim that Jesus would never have said or done some of those very things that are being referred to here. Instead, he was most likely a ‘good Jew’ (who somehow still got himself killed) but his followers made up all that ‘God stuff.’

James Crossley said...

Where's the God stuff in the synoptics? And in what sense? In Mark, for instance, I can't think of anything that isn't paralleled in Judaism at the time. John is a different matter but that should say something about the development of tradition.

Justin Jenkins said...

No “God” stuff in Mark? Off the top of my head ... I can think of two rather weird things for a Jew to do ...

Mark 2:1-2:12, with the healing of the Paralytic ...

“My son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

Also during Jesus’ trial in Mark 14:61-64 ...

But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” And the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further witnesses do we need? You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they all condemned him as deserving death.

Why were they so upset at that? These two examples alone --- I don’t think were “paralleled in Judaism at the time.”

steph said...

'your sins are forgiven' is not the same as 'I forgive...'

In Mark 2:10 the phrase ‘Son of Man’ suggests that Jesus' authority was from God whereas Jesus’ opponents in Mark 3.22 believed Jesus’ authority was from Satan. Therefore for Jesus’ opponents in Mark, the title ‘Son of Man’ suggests blasphemy.

James Crossley said...

Well Steph has answered this to some extent. I'm not convinced the dispute in Mk 2.1-12 is about sins being forgiven but let's asume it is. As Steph suggested there is a passive form here, i.e. 'your sins have been forgiven by...' Let me add a couple more points.

1. None of the texts you cite mention Jesus as God.

2. People could get in trouble for blasphemy without claiming to be God. See for example the debate between Sadducees and a certan Pharisee over the legitimacy of a high priest in Josephus.

3. Jews could get upset and engage in deadly intra-Jewish disputes without claims of being God. There are disputes in Judaism about the authority of an individual do do certain things.

4. Is there not some significance that there is no mention in Mark's gospel of Jews being angry because he makes himself equal with God like in John's gospel?

For me those disputes are about Jesus' authority and whether it is legitimate. They have nothing to do with Jesus being God. If they did they would have said so like John's gospel.

And let's not forget that there was a range of meanings for the term 'Son of God' in early Judaism. John's gospel seems to go beyond just about everything but I can't see Johannine type claims mentioned in Mark.

graham old said...

I actually agree with Knox, in that I cannot imagine a san human being claiming to be God. However, whether Jesus did that, or whether my imagination is lacking, is unclear.

And even if a sane person would claim such a thing, I cannot imagine them staying sane for long!

Justin Jenkins said...


My response is kind of long, you can read it here if you wish.