Thursday, August 29, 2013

12 Proofs of Jesus' Deity From the Synoptic Gospels

One of the leaders of a dead former movement that once had influence (the Emergent Church), Tony Jones, has been writing a series of blog posts on Questions that Haunt Christianity. In one such post, the following question is asked:

In the Gospel of John, Jesus makes many confident self-proclamations (conservative Evangelical’s favorite verses which seemingly demonstrates the exclusivity of Jesus). Now, I’m sure that claiming to be God in 1st century Judiasm is a really big deal; however, how is it that none of these self-proclamations make it into any of the synoptic gospels? Is it possible that Jesus never made these self-proclamations? If not, how does this effect our understanding of Trinitarian theology in the gospel accounts?

It should be briefly mentioned that Jones does not answer this question directly. He deals primarily, and almost exclusively, with the Gospel of John. However, as the title of his article (It's Probably True, Even If Jesus Didn't Say It) suggests Jesus never clearly claimed to be divine. Instead what we have, as (post)modern liberals have argued, the doctrine of Jesus' deity was later created by the church (blame Constantine, Athanasius, and Nicea). The Synoptics, the argument oftentimes goes, did not present a divine Jesus and the Man Himself never claimed deity for Himself. It is John that makes that explicit claim and being that John was written at the end of the first century, it is less reliable as a reflection of the earliest form of Christianity.

Is this true? In a word, no. I have put together 12 reasons proofs of Jesus' deity from the Synoptic Gospels (in no particular order).*

1. Jesus claimed to have the authority to forgive sins

Mark 2:1-12 (parallels in Matthew 9:1-8; Luke 5:17-26) records the famous story of the paralytic lowered from the roof and eventually healed by Jesus. Before Jesus healed Him, the Nazarene claimed rather boldly and shockingly to have forgiven His sins (vs. 5). The religious elite rightly, from their perspective, protest. They ask “Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone?” (vs. 7) Jesus responds, not by just proclaiming his deity but by proving his deity. When Jesus heals the paralytic, the crowd got the message; this is no mere miracle worker (see vs. 12).

2. The Demons proclaimed He was God

In both Mark 1:24 and Luke 4:33-34 demons confess that Jesus is "the Holy One of God." Similarly in Luke 4:40-41, demons refer to Jesus as "the Son of God." If your enemies proclaim you divine, then you are divine.  

3. Jesus Possesses the Attributes and Names of God

Consider, first, the attributes of God present in the ministry of Jesus the following:
  • Omnipotence (Matthew 8:26-27, 14:19, 28:18)
  • Omnipresence (Matthew 28:20)
  • Omniscience (Matthew 11:27)
  • Sovereign over the Future (Matthew 16:21, 17:22, 20:18-19, 26:1-2)
  • Without Sin - (Matthew 27:3-4; Luke 23:22, 41, 47; Acts 3:14) 
  • Suggestion of pre-existence - Mark 1:38; 10:45;
Consider also the titles of God attributed to Jesus throughout His ministry:
  •  Immanuel - Matthew 1:21-23
  •  Son of God (Matthew 4:3, 6; 8:29; 16:16; 26:63; 27:40; 27:43, 54; Mark 1:1; 3:11; 5:7; 15:39; Luke 1:32, 35; 4:3, 9, 41 8:28; 22:70)
  • Son of Man (Matthew 8:20; 9:6; 10:23; 11:19; 12:8, 32, 40; 13:37, 41; 16:13, 27-28; 17:9, 12, 22, 19:28; 20:18, 28; 24:27, 30, 37, 39; 24:44; 25:31; 26:2; 26:24, 45, 64 - I'll stop there)

4. He Accepted Worship

Only God is to be worshiped, but in Matthew 15:25, the Canaanite woman "knelt before him" and said, "Lord, heal me." More explicitly, in Matthew 28:8-9 reads, "And they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and ran to report it to His disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him." Consider also Acts 7:59-60 where Stephen prays to Jesus.

5. Jesus claims to be the final judge of the world - Matthew 25:31-46

6. He bestowed Eternal Life (Matthew 19:16-21; Mark 10:17-21; Luke 18:18-22)

7. Jesus applied a number of Old Testament texts about God to himself (cf. Matthew 21:16 with Psalm 8:2)

8. He is Lord of the Sabbath

Jesus makes the claim of being Lord of the Sabbath in Matthew 12:8; Mark 2:27-28; Luke 6:5; 13:15. Millard Erickson says here that Jesus "was clearly claiming the right to redefine the status of the Sabbath, a right that belongs only to someone virtually equal with God" (Christian Theology, 702).

9. He juxtaposes His words with that of the Old Testament - Matthew 5:21-22 and 27-28.

10. If He was not divine then His condemnation and punishment were just.

11. Similarly, if Jesus is not divine then his enemies were sorely mistaken.

12. He is the risen and ascended Lord!

More could be added and said, but these 12 points should be clear enough. Jesus did not merely claim to be God He proved it.

* It should be noted that I include references to the book of Acts since its author is the same as one of the Synoptic Gospel writers, Luke.

Tony Jones - It’s Probably True, Even If Jesus Didn’t Say It [Questions That Haunt]

For more:
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Christology 2
John Knox on the Threefold Office of Christ
John Knox on the Importance of the Ascension
John Knox on the Importance of the Ascension
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