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Did Jesus Claim to be God?

HomeChristianity and the BibleDid Jesus Claim to be God?

Many skeptics of Christianity believe that Jesus never claimed to be God. Some claim that nobody believed He was God until long, long after His death. Others argue that Jesus’ own words show that He believed Himself to be simply a man, or only the Son of God and not God Himself. Still others claim that Jesus’ divinity was created by the apostle Paul, and that his teaching and Jesus’ teaching are in conflict. From Jehovah’s Witnesses to Muslims to atheists, a whole bunch of people deny that Jesus is God.

Their confusion is understandable. It’s not a common situation…you know, God becoming human. When we look at Scripture, it’s undeniable that Jesus Himself, and His disciples, and the Jews around Him, understood that He was claiming to be God.

Jesus claimed to be God

Jesus repeatedly called Himself the Son of Man. This refers to a prophecy in Daniel 7, which Jesus quotes directly. The Son of Man is the one whom all will worship, whose reign will last forever, and so on. Remember: religious Jews are fiercely monotheistic…they would never worship anyone who is not God, yet they accept that the Son of Man should be worshipped.

This is clear in Mark 14. During His trial before the Sanhedrin (the Jewish ruling council), this happened:

“… the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” “I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” The high priest tore his clothes. “Why do we need any more witnesses?” he asked. “You have heard the blasphemy.

If the Messiah were simply human, then claiming to be the Messiah would not be blasphemy. Blasphemy has to do with God, not humans. Because the Son of Man – the “Son of the Blessed One” – wasn’t considered simply a man, Jesus’ claim to BE the Messiah caused the most severe reaction:

They all condemned him as worthy of death.

… and then some more:

In Revelation 1:17, John records Jesus saying, I am the first and the last. This is a direct quote from Isaiah 44:6, where God says I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God.

When Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, He wasn’t claiming that He was a created being, or that He was less…He was claiming to be EQUAL with God. The Jewish leaders understood this very well, as we see in John 5:18For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

John 2:19, Jesus claimed to be able to raise Himself from the dead: Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.

In Luke 6:5, Jesus claimed to be Lord of the Sabbath. Of course, God Himself created the Sabbath.

In John 8:58, Jesus claimed to exist before Abraham, who died 1600 years before He was born: Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am! See the next part for more on this.

The Jews believed Jesus claimed to be God

In that same passage, some Jews asked Jesus, “Who do you think you are?” Jesus used the phrase “I am.” He used this phrase to describe Himself numerous times. This is the same phrase God used to describe Himself in Exodus 13:14 when Moses was going to confront Pharaoh: I am. How did the Jews respond? They picked up stones to kill Him for saying it, because they understood that Jesus was calling Himself God.

At Jesus’ trial, the Jewish leaders insisted, We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.

It was understood that only God could forgive sins, and then, in Luke 5:20, Jesus forgave sins: When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, “Why are you thinking these things 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.” Then, of course, the man did just that: he got up and walked away. If Jesus had the authority to heal a paralytic, then – by His own words – He had the authority to forgive sins… clearly indicating that He could do what God alone can do.

In John 10:30, Jesus was talking about God the Father, and then said, I and the Father are one. Sounds maybe like Jesus was saying they were like-minded, or on the same team or something. That’s not how the Jews heard it, of course… they knew exactly what Jesus meant: Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?” “We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”

The High Priest believed Jesus claimed to be God

As mentioned above: in Matthew 26:63, Caiaphas said to Jesus, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” “You have said so,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?” “He is worthy of death,” they answered. Remember that the Jews believed the Son of Man was divine.

Jesus’ disciples believed Jesus is God

John 1:1 says that Jesus was God.

In John 20:28, Thomas called Jesus God.

In Hebrews 1:8 we read that God called the Son God.

In Acts 20:28, Luke records Paul’s words that God bought the church with His own blood…clearly meaning Jesus.

In 2 Peter 1:1, Peter called Jesus our God and Savior.

In Titus 2:13, Paul calls Jesus our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Do we believe Paul, or Jesus?

This is a seemingly valid question, but one that betrays ignorance of the events outlined in the Bible. After fourteen years of ministry, Paul went to Jerusalem to meet privately with Peter, James, and the other Christian leaders there. He presented to them the gospel that he preached to the Gentiles…to make sure he was on track. They added nothing to his message. Why would the disciples accept what Paul taught as true if he falsely claimed that Jesus is God? No… Paul agreed with Jesus and His disciples, which is why there was never any conflict over him saying that Jesus is God.

I could go on, of course. Without question, Jesus claimed to be God. Without question, those around Him understood exactly what He meant… some followed Him because they believed Him, and others wanted to kill Him – and ultimately succeeded – because they didn’t believe Him.

The most important question at the moment is whether YOU believe Him. Having the facts is important, but not enough by itself… to have peace with God, we must trust Him enough to submit to Him as well.

More Conclusive Evidence

As if the above texts weren’t enough to establish 1) that Jesus claimed to be God and 2) that those around Him understood that He claimed it, the Bible shows definitively that Jesus IS God:

  1. He is the object of worship by humans and angels
  2. Salvation is found in Him
  3. He forgives sins, which only God can do
  4. He presides over the final judgment
  5. Christians are taught to pray to Jesus
  6. He bears the titles used for Yahweh in the Old Testament

In the end, the text is clear: Jesus claimed to be God, and His enemies wanted to kill Him for it. His disciples believed that He is God, and were willing to die before claiming otherwise. The foundation of Christianity is that Jesus isn’t simply a man, but God in flesh.

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2 responses to “Did Jesus Claim to be God?”

  1. William L. says:

    The first problem I see in this post is the misunderstanding of the word translated “worship” in the Hebrew bible. It is factually incorrect to say “religious Jews are fiercely monotheistic…they would never worship anyone who is not God”. The root of the word translated “worship” in English translations is Shakhah (שָׁחָה) which simply means to bow down or prostrate oneself. On the other hand, if you look up the definition of the modern English word “worship”, you find it means “the feeling or expression of reverence and adoration for a deity.” (Oxford Dictionary).

    These two definitions are wholly incompatible, meaning the word “worship” in English translations (even when translated such by Jews!) conveys the wrong meaning. It’s a mistranslation. And, to make matters worse, the same word is used for bowing to men throughout the Hebrew bible, but English translators translate it properly as “bow down” when used with other humans.

    So basically you have the exact same action, translated “worship” when the action is done before YHWH, and translated “bow down” when the action is done before men. You simply cannot get the correct meaning of the Hebrew through purposefully mistranslated English.

    Here are some examples of the same word translated “worship” when done before YHWH, translated properly when done in front of anyone else:

    [Gen 18:2 NET] Abraham looked up and saw three men standing across from him. When he saw them he ran from the entrance of the tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground. (These were messenger of YHWH)

    [Gen 23:12 NET] Abraham bowed before the local people (These were simply the local humans)

    [1Ch 29:20 NET] David told the entire assembly: “Praise YHWH your God!” So the entire assembly praised YHWH God of their ancestors; they bowed down and stretched out flat on the ground before YHWH and the king. (And here you literally have the same action, same word, used of both YHWH and David at the same time!)

    The only injunction against bowing to anything in the Hebrew bible is in reference to false gods:

    [Exo 20:4-5 NET] You shall not make for yourself a carved image or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above or that is on the earth beneath or that is in the water below. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I, YHWH, your God, am a jealous God, responding to the transgression of fathers by dealing with children to the third and fourth generations of those who reject me

    So yes, very liberally scattered throughout the Hebrew bible you have men “worshipping” other men. Not in the English sense, but the proper Hebrew sense of bowing down. Go to your favorite online bible with a concordance, search for the word worship, get the underlying Hebrew root from the concordance and look at everywhere it appears and you’ll clearly see this is the case.

    • Tony says:


      While you’re being technically correct about the etymology of the word, you seem to be applying it blindly. Yes, ancient Hebrews would ‘worship’ lots of people, including their peers. No, that doesn’t make them polytheistic. Yes, there are difficulties to be found in translating a simpler language like ancient Hebrew into English. No, that doesn’t make them polytheistic. I wrote that they were monotheistic, and you ignored the context to make your point. If your point is that Judaism is polytheistic, you’re wrong. If your point is that many ancient Hebrews syncretized Judaism with other religions, you’re right. I appreciate that you’re trying to make a point about the text…but how wise is it to teach people to study the Bible well by ignoring the context of what I wrote?

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