Did the Church make the man Jesus to be God?

Image Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Rome-Capitole-StatueConstantin.jpg
Image Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Rome-Capitole-StatueConstantin.jpg

The name of Jesus is probably the most inquired name in the history of man. Type the name of “Jesus” in the Google search and you will get about 738,000,000 results, in which even Alexander the Great (356-323 BC) comes short by having only about 82,700,000 results, and Karl Marx (1818-1883) by having only about 38,900,000. In short, a lot was written about the person of Jesus given his prominence, and at the same time, a lot of opinions have been said about him, and not to say the least, most of them are pretty controversial.

To lay out our direction, let us open a crucial question: was Jesus’ deity invented?

A lot of professors affirmed to be so. For instance, the late philosopher of religion and theologian John Hick argued that Jesus was only a “God-conscious teacher,” and not the God incarnate. That he did not claim and teach that he had that divine authority, here on earth. That the concept of God incarnating in the person of Jesus was only “a creation of the church, one that Jesus himself would probably have regarded as blasphemous.” Him, being the Son of God (c.f., Matt. 16:16), does not mean that he is God’s Son. “Emperors, Pharaohs, great philosophers, and religious figures were sometimes called ‘Son of God’ and regarded as divine in the broad sense that ‘divine’ then had.” That is, such theology in which Jesus is recognized as divine is just “a human creation.”[1] The same position was held by Ghandi (1869-1948), in which Jesus only claimed to be a great moral teacher among other religious leaders.

This is also true for Dan Brown, who, in writing his ground-breaking work The Da Vinci Code, claimed that, “By officially endorsing Jesus as the Son of God, Constantine turned Jesus into a deity who existed beyond the scope of the human world, an entity whose power was unchallengeable.” [2] Brown wants us to believe, contrary what we traditionally hold, that Christ’s deity was merely an invention by the council he summoned on 325 AD, that is, the Council of Nicea.

Implications

The implications, however, of such assertion would be tremendous. It would nullify the Christian faith in its fundamental structure. It would turn out that the faith that we are in, was in fact the biggest religious propaganda ever.

Although one cannot deny the impact Christianity had socially (for instance the building of hospitals and orphanages, the building of accessible schools, the civil rights movement, and etc.), still it has no eternal significance that it promises, if Jesus is not God. And the remission of our sins would be a hoax. In short, we are still damned.

The Council of Nicea

Early in the third century, there was a growing heresy known as Arianism. A heresy proposed by Arius of Alexandria. It affirmed that Christ was not divine but a created being, just like any other being.

The heresy turned out to be a very controversial one, as the case with every other heresy, in which the emperor Caesar Flavius Constantine called a council to address the growing dispute. For he “saw the quarrels within the church not only as a threat to Christianity but as a threat to society as well.”[3] Since the Roman society at that time was predominantly influenced by Christianity.

The meeting was held in ancient Nicea, and one of the conclusions they arrived at was to condemn and exile Arius. Contrary to what Brown and other liberal theologians claimed, the council however did not invent Jesus’ deity. It only eliminated the growing confusion within the church, one of which is the dispute concerning the nature of Christ –  clarifying it by writing a creed (i.e., Nicene Creed). The council, with its creed, only affirmed the deity of Jesus. That the Father and the Son – Jesus – are “of one substance” (homoousios).

What do the earliest manuscripts tell us?

Centuries before that council, the New Testament, which was written no later than the first century by the disciples and contemporaries of Jesus, already gave us the earliest evidence for Jesus’ claims of divinity and their belief towards it.

To name a few, in the Gospel of John, Jesus claimed to have the same essence with the Heavenly Father. That those who knew him, would also know the Father (John. 8:19), that those who saw him, saw also the Father (12:45), that those who hates him, also hates the Father (15:23), and that those who honors him, also honors the Father (5:23). Moreover, he even claimed the authority to forgive sins (c.f., Mk 2:5; Lk. 7:48-50), which in Jewish understanding, a prerogative that only belongs to God (c.f., Isa. 43:25).

Even the early Church fathers already recognized the deity of Jesus and the worship of him. For instance, Ignatius of Antioch (AD 110) affirmed that Jesus is the “God incarnate . . . God Himself appearing in the form of man.”[4] Not to mention Pliny the Younger, a Roman governor (c. 112 AD) who persecuted the Christians for being Christians who worshiped Jesus as divine, documented that “they had met regularly before dawn on a fixed day to chant verses alternately among themselves in honour of Christ as if to a god.”[5]

Conclusion

To firmly believe that the exaltation and the worship of Jesus as divine was an invention of the church, much more by the Council of Nicea, betrays the data we have. Nothing is more dogmatic than that. Or as what the authors of Reinventing Jesus conclude: “To suggest that Constantine had the ability – or even the inclination – to manipulate the council into believing what it did not already embrace is, at best, a silly notion.”[6] A notion tantamount to saying that french fries are made up of avocados.

Jesus’ claims of divinity is indispensable from his character. In which his earliest followers believed it to be so, not because they are credulous, but because they saw that he did not remain dead but was risen from the grave, just as what he predicted.


[1] John Hick, “A Pluralist View,” in Four Views on Salvation in a Pluralist World, eds. Dennis L. Okholm and Timothy R. Phillips (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 52, 35-36.

[2] Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code (New York: Doubleday, 2003), 233.

[3] https://gotquestions.org/council-of-Nicea.html

[4] James A. Kliest, The Epistles of St. Clement of Rome and St. Ignatius of Antioch, “To the Ephesians” (Ramsey, NJ: Paulist Press, 1978

[5] Pliny, Letters and Panegyricus, trans. Betty Radice, Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1969): 10.96 (2.289).

[6] J. Ed Kmoszewski, M. James Sawyer, Daniel B. Wallace, Reinventing Jesus (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 2006), 215.

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “Did the Church make the man Jesus to be God?

  1. Those who claim that Jesus is the Divine Creator God do they not listen to that teacher (whose real name was Jeshua) who never claimed to be the God. And how can that person be the God when men could tempt him and kill him? and is it not a contradiction that God would be a spirit and at the same time be a man of flesh and bones?

    Like

    1. Hello Vragensteller! Thank you for your taking the time to read and even comment on this piece.

      Reading your short comment gives me a hint that you may probably be a Muslim. If not, perhaps with beliefs shared by a Muslim. And in it you have claimed three things:

      (1) Jesus (whose Hebrew name was Jeshua/Yeshua) never claimed to be divine;
      (2) God cannot be tempted and much less be killed; and
      (3) It’s a contradiction to claim that God is spirit while simultaneously be a man of flesh and bones.

      That’s a lot. But give me the chance to respond to each.

      Firstly, when one investigates something in a historical perspective (especially on an ancient person or an event) the best thing one can do is to consider the closest manuscripts concerning the person or the said event.

      The closer the manuscripts are, the more it will be considered reliable. If an event E took place in the time T1 and there are two sets of accounts written about E, namely manuscripts A and manuscripts B – it is intuitively accepted that A is probably more reliable than B if A was written in T1 or T2, in contrast with B, which was written in T5 or T6. In short, the gap matters.

      Another thing to consider is the question of authorship and dating, that is, who wrote the manuscripts and where it was written. If A was written by an eyewitness or a close acquaintance to an eyewitness (in terms of investigating it second-handedly), then A is more reliable in contrast with B, given that B was not written by an eyewitness nor a close acquaintance an eyewitness.

      For the purpose of this first response, I believe those two things are enough.

      Now as I said in the blog, the closest manuscripts we have concerning the life of Jesus are in the New Testament. They were written by eyewitnesses (e.g., Matthew, John, Paul, James, Peter, Jude) and close acquaintances of the eyewitnesses (e.g., Mark and Luke) within the first century – the century where the man Jesus lived.

      As I’ve written in the same blog: “in the Gospel of John, Jesus claimed to have the same essence with the Heavenly Father. That those who knew him, would also know the Father (John. 8:19), that those who saw him, saw also the Father (12:45), that those who hates him, also hates the Father (15:23), and that those who honors him, also honors the Father (5:23). Moreover, he even claimed the authority to forgive sins (c.f., Mk 2:5; Lk. 7:48-50), which in Jewish understanding, a prerogative that only belongs to God (c.f., Isa. 43:25).”

      By those words uttered by Jesus alone – to say that he did not claim to be God, betrays the fact.

      Moreover, in the 2nd century, the Church fathers, even the Roman governor Pliny the Younger (who was an enemy of Christianity) wrote about the recognition of Jesus as divine.

      Now, compare these to the much later writings, like the Qur’an which was written est. 600 years after Jesus and est. 600 miles away from Jerusalem. That would be another story. In short, to conclude that the Qur’an must be more reliable than the New Testament, one must first deny the historical method.

      The irony is that, even the Qur’an claimed that the Gospels are reliable (Surah 3:3; 5:46).

      Secondly, the view that God cannot be tempted is true (Jam. 1:13), because God is holy. Neither can he be killed because he is eternal (Deut. 33:27). Yet we can ask the following two questions: if Jesus is God, how can he be tempted by the devil (Matt. 4:1-11)? If Jesus is God, how can he die on a cross? The answer is simple – Jesus has two natures: truly God and truly man. When he was tempted, it was his humanity that was tempted. When he died on the cross, it was his humanity that died. This is called the hypostatic union. For further readings on this, you can check: https://carm.org/jesus-two-natures and http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/how-can-jesus-be-god-and-man

      Lastly, I don’t see any reason why it’s a (logical) contradiction that God is Spirit and at the same time can dwell in human flesh. To someone who says that it is, he must provide the reason why the thought it be so, it’s not enough to just merely assert. That is, I cannot see how transcendence and immanence be mutually exclusive. Even the Qur’an himself while agreeing that Allah is transcendent, claimed that he appeared to Abraham in the burning bush (showing his immanence, being within the boundaries of space and time).

      I hope this addresses you questions. Thank you. I hope to hear more from you.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s