Table of Contents
(Translated from the PT version )
This weekend I had an encounter with Jehovah’s Witnesses who are on my street every week distributing their leaflets. We had a pleasant and respectful interaction, despite deeply disagreeing on many issues.
Jehovah’s witnesses call themselves Christians but differ on fundamental issues of Christian orthodoxy.
I could go deeper into many of these subjects, such as Jesus being the archangel Michael , the Holy Spirit being a force and not a person, the fact that there is no eternal damnation for those who do not repent or that Jesus did not die on a cross . All ideas that contradict almost 2000 years of Christianity. I could talk about failed predictions and prophecies , or the idea of dividing humanity into classes , but I will leave all these matters for another time. Not that I find them unimportant, or difficult to refute, but I simply want to focus on a subject that I find essential to the Christian faith, the divinity of Jesus Christ. This doctrinal point has been the target of constant attacks throughout history, first by the Jews, then by Arius and Nestorius , by Muhammad and Muslims to this day, and more recently by Jehovah’s witnesses. All these groups, so different from each other, agree on one thing. Jesus is not God. I disagree, and I want to explain why.
Throughout 2000 years of history, the main Christian groups, Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants, have always agreed that Jesus considered himself divine, and that the Bible and the testimony of the apostles confirmed this. If throughout the history of the Church we see a unanimous voice stating something we disagree with, we must have the intellectual humility to assume that it is very likely that we are wrong. But let us ignore that for now. Jehovah’s Witnesses will not accept the church’s testimony as justification for the divinity of Jesus. Therefore, I will try to demonstrate, based on Scripture alone, three essential points:
- That Jesus considered himself divine.
- That the apostles considered Jesus to be divine.
- That the Old Testament does not impose the interpretation of Jehovah as a monolithic unity, allowing space for an understanding of the divinity of Jesus.
What did Jesus think about himself? #
We can understand in the gospels, through what Jesus says and does, that he does not consider himself just any person, but claims for himself attributes and rights that are only divine. Sometimes these statements are not very clear to us, but the Jews who listened to Jesus come to our help. Whenever Jesus asserted his divinity, his life was at risk, because the Jews wanted to condemn him to death for blasphemy.
Son of God #
The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of GodMark 1:1
Jesus declared himself to be the Son of God; he claimed to have God as his Father. But how to understand this statement? For example, those who believe in Jesus are Children of God, as they are born again, by the will of God.
Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God - children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.John 1:12-13
Angels are also called children of God because they are created directly by Him.
Jesus replied, “The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are considered worthy of taking part in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection.Luke 20:34-36
But is Jesus called the Son of God in the same sense as human beings or angels? No. Jesus claimed this title for himself in a particular way, being THE Son of God and not just A Son of God. Jesus is the only one who knows and can reveal the Father, and the Father also testifies that Jesus is his Son.
All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.Luke 10:22
There is no doubt that when Jesus stated that God was his Father, he was doing so in a different way than when we say that believers or angels are children of God. The Jews understood this very well. This was one of the main reasons they wanted to kill Jesus.
For 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 5:18
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.”John 19:7
By calling himself the Son of God, Jesus claimed to have the same nature as God, but he also did so in more explicit ways.
I and the Father are one. 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.”John 10:30-33
Jesus is not only the Son of God in a particular sense, he is the only son of God. He is the only begotten God. The one and only son.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.John 3:16-18
No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.John 1:18
But doesn’t being the only begotten son of God imply that Jesus is a created being? We might think so if it weren’t for other statements by Jesus and the biblical writers. For example, Jesus claims that he was with the Father, with the same glory as him, before the world existed.
Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life. And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. I glorified You on the earth, having finished the work which You have given Me to do. Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.John 17:1-5
But there is another even more shocking statement from Jesus, where we understand that he is an eternal being.
I AM #
The Gospel of John is particularly rich in statements that are shocking if spoken by anyone other than God. The Jews claimed that Jesus was possessed by demons, and wanted to kill him for blasphemy.
Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he will never see death—ever.” The Jews said to Him, “Now we know that You have a demon. Abraham died, and the prophets also; and You say, ‘If anyone keeps My word, he will never taste of death—ever.’ Surely You are not greater than our father Abraham who died? The prophets died too; whom do You make Yourself out to be?” Jesus answered, “If I glorify Myself, My glory is nothing; it is My Father who glorifies Me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God’; and you have not known Him, but I know Him; and if I say that I do not know Him, I will be a liar like you, but I do know Him and keep His word. Your father Abraham rejoiced [a]to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” So the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple.John 8:51-59
When Jesus claims to be able to preserve those who keep his word from death, the Jews are indignant, but they speak to him with an attitude of contempt and mockery. When they think he claims to have seen Abraham, they still respond with incredulity, but when Jesus says “I am”, he awakens such fury in the Jews that they try to kill him immediately. With the statement “I Am” Jesus was unequivocally identifying himself with YHWH , the all-powerful God who appeared to Moses.
And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”Exodus 3:14
Son of man #
One of Jesus’ favorite titles, which he constantly used to refer to himself, was “Son of Man”. Some claim that this expression highlights his humanity, but in fact, “Son of Man” is an even more divine title than “Son of God”. What did Jesus mean when he called himself “Son of Man”? We have a clue in the gospel of Mark.
But He kept silent and did not answer. Again the high priest was questioning Him and said to Him, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?” And Jesus said, “I am; and you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” And tearing his tunics, the high priest *said, “What further need do we have of witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy; how does it seem to you?” And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death.Mark 14:61-64
Once again, Jesus says something that infuriates the Jews, in this case the High Priest, who immediately understood what Jesus meant by “you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power and coming with the clouds of heaven.” Jesus was alluding to Daniel’s vision, in which one like the “Son of Man” receives glory from God, authority over the whole world.
I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven one like a Son of Man was coming, And He came up to the Ancient of Days and came near before Him. And to Him was given dominion, Glory, and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and men of every tongue might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not be taken away; And His kingdom is one Which will not be destroyed.Daniel 7:13-14
Jesus was claiming that he himself would receive from God an eternal kingdom and authority over all. Furthermore, he stated that he would sit at the “right hand of Power,” meaning that he has the same authority as God the Father.
The rights of Jesus #
So far we have seen four titles or attributes about who Jesus is, but there are still four things that Jesus has or does that demonstrate his divinity. In other words, what Jesus is entitled to.
Jesus receives all authority from God the Father. Authority over all flesh. Authority in heaven and on earth. Authority over everything and everyone.
But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. And when they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted. And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to keep all that I commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”Matthew 28:16-20
Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life.John 17:1-2
Jesus gives some examples of this authority in his miracles. He demonstrates authority over nature when he calms the storm, walks on the sea, multiplies bread or turns water into wine.
And the men marveled, and said, “What kind of a man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?”Matthew 8:27
He shows authority over demons.
The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.”Mark 1:27
And finally he claims to have authority over the Sabbath, a solemn festival instituted by God.
For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.Mateus 12:8
We often see Jesus being worshiped in the gospels. We never see Jesus reprimanding anyone for this attitude. Therefore, either Jesus is someone who has the right to receive something that is only appropriate to give to God or else Jesus was sinning, receiving worship.
And behold, a leper came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.”Matthew 8:2
While He spoke these things to them, behold, a ruler came and worshiped Him, saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay Your hand on her and she will live.Matthew 9:18
Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, “Truly You are the Son of God.”Matthew 14:33
Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, help me!”Matthew 15:25
And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, “Rejoice!” So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him.Matthew 28:9
Then he said, “Lord, I believe!” And he worshiped HimJohn 9:38
The same honor due to God the Father is also due to the son.
that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.John 5:23
Finally, Jesus affirms his divinity when he forgives sins. The one who can forgive is the one who is offended. A sin is an offense against God, therefore only God can forgive.
Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”Luke 7:48-49
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!”Matthew 9:2-3
When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 7 “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”Mark 2:5-7
The scribes are right. Either Jesus blasphemed, or he is God himself incarnate.
What did the apostles think about Jesus? #
We do not have written testimony from all of Jesus’ twelve disciples. But from the testimony we have, it is easy to see that, for the apostles, Jesus was more than a being created by God.
The apostle Peter, always ready to speak, was used by God to make a statement on behalf of the disciples.
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”Matthew 16:16
As we have seen previously, calling Jesus “Son of God” is affirming his divinity. It is to say that he has the same nature as God. But to avoid leaving us in doubt, Peter writes in his second letter in more detail what he knows about Jesus.
Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours: Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.2 Peter 1:1-4
For Peter, Jesus is “our God and Savior” and “our Lord.” For Peter, Jesus has “divine power” to give us “everything that concerns life”. For Peter, Jesus is God.
The apostle John is the disciple who most emphasizes the divinity of Jesus, both in his gospel and in his letters.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.John 1:1-3
Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.John 20:30-31
This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.1 John 4:9
Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.1 John 5:5
For John, Jesus is the only begotten Son of God, the one who has the same nature as God. For John, Jesus is the Word who was in the beginning with God and through whom all creation was made. Nothing that was created exists without Jesus. Neither earth nor heaven, nor men nor angels. Without him, nothing that was done was done. For John, Jesus is God.
Paul wrote much of the New Testament, so there are many examples where we could explicitly read or infer that Paul considers Jesus to be a divine being. Right in Acts, when saying goodbye to the elders of Ephesus, Paul gives them instructions where we read that it was the “blood of God” that purchased the church.
Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.Acts 20:28
In the letter to the Colossians, the church is warned about deceptions that would separate them from the simplicity of faith in Christ, in whom “ALL the fullness of divinity dwells bodily”.
See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority.Colossians 2:8-10
In the letter to the Philippians, Jesus is clearly stated as equal to God.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.Philippians 2:5-11
For Paul Jesus was God. This was not his discovery or invention, but it was the testimony he received from the early Christians. I have previously written about the New Testament creeds , passages that have a different wording than the rest of the surrounding text. They are credal formulations , constructed in a way that helps recitation and memorization. In them we understand that the first Christians immediately after Jesus’ death affirmed his divinity, pre-existence death for our sins , burial and resurrection.
The identity of the writer of the letter to the Hebrews is uncertain, but since this is a text responding to Jehovah’s Witnesses, his testimony could not be left out. Hebrews begins by affirming the superiority of Jesus to the angels, Moses and the high priests.
but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs. For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father”? Or again, “I will be his Father, and he will be my Son”? And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.” In speaking of the angels he says, “He makes his angels spirits, and his servants flames of fire.” But about the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom.Hebrews 1:2-8,13-14
Entire books could be written about this chapter, but let’s make three points. We read that Jesus is (1) heir of all things (2) the express image of God (3) more excellent than the angels. We read that Jesus has a throne that will remain forever. It is to Jesus that all creation will be subject.
It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking.Hebrews 2:5
The letter to the Hebrews categorically states that Jesus is not an angel. He is superior to the angels, as he is the one who will receive all authority over the world, not an angel. In short, the apostles knew without a shadow of a doubt that Jesus is God. Let us take the testimony of the apostles as true, and not wait for our encounter with Jesus in our resurrection to recognize his divinity. Let us be more blessed than Thomas.
Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”John 20:28-29
Plurality in God in the Old Testament #
In the Old Testament we find several passages with intriguing subtleties. Subtleties that lead an attentive reader to question the nature of God. I will not claim that we find a clearly explicit doctrine of the Trinity in the Old Testament, but many questions that the text raises are answered if we understand God as Christian orthodoxy defines him: “One God, three persons”.
First, one of the foundational texts for Judaism is the Shema .
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is oneDeuteronomy 6:4
A clear affirmation of Jewish monotheism, to which the various Abrahamic religions adhere. There is only one God. However, the Hebrew word that affirms the unity of God, אחד (echad), can be understood as a composite unity. For example in Genesis 2 the first couple is “one flesh”. It is not a word that necessarily implies a monolithic unit.
That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.Genesis 2:24
When Christians affirm that God is three persons, they are not affirming polytheism, as this would deny the scriptures, but rather a different understanding of the nature of God.
Two of the most intriguing passages that suggest a plurality within divinity are found in the book of Genesis.
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”Genesis 1:26
And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”Genesis 3:22
In these two passages, God speaks to himself in the first person plural. He speaks as if he were in a group of Gods, and takes counsel among them. This grammatical curiosity is very well explained by the concept of the trinity. Another intriguing clue to the plural nature of God is the use of the term אלהים (Elohim). The word אלהים is plural in Hebrew and is often used to refer to God in the Old Testament. This implies that divinity is not a singular entity, but rather a plurality that acts in unity.
The Angel of the Lord #
I have written previously on this topic, so I will be brief, but the concept of the “Angel of the Lord” also sheds light on this non-monolithic view of God.
There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.” When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”Exodus 3:2-4
In the same text we read that whoever is in the bush is the Angel of the Lord, but whoever speaks from the bush is God. We also read that it is the Lord (יהוה, Jehovah) who sees that Moses is approaching, but that it is God (אלהים, Elohim) who speaks.
Many divine persons #
King David writes in Psalm 110 that the Lord (יהוה, Jehovah), speaks to the Lord (אדן, Adonai) of David and gives him a place of authority, at his “right hand”, indicating a status of equality with God.
The Lord says to my lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”Psalms 110:1
In Genesis we find a passage that can be understood as referring to two Lords (יהוה, Jehovah).
Then the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah—from the Lord out of the heavens.Genesis 19:24
In Isaiah we also find passages that offer a vision of divine plurality.
Listen to me, Jacob, Israel, whom I have called: I am he; I am the first and I am the last. My own hand laid the foundations of the earth, and my right hand spread out the heavens; when I summon them, they all stand up together. Come together, all of you, and listen: Which of the idols has foretold these things? The Lord’s chosen ally will carry out his purpose against Babylon; his arm will be against the Babylonians. I, even I, have spoken; yes, I have called him. I will bring him, and he will succeed in his mission. Come near me and listen to this: From the first announcement I have not spoken in secret; at the time it happens, I am there. And now the Sovereign Lord has sent me, endowed with his Spirit. This is what the Lord says — your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.Isaiah 48:12-17
The speaker is “the Lord your God”, “the first and the last”, but he is sent by “the Lord God” together with his Spirit. This text suggests the simultaneous presence of God, the Lord, and his Spirit, as distinct entities.
An in-depth analysis of the scriptures demonstrates without a shadow of a doubt that they present Jesus to us as God. Many texts in the New Testament would be poorly explained if we denied this fact. Many Old Testament texts that raise questions about the nature of God would remain unexplained without this fact. There is only one God, but He exists as three persons. It is not as clear as in the case of Jesus that in the scriptures the Holy Spirit is also God, but we can also reach this conclusion. However, in the case of Jesus, there is no room to deny his divinity.
Isaiah tells us three times that the Lord (יהוה, Jehovah) is the first and the last.
Who has done this and carried it through, calling forth the generations from the beginning? I, the Lord—with the first of them and with the last—I am he.”Isaiah 41:4
“This is what the Lord says—Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God.Isaiah 44:6
Listen to me, Jacob, Israel, whom I have called: I am he; I am the first and I am the last.Isaiah 48:12
But in the book of Revelation, Jesus is the first and the last, the Alpha and the Omega.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”Revelation 1:8
To the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again.Revelation 2:8
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.”Revelation 21:5-6
Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.Revelation 22:12-13
To deny the divinity of Jesus Christ, we have three hypotheses.
We completely deny the scriptures. Even if they were not divinely inspired or sacred, they would demonstrate beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus and the early Christians believed in the divinity of Christ. To deny this fact, we need to state that they are completely unreliable, something that not even non-believers who study the text claim.
We deny the kind character of Jesus. If we have reliable information that Jesus claimed to be God, but was not, we have the chance to consider him a hoax. If he was not God, but claimed to be, then Jesus is not a good man. He’s a liar. It’s very strange if that is the case, because this liar would have died for something he knew was a lie.
We deny the mental health of Jesus. If Jesus affirmed his divinity, being sincerely convinced of it, but being sincerely mistaken, then we would have to question his sanity. However, Jesus’ words and deeds as described in the gospels show a person in full possession of his mental faculties, a teacher whose teachings make sense to both children and scholars of this world.
If the scriptures, particularly the gospels, are a reliable source of information about Jesus, then either Jesus is crazy, or Jesus is a liar, or Jesus is God.