- Argument for the Trinity #12: The Proper Understanding Defense
- Argument for the Trinity #11: How the Old Testament Prepared God’s People for the Trinity – Section 4: The Angel of Yahweh
- Argument for the Trinity #10: How the Old Testament Prepared God’s People for the Trinity – Section 3: The Name of Yahweh
- Argument for the Trinity #9: How the Old Testament Prepared God’s People for the Trinity – Section 2: The Word of Yahweh
- Argument for the Trinity #8: How the Old Testament Prepared God’s People for the Trinity – Section 1: Plurality in One God
- Argument for the Trinity #7: The Deity of the Persons – Section 4: Still more of the Son
- Argument for the Trinity #6: The Deity of the Persons – Section 3: More of the Son
- Argument for the Trinity #5: The Deity of the Persons – Section 2: The Son
- Argument for the Trinity #4: The Deity of the Persons – Section 1: The Father and the Spirit
- Argument for the Trinity #3: The Holy Spirit, a True Person
- Argument for the Trinity #2: The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are Distinct Persons
- Argument for the Trinity #1: Yahweh is Unique
- The Arguments for the Trinity
- The Biblical Definition of the Trinity
One of the most enlightening things you can study is the diversity of ways in which the Scriptures attest to the identity and nature of Christ, and this includes His deity. There are literally multiple ways in which Scripture attests to this. I believe that this is why it took about 300 years before any challenge to His deity was ever taken seriously by the Christian church at large. Jesus’ deity can be found in the earliest writers we still have any writings from, and that is a result of how strongly the Scriptures attest to it.
The number of ways that Scripture does so could be considered multiple ways, so there’s no exact count of just how it is done, but by my estimation, I see approximately 10 major ways that Scripture testifies that Jesus is God. Some of these are also categories with more distinctions possible.
In an effort to keep this article from becoming a book, I will go through these pretty quickly, pointing out what I take to be the most important examples in each category, followed by some other Scripture references to check out on your own. Even doing this, this will still have to be a three-part study. That’s what happens when you have the combination of lots of disagreement on a topic and such a wealth of testimony on it.
To give a taste of what is to come, here are the 10 (or so) lines of evidence I’ll be examining.
- Jesus is called “God”
- Jesus has “Yahweh” passages applied to Him
- Jesus exercises God’s authority
- Jesus is Creator
- Jesus does the other works of God
- Jesus is worshiped/honored like God
- The “I am” statements in John
- Jesus has all the attributes of God
- Jesus has divine titles that are explicitly made exclusive to God applied to Him
- Jesus has divine titles that are only applied to God applied to Him
Jesus is called “God”
Let’s start with the obvious stuff for our modern mind to grasp. For us, the first question that comes to mind when someone says that the Scriptures teach that Jesus is God is to ask, “Does Scripture just flat-out say that He is God?” As it turns out, it does. Now, personally, while I find these passages to be important in determining Jesus’ identity, they are not the most important. When anyone today treats any passage that uses the word “god” of Jesus as the most important place to look—whether to support the Trinity or as the most important passages to reinterpret to avoid the Trinity—that person demonstrates one of two things. Either they haven’t considered how these truths would be communicated in the time and culture in which the Bible was written, or they are just attempting to communicate to an audience who has not considered those things.
In our contemporary Christian culture, we use the word “god” almost exclusively as a proper name, and in doing so, we therefore assume that its main function is to name the all-powerful, all-knowing creator of the universe. Now, it certainly did function this way in biblical times, but it also frequently was a generic term for the type of beings that all the pagans worshiped as well. Also, it sometimes just referred to any spiritual being, and did so more commonly than how we use the term.
It is important, however, to realize that this is a way that Scripture talks about Jesus, so let’s look at some examples.
28 Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen me, have you believed? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”
Notice, not only does Thomas call Jesus “God”, but the way he says it is a near quote of the Shema, using the possessive “my” with both “Lord” and “God”. Also, Jesus responds by saying that Thomas “believed”, asking if it is because of seeing Him. So Jesus identifies this statement as a statement of faith in Him. Contrast this with when Paul and Barnabas are said to be the gods come down (Acts 14:9-18), and take great care to not be mistaken for any god, let alone the one identified by the Shema.
Also, in recent decades, due to advances in getting better and older manuscripts of the New Testament, as well as better understanding of ancient Greek grammar, there are more passages today that do refer to Jesus as God than in earlier, less accurate translations of the Scriptures. One text that is impacted by both of these improvements is John 1:18:
No one has seen God at any time; the one and only, God, the one who is in the bosom of the Father—that one has made him known.
Here, the text refers to Jesus as the “one and only, God, the one who is in the bosom of the Father”. Older translations, like the King James, said “only begotten Son”. These translations suffered from a rather obvious scribal error in following monogenes, which used to be translated “only begotten”, with “Son”, like it appears in John 3:16. As we’ve uncovered more and older manuscripts, it has become apparent that “God” is the word far more likely to be in the original. Secondly, monogenes has, for decades now, been known to be a combination of the Greek for “one” or “only” with “kind”. In times past, it was thought that the second half of the word was from the Greek for “begotten”. This was, quite simply, in error. From this verse, we see something known as an inclusio, which takes the same idea and states it twice to begin and end a section of Scripture. Notice that verse 1 says that the Word was with God and was God, and verse 18 says that the one and only God was in the bosom of the Father, so this one was both called God and was in the bosom of God.
Further Study: Isa. 9:6; John 1:1; Rom. 9:5; Titus 2:13; Heb. 1:8; 2 Pet. 1:1
Jesus is Yahweh
Far more significant than the word “God” applied to Jesus is when “Yahweh” is applied to Jesus. The reason for this is that the Hebrew Scriptures may call many things “elohim”, or “god”, in some sense, but there is only one Yahweh. The way this is done, is that there are many times in the New Testament where the Old is quoted, and Jesus is inserted into the text where Yahweh was originally in the text. Sometimes, this is a fairly clearly prophetic text about Jesus first coming, where Yahweh says something like, “I will come…”, and then when that text is quoted, it is Jesus who came. Other times, it is a different kind of prophetic text about the final judgment or other yet future event, which the Old Testament says Yahweh will do, but then the New Testament says Jesus will do it. These are very telling passages, but there is still another category that applies a passage that has no hints of prophetic content, but is just describing something about Yahweh or what Yahweh does, and then the New Testament, without clarification or explanation, inserts Jesus right into the text as if He always belonged there.
Those who deny the deity of Christ will often appeal to the “Shaliach defense” to attempt to deal with these passages, but it fails for reasons I’ve outlined elsewhere. To be brief here, they say that Jesus is Yahweh’s representative, and so can be known by His Name. This is an argument with no evidence, since there is no clear case in the Bible of any human being who, by representing God, can be called by His name, “Yahweh”. To say that Jesus could do this is special pleading of the highest order. Rather, the much safer route to take is to submit to the Scriptures and to say that if the Scripture calls someone “Yahweh”, then that Person is Yahweh. Let’s look at just a few of these texts and see what it shows.
Romans 10:9, 13
9 that if you confess with your mouth “Jesus is Lord” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved…13 For “everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.”
And it will happen—everyone who calls on the name of Yahweh will be rescued…
If you read the entire passage in Romans 10, there are further details, but all connected with “for” that shows that Paul bases what he says in verse 9 on Old Testament statements. Those statements, however, are not about the Messiah. They are about Yahweh Himself, as Joel 2:32 clearly shows. This cannot be overstated. The statement (and overall theme) of the Old Testament is that Yahweh saves and one who calls upon Him will be saved. Notice that Paul’s statement of confession is not, “Jesus is Messiah”, but “Jesus is Lord”. And why does confessing “Jesus is Lord” save? It is because calling upon the name of the LORD (Yahweh) saves. The only “Lord” in the OT passage cited is Yahweh Himself. Indeed it is that very name that is translated as the Greek for “Lord” in the Greek Septuagint. Paul’s audience was familiar with the Septuagint and would have seen, in this context, that “Lord” was the word used for the divine name “Yahweh” throughout the Scriptures they had, so when Paul says “Jesus is Lord”, citing this text, he is explicitly saying, “Jesus is Yahweh”. Paul’s citation makes it clear he has no alternative meaning of “lord” here, or that he is making Jesus to be Yahweh in some representative sense. Finally, notice that this confession is tied to salvation. This is just one reason why Christians have consistently tied salvation to belief that Jesus is God.
9 Therefore also God exalted him
and graciously granted him the name above every name,
10 so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bow,
of those in heaven and of those on earth and of those under the earth,
11 and every tongue confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
I have sworn by myself;
a word that shall not return has gone forth from my mouth in righteousness:
‘Every knee shall kneel down to me;
every tongue shall swear.’
Here, once again, we have a quote concerning Yahweh, that every knee will bow to Him and every tongue swear allegiance to Him. This is then quoted but now what every tongue confesses is, once again, that “Jesus is Lord”. And notice that Paul expands on the idea by saying that God gave Jesus the “Name above every name” From the context, that name, given to Jesus, is Yahweh. Paul is saying that this OT passage is fulfilled by swearing that Jesus is the one spoken of in Isaiah, Yahweh.
Further Study: Heb. 1:10/Psa. 102:25; 1 Pet. 2:3-4/Psa. 32:8; 1 Pet. 3:13-15/Isa. 8:12-13; 1 Cor. 8:6/Deut 6:4; John 1:23/Isa. 40:3; 1 Pet 1:10-11/2 Sam. 23:1-2; Rev. 22:12/Isa. 40:10-11/Isa. 62:11; John 17:1/Isa. 48:11
Jesus exercises God’s Authority
Repeatedly, Jesus does and says things that demonstrate His authority is the same as God’s sole authority. Sometimes these are done just in front of His disciples, and other times in front of antagonists. Repeatedly, the response is what you would expect if a man exercises the authority of God.
Some non-Trinitarians will argue that there is nothing about wielding God’s authority that proves He is God, since there are prophets, priests, and kings throughout the Old Testament who exercise parts of this authority as delegated to them. Jesus, as Messiah, is the ultimate example of each of these categories, and therefore can have much more authority than any previous human being, but that doesn’t make Him God.
Certainly, if the mere exercise of divine authority were the only evidence of Jesus’ deity, this might be a logical conclusion to reach, but only in the abstract. We are not, however, limited to looking at this issue in the abstract. We can see, in concrete ways, how people respond to this authority and how Jesus responds to them. We can, by doing so, see which perspective on His authority is actually taught in Scripture, and which is a human invention. Let’s look at a couple examples.
And they came and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” And he said to them, “Why are you fearful, you of little faith?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea and there was a great calm. And the men were astonished, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?”
Who commands the weather? Do any prophets exercise this kind of authority? No. They do not. Priests? Kings? No. On the other hand, what sort of scenes occur with the backdrop of a storm?
2 Kings 2:1,11
1 When Yahweh was about to take Elijah up in the storm to heaven, Elijah and Elisha went from Gilgal. Then they were walking, talking as they went…11 Suddenly a fiery chariot with horses of fire appeared and separated between the two of them. Elijah went up in the storm to the heavens
Then Yahweh answered Job from the storm, and he said…”Or who shut the sea in with doors at its bursting, when it went out of the womb, at my making the clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band, and I prescribed my rule for it, and I set bars and doors, and I said, ‘You shall come up to here, but you shall not go further, and here it will set a boundary for your proud surging waves’? Have you entered into the storehouses of the snow, or have you seen the storehouses of the hail, which I have reserved for the time of trouble, for the day of battle and war? Where then is the way where the light is distributed, where he scatters the east wind upon the earth? “Who has cut open a channel for the torrents and a way for the thunder bolts, to bring rain on a land where no one lives, a desert where no humans live , to satisfy desert and wasteland, and to cause the ground to put forth the rising of grass? Is there a father for the rain, or who fathered the drops of dew? From whose womb did the ice come forth, and who fathered the frost of heaven? Like stone the waters become hard, and the faces of the deep freeze.
Jesus doesn’t pray for the rain to stop. He speaks to the storm. No combination of human authority ever did this. And no category exists of someone other than Yahweh who is in command of the weather. And notice, Jesus’ disciples don’t ask about how he got this authority. They ask what kind of man this is. What sort of man does this? They are asking themselves about Jesus’ nature. How is Jesus different than us? If the Scripture points us to questions about the nature of Jesus because of this episode, then we should be asking the same question. How was Jesus’ nature different so he was able to control a storm? No new category is needed. The Scripture clearly reserves this authority to God alone. Anyone who can do this is God.
The man went and reported to the Jews that Jesus was the one who made him well. And on account of this the Jews began to persecute Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. But he answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” So on account of this the Jews were seeking even more to kill him, because he not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God his own Father, thus making himself equal with God.
John 5 is absolutely rich with testimony to the deity of Christ, but I want to point out this exchange specifically. Jesus has healed a man on the Sabbath. It isn’t the only time He did this, and at other times, he gave more mundane explanations for his behavior. Here, when asked about His “working” on the Sabbath, he doesn’t offer an explanation for why the Jewish leaders were wrong in their accusation or why they were being inconsistent with their own behavior. This time, His answer is that His Father is “working”. God doesn’t take a Sabbath. Sure, he rested from creation on the seventh day, but he upholds all of creation at all times on all days. Jesus points this out to the Jews. Then he says “I am working.” We cannot miss how powerful this statement is. Jesus is agreeing with the Jews that what He did counts as “work”. He simply claims He has the right to supersede the Sabbath law. No King of Israel was above the law of the Sabbath. No one at all ever was, except Jesus. When Jesus agrees that he is working, he says he can do it because the Father is working.
You see, God is not subject to the Sabbath law, and therefore, neither is Jesus, because He is God. John carefully reminds us that this is the exact reason that the Jews were seeking to kill Jesus, because He was making Himself equal with God. At no point is there any effort by Jesus in the scene or by John as narrator to explain where the Jews had gone wrong in assessing Jesus’ statements. If someone would try to cast doubt on them, they do so with no Scriptural support. John does not say that the Jews wanted to kill Him because “they thought” he was making Himself equal with God, but because He was making Himself equal with God. Jesus, here and elsewhere in the chapter, takes for Himself authority that is not given to Him because He is Messiah. Indeed, Jesus kept the whole Law, did He not? Yet why is He agreeing with the Jews here that He is working? Because, for Jesus, this kind of work on the Sabbath was not unrighteous. It is what the Father does, so it is what He does. Jesus was above this law in certain cases. Any argument that Jesus had this right as Messiah will be accompanied by no Scripture, since it is another argument from silence. Again, let’s stick to what the Scriptures actually say, not what a certain theology thinks they should say.
Further Study: Matt. 5:20-48; 7:24-29; 14:22-33; Luke 5:1-11; John 2:1-11; The Word of the Lord, now the word of Jesus – Acts 8:25; 13:44-49; 15:35-36; 1 Thess. 4:15