of Christís Deity
Choices Regarding Christís Deity
When Jesus was put on trial before the Sanhedrin, the Jewish
high priest asked: "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?" To that
question Christ replied simply, "I am" (Mark 14:62). In view of the
exalted nature of such a claim, and its ultimate end results, there are
but three possible views one may entertain in reference to Christ's claim
of being deity: (1) He was a liar and con-artist; (2) He was a madman;
or (3) He was exactly Who He said He was.
In his book, Evidence that Demands a Verdict,
Josh McDowell titled one chapter: "The Trilemma--Lord, Liar, or Lunatic?"
His purpose was to point out that, considering the grandiose nature of
Christ's claims, He was either a liar, a lunatic, or the Lord. McDowell
introduced his chapter on Christ's deity with a quotation from the famous
British apologist of Cambridge University C.S. Lewis, who wrote:
I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the
really foolish thing that people often say about Him: "I'm ready to accept
Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God."
That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man
and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher.
He would either be a lunatic--on a level with the man who says he is a
poached egg--or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make
your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else
a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you
can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and
call Him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronizing
nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that
open to us. He did not intend to (1952, pp. 40-41).
Was Christ a Liar?
Was Christ a liar? A charlatan? A "messianic manipulator"?
Hugh J. Schonfield, in The Passover Plot, claimed that He
was all three. Schonfield suggested that Jesus manipulated His life
in such a way as to counterfeit the events described in the Old Testament
prophecies about the Messiah. At times, this required "contriving
those events when necessary, contending with friends and foes to ensure
that the predictions would be fulfilled" (1965, p. 7). Schonfield
charged that Jesus "plotted and schemed with the utmost skill and resourcefulness,
sometimes making secret arrangements, taking advantage of every circumstance
conducive to the attainment of his objectives" (p. 155). He
further asserted that Jesus even planned to fake His own death on the cross.
Unfortunately, however, Jesus had not counted on having a Roman soldier
pierce His side with a spear. Thus, instead of recovering from His
stupor, Jesus died unexpectedly. On Saturday night, His body was
moved to a secret place so that His tomb would be empty on the next day
thus leaving the impression of His resurrection and, simultaneously His
deity (pp. 161, 165).
But does this reconstruction of the life of Christ ring
true? Even if a charlatan could beguile a few followers into believing
that he had fulfilled a few of the prophecies (either by coincidence, or
by contrivance), how could he possibly fulfill those that were beyond his
control? For example, how could an impostor have planned his betrayal price?
How could he have known that the money would be used to purchase the potter's
field (cf. Zechariah 11:13, Matthew 27:7)? How could he have known
that men would gamble for his clothing (cf. Psalm 22:17-18, Matthew
27:35-36)? Yet these are just a sampling of the many prophecies over which
he would have no control. Jesus, however, fulfilled every single
one of them.
In considering the possibility that Christ was little
more than an accomplished liar, renowned biblical historian, Philip Schaff,
How in the name of logic, common sense, and experience,
could an impostor that is a deceitful, selfish, depraved man-have invented,
and consistently maintained from the beginning to end, the purest and noblest
character known in history with the most perfect air of truth and reality?
How could he have conceived and successfully carried out a plan of unparalleled
beneficence, moral magnitude, and sublimity, and sacrificed his own life
for it, in the face of the strongest prejudices of his people and ages?
(1913, pp. 94-95).
Further, the question must be asked: What sane man is willing
to die for what he knows all along is actually
a lie? As McDowell summarized the matter: "Someone who lived as Jesus lived,
taught as Jesus taught, and died as Jesus died could not have been a liar"
(1972, p. 106).
Was Christ a Lunatic?
Was Jesus merely a psychotic lunatic Who sincerely (albeit
mistakenly) viewed Himself as God incarnate? Such a view rarely has been
entertained by anyone cognizant of Christ's life and teachings. Schaff
Is such an intellect--clear as the sky bracing
as the mountain air, sharp and penetrating as a sword, thoroughly healthy
and vigorous, always ready and always self possessed--liable to a radical
and most serious delusion concerning His own character and mission? preposterous
imagination! (1913, pp. 97-98).
Would a raving lunatic teach that we should do unto others
as we would have them do unto us? Would a lunatic teach that we should
pray for our enemies? Would a lunatic teach that we should "turn the other
cheek," and then set an example of exactly how to do that--even unto death?
Would a lunatic present an ethical/moral code like the one found within
the text of the Sermon on the Mount? Hardly! Lunacy of the sort ascribed
to Christ by His detractors does not produce such genius. Schaff
Self-deception in a matter so momentous, and
with an intellect in all respects so clear and so sound, is equally out
of the question. How could He be an enthusiast or a madman who never
lost the even balance of His mind, who sailed serenely over all the troubles
and persecutions, as the sun above the clouds, who always returned the
wisest answer to tempting questions, who carnally and deliberately predicted
His death on the cross, His resurrection on the third day, the outpouring
of the Holy Spirit, the founding of His Church, the destruction of Jerusalem--predictions
which have been literally fulfilled? A character so original, so completely
so uniformly consistent, so perfect, so human and yet so high above all
human greatness, can be neither a fraud nor a fiction. The poet,
as has been well said, would be in this case greater than the hero.
It would take more than a Jesus to invent a Jesus (1910, p. 109).
Was Christ Deity?
If Jesus was not a liar or a lunatic, then the questions
Jesus asked the Pharisees still remain: "What think ye of the Christ? Whose
son is He?" Was Jesus in fact, exactly Who He claimed to be? Was He God
incarnate? The evidence suggests that He was.
Evidence For The Deity Of Christ
In Mark 10, an account is recorded concerning a rich young
ruler who, in speaking to Christ, addressed Him as "Good Teacher." Upon
hearing this reference, Jesus asked the man: "Why callest thou me good?
None is good, save one, even God" (Mark 10:17).
Was Christ suggesting that His countryman's loyalty was
misplaced, and that He was unworthy of being called "good" (in the sense
that ultimately only God merits such a designation)? No. In fact,
Christ was suggesting that He was worthy of the appellation.
He wanted the ruler to understand the significance of the title he had
used. R.C. Foster paraphrased Jesus' response as follows: "Do you
know the meaning of this word you apply to me and which you use so freely?
There is none good save God; if you apply that term to me, and you understand
what you mean, you affirm that I am God" (1971, p. 1022).
What evidence establishes Christ's deity? Among other
things, it includes Christ's fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies, His
confirmation of His Sonship via the miracles He performed, His crucifixion
and subsequent resurrection, and His post-resurrection appearances.
Fulfillment of O.T. Prophecies
Scholars have documented over 300 messianic prophecies
in the Old Testament (Lockyer, 1973, p. 21). From Genesis through
Malachi, the history of Jesus is foretold in minute detail. Bible
critics who wish to disprove Christ's deity must refute fulfilled prophecy.
To accomplish this, one would have to contend that Jesus did not fulfill
the prophecies genuinely, but only appeared to fulfill them.
Yet with over 300 prophecies relating to Christ none of which can be dismissed
flippantly--this is an impossible task.
Could Christ have fulfilled 300+ prophetic utterances
by chance? P.W Stoner and R.C. Newman selected just eight
specific prophecies, and calculated the probability of one man fulfilling
all of them. Their conclusion was that 1 man in 1017
could do it (1971, p. 106). The probability that a single man could
fulfill--by chance--all of the prophecies relating to Christ and
His ministry would be practically incalculable, and the idea that a single
man did so would be utterly absurd.
Performance of Genuine Miracles
Christ also backed up His claims by working miracles.
Throughout history, God had empowered other people to perform miracles.
But while their miracles confirmed they were servants of God, Jesus'
miracles were intended to prove that He is God (John 10:37-38; cf.
John 20: 30-31).
While in prison, John the Baptizer sent his followers
to ask Jesus: "Art thou he that cometh, or look we for another?" (Matthew
11:3). Jesus' response was: "Go and tell John . . . the blind receive
their sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear,
and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good tidings preached to
them" (Matthew 11:4-5). Over seven hundred years earlier, Isaiah
had predicted that those very things would be done by the Messiah ( Isaiah
35:5-6; 61:1 ). Jesus was not saying simply: "Look at all the good
things I am doing." Rather, He was saying: "I am the One doing exactly
what the Coming One is supposed to do!"
When Peter addressed the very people who had put Jesus
to death, he reminded them that Christ's unique identity had been proved
". . . by mighty works and wonders and signs which God did by him in the
midst of you, even as ye yourselves know" (Acts 2:22). The key phrase
here is "even as ye yourselves know." The Jews had witnessed Christ's miracles
occurring among them on practically a daily basis. And, unlike the
pseudo-miracles allegedly performed by today's "spiritualists," Jesus'
miracles were feats that truly defied naturalistic explanation. In
the presence of many witnesses, the Nazarene not only gave sight to the
blind, healed lepers, fed thousands from a handful of food, and made the
lame to walk, but also calmed turbulent seas and raised the dead! Although
not overly eager to admit it, Jesus' critics often were brought face-to-face
with the truth that no one could do what Jesus did unless God was with
Him (John 3:2; see also John 9).
The Resurrection, and Post Resurrection Appearances
Likely, however, the most impressive miracle involving
Jesus was His resurrection. In agreement with Old Testament prophecy,
and just as He had promised, Christ came forth from the tomb three days
after His brutal crucifixion (Matthew 16:21; 27:63; 28:1-8). His
resurrection was witnessed by soldiers who had been appointed to guard
His tomb. In the end, these soldiers had to be bribed to change their
story so that the Jewish leaders would not lose credibility, and to prevent
the Jewish people from recognizing their true Messiah (Matthew 28:11-15).
It is a matter of history that Christ's tomb was empty on that Sunday morning
almost 2,000 years ago. If Jesus were not raised from the dead, how
came His guarded and sealed tomb to be empty?
That Christ had been raised from the dead was witnessed
by many different types of people: the soldiers who guarded His tomb; the
women who came early in the morning to anoint Him with spices; eleven apostles;
and more than 500 other witnesses (1 Corinthians 15:4-8). When they
saw the living, breathing Jesus--days after His death--they had concrete
proof that He was Who He claimed to be all along! Even his detractors could
not deny successfully the fact, and significance, of the empty tomb.
Thousands of people go annually to the graves of the founders
of the Buddhist and Muslim religions to pay homage. Yet Christians
do not pay homage at the grave of Christ--for the simple fact that the
tomb is empty. A dead Savior is no good! For those who accept,
and act upon, the evidence for Christ's deity provided by the resurrection,
life is meaningful, rich, and full (see Paul's discussion in 1 Corinthians
15). For those who reject the resurrection, the vacant tomb will
stand forever as eternity's greatest mystery, and one day will serve as
their silent judge.
Who is Jesus of Nazareth? He had no formal rabbinical training
(John 7:15). He possessed no material wealth (Luke 9:58; 2 Corinthians
8:9). Yet, through His teachings, He turned the world upside down
(Acts 17:6). Clearly, as the evidence documents, He was, and is,
both the Son of Man and the Son of God. He lived, and died, to redeem
fallen mankind. He gave Himself a ransom (Matthew 20:28). He
is God, Who predates, and will outlast, time itself (Philippians 2:5-11).
Foster, R.C. (1971), Studies in the Life of Christ
(Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Jackson, Wayne (1979), "Isaiah 53: The Messiah," Great
Chapters in The Bible, ed. Thomas F. Eaves (Knoxville,
TN: East Tennessee School of Preaching and Missions).
Jackson, Wayne (1997), "Daniel's Prophecy of the `Seventy
Weeks'," Reason & Revelation, 17:49-53.
Lewis, C.S. (1952), Mere Christianity
(New York: Macmillan).
Lockyer, Herbert (1973), All the Messianic Prophecies
of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
McDowell, Josh (1972), Evidence That Demands a Verdict
(San Bernardino, CA: Campus Crusade for Christ).
McGarvey, J.W (1875), The New Testament Commentary:
Matthew and Mark (Delight, AR: Gospel Light).
Robertson, A.T. (1932), Word Pictures in the
New Testament (Nashville, TN: Broadman).
Schaff, Philip (1910), History of the Christian
Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdman).
Schaff, Philip (1913), The Person of Christ
(New York: American Tract Society).
Schonfield, Hugh J. (1965), The Passover Plot
(New York: Bantam).
Solomon, David (1972), "Procurator," Encyclopaedia
Judaica, ed. Cecil Roth (Jerusalem: Keter Publishing).
Stoner, Peter W and Robert C. Newman (1968), Science
Speaks (Chicago, IL: Moody).