Is Jesus God? The Testimony of the Gospels
Saints and Sceptics
The Jews of Jesus’s day believed that the God of Israel was unique, unlike any other thing. There was an infinite, impassable gulf between God and His creation. “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and wit all your understanding” (Deut 6v4, or the Shema). The faithful Jew recited this daily, promising to serve YHWH him with everything they were and had. They also recited the ten commandments, which viewed God as the only object worthy of worship, and insisted that no human image or creation could reflect who he was. The God of Israel was different from all other gods, in that he and he alone, was the sole creator and ruler of all things.
Isaiah 48 v 12 “Listen to me, O Jacob, Israel, whom I have called: I am he; I am the first and I am the last. 13 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
The Lord is God and there is no one like him, is the constant refrain of the Hebrew Bible. Yet, read against the background of the Hebrew bible it is clear that the Gospel’s identify Jesus with Israel’s unique God.
Jesus taught in parables and allusions, he made hints and gave clues about his mission. He never gave a point by point sermon that explained exactly what he meant by the Kingdom of God. Rather he taught in a series of parables, a performed a number of miracles that explained what he meant by the Kingdom. He expected his followers to reflect on who he was and what he was saying and doing; if they were open to Gods guidance, they would form the correct conclusions. In short, he expected his followers to think, and think hard. He demanded effort, and humility. “He that has an ear let him hear”. It is not surprising that Jesus never straight-forwardly claims to share YHWH’s identity. He never came straight out with a claim to anything else of importance.
So, how does Jesus claim to be God in the synoptic gospels? First, we will look at a series of miracles in which Jesus acts in a way that only God can act. It is important to notice that he does not ask God to perform these miracles on his behalf (like Elijah or Elishah, nor does God talk to him to tell him how to perform these miracles (as he did with Moses). Rather, Jesus performs his miracles on his own authority on every occasion. It is what Jesus did, rather than how he did it that demonstrates who he is. We will focus on just two examples…
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