The First Christians Believed That Jesus Was God Incarnate

by Graham Veale

You have to love urban myths. Our favourite is about parasites which lay their eggs on the edge of first class stamps. If you get a paper cut licking the stamp the eggs get implanted in your tongue. Then, after several weeks gestation, a small bug chews its way out! Of course, the story is sheer nonsense; but the image is so wonderfully vile, we almost want it to be true. Like all good urban legends, once this tale is retold, its survival is guaranteed.

So it isn’t that surprising to find another urban myth resurfacing each Christmas: that Christians did not believe that Jesus was God the Son until the council of Nicaea invented this doctrine in 325AD.  We wouldn’t expect sceptics to accept the deity of Christ; but we worry when “free-thinkers” take Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code seriously. The doctrine of the incarnation precedes the council of Nicea by centuries; furthermore, it is clearly assumed by the Gospel writers. They recognised that only God could match what was expected of Israel’s Messiah; as Jesus was the Messiah, therefore Jesus was God himself.

Granted, Jesus prayed to His Father in heaven, and taught his disciples to do the same. Jesus was an orthodox Jew, who held that the Lord his God was one God without equal, who would tolerate no rival. Despite all this, the Gospels, written within a generation of Jesus’ crucifixion, and undoubtedly using sources that go back to Jesus himself, clearly identify Jesus with God. It is easy to miss the point if you are unfamiliar with Israel’s scriptures –  but time and again Jesus does what only God can do, or says what only God can say.

We can give a few quick examples…

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