Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Divinity of Jesus? An Inquiry


A look into the verses of the Bible which support
or oppose the divinity of Jesus Christ.

By Laurence B. Brown, MD

Man is made to adore and to obey: but if you will not
command him, if you give him nothing to worship, he will fashion his own
divinities, and find a chieftain in his own passions.

—Benjamin Disraeli, Coningsby

The critical difference between Jesus’ teachings and the Trinitarian
formula lies in elevating Jesus to divine status—a status Jesus denies in the
“Why do you call me good: No
one is good but One, that is, God.” (Matthew 9:17, Mark 10-18, and Luke
“My Father is greater than
I.” (John 14:28)
“I do nothing of myself, but
as the Father taught me, I speak these things.” (John 8:28)
“Most assuredly, I say to
you, the son can do nothing of himself …” (John 5:19)
“But I know Him, for I am
from Him, and He sent me.” (John 7:29)
“He who rejects me rejects
Him who sent me.” (Luke 10:16)
“But now I go away to Him
who sent me …” (John 16:5)
“Jesus answered them and
said, ‘My doctrine is not mine, but His who sent me.’” (John 7:16)
“For I have not spoken on my
own authority; but the Father who sent me gave me a command, what I should say
and what I should speak.” (John 12:49)[1]
What does Pauline theology say?
That Jesus is a partner in divinity, God incarnate. So whom should a person
believe? If Jesus, then let’s hear what else he might have to say:
“The first of all the
commandments is: ‘Hear O Israel, The Lord our God, the Lord is one.”
(Mark 12:29)
“But of that day and hour no
one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the
Father.” (Mark 13:32)
“‘You shall worship the Lord
your God, and Him only you shall serve.’” (Luke 4:8)
“My food is to do the will
of Him who sent me …” (John 4:34)
“I can of myself do
nothing … I do not seek my own will but the will of the Father who sent me.”
(John 5:30)
“For I have come down from
heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of Him who sent me.” (John 6:38)
“My doctrine is not
mine, but His who sent me.” (John 7:16)
“I am ascending to my
Father and your Father, and to my God and your God.” (John 20:17)
My italics in the above verses do
not imply that Jesus spoke with that emphasis, although nobody can claim with
certainty that he didn’t. Rather, the italics stress the fact that Jesus not
only never claimed divinity, but would be the first to deny it. In the words of
Joel Carmichael, “The idea of this new religion, with himself as its deity, was
something he [Jesus Christ] could never have had the slightest inkling of. As
Charles Guignebert put it, ‘It never even crossed his mind.’”[2]
So if Jesus never claimed
divinity, then what was he exactly? He answered that question himself:
“A prophet is not
without honor except in his own country, among his own relatives, and in his own
house.” (Mark 6:4)
“But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not
without honor except in his own country and in his own house.” (Matthew
“It cannot be that a
prophet should perish outside of Jerusalem.” (Luke 13:33)
Those who knew him acknowledged,
“This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of
Galilee” (Matthew 21:11), and “A great
prophet has risen up among us …” (Luke 7:16). The disciples recognized
Jesus as “a prophet mighty in deed …” (Luke
24:19. Also see Matthew 14:5, 21:46, and John 6:14). If these statements
were inaccurate, why didn’t Jesus correct them? Why didn’t he define his
divinity if, that is, he truly was divine? When the woman at the well stated,
“Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet’” (John
4:19), why didn’t he thank her for her lowly impression, but explain
there was more to his essence than prophethood?
Or was there?
Jesus Christ, a mere man? Could
it be? A good part of the religiously introspective world wonders, “Why not?”
Acts 2:22 records Jesus as “Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested by God to you by
miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through him in your midst, as you
yourselves also know.” Jesus himself is recorded as having said, “But now you seek to kill me, a man who has told
you the truth which I heard from God …” (John 8:40). Strikingly, a
similar quote is found in the Holy Qur’an:
“He [Jesus] said: ‘I am indeed a
servant of Allah: He has given me Revelation and made me a prophet’” (Quran
So was Jesus a “servant of Allah
(i.e., servant of God)?” According to the Bible, yes. Or, at least, that is
what we understand from Matthew 12:18:
“Behold! My servant whom I have chosen
…” Furthermore, Acts of the Apostles traces the growth of the early
church for the first thirty years following Jesus’ ministry, but nowhere in Acts
did Jesus’ disciples ever call Jesus “God.” Rather, they referred to Jesus as a
man and God’s servant.[3]
In fact, the only New
Testament verse which supports the doctrine of the Incarnation is 1
Timothy 3:16.[4] However, with regard to this verse (which
states that “God was manifest in the
flesh”), Gibbon notes, “This strong expression might be justified by the
language of St. Paul (I Tim. iii. 16), but we are deceived by our modern bibles.
The word ë (which) was altered to qeèv (God) at Constantinople in the beginning of the sixth
century: the true reading, which is visible in the Latin and Syriac versions,
still exists in the reasoning of the Greek, as well as of the Latin fathers; and
this fraud, with that of the three witnesses of St. John, is admirably
detected by Sir Isaac Newton.”[5]
Fraud? Now there’s a strong word. But if we look to
more modern scholarship, it’s a word well applied, for “some passages of the New
Testament were modified to stress more precisely that Jesus was himself
The Bible was modified? For doctrinal
reasons? Hard to find a more appropriate word than “fraud,” given the
In a chapter entitled “Theologically Motivated
Alterations of the Text” in his book, Misquoting Jesus, Professor Ehrman
elaborates on the corruption of 1 Timothy 3:16, which was detected not only by
Sir Isaac Newton, but also by the eighteenth century scholar, Johann J.
Wettstein. In Ehrman’s words, “A later scribe had altered the original reading,
so that it no longer read “who” but “God” (made manifest in the flesh). In other
words, this later corrector changed the text in such a way as to stress Christ’s
divinity…. Our earliest and best manuscripts, however, speak of Christ ‘who’ was
made manifest in the flesh, without calling Jesus, explicitly, God.”[7]
Ehrman stresses that this
corruption is evident in five early Greek manuscripts. All the same it was the
corrupted, and not the “earliest and best,” biblical manuscripts which came to
dominate both the medieval manuscripts and the early English translations.[8] Consequently, from medieval times
on, the tenets of Christian faith have suffered the corrupting influence of a
church devoted more to theology than to reality.*
Ehrman adds: “As Wettstein
continued his investigations, he found other passages typically used to affirm
the doctrine of the divinity of Christ that in fact represented textual
problems; when these problems are resolved on text-critical grounds, in most
instances references to Jesus’ divinity are taken away.”[9]
Given the above there should be
little surprise that twentieth-century Christianity has expanded to include
those who deny the alleged divinity of Jesus. A significant sign of this
realization is the following report of the London Daily News: “More than
half of England’s Anglican bishops say Christians are not obliged to believe
that Jesus Christ was God, according to a survey published today.”[10] It is worth noting that it was
not mere clergy that were polled but bishops, no doubt leaving many
parishioners scratching their heads and wondering who to believe, if not their

Copyright © 2007 Laurence B. Brown; used by permission.
The above excerpt is taken from Dr. Brown’s
forthcoming book, MisGod’ed, which is expected to be published along with
its sequel, God’ed. Both books can be viewed on Dr. Brown’s website, Dr. Brown can be
contacted at
[1] See also Matthew 24:36, Luke
23:46, John 8:42, John 14:24, John 17:6-8, etc
[2] Carmichael, Joel. p.
[3] Man: see Acts 2:22, 7:56, 13:38,
17:31; God’s servant: see Acts 3:13, 3:26, 4:27, 4:30.
[4] In the past, some theologians
attempted to validate the Incarnation on the basis of John 1:14 and Colossians
2:9. However, in the face of modern textual criticism these verses have fallen
from favor, and for good reason. John 1:14 speaks of “the Word,” which by no
means implies divinity, and “the only begotten of the Father,” which by no means
is an accurate translation. Both of these subjects were discussed (and
discredited) in previous chapters. As for Colossians, problems transcend the
incomprehensible wording, beginning with the simple fact that Colossians is now
thought to have been forged. For details, see Bart D. Ehrman’s Lost
Christianities, page 235.
[5] Gibbon, Edward, Esq. Vol. 5,
Chapter XLVII, p. 207.
[6] Metzger, Bruce M. and Ehrman, Bart
D. The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and
Restoration. P. 286.
[7] Ehrman, Bart D. Misquoting
Jesus. P. 157.
[8] Ehrman, Bart D. Misquoting
Jesus. P. 157.
* For further
clarification, see Metzger, Bruce M. A Textual Commentary on the Greek New
Testament. Pp. 573-4.
[9] Ehrman, Bart D. Misquoting
Jesus. P. 113.
[10] London Daily News. June
25, 1984.

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