Does the Bible say Jesus was God? In the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible)

Hello there. Probably the defining belief of a Christian is that Jesus was uniquely God incarnate. This is what distinguishes Christian beliefs from Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jews, Muslims and many New Age followers.

I often hear the idea that Jesus as God was a later invention, possibly from St Paul (which ignores the fact that he wrote very soon after Jesus’ crucifixion), or the council of Nicea. In my last post I mention that the latter, at least, is clearly false, as writings from the pre-Nicene period show that Jesus being God was central to the beliefs of the earliest Christians.

However it’s also important to see that the Biblical writings prior to St Paul also talk of Jesus as God. In fact it is even mentioned in the Old Testament, before Jesus was born! For example:

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

This verse is always read out around Christmas time, and for good reason. It’s clear that God coming down in the form of a human being was in the Jewish Scriptures – or else who is this son who will be called ‘Mighty God’?

“Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord,
“That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness;
A King shall reign and prosper,
And execute judgment and righteousness in the earth.
In His days Judah will be saved,
And Israel will dwell safely;
Now this is His name by which He will be called:

THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. (Jeremiah 23:6)

Again we see that in the Hebrew Scriptures, the coming Messiah, in human form as a King, will be called the Lord (in Hebrew the word is Yahweh, just to be clear that the prophecy is that God himself will take the form of a human king)

There are many other Hebrew Scriptures that predict Jesus and what he was like – particularly Isaiah 53, also Micah 5:2 and others. So, it’s clear that God showed in his Word that we can expect that he will come to us as a human.

Calvinism is not a return to the beliefs of the early church

I’ve just read a good book which takes extracts from some of the pre-Nicene church fathers’ writings on various subjects. These are the Christians prior to the Council of Nicea (which thanks to the fictional ‘Da Vinci Code’, is erroneously thought by lots of uneducated folk to have been the founding of modern Christianity).

There’s lots to learn. Firstly, belief about the Trinity and that Jesus was God were held from the earliest days of the church. These were not later inventions. The writings of St Paul are the earliest evidence for this – but also in the work of Irenaeus, Tertullian, Clement of Rome and others.

The next thing that really struck me is that their beliefs were not in line with modern Reformed theology, especially Calvinism. Now, obviously, they weren’t Calvinists, living centuries before he lived. But some people think that Reformed theology returns the church back to the beliefs of the early church.

Not so. I’ll give a few quick examples.

Total Depravity. There is not a lot of banging on about how terribly sinful people are intrinsically in the early church. There is belief in original sin, and of God’s holiness, but it is not so dark and depressing as the Calvinists can often be. For example: “[Man] was equipped at his creation with the power of freewill, as a kind of dispenser of the good granted to him by God. The result was that man could, of his own accord, exhibit good as his own possession. The principle of goodness demanded this; for good is to be performed voluntarily, that is, of free choice.” (Tertullian, Adversus Marcionem, ii. 5-6).

In fact they all bang on about free will quite a lot – often due to their apologetic writing (the focus on apologetics in their work is something else that’s very interesting!). One example is from Clement of Alexandria; “Involuntary action is not judged, whether due to ignorance or compulsion” among others. (Stromateis, III, xvi (100,5))

Also Irenaeus seems to have a whiff of Armenianism: “The Lord has taught us that no-one can know God unless he is taught by God; that is, without God’s help he cannot be known. But it is the will of the Father that he should be known; for he is known by those to whom the Son reveals him. And the Father has revealed the Son to this end, that he may be displayed to all through the Son and that those who believe in him and are justified may be received into immortality and eternal refreshment. Now to believe in him is to do his will. Those who do not believe and therefore shun his light he will rightly shut up in the darkness which they themselves have chosen. Therefore the Father has revealed himself to all, making his Word visible to all: and on his part the Word showed the Father and the Son to all since he was seen by all. And thus there is a just judgement of God; for all alike saw, but all did not alike believe. ” Adversus Haereses, iv. vi 4)

I’d recommend a book by David Bercot, “Will the real heretics please stand up” for more myth-bashing about the early church’s beliefs. Of course the fundamentals of Christian belief are the same throughout – in fact it’s interesting how much unity there is. Modern Calvinism worries me, and the writings of the early church are a good challenge to the bizarre beliefs held by some modern Reformed folk.

The Godfather: religious themes and family values

I’ve just finished re-watching The Godfather, part I and II. The last time I watched them was before I’d become a Christian (I’ve got the first film on VHS – lol!). This time round, I saw some interesting themes in the films that I doubt would get picked up in today’s religiously ignorant cultures.

‘Godfather’ is obviously a religious term. In the first film, becoming a Godfather and the act of baptism is seen as a very important thing, especially to the Corleone family. Godchildren are looked after. They become part of the family.

I see the main theme in both movies to be family, showing how the ‘love’ for your family can lead to evil. Vito Corleone’s love for his family – which is profound and touching (“a man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man”) – leads him into organised crime. He wants to provide for his family and protect them. Yet you see that the deeper you’re in, the more violence you’ve got to enact in order to keep control and keep on top – and the more at risk your family becomes from the violence. Why do they want to be in the mafia? For Vito, and initially for Michael, it seems to be because they want to protect the family. Michael initially rejects the Mafia, but gets involved after the attempted assassination of his father. Yet, their families are decimated by the violence of their profession – they see their sons and brothers killed, one by one.

The other aspect of this theme is revenge. Vito wants to avenge his family’s deaths, and ultimately does so. Michael wants to avenge his father’s assassination attempt, and does so brutally.

Ultimately this desire for vengeance takes over, and trumps the love for family, in Michael’s life. His wife is banished for aborting his child, and his brother is killed for betrayal. The end of the second film sees him all alone – betrayed, and deserted.

Forgiveness is intrinsic to Christianity, it’s essential and for a Christian, it must be stronger than family love. I think this is the message of The Godfather films. Without it, vengeance and hatred will ultimately ruin your family.

Hence the powerful baptism scene in the first film, where Michael’s profession of faith, where he claims to believe in Christ and to renounce the works of the devil, are contrasted with his brutal acts of revenge following his father’s death. The motive for the killings is to protect and avenge his family – and he agrees to be godfather to his nephew. The brutality of his vengeance is for the motive of family too – but is clearly the opposite of the faith he is professing, as the director makes clear. These contradictions make for the compelling storyline, but there’s a lot to learn from it too.

You cannot love, and you cannot love your family, without forgiveness in your heart, for all people. If you treat your family as a god – as an idol – it will collapse, and be destroyed.

Atheist debunks the ‘Jesus myth’

Weirdly, atheists nowadays like to claim that Jesus didn’t exist – even Richard Dawkins has tried to do this. But it’s not just Christians that defend the evidence for the existence of Jesus. Professor Bart Ehrman, who isn’t a believer, and generally criticises Christian beliefs and the claims in the Bible, states very clearly that the idea that Jesus didn’t exist, or was a mixture of several people, is not taken seriously by any reputable scholar. He is the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and in this interview, he gives the atheist interviewer a good drubbing.

“We have more evidence for Jesus than we have for almost anybody in his time period… I’m not a believer, but as a historian, you can’t just dismiss it, and say ‘We don’t know’. You have to look at the evidence. But there is hard evidence. For example, we have one author who knew Jesus’ relatives and his disciples – Paul.”

Ehrman’s argument is that the nature of the what Paul says in his letters about Jesus, gives strong evidence for Jesus’ existence.

“Why would he lie about it? Paul says things about Jesus as off the cuff comments, where he’s not making a point. That’s very important to historians. Historians look for disinterested comments. He says things, for example, like ‘James, the brother of the Lord’. That’s very important information… you have a disinterested comment.”

Then the atheist tries to argue that Paul didn’t write Galatians, but Ehrman states very clearly, that no serious historians have doubted that Paul wrote Galatians (a letter that contains evidence that Jesus existed).

“You have to do the serious historical work and work out what is an embellishment and what is not… you have to approach it sceptically. I’ve spent 30 years studying this… I can tell you, that everyone who has looked at this thing seriously, there’s nobody that doubts this.

“You can systematically doubt everything, sure, but that’s not how you do history. You do history by looking at evidence.”

Later, in part 2 of the interview, Ehrman talks about the reality that for all ancient historical figures, we don’t have the original documents (it’s very common to hear atheists state that because we don’t have the original copies of the New Testament books, that we can’t trust them).

The atheist guy digs an enormous hole for himself, and shows his lack of knowledge about the subject. It’s a great example of the irrationality of some atheists, and their desperation to disbelieve – despite the evidence.

What’s wrong with casual sex? Debating the ‘First Kiss’ vid

The First Kiss video prompted a debate on a friend’s facebook status.

“Someone said, “Two strangers meet and have sex within an hour all the time, and if they both want to, what’s the problem?”

This was my response:

1) The other party could have a pregnant girlfriend / about to get married / have ten children
2) The other party could be a serial killer / rapist etc, and most places where you are able to have sex put the other in a vulnerable situation
3) You’re using the other person for sexual gratification – that’s pretty selfish
4) If 1) is true, the sexual liaison could be the cause of a family breakdown
5) One party could have a serious emotional problem, and that sexual encounter could be damaging to them. For example, if one person was manic and therefore wouldn’t behave like that most of the time, they are being exploited and will regret it
6) One party could become emotionally attached, and therefore get hurt.
7) A child could be the end result, and potentially could never know who the father was.
8) Risk of STDs. I’m not sure that there is a protection against crabs?

People – don’t confuse sex and love…

Merry Christmas… and those pagan myths about Jesus

Hope you’ve all had a lovely Christmas. A friend just posted this and it is very funny, with some good apologetics too.
It’s very common to hear people say that Jesus is a pagan myth, a rehash of Mithras or Horus or something like that. This is untrue, there is no evidence to suggest this at all. Anyway, this video pokes a bit of fun at this bizarre myth.

The dangers of pornography and fantasy

Jesus is sometimes criticised for his statement that “anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). Our secular culture sees lust as just a natural drive that should be expressed. Young people in Britain are even being advised that sexual fantasy is OK – even about having sex with dolphins. But the effect of lust when divorced from love, and giving in to those desires, can be absolutely devastating.
I’m listening to an interview with serial killer Ted Bundy (see video below), whose vile appetite to rape, murder and mutilate women is well known.
What is interesting is how he describes he came to the point where he did such terrible things.
He says his home life was good. What happened was that he started watching porn and fantasising, and he gradually wanted to have more. He watched violent material and found himself wanting more and more. He describes it as an addiction, but not in the sense that he wasn’t responsible, just in the sense that the appetite increased and increased and he wanted more and more unpleasant material. He called it a “building up of destructive energy”.
Eventually he wanted to act out his fantasy. He wanted to do the things in his head in the real world.
He also says alcohol reduced his inhibitions, and in the early days of his violence, he was drunk while he did it.
Porn might not make you do anything as terrible as Bundy, but where will it take you? How do you know where it will lead you, and when you will stop? Perhaps Jesus’ warning was wiser than our secular culture will admit.