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.

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.

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.

Is the Old Testament God nasty?

The Destruction Of Sodom And Gomorrah, a paint...

The Destruction Of Sodom And Gomorrah, a painting by John Martin (painter), died 1854, thus 100 years. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s said that the God of the Old Testament is nasty and angry – then he changes in the New Testament to the nice, meek and mild Jesus. I hear this all the time.

Well, it’s what I used to think, too. Then I actually read the Bible.

The character of God is the same, though the culture he speaks to isn’t. I’ll try to explain. First we’ll look at some of the actions of God – then at some of his commandments.

(It’s worth pointing out that most of the horrible things that happen in the Bible are clearly not ordered by God – and are in fact in direct opposition to God and his commands. There are many stories of flawed individuals in scripture, and even the heroes don’t get things right.)

God’s actions: judgement and the slaughter passages

Let’s start with the toughest parts – where God is said to command the Israelites to slaughter whole communities, including men, women and children; or when he destroys a whole town, such as Sodom and Gomorrah.

Now, these commands certainly don’t apply to believers now. For today, Jesus commands love and service. The OT commands were for a specific time, for the Israelite communities way before Jesus came to Earth. So Christianity, or Judaism, is not like certain other religions, who have commands to wage war and so on that are current. But why would God do those things, even thousands of years ago?

If you start to read the whole of the Old Testament, God’s anger becomes more understandable. The behaviour of the people at the time was horrific – much worse than anything we encounter on Earth at present. Here’s some of the nice things that they did in those days:

  1. They burned their children alive on fires, to worship other gods. (Jeremiah 7:31)
  2. Whole communities (male) gang raped visitors to a town (Genesis 19:5)
  3. People would steal, murder, commit adultery and lie (Jeremiah 7:9)
  4. Pride, gluttony and laziness while the poor needy suffered (Ezekiel 16:49)

Of course some of this behaviour still takes place, but not in an organised and deliberate way. In the cultures at the time, these atrocities were the norm, and were celebrated. The Bible reports that God repeatedly sent people to warn of the consequences of such evil actions, and to try to help them change (see Jeremiah 7:25-26). But they refused.

I’m pretty sure that if there were cultures nowadays that were as evil as burning children alive or wantonly raping men, then there’d be an outcry, and a United Nations resolution for ‘peacekeeping’ would be sent to go and restore order. So why didn’t God do this? Well, humans weren’t anywhere near as advanced. The societies were very primitive. There weren’t child welfare agencies to take people away and care for hem. Such things would come later – inspired by Christian teaching, I might add! And if we didn’t have any other options, I bet that most people nowadays would rather the town was bombed and destroyed than see such terrible evil and suffering continue – it makes Saddam look saintly.

So God was acting in order to stop great evil and suffering, in those days. Luckily there isn’t anything as horrible on Earth at present, and we have other ways of dealing with it too.

And Jesus tried to teach us a different way of dealing with the evils we see in our life – to give people a chance and encourage them to change. With the help of his Holy Spirit, we can try to teach people to love, with love. That’s not to say that today, if people don’t change their ways, that God wouldn’t still give them the consequences of their actions. But the circumstances of how this is brought about is different now, as it is a completely different world.

Shellfish, periods and adultery: the instructions of God

How about the commandments of the Old Testament, that are said to be pointless, foolish, or even bad? Now, there are commands that do sound strange to our culture today. Why not eat shellfish? Why can’t you touch a menstruating woman? Why destroy a house because it’s mouldy? If you think about the Bronze age culture in which they lived, these instructions become more understandable. There was no soap, no medicine, no disinfectant and no bleach. Cleanliness and hygiene involved avoiding things rather than washing them. So God’s commands were helping them to stay healthy – they were motivated by love.

And as for the death sentence for adultery and suchlike – well, there were no prisons. There was no antibiotics to treat sexually transmitted diseases. The consequences of sexual sin were much more serious in those days in the physical sense. Of course the emotional consequences of such sins are the same – the break-up of families and the hurt of adultery are the same – which is why God still commands us not to do it. But these were sins that could threaten the lives of whole towns, back then. So, the consequences were understandably much more serious.

Now, can all of the commands of the Old Testament be understood by our culture today? No. But every one that I’ve really thought about, I’ve started to see a good reason why that command might have been given at the time. So, I trust God, that his commands are loving and trustworthy, and for our own good.

Things are different now, though. Christians do not have to obey all the OT laws. There are changes in the commands given by Yahweh in the OT and the commands of Jesus – but that doesn’t reflect a change in character, it reflects a change in context. Why is there a change? Well, Jesus tells us explicitly that some of the commands of the OT were given because at that time, Israelite culture wasn’t advanced enough to do any better. In Matthew 19:8, Jesus explains that divorce was allowed in the OT “as a concession to your hard hearts, but it was not what God had originally intended”. This would also explain why there is a form of slavery permitted in OT times – a type of slavery, by the way, which is thought to be much more humane than the types of slavery in surrounding cultures at the time – and why there are tough death sentences for what seem (to us) like minor crimes.

There are also many laws in the OT that are very progressive and would be judged to be good by anyone in our culture. Take a look at the commands given about poverty, for example (see mentions of the word ‘poor’ in the OT here). People were commanded to leave food for the poor in their fields. They were told to care for orphans, for widows (both of whom would have few options for earning income in those days), and foreigners.

OT laws can seem strange to us. But luckily, Jesus came to explain and refine the law, which you can read in the New Testament – in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. It’s summarised in two commands – love God with all your heart, soul and mind, and love your neighbour like you love yourself. He tells us not to be angry, not to judge, and to be kind. He explains we must care for the poor, and not be greedy. He doesn’t say that crimes don’t deserve the death sentence – he just points out that all humans are inadequate to carry it out, as we all sin, and so we should not judge, in John 8.

Also, like God as described in the OT, Jesus gets angry at times – at people’s hypocrisy and their lack of compassion, for example. Anger isn’t a bad thing if what you’re angry about is wrong – particularly if you’re God, so you can accurately judge and assess a situation! The point is that God always offers forgiveness for those who repent and want to change. He offered it again and again in the OT, and he does too in the NT. In fact, Jesus went to the Cross so that we could be free of all these dark sins and evil ways.

The more you know God, the more you realise that his love and his goodness are so much greater than our own, so that you can trust him whatever happens. Would you like to know God better?

Other goes at answering this question:
CARM
William Lane Craig

You might also like to read “Is God a Moral Monster?” by Paul Copan.

Debate between two scientists: one Christian, one atheist

Interesting debate between a Christian mathematician and an atheist physicist. I think there’s a clear winner in  the area of grace, manners and patience! Lennox also gets Krauss on his definition of nothing.
It seems to me that only one of them is desperate to believe – hence his anger and difficulty in listening to the other side!