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The Divinity of Jesus

This is perhaps one of the most controversial topics between Muslims and Christians.Was Jesus really Divine?.Or was he just another prophet from God and a simple human being?

Let us see what does the evidence suggests.

Before any discussion can start, few things need to be defined here.Whereas Islamic theology asserts that Allah is a Unitarian deity, Christian theology defines God as a Trinity.

What this simply means is, God is one being who exists as 3 Divine yet inseparable persons.The person of the Father, the Son & the Holy Spirit.Not three Gods, but three persons who exist as one God.

This doctrine is not only taught in Scripture (Ps 110:1, Is 9:6, Matt 28:19, 2 Cor 13:14 et cetera), but also was believed by the early Church.For example, Justin Martyr says:

"For, in the name of God, the Father and Lord of the universe, and of our Savior Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, they then receive the washing with water" (First Apol., LXI).[a]

Another major doctrine is the "Hypo-static Union" of two natures in the person of Jesus Christ.This means that Jesus had a dual nature.He was both divine and human at the same time, fully God and fully man.Not half God and half man.And this again is explicitly taught in Scripture:

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John1)

Further we have the "Carmen Christi", in Phillipians chapter 2:

6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,

This passage from verses 5-11 is agreed by scholars to be an early Church hymn or creedal formula.Christ Wright states:

It is widely agreed that these verses were probably not composed by Paul, but were a part of a Christian hymn which he incorporates here to make his point.They are thus very early evidence of Christian convictions about Jesus.. (What's so unique about Jesus?, pg 78)

Furthermore Paul writes:
9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, (Colossians 2:9)

This clearly explains the Hypostatic Union.And it should noted here that although this doctrine, like the Trinity, comes to full expression in the New Testament, it was beyond any doubt taught in the Old Testament as well.For example, Zechariah 12:10 talks about the time when the inhabitants of Jerusalem would "pierce" God Himself!.This is impossible, unless God assumes a bodily form.

Another example would come from the book of Malachi.Chapters 3:1 and 4:5 talk of God Himself coming to Israel after his messenger who will come in the spirit of Elijah.Jesus identified this messenger as John the Baptist (Matthew11:14) who preceded his own ministry.So what does it mean?.Christ Wright explains:

For those who were willing to accept it, it meant beyond doubt that God himself had indeed come in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, ... (ibid, pg 77)

I hope by now the essential definitions have been made clear.Let's move forward.

Now when our Muslim brothers & sisters says"Where did Jesus say I am God, or where did he say, worship me?", they ignore all that is stated above.Instead of arguing within the accepted concepts of Christian theology, they start from their views of God (that he is not a trinity and that Jesus did not have two natures etc).

So, are they really asking, "where did Jesus claim to be God like we understand Allah?" or "where did Jesus claim to be God in the biblical sense stated above?".

If the latter is true (and it should be true as a Christian doctrine can only be understood by examining the Christians Scriptures), then yes, Jesus, without any doubt claimed to be God. (note:it is also true that Jesus did at times make claims for himself which only Allah makes in the Qur'an![b])

However, before giving a list of the verses were Jesus claimed divinity, I would like to respond to some texts quoted by Muslims where supposedly Jesus denied his deity.

Indian Islamic organization, Irf (Islamic research foundation) give these arguments on their website[c]:

In fact the Bible contains statements attributed to Jesus (pbuh) in which he preached quite the contrary. The following statements in the Bible are attributed to Jesus Christ (pbuh):

(i) "My Father is greater than I."
[The Bible, John 14:28]

(ii) "My Father is greater than all."
[The Bible, John 10:29]

(iii) "…I cast out devils by the Spirit of God…."
[The Bible, Mathew 12:28]

(iv) "…I with the finger of God cast out devils…."
[The Bible, Luke 11:20]

(v) "I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgement is just; because I seek not my own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me."
[The Bible, John 5:30]

As stated before, Muslims discussing this issue do not even consider how Christian theology understands the Divinity of Christ.All these references are quoting in ignorance (if not deliberate mis presentations) of the christian faith.

I clearly stated above (in light of the Scriptures) Jesus was fully man and fully God at the same time.So since he was a complete human being, is it wrong for him to claim dependence of God or to acknowledge His greatness over human beings?

These are just affirmations of his complete human nature, rather then denials of his divine nature.I would sincerely urge Muslim readers to understand the difference.

With that said, let's see some of the claims Jesus made for Himself.One is already given above, where Jesus understood himself as God who came after John the Baptist (Mal 3:1.4:5, Matt 11:14, Mark 1:7, John 1:26).

Secondly, Jesus says in Matthew 11:

27 “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

Look at the underlined part.Jesus says it is his own will to reveal the Father to any person.If God is the one who chooses to reveal himself to his creation, then what is Jesus saying here??

And Dr William Craig rightly notes that this verse cannot be the invention of the Church as it says "no one knows the Son.

Thirdly, in all three synoptics, Jesus calls himself the "Lord of the Sabbath"[d].But our Muslim friends may ask, how is this a claim to divinity?.To answer this, we need to go back to the Old Testament, the scriptures of Jesus.

8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. (exodus 20)
You see, the Torah (which even Islam calls inspired by God[e]) stated that the Sabbath was the day for God only.The seriousness of observing the sabbath is even illustrated in the Qur'an where God turned the violators of this day into animals [f].

So when Jesus claimed to be the Lord of the very day he was supposed to keep as a Jew, he was undoubtedly claiming to be God himself.

Fourthly, Jesus claimed to be the King of the Jews (Mark 15:2).Why is this important?.It is because the Old Testament says that God was this King! (1 Sam 8:7)

Fifthly, Jesus claims omniscience, to be present at more than one place at one time.Consider the following statements:

20 For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18)

20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28)

20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. (John 14)
Finally, here are two statements that destroy any claim that Jesus never claimed divinity.But before that, we need to have some background information.The Old Testament reveals God's personal name.God said to Moses

"I AM WHO I AM" (exodus 3:14)

In Hebrew, this YHWH (pronounced as Yahweh) and in Greek, it is ""ego eimi ho ohn".This name appears more than 6000 times in the Old Testament.

Now look at these statements of Jesus:

62 “I am, ” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (Mark 14)

58 “Very truly I tell you, ” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” (John 8).

Both these claims resulted in violent reactions of the Jewish audience.And the reason is obvious.Jesus takes for himself the very name which is personal to God.To say that this man is just a mere human prophet is absurd, for to do that, would be to call him a liar (nauzbillah), as prophets do not claim divinity for themselves.

So it is firmly established in the light of the Bible, and from the words of Jesus himself that he is God.

Now we will see what the earliest christians believed about Jesus.This is important, because Islamic theology asserts that the earliest followers of Jesus were on the side of the truth, ones to whom God promised victory over those who disbelieved in Jesus[g].

So if any one would have the right notions about Jesus, it would be the earliest believers, right?.

But what we do find is that the historical evidence is as damaging for the Muslims beliefs as the Scriptural evidence.

One example has already been given above of Phillipians 2:5-11.However, an additional points need to be stressed.The last two verses say:

10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
For anyone familiar with the Old Testament, these words would be very disturbing.This is because these are the things that Yahweh, the God of Israel claims for Himself.Read the following:

22 “Turn to me and be saved,
all you ends of the earth;
for I am God, and there is no other.
23 By myself I have sworn,
my mouth has uttered in all integrity
a word that will not be revoked:
Before me every knee will bow;
by me every tongue will swear.  (Isaiah 45)

The book of Isaiah is known for it's prophecies of how one day every nation would acknowledge Yahweh as their God just like His people Israel.But the early Christians applied the very expectations to Jesus Himself, making him their Lord.

Moreover, John Drane says:

The Christian confession of faith, 'may our Lord come' (recorded in 1 Corinthians 16:22 in it's Aramaic form, Maranatha shows that the very earliest church in Jerusalem, the only one to speak Aramaic, must have given that title to Jesus long before Paul came on the scene"

(Introducing the New testament, pg 274)
This also refutes the claims of those critics who assert that it was Paul who "invented" the deity of Christ.To sum up:

Very soon after the death and Ressurection of Jesus we find the early church referring to Jesus to him and addressing him in terms which had been previously applied only to Yahweh in their Scriptures.They called him Lord, the Greek word kyrios being the one regularly used in the Greek version of the Old Testament for the divine name Yahweh.

(What's so unique about Jesus?, pg77)

Let us now turn to the Qur'an.The Qur'an gives two (among many) titles to Jesus, Ruh Allah and Kalmatullah:

People of the Book, go not beyond the bounds in your religion, and say not as to God but the truth. The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was only the Messenger of God, and His Word (Allahi wakalimatuhu) that He committed to Mary, and a Spirit from Him ( waroohun minhu). So believe in God and His Messengers, and say not, 'Three.' Refrain; better is it for you. God is only One God. Glory be to Him -- That He should have a son! To Him belongs all that is in the heavens and in the earth; God suffices for a guardian. (4:171)
Now the Qur'an itself never explains what these titles means.Infact, according to Islamic commentators, these verses come from the group of ayahs whose meaning only Allah knows (3:7).But since these titles come from the christian scriptures, we do know what these titles mean.The Bible says:

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 14)

45 So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit (1 Cor 15:45)
As one can see, God's Word and His Spirit, according to the Bible denote divinity.How can Muslim scholars use the very same titles and still hold that Jesus was not divine?

By the way, the late King Hassan II of Morocco confirmed, after a synod in Rabat, that no man and no Ayatollah has the right to call himself a spirit of Allah (Ruh-ullah), except 'Isa, the son of Mary; for he is the only one born by the spirit of Allah![h].

So ponder upon these points,

God Bless You

References:
[a]A list of such quotations can be found at (http://carm.org/early-trinitarian-quotes)

[b]For example, Allah is called the "First and the Last" in Sura 57:3, yet Jesus claims the same title for Himself in Revelation 1:8 and 22:13!.I will list more such examples soon.

[c]Irf.net

[d]Matthew 12:8, Mark 2:28, Luke 6:5.

[e]For example, Sura 3:3-4.

[f]Sura 2:65

[g]Sura 5:111, 61:14, 3:55.

[h]Abd-Al Masih, "The Names and titles of Christ in the Qur'an and the Bible"

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