Last Updated on 11th October 2019
Special Titles Assigned to Jesusas
Farhan Iqbal, Missionary, Canada
In part six of this article series, some statements of Jesus were discussed where he uses the “I am” formula. Even though such statements are quite commonly quoted as “evidence” for the divinity of Jesusas, they are not the only ones. There are other statements that are quoted, and they fall into three broad categories:
1. Titles that Jesusas uses for himself
2. Titles that the authors of the Bible or disciples used for Jesusas
3. Parables or other statements of Jesusas that allude to his divinity
An example of a parable where Jesusas speaks of his special relationship with God is the parable of the vineyard (Mark 12:1-9). It is argued that Jesusas speaks of himself here as a special son who was sent by God to the people, but they refused to accept him and killed him.
In a similar fashion, based on Matthew 11:27, Christians argue that Jesusas is the only one who knew God: “All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” All such examples seem to fall into the third category.
As far as the first and second categories are concerned, Josh McDowell and Bart Larson provide a list of references in their book, Jesus: A Biblical Defense of His Deity, where JesusChristas is either quoted as using special titles for himself or other authors of the New Testament have used such titles for him.
They argue that these titles are only exclusive to God, and they include “Theos” (Greek word for God) [Hebrews 1:8], “Alpha” (The First), “Omega” (The Last) [Revelation 1:17], “Lord” [Matthew 12:8], “Saviour” [Matthew 1:21], “King” [Revelation 17:14], “Judge” [John 5:22], “Light” [John 3:19], “Rock” [Romans 9:33], “Redeemer” [Acts 20:28], “Shepherd” [John 10:11], “Creator” [John 1:2,3,10], “Giver of Life” [John 5:21], and so on. (Josh McDowell & Bart Larson, Jesus: A Biblical Defense of His Deity, pp.62-63)
At first glance, this list looks quite impressive as it seems to ascribe to Jesusas nearly every title of God in accordance with the language of the Old Testament. However, upon closer inspection, the first thing that is noticed is the missing fundamental statement of Jesusas himself saying, “I am God.” The entire list does not have any recorded statement of Jesusas where he calls himself “God” in an unambiguous manner.
The second thing that can be noticed from this list is that it is mostly the zealous authors of the books of the Bible who are giving these titles to Jesusas. If anyone truly knew his status, it was Jesusas himself. However, most of the mentioned titles are such that Jesusas never used them for himself. It is the books written decades after the crucifixion by anonymous authors which ascribe such titles to Jesusas or it is Paul’s letters where such titles are given to Jesusas, and the fact is that Paul never met Jesusas in person.
An excellent example of this can be seen in John which starts with the words, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1.) Later, the author of John says, “And the Word became flesh” (John 1:14) in an apparent reference to Jesusas. Most scholars believe that the author is alluding to the divinity of Jesusas in these passages, but the remarkable thing is that Jesusas is not reported to have said such things about himself.
The author here apparently mirrors these passages with the beginning of Genesis in order to zealously compare Jesusas with God or to portray him as God but Jesusas himself is not recorded to have done that regarding himself. It is the author of John – a Gospel that has high Christology – that attributes these things to Jesusas. These passages appear to show that their ancient authors felt no harm in exaggeration and in the embellishment of statements about Jesusas.
Another example from the same Gospel is found in John, 3:16 where it is assumed that Jesusas said, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life”. This quotation is also used sometimes to show that Jesusas is the “only” unique Son of God as compared with other sons of God.
The problem here is that it is not known for sure whether or not Jesusas did indeed make this statement. The koine Greek in which the Gospels were originally written did not have quotation marks. The context would then have to be used to know where the quotation begins and where it ends. In this case, Jesusas began speaking in John, 3:10 and some interpreters believe that his speech ended in John, 3:15, and that verse 16 marks the beginning of the words of John.
In other words, the statement, “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son” is actually made by the author of the Gospel of John, not by Jesusas himself. As is the case with the earlier example, the issue here is that the anonymous authors of these texts or even known authors like Paul have no authority to tell us who Jesusas really was or even to put words into the mouth of Jesusas. It is Jesusas alone who can tell us who he was.
Third, even if Jesusas did use such exalted titles for himself and it is assumed in good faith that the authors of the New Testament correctly ascribed those titles to him, this is still not enough evidence for the divinity of Jesusas considering Biblical usage of such titles for human beings of special status.
In other parts of the Bible, the works of prophets of God are called the works of God, without any indication of attributing divinity to those prophets. If the other prophets of God have been given such grand titles and are not believed to be God, why should such assumptions be made about Jesusas?
One clear example of this is where Mosesas is called God, as in Exodus, 7:1, “And the Lord said unto Moses, ‘See, I have made thee a god to Pharaoh: and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet.’” The Greek Septuagint uses the word θεὸν [Theon (Genitive form of Theos)] here for Mosesas despite the fact that this term is used for God Himself as well.
Why is it that when Christian apologists see this same word for Jesusas in Hebrews, 1:8, it is used as an argument for Jesus’as divinity but when it is used for Mosesas, it is not assumed to be about Moses’as divinity? What is more is that this term is used for Satan as well in 2 Corinthians, 4:4 and no one equates Satan with God Almighty.
The reality is that since prophets of God are acting in accordance with God’s will, their actions are the actions of God Himself in the metaphorical sense. Therefore, in light of Biblical idiom in the use of special titles and special phrases for Prophets of God, there is nothing uniquely stated by or about Jesusas. Prophets are in fact the manifestation of the Attributes of God Almighty and deserve such titles as they are agents of God.