The best-selling book and blockbuster film entitled “The Da Vinci Code” may have stirred doubts among many Christians as its foundation was built on the assertion that Christians did not believe that Jesus was divine until Constantine pressured the Council of Nicaea to declare the deity of Jesus in 325 A.D.
The book’s antagonist, Dr. Leigh Teabing offered a line that cemented this assertion while helping two of the characters in their search for the Holy Grail: “Jesus’ establishment as the Son of God was officially proposed and voted on by the Council of Nicaea.”
One of the characters, Sophie, replied, “Hold on. You’re saying Jesus’ divinity was the result of a vote?”
“A relatively close one at that,” Teabing responded.
The “Da Vinci Code” is entirely fictitious, as are the assertions by its antagonist. Teabing’s “relatively close vote” was actually 316 to 2 (Wand, 1990). Furthermore, by the time Constantine legalized Christianity in 313 A.D., millions of Christians had been worshipping Jesus as their Lord illegally (Wawro, 2008). The intention of the present blog is to offer six reasons we should not doubt Jesus’ divinity.
- And the Word Became Flesh
Contrary to skeptics’ claims that the Gospel authors and early Christians did not regard Jesus as divine, the text within the Gospels quite clearly demonstrates the authors’ testimonials to Jesus’ divinity. The Book of John focuses most explicitly on Jesus’ divinity, by highlighting His miracles, the seven I AM statements, and the way the Word became flesh. To the latter point, the Book of John opens with what Bart Ehrman labels as a kind of mystical reflection.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.”
Tribelhorn 2015) and Ronning (2010) make a strong case that John utilized the Jewish Targums, with which his audience( was highly familiar, to link Jesus as the Word (logos) with the Word of the Jewish Targums. The Jewish Targums are Aramaic paraphrases of the Hebrew books of the Bible, which helped Jews in the Second Temple period to understand the Jewish texts and traditions (Tribelhorn, 2015, p. 79). The Second Temple period preceded the early Christian era (Davies & Finkelstein, 2003).
- Examples of the correspondence between John’s Word and the Word of the Jewish Targums include the following (c.f., Tribelhorn, 2015, pp. 86-87).y
Genesis 1:27 (Fragment Targum): “And the ‘Word’ [of the Lord] (Aramaic Memra) created Adam in His image.
Genesis 1:3-5 (Neofiti Targum): “And the Word of the Lord said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light according to the decision of His Word…”
Deuteronomy 32:39 (Neofiti and Fragment Targum): “See now that I, in my Word, am He, and there is no god besides Me…”
“When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD [el Shaddai] appeared to him and said, ‘I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless.’ According to the Targums the LORD [El Shaddai] is actually the Word of the LORD [El Shaddai] who revealed Himself and spoke to Abram. El Shaddai is conventionally understood to be God Almighty.
“At this point, it should be self-evident why John, as a Jewish author targeting a Jewish audience, selected the ‘Word’ (Greek logos) of the Targums to build his apologetic for the deity of Jesus and show them that in Him they could have life eternal. The Targums consistently used ‘Word’ as a manifestation of the Divine or a direct substitution for God Almighty” (Tribelhorn, 2015, p. 90).
- The Seven “I AM” statements
Again, note that Jesus prefaced each of the seven “I AM” statements with “I AM,” fully embracing the powerful, divine implications of the name of the LORD.
John 6:35: “I AM the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never go thirsty.”
John 8:12: “I AM the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
John 10:9: “I AM the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out and find pasture.”
John 10:11: “I AM the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
John 11:25-26: “I AM the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”
John 14:6: “I AM the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
John 15:5: “I AM the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
The seven I AM statements make it clear that Jesus considered Himself divine. No man of sound mind would make such powerful, eternal, and salvation-implicating remarks about himself if he did not consider himself to be divine.
C.S. Lewis, in his book “Mere Christianity,” well explains this assertion:
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
- The Son of Man
Jesus also made it clear that He considered Himself divine when He referred to Himself as the Son of Man. The “Son of Man” is found in the New Testament eighty-seven times: once in Acts, once in Hebrews, three times in Revelation, and eighty-two times in the canonical Gospels, almost exclusively by Jesus. The origin and the meaning of the Son of Man are “firmly rooted in first-century rabbinics and classical Judaism” (Triblehorn, 2015, p. 106).
Leading Jewish scholars such as Daniel Boyarin and Rabbi John Fischer note that during the first century, the terms Son of Man and Son of God were used interchangeably, but Son of Man was more potent due to its use in the Book of Daniel (Daniel 7:9-13) as part of Daniel’s visions. His vision is here:
“As I looked, “thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat.
His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool.
His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze.
A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before him.
Thousands upon thousands attended him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. The court was seated, and the books were opened.
“Then I continued to watch because of the boastful words the horn was speaking. I kept looking until the beast was slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire. (The other beasts had been stripped of their authority, but were allowed to live for a period of time.)
“In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence.”
When Caiaphas placed Jesus under oath (Matthew 26:63-64) and asked Him if He was the Son of God, the Messiah, and the Son of the Most Blessed One, Jesus answered in the affirmative, cementing His arrest. The latter term (Son of the Most Blessed One) is a title that referred to Israel’s royal political heir (c.f., Psalm 2; 2 Samuel 7; Psalm 89). Jesus responded to Caiaphas with words that ignited a “rabbinically supercharged powder keg” (Triblehorn, 2015, p. 117).
“I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven” (Mark 14:62).
Caiaphas was well aware that Jesus had just labeled Himself as divine when he ripped his clothes and shouted, “I have heard enough! We have no need of further witnesses; we have heard blasphemy!”
- “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God”
“When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, ‘Who do you say the Son of Man is?’
They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’
‘But what about you?’ He asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’
Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’” (Matthew 16:13-16).
While the apostles at times expressed their doubts (e.g., Peter denied Jesus’ three times following Jesus’ arrest), they left their families and their careers to follow Jesus. They committed their lives to Him and His ministry. And in the end, all but John were martyred for Jesus.
After Jesus resurrected from the dead and appeared to His disciples, they praised Him and preached for Him for decades, risking persecution under Roman emperors such as Nero, who was notorious for his brutality towards Christians. Had they not seen the risen Christ, they wouldn’t have remained so brave for so many years with virtually no material gain and only spiritual gain.
- Extra-biblical Authors Referred to Jesus as God Prior to the Council of Nicaea in 325
Prior to the Nicene Council convened in 325 A.D., a variety of writers outside of the Bible referred to Jesus as God (Triblehorn, 2015). These authors include: Ignatius (105 A.D.), Clement (150 A.D.), Justin Martyr (160 A.D.), Iranaeus (180 A.D.), Tertullian (200 A.D.), Origen (225 A.D.), Novatian (235 A.D.), Cyprian (250 A.D.), Methodius (290 A.D.), Lactantius (304 A.D.) and Arnobius (305 A.D.).
- Jesus fulfilled 330 Old Testament Prophecies
Among the 330 Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah, which Jesus fulfilled, are the following passages:
|The Messiah would be:||Tanach Reference||Fulfillment|
|from the seed of a woman||Genesis 3:15||Romans 16:20; Galatians 4:4; Rev. 12:9; Rev. 12:7|
|a willing sacrifice||Genesis 12:3||Acts 3:24-26|
|a Passover lamb||Exodus 12: 1-51||John 1:29; 1:36; 19:33; 1 Corinth. 5:7-8; 1 Peter 1:19|
|the suffering servant||Isaiah 52-53||Matt 8:16-17; Mark 10:45; Luke 22:20; Acts 8:32-35|
|lifted up||Numbers 21:6-9||John 3:14-18|
|called God’s Son||Psalms 2:1-12||Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22; Acts 4:25-28|
|Resurrected||Psalms 16: 8-11||Acts 2:22-32; Acts 13:35-37|
|foresaken and pierced, but vindicated||Psalms 22:1-31||Matthew 27:39; 46; Mark 15:34; John 2:17|
|a righteous sufferer||Psalms 69||Acts 1:20; John 2:17; John 15:25; Romans 15:1-3|
|greater than David||Psalms 110:1-4||Matthew 22:42-45; Luke 20:41-44; Acts 2:34-36|
|the rejected cornerstone||Psalms 118: 22-24||Matthew 21:42; Mark 12:10-11; Luke 20:17-18|
|Acclaimed||Psalms 118: 25-29||Luke 13:35; Mark 11:9-10; John 12:13; Matt. 21:9|
|born of a virgin||Isaiah 7:14||Matt 1:22-23; Luke 1:31-35|
|a wonderful counselor; Mighty God; everlasting Father and Prince of Peace||Isaiah 9:6-7||Luke 1:32-33; 79; Acts 10:36; John 14:27; John 6:51|
|perform signs of healing||Isaiah 35:5-6||Matt 3:1-3; Mark 1:1-3; Luke 1:76; John 1:22-23|
In conclusion, we have substantial Biblical and extra-Biblical evidence providing support for the beliefs of early Christians in Jesus’ divinity. Skeptics such as Dan Brown of the Da Vinci Code who assert that such assertions were unique and original to the Council of Nicene are gravely mistaken. Pun intended.
Jesus is Lord.
Thank you for your time. If you still have doubts, listen to William Lane Craig:
Davies, W.D. & Finkelstein, L. (2003). The Cambridge History of Judaism: Volume 2 The Hellenistic Period. Cambridge and New York: The Cambridge University Press.
Ronning, J. (2010). The Jewish Targums and John’s Logos Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.
Tribelhorn, T.B. (2015). Opening the Rabbinic Doors to the Gospels. Morgantown, PA: Mastof Press.
Wand, J.W.C. (1990). A History of the Early Church. Oxford and New York: Routledge. 4th edition.
Wawro, G. (2008). Historical Atlas: A Comprehensive History of the World. Elanora Heights, Australia: Millennium House.