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Beyond Belief: a Buddhist Critique of Christianity

Chapter 5:
Fact and fiction in
the life of Jesus
Part 2

Was Jesus God?

Christians claim that Jesus was God. Let us see if there is any justification for these claims. If Jesus really was God it is very strange that he never said so. There is not one place in the whole of the Bible where Jesus simply and unambiguously says, "I am God". Christians will object to this and say that Jesus often called himself or was called the Son of God. However, the Bible clearly shows that any person who was good and had faith qualified to be called a Son of God. For example, Jesus called Adam a son of God (Lk 3:38).

It will happen that in the very place where it was said of them "you are not my people" they will be called "sons of the living God" (Rom 9:26).

Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your father in heaven (Matt 5:44-45).

You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus (Gal 3:26).

You are God's; you are all sons of the most high (Ps 82:6).

Jesus is called God's 'only begotten son' but even this is not unique. In the Psalms God says to King David, "You are my son, today I have begotten you" (Ps 2:7) In fact, Jesus said distinctly that when he called himself a son of God, he did not mean he was God or related to God in a literal sense. When the Jewish priests criticized him for claiming to be equal with God, Jesus said:

Is it not written in your law, "I have said you are gods"? If he called them "gods" to whom the word of God came - and the Scripture cannot be broken what about one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? (Jn 10:34-36).

Christians will protest that in these quotes 'son of god' is not written in capitals but when Jesus makes his claims capitals are used thus, 'Son of God'. But capital letters to make a phrase outstanding or to give it emphasis is an innovation of modern English. In ancient Greek and Aramaic, the languages in which the New Testament was written, capital letters were never used and so the distinction between 'son of god' and 'Son of God' did not exist. Christians make an enormous fuss about Jesus' claims to be a son of God but as we can see, there is absolutely nothing unique in this claim. Christians could claim that the term 'son of God' is used in the Bible in two different ways - as a title for a particularly holy person and for the actual son of God, Jesus, who was with God in heaven before coming to earth. But even in this second sense Jesus was not unique. The Bible tells us that God had numerous sons with him in heaven who later came to earth and lived with humans just as Jesus did.

When mankind began to increase and spread all over the earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful; so they took for themselves such women as they chose. (Gen 6:1-3)

In the Bible Jesus is called the Son of Man more than 80 times. Yet the Bible also tells us that in the eyes of God the Son of Man is nothing more than a worm (Job, 25:6). How can Christians claim that the Son of Man is God when the Bible itself says that the Son of Man is nothing more than a worm? Christians will then insist that Jesus was called the Messiah, but again it was not unusual to be called a Messiah. The Hebrew word messiah of which the Greek translation is christos simply means 'anointed one', and refers to anyone sent by God to help the people of Israel. Even a non-Jew could be and sometimes was called a Messiah. The Bible even calls the pagan Persian King Cyrus a Messiah because he let God's people return to their homeland (Is 45:1). So just because Jesus was called the Messiah does not prove he was God. In fact, throughout the Bible Jesus goes out of his way to make it clear that he was not God. When someone called Jesus 'good teacher' he said:

Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone (Lk 18:19).

Now if Jesus was God why would he deny that he was good? We are told that Jesus prayed, but if he was God why would he need to pray to himself? And when Jesus prayed, he said to God, "not my will but yours" (Lk 22:42). Quite clearly Jesus is making a distinction between God's will and his own. Jesus says that no one has even seen God (Jn 1:18), meaning that when people saw him they were not seeing God. Again Jesus says he can do nothing without God.

I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can only do what he sees the Father do (Jn 5:19).

By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me (Jn 5:30).

I can do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me (Jn :28).

If Jesus was God he could do anything he wanted to do, and in these passages and dozens of others he is making it as clear as crystal that he is one thing and God another. Jesus said, "The Father is greater than I" (Jn 14:28) making it clear that he is not as great as God and therefore different from God. He says:

Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven (Lk 12:10).

Now if Jesus and the Holy Spirit were the same, to blaspheme one would be the same as blaspheming the other. In the Bible we are told that no one born of a woman can be pure (Job 25:4). Jesus was born of a woman, his mother Mary, so he likewise must have been impure. Now if Jesus was impure how could he be God? We are told that Jesus was dead for three days before ascending into heaven.

How can God possibly die? Who was looking after the universe while he was dead? Jesus said that at the end of the world he would be sitting at the right hand of God to judge the world (Lk 22:69). If Jesus and God are the same being, how is this possible? Quite clearly the two are separate and different. And again David is described as sitting on the right hand of God, so to do this one does not have be a god (Ps 110:1). We are told that Jesus stands between God and man.

For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ (1 Tim 2:5).

This passage clearly states that Jesus is not God, for if he was, how could he stand' between God and men? It also specifically calls Jesus a man (see also Acts l7:3-31). In the Gospels of Matthew and Luke (Matt 1:16, Lk 3:23) we are given the name of Jesus' father, his father's father, and so on, back through many generations. if God was really Jesus' father, why does the Bible list all Jesus' ancestors on his father's side? Christians are forever claiming that Jesus is God and at the same time that he is the son of God. But how is this possible? How can a father be his own son and himself all at the same time? And to make matters more confused, the Holy Spirit is brought in and we are asked to believe that Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit are different and yet the same.

The claim of Christians that Jesus is God contradicts what the Bible says, it goes against common sense and it raises numerous logical problems. Whereas if we see Jesus as he was, a reformer and prophet, none of these problems arise.

Go to Chapter 5: Fact and fiction in the life of Jesus. Part 3
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