Was Jesus God or the Son of God?

Last week we figured out that Jesus’ early followers probably did not think he was a god (or THE God). But the church authorities in the late 1st century developed the concept of Jesus being God, probably with an eye toward expanding the market for Christianity to the gentile population. But the church fathers created a real conundrum when they made Jesus equal to God: Was Jesus the Son of God or was Jesus THE God. 

  • Did Jesus say he was God? We have no eyewitness accounts of what Jesus actually said about that matter (or any matter). But in the first three Gospels, Jesus never calls himself God. And none of his disciples thought he was God. The only Gospel that really broaches the subject is John, which was written 70 years after Jesus’ death. Jesus may have said he was the messiah, but that refers more to being king over Israel (possibly in the expected apocalypse). It does not equate to Jesus saying he was God.
  • How did this get resolved? This was all ironed out in the 4th century under Emperor Constantine, who had either a) an epiphany of Christ or b) a political realization that the Christians had become a critical mass that needed to be appeased. He called together everyone who was anyone in the Christian church to Nicaea. After suffering through days and weeks in a smoke filled room, the church leaders voted and agreed that Jesus was both 100% God and 100% human. And although the vote was split, they also passed the resolution that Jesus had always been equal with God the Father. So when you’re mindlessly reciting one of those creeds during Sunday morning service, remember … it was negotiated.
  • But that almost says there are two gods (maybe three with the Holy Spirit). Exactly. We assigned the 3BT interns to look for answers to this dilemma at the Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry (CARM) website. The interns had a real challenge figuring this one out, just like all those Christian bishops at Nicaea. For example, Jesus did a lot of praying. Theoretically, he must have been praying to THE God. But that would not make sense if Jesus were already THE God. And if Jesus was God while he was here, did he really feel anything human (that one caused quite a rift in the community in the 2nd century). The best the interns could come up with is “it’s a paradox.” Here’s what the CARM people said to wrap up their essay on it:  So, when we say that Jesus is God, we are saying that he is divine by nature. He is, after all, the second person of the Trinity. But when we say that Jesus is the Son of God, we are saying that he is also God since that is what the phrase means.

That pretty much clears things up (sarcasm intended). We’re going back to Moses next week. It is much more straightforward dealing with magic staffs, plagues, and snakes. 

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