The Deity of Christ


THE DEITY OF CHRIST (an Article by James Pinnington)

The focus of this article is what the Bible teaches about the Deity of Christ. There are some people – even people who would call themselves “Christians” – that deny Jesus is God and instead will argue that the Bible teaches only the Father is God and that Jesus is merely the Son of God and a creation of His Father. The Bible however is very clear that Jesus is indeed God and co-equal with both the Father and Holy Spirit. There are around eight New Testament (NT) verses that directly call Jesus “God”. We shall look at these shortly but before that I’ll note upfront that some of these verses are debated on the grounds of Greek grammar, with some scholars concluding that the term “God“ in a number of these verses is used of the Father rather than Christ. However most scholars would say that a majority of these verses indeed do refer to Jesus as God even if they don’t hold that all eight do so. It’s beyond the scope of this article to get into the arguments surrounding the Greek grammar so instead of that we will now simply list the verses in question:

John 1:1, 18; 20:28; Romans 9:5; Hebrews 1:8-12; Titus 2:13; I John 5:20; 2 Peter 1:1

The question some might raise at this point is ‘Why only eight verses? Why isn’t Jesus referred to as God more often?’  After all, the word “God” is used over 1000 times in the NT but isn’t used of Jesus much at all. The reason for this is the NT writers were faced with a difficult problem. As William Lane Craig notes,

“Since the word “God” (ho theos) refers to the Father, how could it be said that Jesus Christ is God without implicitly saying that Jesus Christ is the Father which the New Testament writers did not want to say?…What you find as you read the New Testament is that they exhibited an incredible ingenuity in finding every other possible way to affirm the deity of Christ without coming out and simply saying blanketly “Jesus is ho theos,” “Jesus is God.” 

Or, as Murray J. Harris says, “in the Trinitarian formulas “God” always denotes the Father, never the Son or Spirit. For example, 2 Corinthians 13:14 reads “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all”. What is more, in the salutations at the beginning of many NT letters “God” is distinguished from the “Lord Jesus Christ”. So Paul’s letters regularly begin “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”. As a result of all this, in the NT the term theos (God) in the singular has become virtually a proper name, referring to the Trinitarian Father. If Christ were everywhere called “God”, so that in reference to him the term was not a title but a proper noun, like Jesus, linguistic ambiguity would be everywhere present. What would be able to make of a statement such as “God was in God, reconciling the world to himself”, or “ the Father was in God, reconciling the world to himself” ( cf. 2 Corinthians 5:19)?.


So because of the danger of confusing Jesus with God the Father, the NT writers would typically but not always use the word “God” to refer to the Father but when it came to Jesus they instead would use the word “Lord” in reference to him. Now although the word “Lord” in both Hebrew and Greek (“Adonai” and “Kurios”) can simply mean “sir” or “master” it was also used in the NT (and in the Greek Septuagint translation of the Old Testament) on many occasions as a translation of “Yahweh,” the Old Testament (OT) Hebrew name of God. In the NT, which of course is written in Greek, the writers never use the Hebrew word “Yahweh” but instead substitute it with the word Lord (Kurios). This was their way of saying Jesus was God/Yahweh without using the word Theos (God). A good example of this in the NT is Romans 10:9,13. In verse 9, Paul says, “if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord” – “and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Then, in verse 13 Paul quotes the OT verse Joel 2:32 “for everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.” The Lord in the context who is to be called upon is clearly Jesus, and yet if you read the OT verse Paul quotes it says “everyone who calls upon the name of Yahweh will be saved”. Paul therefore is clearly equating Jesus with Yahweh. He puts Jesus name in place of Yahweh. Another important passage relating to this is 1 Corinthians 8:6:

“…we believe in one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist” 

What the apostle Paul does here is modify the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4 “Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the Lord is one”) in order to place Jesus within the divine identity. He takes the term “God” and replaces it with “Father” and he takes the term “Lord” and replaces it with “Jesus”.

As Richard Bauckham notes: “Paul has in fact reproduced all the words of the statement about YHWH in the Shema . . . but has rearranged them in such a way as to produce an affirmation of both one God, the Father, and one Lord, Jesus Christ… Paul is not adding to the one God of the Shema a ‘Lord’ that the Shema does not mention. He is identifying Jesus as the Lord whom the Shema affirms to be one.”

As Gordon Fee rightly says:

“What Paul has done seems plain enough. He has kept the ‘one’ intact, but he has divided the Shema into two parts, with theos (God) now referring to the Father, and kurios (Lord) referring to Jesus Christ the Son… He insists that the identity of the one God also includes the one Lord,” 

“In the striking passage where Paul reshapes the Jewish Shema to embrace both the Father and the Son while as the same time emphasizing his inherited monotheism, Paul asserts that the ‘one Lord’ (=Yahweh) of the Shema is to be identified as the Lord Jesus Christ … In a still more profoundly theological way, by his inclusion of the preexistent Son as the agent of creation, Paul has thus included him in the divine identity at its most fundamental point,..”

Other NT texts where Jesus is substituted for Yahweh are listed by noted NT scholar Larry Hurtado as follows:

“Romans 14:11 (Isaiah 45:23); 1 Cor 1:31 (Jeremiah 9:23-24); 1 Cor 2:16 (Isaiah 40:13); 1 Cor 10:26 (Psalm 24:1); 2 Cor 10:17 (Jer 9:23-24)

Places where Paul alludes to OT passages that mention Yahweh as the Kurios and Paul clearly makes Jesus the referent: 1 Cor 10:21 (Malachi 1:7,12); 1 Cor 10:22 (Deut 32:21); 2 Cor 3:16 (Exodus 34:34); 1 Thess 3:13 (Zechariah 14:5); 1 Thess 4:6 ( Psalm 94:2).”

Another way that NT writers attempt to get across the point that Jesus is God is to take titles, deeds and attributes applicable only to Yahweh and apply all three of these things to Jesus. Thus, a number of passages talk about Jesus’s role as the creator and sustainer of all reality apart from God (John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:15-17; Hebrews 1:1-3):

“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” (John 1:1-3)

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:15-17)

“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power“ (Hebrews 1:1-3)

The very creation of the universe is attributed the Jesus in these verses, which is a deed the OT applies  solely to God. Isaiah, particularly, is crystal clear that God alone was responsible for the creation of the universe:

“I am the Lord, who made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself” (Isaiah 44:24)

We are told that Yahweh “alone” created the heavens and that he did this by himself. Yet the NT tells us that Jesus did this, which means, once again, that the authors are equating Jesus with Yahweh/God and assigning a deed to Jesus that only God is capable of performing.

Another important passage regarding the creation of the universe is Hebrews 1:8-12. The anonymous author of Hebrews refers to Jesus (the “Son”) as God in verses 8-9 by citing Psalm 45:6 and then in verses 10-12 he affirms Jesus is the universe’s creator by quoting Psalm 102:25-26 – which is a psalm speaking of Yahweh’s act of creation – and arguing that this passage refers to the actions of the Son. So once again we have an OT passage which originally spoke of Yahweh’s deeds that a NT writer applies to the deeds of Jesus.

The OT states that God is eternal (Psalm 90:2) – an essential attribute of deity – yet the NT states that Jesus had “neither beginning of days nor end of life” (Hebrews 7:3) and is therefore eternal.

The OT says God is immutable/unchangeable (Malachi 3:6). Likewise, the NT says the same thing about Jesus in Hebrews 13:8.


God is declared in scripture to be omniscient (1 Kings 8:39; 1 John 3:20). Jesus likewise in John 2:25 is said to know what is in every persons heart. John 16:30 says Jesus “knows all things” and John 21:17 says the same.


God in the OT is said to be omnipresent (Psalm 139:7-10; Jeremiah 23:24; 1 Kings 8:27). The NT presents Jesus as omnipresent in Matthew 18:20 and Matt 28:20. Note that the Matt 18 passage which speaks of Jesus being present when two of three are gathered in his name has rabbinic parallels. One example: “But two who sit together and between them are words of Torah, the Shekhinah (God’s visible presence) is between them” (Mishnah tractate Avot 3:2)


God is omnipotent (Job 42:2; Luke 1:37). Jesus is omnipotent in Matt 28:18


God alone forgives sins in the OT (Exod 34:6-7; Psalm 51:4; Isaiah 43:25; Daniel 9:9). In the NT Jesus forgives sins (Mark 2:1-12; Colossians 3:13).


In the OT prayer was offered to God alone. No one ever prayed to another human or even an angel (Psalm 65:2; Isaiah 44:17). In the NT however prayer is offered to both the Father and Son (John 14:14; Acts 7:59-60; 1 Cor 16:22; 2 Cor 12:8-9). A interesting verse relating to this is 1 Corinthians 16:22 with its use of the word “maranatha” in a prayer to Jesus. The Aramaic word in question means “Our Lord come”, and it’s a petition for Jesus to return. Interestingly the word “mar” (or “Lord” in Aramaic) had the same function as the Greek “Kurios” in that it’s a substitute for the Divine name. The use of this Aramaic term when writing to a Greek-church in Corinth as R. T. France notes, “can only indicate that this formula, like such foreign expressions as ‘Hosanna’ and ‘Hallelujah’ today, was hallowed by long usage. When it originated in the Aramaic-speaking church can only be guessed, but to be familiar in Corinth in the 50s it is likely to date from the very early days of the Jerusalem church;”. The conclusion then is we can show that Jesus being referred to as God/Lord goes back to very close to his death and resurrection and is not a later development as some critics posit.


Isaiah 45:23 says that before Yahweh every knee will bow and every tongue will confess. The NT states that before Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue will confess (Philippians 2:10-11).


The OT explains that only Yahweh can “tread upon the waves of the sea” (Job 9:8) yet famously the NT tells us that Jesus walked on water (Mark 6:48). An interesting detail often unnoticed is in verse 48 Mark notes that Jesus was about to “pass by” the disciples. This is significant because it is the same phraseology used in Exodus 33:22 when Moses see the very presence of God:


“When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by” (see also 1 Kings 19:11 and Job 9:11)


Isaiah 40:1-3 predicts that a person crying in the wilderness will prepare the way for Yahweh. All three synoptic gospels quote this passage and apply it to John the Baptist, the wilderness prophet. Since the NT says John prepared the way for Jesus by being his forerunner, and since Isaiah says it was Yahweh who was having his way prepared for him, it’s clear they understood Jesus to be Yahweh in flesh.


The OT often describes God as a bird that protects the children of Israel by keeping them under his wings (Isaiah 31:5; Deuteronomy 32:11; Psalm 91:4). In the NT Jesus refers to himself as a mother hen longing to hide the children of Israel under his wings (Matthew 23:37). The conclusion then is that the “wings” of Christ are the very wings of God.


God is said to be the judge of the whole earth (Genesis 18:25; Jeremiah 25:31; Romans 2:3) but the NT tells us that Jesus will judge the world (Matthew 25:31-46; John 5:22-23; 2 Cor 5:10)


God’s words will stand forever according to Isaiah 40:7-8. Matt 24:35 says that Jesus’s words will also stand forever.


Isaiah 42:8 says that Yahweh will not give his glory to another (also 48:11). Yet in John 17:5 Jesus asks the Father to “glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed”.  Further still, Revelation 5:13 says that glory will be given to both the Father and the Lamb forever.


In Isaiah 6:1-3 the prophet sees a vision of a God sitting upon a throne and is told that the whole earth was filled with his glory. When we turns to the NT however the Gospel of John says that Isaiah saw Jesus’s glory in that vision (John 12:41). Again Jesus is equated with Yahweh/God and also said to share his glory, which as we’ve seen above is something God says he will not share with another.


Isaiah 32:15 says that Yahweh will pour out his Spirit in the end times (also Joel 2:28-32), yet Matthew 3:11 says it is Jesus who will pour out and baptise us with his Spirit


Philippians 2:6-7 is very clear in its assertion of Christ’s deity:


“Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God”


There’s much scholarly debate over the meaning of the Greek word translated as “robbery” in v.7 but whatever it means the verse still clearly teaches that Jesus is equal with God the Father. In v.6 Jesus is said to be in the “morphe” (form) of God. Ben Witherington comments:


“Morphe normally connotes and outward form that fully expresses the real being or substance that underlies it – essential or characteristic attribute that are manifested. When applied to Christ it most likely means he manifested a form that truly represented the very nature and being of God,”



Philippians 2:9 states that the Father has given Jesus “the name that is above every name”. For a Pharisee and “Hebrew of Hebrews” such as Paul, the name here can only be the name of Yahweh himself.


Zechariah 14:3-5 says that in the end times God’s feet will stand upon the Mount of Olives. In Acts 1:9-12 Luke alludes to this passage when he asserts that Jesus, who ascended up into the clouds of heaven from the Mount of Olives will, at the time of the 2nd Coming, descend from heaven in the same manner. Now, whilst it’s true that Luke doesn’t use the words “Jesus’s feet will stand on the Mount of Olives”, clearly it’s implied that this will happen since Jesus will descend back to earth from the same place he ascended (Mount of Olives) and he obviously has to touch down at some point.



The OT book of Isaiah refers to God as the “First and the Last” on three occasions (41:4; 44:6; 48:12). This title expresses Yahwehs eternality and therefore his deity. Yet the NT Book of Revelation refers to Jesus as the “First and Last” or the “Alpha and Omega” (the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet) on four occasions (1:7-8, 17-18; 2:8; 22:12-13).


Revelation 17:14 says that Jesus is “ Lord of lords and King of kings”. This exact title is not found in English translations of the OT in reference to God but it does occur in the Greek Septuagint rendering of Daniel 4:37:


“..because he himself is God of gods and Lord of lords and King of kings”


It also occurs in the apocryphal 1 Enoch 9:4 and other Jewish non-biblical texts of the time.


In the OT Yahweh is referred to as the Husband or Bridegroom of his people Israel in Isaiah 54:5 and 62:5. The NT in the same way refer to Jesus as the husband/bridegroom of Gods people (Mark 2:19; Matt 25:1-13; John 3:29; 2 Cor 11:2; Ephesians 5:23-27).



Isaiah 9:6 says that one of the titles of the coming Messiah will be “the mighty God”. Exactly one chapter later we see Yahweh himself referred to as “mighty God”(Isaiah 10:21)


Colossians 2:9 says that “in him (Jesus) the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.” A clear affirmation of Christ’s deity


Isaiah 8:14 teaches that Yahweh will be a “stone of stumbling” and a “rock of offence” to Israel. 1 Peter 2:8 quotes this passage and says it refers to Jesus.


A similar passage is 1 Corinthians 10:4 says that the Israelites in the wilderness “drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and that rock was Christ”. So Christ is identified with the rock which we have already seen is a title of God and, furthermore, Paul that Jesus here existed back in OT times – a reference to his eternality.


Also similar to this is Jude 4 which speaks of how Jesus “once for all saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterwards destroyed those who did not believe”.


In the OT it was God who saved his people out of Egypt but here Jude – Jesus’s earthly brother- says it was Jesus who did this (note that some ancient manuscripts have the word “ Lord” in place of “Jesus” but the earliest and best manuscripts have “Jesus”)



Jesus claims to be “Lord of the Sabbath”( Mark 2:28), thereby taking on a prerogative belonging to God alone.


Jesus often makes use of the phrase “I say unto you”. In contrast, in the OT, prophets would preface their remarks with words like “Thus says the Lord”. Jesus, by using “I say”, is claiming for himself divine authority. Jewish scholar Jacob Neusner comments that when Jesus says, “You have heard it was said…but I say to you…,” he is contrasting his words with ‘nothing less than the Torah, God himself speaking through his prophet Moses. Any observant Jew would immediately recognise that fact.”



God, most famously in Psalm 23, is the Shepherd of Israel (also Ezekiel 34:12). Jesus is also called the Shepherd in John 10:11.


God in the OT is known as Israel’s “Saviour” (Deuteronomy 32:15; Psalm 25:5 etc). In the NT however Jesus is called “Saviour” (John 4:42 Philippians 3:20; Titus 2:13).


In Zechariah 12:10 God states that the nation of his Israel will “look upon (or “unto”) me whom they have pierced. The NT applies this verse to the events of the crucifixion when Jesus was pierced through the side by a Roman spear (the Roman historian Quintillian confirms the spear thrust was standard practice). Thus the author of John’s gospel (19:37) once again equates Jesus with Yahweh



In John 8:58 Jesus famously says “very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I AM”. His Jewish opponents attempt to stone him because he was using the divine name in reference to himself. This divine name is first found in Exodus 3:14:


“God said to Moses “I AM who I AM” (Hebrew: “Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh”). And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel”: ‘I AM has sent me to you’”.

The word Ehyeh (“I AM”) in that verse is the same meaning as Yahweh but it’s spelt differently because the former is in the first person whereas the latter is in the third person. Now, whilst not denying the link between John 8:58 and Exodus 3:14, many scholars are of the opinion that an even clearer background behind Jesus’s numerous “I AM” statements in John’s gospel is found in the “I AM” statements used by God in the book of Isaiah (also Deuteronomy 32:39). Here are some passages from Isaiah:

“Who has performed and done this, calling the generations from the beginning? I, Yahweh, the first, and with the last; I am he” (Isaiah 41:4)

When you pass through the waters….Do not be afraid, for I am with you” (Isaiah 43:2,5)

“You are my witnesses,” declares Yahweh, “and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me…….I am, I am the one who blots out your transgressions” (Isaiah 43:10,25)

“Listen to me, O Jacob, and Israel, whom I called! I am he; I am the first, and I am the last” (Isaiah 48:12)

The Hebrew behind these statements is “Ani Hu” which means “I (am) he” (note “Ani” is a different word from the Hebrew used in Ex 3:14 because there’s more than one Hebrew word for ‘I’). In the Greek Septuagint Bible “Ani Hu” is translated as “Ego emi”, which is the exact Greek words Jesus uses in John’s gospel when he says “I AM”.

There are seven “I AM” or Ego emi statements with the predicate (e.g,. I AM the bread of life, I AM the light of the world etc) in John’s gospel but, more importantly, there are seven “I AM” statements without a predicate. I’ll quote just a few:

“When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were frightened. But he said to them, “I am; do not be afraid.” (John 6:19-20)

“…for unless you believe that I am, you will die in your sins….then you will know that I am”(John 8:24,28)

“Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “ Who is it you want?” “Jesus of Nazareth”, they replied. “I am he,” Jesus said. When Jesus said “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground” (John 18:4-6)

In regard to John 6:19-20 some critics argue Jesus was not making a divine claim here but rather was simply saying “it’s me Jesus” or, as in some translations, “It is I”. However the context points against this, for his words occur in the context of him walking on water – a deed which the OT says is something only God is capable of (Job 9:8). Likewise, in John 8:24,28 the words “I AM” become unintelligible unless Jesus is using it as a claim to deity. Some suggest he might be saying “unless you believe I am Messiah you will die in your sins” but Messiahship is not mentioned in the context, thus it’s better to interpret it with the broad context of John’s gospel and its consistent claims of Christ’s deity. Lastly, in John 18:4-6, when the soldier ask for Jesus, and Jesus responds “I AM” or “I am he”, it can hardly mean something as basic as “I’m Jesus”, for in verse 6 the soldiers fall on the ground when he says “I AM”. Clearly something more is at work here as Michael Kruger notes:


“The falling back is a contextual clue that Jesus is speaking like God speaks in Isaiah. Thus, there is likely a double entendre here in 18:6.  On the one hand Jesus is simply answering the soldiers’ question by saying “I am he [the one you are looking for].”  But, on the other hand, he is saying, “I am he [the one true God]…..In the end, the “I am” language in John is a likely reference to God’s self-declarations in Isaiah, and thus a dramatic claim by Jesus to be the one true God of Israel”

To quote Larry Hurtado: “It’s commonly recognised by scholars that the expression was often intended to have a strongly numinous connotation. Indeed, this use of “I am” is probably influenced by, and alludes to, OT passages where God uses the same sort of self reverential language, particularly passages in Isaiah”.

In Matthew 26:64 Jesus says that his enemies will see him “coming on the clouds of heaven” at his 2nd Coming to earth. This is a claim to deity because in the OT it is God himself who is said to be the “cloud rider” (the term is also used of Ancient Near Eastern Gods, such as Baal):


“Yahweh rides on a swift cloud and is coming into Egypt”(Isaiah 19:1)


Other verses depicting God as riding clouds or being enveloped in clouds are Psalm 104:3; Numbers 10:34; Exodus 14:20; 34:5.


In the first part of the Matthew 26:64 verse cited above Jesus refers to himself as the “ Son of Man”, which is an allusion back to Daniel 7:13-14:


“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. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away,.”


The Son of Man figure here is given an eternal kingdom by God the Father. He is said to rule all nations and will be worshipped. Worship (the Aramaic word used here is “pelach” which always means religious rituals done in honour of a deity) of course is something that only God himself can rightly receive. Important also here is that the kingdom ruled by the Son of Man is said to belong to God earlier in the book of Daniel (4:2-3; 34; 6:26) and yet we have this human-like figure ruling it. Now it is true that “Son of Man” is often just a Hebraic expression meaning “human being”. It is often used in this mundane way throughout the OT – most notably in Ezekiel – but the context shows that Jesus is borrowing it from Daniel, since the language of clouds and rulership is used. Son of Man then is a divine claim. It’s actually Jesus’s favourite way of referring to himself in the gospels but yet is absent from all of Paul’s letters, presumably because he is writing to Gentiles who would not get the Jewish terminology so easily. Finally, quite apart from the Danielic origin of the term, it is also found in uninspired texts like 1 Enoch. As Gary Habermas comments:


“In the Similitudes of Enoch, the Son of Man exists before the creation (1 Enoch 46:2; 48:2-3; 62:7) and will be worshipped by all people on earth (48:5; 62:6,9). Further, he will be seated on a glorious throne (62:5; 69:29), judging sin (69:28). He seems to be identified as the Messiah (48:10; 52:4).”



Another important title used of Jesus in order to express his deity is the “Wisdom of God”. To quote two NT passages:


“but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor 1:24)

“Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’ so that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation,(Luke 11:49-50)


In Matthew’s account (23:29-35) of the above Lukan passage Matt has Jesus being the speaker who sends the prophets, whereas Luke says the speaker is Wisdom. Luke here then directly equating Jesus with Wisdom.


Two questions at this point would be, ‘How does Jesus and the NT authors referring to him as God’s Wisdom prove he’s God?’ and ‘Why did they choose this terminology to describe him?’

The answer is found in that both the OT and uninspired Jewish writings of the intertestamental period would take attributes of God such as his Word (or “memra”), his Presence (Shekhinah), his Torah, his Name, and his Wisdom, and personify them. The most well known OT example of wisdom being personified is Proverbs 8 (wisdom is spoken of as a “she” simply because the Hebrew word for “wisdom” is feminine). There was a threefold reason then that Jesus was identified with Wisdom:

  1. Divine attributes such as a wisdom are eternal and uncreated. God, being omniscient, was never without wisdom. He doesn’t lose or gain wisdom. He always had it. Therefore to say Jesus is God’s Wisdom (or even “Word” as in John 1) is to say Christ is eternal, which is something only God is.
  2. Wisdom was seen as God’s co-creator in the OT (Prov 8) and also uninspired Jewish texts of the time. Saying Jesus was God’s Wisdom was then another way of saying he was co creator and therefore divine, since in the Jewish view God alone was the sole creator.
  3. It was a way to explain that Jesus was God but, at the same time, express he was a different person from God the Father. As Richard Bauckham notes:

“2 Enoch 33:4, in an echo of Isaiah 40:13, says that God had no advisor in his work of creation, but that his Wisdom was his advisor. The meaning is clearly that God had no one to advise him. His Wisdom, who is not someone else but intrinsic to his own identity, advised him.”


An important passage concerning the role of Wisdom and its equation with Jesus is John 1 (and also other chapters in his gospel). Although the word “wisdom” is not found in the text (the word “logos”, meaning “word” or “reason” is instead preferred), John’s description of the Word/Jesus matches up well with what pre-Christian text say about Wisdom. As Larry Hurtado rightly says:


“It is important to note that God’s “Word” and “Wisdom” are sometimes linked in Jewish tradition of the time…perhaps the parallel-structure in Wisdom of Solomon 9:1-2 is a particularly good example of this: “O God… who has made all things by your word, and by to wisdom has formed humankind”. Let’s move now to some striking parallels between John‘s gospel and Jewish Wisdom literature (offered here by JP Holding):


“The Word was in the beginning (John 1:1)

Wisdom was in the beginning (Proverbs. 8:22-23, Sirach. 1:4, Wisdom of Solomon. 9:9)

The Word was with God (John 1:1)

Wisdom was with God (Prov. 8:30, Sir. 1:1, Wis. 9:4)

The Word was co-creator (John 1:1-3)

Wisdom was co-creator (Prov. 3:19, 8:25; Isa. 7:21, 9:1-2)

The Word provides light (John 1:4, 9)

Wisdom provides light (Prov. 8:22, Wis. 7:26, 8:13; Sir. 4:12)

Word as light in contrast to darkness (John 1:5)

Wisdom as light in contrast to darkness (Wis. 7:29-30)

The Word was in the world (John 1:10)

Wisdom was in the world (Wis. 8:1, Sir. 24:6)

The Word was rejected by its own (John 1:11)

Wisdom was rejected by its own (Sir. 15:7)

The Word was received by the faithful (John 1:12)

Wisdom was received by the faithful (Wis. 7:27)

Christ is the bread of life (John 6:35)

Wisdom is the bread or substance of life (Prov. 9:5, Sir. 15:3, 24:21, 29:21; Wis. 11:4)

Christ is the light of the world (John 8:12)

Wisdom is light (Wis. 7:26-30, 18:3-4)

Christ is the door of the sheep and the good shepherd (John 10:7, 11, 14)

Wisdom is the door and the good shepherd (Prov. 8:34-5, Wis. 7:25-7, 8:2-16; Sir. 24:19-22)

Christ is life (John 11:25)

Wisdom brings life (Prov. 3:16, 8:35, 9:11; Wis. 8:13)

Christ is the way to truth (John 14:6)

Wisdom is the way (Prov. 3:17, 8:32-34; Sir. 6:26)”


Hebrews 1:3 says Jesus “is the radiance (Greek: apaugasma) of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature,”.  The Greek word “apaugasma” is a rare word found only here in the NT. It is found only once in the Septuagint version of the Bible in the following non-canonical passage:


For wisdom is more mobile than any motion; because of her pureness she pervades and penetrates all things. For she is a breath of the power of God, and a pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty; therefore nothing defiled gains entrance into her. For she is a reflection (apaugasma) of eternal light, a spotless mirror of the working of God, and an image of his goodness.” ( Wisdom of Solomon 7:24-26)


Jesus is described in exactly the same way as divine wisdom: namely, as the radiance or reflection of God. Note in verse 26 wisdom is described as the “image” of God’s goodness, just as Jesus is said elsewhere to be the “image of God”.


Further parallels noted by Ben Witherington as follows:


Matthew 11:29-30 “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”


Sirach 6:19-31 “Come to (Wisdom) like one who plows and sows. Put your neck into her collar. Bind your shoulders and carry her…Come unto her with all your soul, and keep her ways with all your might…For at last you will find the rest she gives… Her yoke is a golden ornament, and her bonds a purple cord.”


Sirach 51:26 “Put your neck under the yoke, and let your soul receive instruction: she is hard at hand to find.”


Martin Hengel: “early Christian thought was faced with the task of expressing the unique and surprising worth of the revelation of God in his Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, in such a way that all Jewish previous exaltation and mediator conceptions of men of God, prophets, teachers and angels paled beside it. The linguistic means to express this worth was supplied out of hand by Jewish Wisdom teaching alone.”


Finally we turn to title “Son of God”. The expression surprisingly does not always mean “second person of the Trinity”, even when referring to Jesus. The term ‘Son of God’ in Scripture can be applied to the nation of Israel (Exodus 4:22; Hosea 11:1-2), to angels (Job 38:7; Gen 6:2) to believers in both OT and NT (Hosea 1:10; Romans 8:14) and to the Messiah (Psalm 2:7). Now, although it’s true the term is used in these ways, there are indeed times when Jesus’s use of it implies divinity. For example, John 1:18 refers to Jesus as the “Only Begotten” Son. The Greek word here (“monogenes”) more properly means “Unique” or “One of a kind”. Jesus is the unique Son of God. What is meant by this is brought out in the following passages:


“Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight. All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” (Matt 11:26-27)


John 5:19, 21-23: “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner…..For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes. For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son, in order that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.”


In the verse from Matthew’s gospel – often known as the Johannine thunderbolt – the Son is said to know the Father in a profound and unique way that surpasses the relationship the Father has with any other existing person. In the passage from John’s gospel we are told the Son is able to do whatever the Father does; that the Son is capable of giving life to whoever he wishes; that the Son has all judgement given to him; and that Son receives the same honour as the God the Father. After making a similar series of claims in John 10 the chapter climaxes with Jesus declaring “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30), a statement which leads to his Jewish opponents attempting to stone him for blasphemy (v.31). The language of Sonship therefore rises to the level of a claim to divinity. In John 14:9 Jesus says that “anyone who has seen me has seen the Father”. Jesus’s Sonship here must be a divine claim since seeing him is as good as seeing the Father.




Post a comment