DID JESUS CALL HIMSELF GOD?
This question is heard every now and then, from certain marginal Christian groups and Muslims, who claim each on their own accord, that Jesus of Nazareth never called Himself ‘God’, and that this appellative was given to Him by a distorted Christianity three centuries later. In fact, the first controversy over this, which tried to be settle the issue, was during the First Council of Nicaea in the year 325 CE; which also proved how widespread and older was this idea than Arius and his immediate followers; so strong that survived for centuries later, and even though it lost strength through time, mainly through strong persecution, but it remains to this day, especially among unitarian groups.
This proves two important facts:
1 – That regardless of how old an idea is, how convincing or how widely held, it is not prove that is correct.
2 – That Scripture contains all information necessary on all topics of the Christian faith, without the need to wonder or guess over non explicit areas. All basic points are clear and direct, the non-clear are open to debate, and the forbidden issues, condemned unanimously.
A CREDIBLE SOURCE
Christianity has only four authoritative testamentary records of the life, work and words of Jesus of Nazareth, and which are recognized as true containers of Jesus’s message while He was on earth.
From these four, the first three commonly known as gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, are really anonymous works, assumed to have been written by these Apostles and disciples of Jesus, or under their direct approval, but some modern critics who have more of secular than believers, enjoy putting into doubt their apostolic origin, and therefore the value of these records.
However, the last one attributed to Apostle John is the only one which openly claims to have been written by a direct disciple of Jesus, who was present at the last supper, and most probably was Apostle John, son of Zebedee (John 13:23; 19:26; 21:20-24; Mark 10:35; John 21:1-2).
WHAT THE GOSPEL OF JOHN SAYS
Whoever wrote the called Gospel according to John, the internal claim is that it was written by someone who knew Jesus deeply, more than any other disciple, to the point of developing a close relationship with Him, that awarded him the nickname of the ‘Beloved Disciple’.
The document that this disciple of the Lord wrote, contains the most developed theological document about the nature and mission of Jesus of Nazareth than any other. In this record the author openly declares Jesus to be the Logos or ‘Word’ of God, and being God (John 1:1, 14-15). Also declares this Word to be ‘the only Son of the Father’ to have existed in ‘the beginning’ next to the Father (John 1:2), which in this context implies eternity, since for God there is no ‘beginning’ of any kind.
Furthermore, the word used is ἐν (in), and not ἀπὸ (from), discarding all reference to a personal beginning of the Word, but a permanent existence together with the Father from eternity.
Jesus Himself declared his divinity by calling God YHWH and Himself, ‘One’; and by calling God, ‘Father’; which was understood as a personal identification with the Supreme God of the Jews, YHWH (John 10:30-33), and thus also declares the author of the gospel of John personally, taking away any idea of the Jews having misunderstood the Lord (John 5:18), clarifying that that was the intention of Jesus by saying that.
Finally, Jesus Himself declared that meaning when He said to Phillip:
“Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?”
Jesus Himself never said explicitly ‘I am God’, but indirectly He implied it constantly, and thus was the sense in which everyone understood his declarations, so much his own disciples as did the Temple officials who condemned Him for blasphemy.
Jesus never said openly He was God because He did not want to obscure the reality and person of God YHWH, since the common listener would have understood it that way if He had openly said ‘I am God’. Jesus was a different person from YHWH, and He also made that perfectly clear, but He also implied his divine nature by putting Himself on equal status as the Father by a pre-existing nature (John 17:5), which could not be understood in any other way, save that He made Himself ‘equal to God’.
Furthermore, as the gospel of John was written after the fulness of revelation was completed, the author could express this directly and clearly, as this truth was fully revealed 300 years prior to any Christological council or synod, by claiming that Jesus was God and that no one ever, had really seen YHWH, but that it was Jesus who appeared to the prophets and received worship from them:
“No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.”