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Jesus and the Criteria for Deity

Additional Evidence that the NT Documents affirm the absolute Deity of Christ

Sam Shamoun

According to Biblical scholar Charles A. Gieschen, in his book Angelomorphic Christology: Antecedents and Early Evidence, Part 1. Introduction, Chapter Two. Nomenclature and Methodology, C. Divinity Nomenclature, pp. 31-33, published by Brill Publishers, there are at least five criteria for establishing the Deity of a specific entity.

These criteria that the author uses in determining whether a particular mediator figure was considered Divine help us better understand what the NT teaches concerning the Lord Jesus. We will be using these criteria to prove that the NT writers firmly believed in the absolute Deity of Christ.

Criterion # 1

“First, the Divine Position criterion: Is the angelomorphic mediator positioned with or near God or his throne? [Alan F.] Segal’s research on the ‘Two Powers in heaven’ controversy has helped to emphasize the interest the exegetes had in a second figure sharing the divine throne in Judaism, Christianity, and Rabbinism. The divine throne belonged to God alone. Therefore, divine status is usually accorded to the sole occupant sitting on the divine throne, the one who sits on the divine throne with God, or the one who sits on a similar throne that is alongside the divine throne.”

Not only is Jesus seated next to God in the most holy place in heaven:

“… Again the high priest asked him, ‘Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?’ ‘I am,’ said Jesus. ‘And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.’” Mark 14:61b-62

“and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” Ephesians 1:19-23

“The point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man.” Hebrews 8:1-2

The risen Lord actually shares the same divine throne with his Father and rules with him forever!

“The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.’” Revelation 11:15

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him.” Revelation 22:1-3

Criterion # 2

“Second, the Divine Appearance criterion: Does the angelomorphic figure have the physical characteristics of God’s visible form as depicted in various theophanies? For example Isa 6:1-4 shows the Lord sitting on a throne, with a long train, and smoke swirling around; Ezek 1:26-28 shows the Glory of YHWH in the likeness of a man with a gleaming upper torso and firey lower parts, with a bright rainbow round about him; Dan 7:9 describes the Ancient of Days with raiment as white as snow and hair like pure wool. When these kinds of distinctive descriptions of God’s visible form are used to describe an angelomoprhic figure, divinity may be implied.”

The NT depicts Jesus as bearing the physical characteristics of God’s visible form:

“After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!’” Matthew 17:1-5

“I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone ‘like a son of man,’ dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: ‘Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.’” Revelation 1:12-18 – cf. Ezek. 1:26-28; Daniel 7:9-10

Moreover, the risen Christ appeared to Paul in dazzling light which left the blessed Apostle blind for three days,

“Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ ‘Who are you, Lord?’ Saul asked. ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. ‘Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.’ The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.” Acts 9:1-5

“‘Brothers and fathers, listen now to my defense.’ When they heard him speak to them in Aramaic, they became very quiet. Then Paul said: ‘I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. Under Gamaliel I was thoroughly trained in the law of our fathers and was just as zealous for God as any of you are today. I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, as also the high priest and all the Council can testify. I even obtained letters from them to their brothers in Damascus, and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished. About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, “Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” I asked. “I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me. “What shall I do, Lord?” I asked. “Get up,” the Lord said, “and go into Damascus. There you will be told all that you have been assigned to do.” My companions led me by the hand into Damascus, because the brilliance of the light had blinded me.’” Acts 22:1-11

“On one of these journeys I was going to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. About noon, O king, as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions. We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ Then I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ the Lord replied.” Acts 26:12-15 – cf. 9:1-5

In light of this it is interesting to note that in his inspired epistles Paul speaks of Jesus being the Lord of glory whose face manifests the glory of God:

“None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” 1 Corinthians 2:8

“The God of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” 2 Corinthians 4:4-6

It seems reasonably certain that such language expresses Paul’s belief that the risen Christ exists in the glorious form of God, being the visible expression of God’s own Divine glory, a glory which now radiates from and through Christ in his resurrected, immortal body.

In other words, Paul believed that Christ in his glorified body is the visible physical appearance of God!

Criterion # 3

“Third, the Divine Functions criterion: Does the angelomorphic figure carry out an act, or actions, typically ascribed to God? There are many actions associated with God that are often carried out by angels: providential care of the cosmos, protecting the righteous, punishing evil, answering prayers, and similar activity. Other functions are typically limited to God himself: these include creating the world, absolving sins, and pronouncing eschatological judgment. The assigning of one or more of these typically divine functions to an angelomoprhic figure is a significant statement about his identity and status.”

According to the NT Jesus carries out the exclusive functions of God such as creating, sustaining, judging, redeeming and forgiving sins:

“For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.” Matthew 16:27

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.’” Matthew 25:31-34

“When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’ Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, ‘Why does this fellow talk like that? He's blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, ‘Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, “Get up, take your mat and walk”? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins ...’ He said to the paralytic, ‘I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.’ He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this!’” Mark 2:5-12

“Then Jesus said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ The other guests began to say among themselves, ‘Who is this who even forgives sins?’ Jesus said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’” Luke 7:48-50

“Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son… And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.” John 5:22, 27

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men… He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him… The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:1-4, 10, 14

“For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.” 1 Corinthians 4:4-5

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience.” 2 Corinthians 5:10-11

“For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” Colossians 1:13-17

“In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven… He [the Father] also says, ‘In the beginning, O Lord [the Son], you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But you remain the same, and your years will never end.’” Hebrews 1:1-3, 10-12

However, in order for the Lord Jesus to able to create and sustain the entire creation, as well as expose the intents of every person’s heart and recompense individuals according to their deeds, Christ must have all of God’s essential attributes such as eternality/timelessness, omnipresence, omniscience, and omnipotence.

Criterion # 4

“Fourthly, the Divine Name criterion: Does the mediator possess the Name of God or is he seen as an hypostasis of the Divine Name? The Divine Name YHWH is of the essence of Israel’s God. Therefore, the one who is identified as possessing this Divine Name should be understood as sharing in the very authority and essence of YHWH (Exod 23:20-21). As will be shown, this is a very prominent idea in the portrayal of Jewish and Christian angelomorphic mediators. Furthermore, one should also be sensitive to the possibility of the personal name of the angelomorphic mediator implying a divine status (e.g., Yahoel in Apocalypse of Abraham).”

The NT teaches that the Father has bestowed on Christ his very own name,

I have come in my Father's name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?” John 5:43-44

“I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name—the name you gave me—so that they may be one as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.” John 17:11-12

This would include such names as God and I AM,

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… No one has ever seen God, but the One and Only, God, who is in the bosom of the Father, has made him known.” John 1:1, 18

“Thomas answered and said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’” John 20:28-29

“‘I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I AM, you will indeed die in your sins.’… So Jesus said, ‘When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I AM and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me… Truly, truly I say to you,’ Jesus answered, ‘before Abraham came into existence, I AM!’ At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.” John 8:24, 28, 58-59 – cf. 13:19; 18:4-6

In fact it would be no exaggeration to say that according to John’s Gospel Jesus is the Name of God who became flesh.(1) As one rather liberal NT author put it in his discussion concerning how the Jewish view of angelic mediator figures and the concept of divine agency affect our understanding of the NT depiction of Christ:

“… The name ‘I am’ that Jesus bears is the Father’s name, and the Father gave it to him because he is the Father’s agent. In John’s account of the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus speaks the divine name ‘I am,’ overpowering those who had come to arrest him (John 18:4-9). He does this, we are told, in order to ensure the release of his followers, thus fulfilling that which he prayed for in the previous chapter.

“Designations for personified divine attributes, such as, for example, ‘Name’ and ‘Word,’ were often used interchangeably in first-century Jewish writings. Therefore, in considering these references to Jesus as a bearer of the name, viewed through the lens of the prologue, it would probably not be far off the mark to suggest that the author of the Fourth Gospel viewed Jesus not just as one who bears God’s name, but as God’s name ‘made flesh.’ That is to say, Jesus and the name are identified to a far greater extent in the Gospel of John than appears to be the case with the angel Yahoel in Apocalypse of Abraham…” (James F. McGrath, The Only True God – Early Christian Monotheism in Its Jewish Context [University of Illinois Press, Urbana and Chicago, 2009], Chapter 4. Monotheism in the Gospel of John, pp. 62-63)

Jesus is also said to have God’s very own personal covenant name Yahweh, which the Greek NT substitutes with the word Kyrios (“Lord”),

“You must have the same mindset among yourselves that was in Christ Jesus, Who, although existing in the nature of God and therefore having the same visible form and glory of God, did not consider the equality He had with God [the Father] in glory something to be held on to at all costs or to be exploited; He instead emptied Himself by veiling his Divine glory and setting aside his heavenly status so as to take on the very appearance and position of a slave by being made in human likeness. And having entered into human existence, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even the death one dies on a cross. Because of this act of humbleness, God [the Father] highly exalted Him to the highest place there is, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name – that being the Divine name of Yahweh – so that at the name of Jesus everyone who is in heaven, on earth, and under the earth, bows the knee in worship, and every tongue confesses that Jesus Christ is Yahweh to the glory of God the Father!” Philippians 2:5-11 (See also: Carmen Christi: Worshiping Christ as God)

It seems certain that the name above all names which God is said to have given Jesus is Yahweh since in this particular passage Jesus is depicted as receiving the worship which the OT says will be given to Yahweh in acknowledgment that he alone is a righteous God who saves:

“Declare and present your case; let them take counsel together! Who told this long ago? Who declared it of old? Was it not I, the LORD? And there is no other god besides me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none besides me. Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return: ‘To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.’” Isaiah 45:21-23

Jesus receiving the name Yahweh explains why the NT writers would take OT texts which refer to Yahweh and apply them to Christ (cf. Rom. 10:9-13 – Joel 2:32; Heb. 1:10-12 – Psalm 102:25-27; 1 Pet. 2:3, 6-8 – Psalm 34:8; Isa. 8:12-14, 28:16). This further helps us understand why the Apostle Paul would take the creedal confession of Deuteronomy 6:4 (known as the Shema) and Christianize it by identifying Jesus as the one Lord professed in the Shema!

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.”

And now pay attention to what Paul does with this:

“So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one. For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many ‘gods’ and many ‘lords’), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.” 1 Corinthians 8:4-6

After citing cases where the blessed Apostle speaks of and identifies Jesus as Yahweh the following Evangelical scholars write that,

“In addition to these references to Jesus as Lord in contexts that treat him as the divine Lord of the Old Testament, Paul repeatedly speaks of God (the Father) and the Lord Jesus in ways that imply the closest possible unity (see 1 Cor. 1:1-4, 30-31; 3:5-6, 19-20; 6:13; 7:21-24, 39-40; 9:21; 10:4-5; 12:5-6, 27-28; 15:67-58).

“It is in this broader context that we should read what may be the most striking reference to Jesus as Lord in 1 Corinthians. Paul states that Christians know that ‘there is no God but one’ (1 Cor. 8:4 NIV). ‘For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live” (vv. 5-6 NIV). Verse 6 may well be a creed or confession of faith that Paul is quoting or that he composed himself (translation ours):

One God,
the Father,
from whom are all things,
and we from him;
   and    One Lord,
Jesus Christ,
through whom are all things
and we through him.

“If Judaism has a creed, it is the words of Deuteronomy 6:4-5, known as the Shema (meaning ‘hear,’ the first word of the verse): ‘Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might’ (ESV). The Septuagint translated the last part of verse 4, ‘The Lord our God is one Lord’ (kurios heis). In first-century Judaism, the affirmations of ‘one God’ and ‘one Lord’ were synonymous and referred to the same divine being, YHWH, the God of the patriarchs, of Moses, and of the prophets. Jesus affirmed the Shema as the first and greatest commandment (Matt. 22:36-38; Mark 12:28-30; cf. Luke 10:25-28), and in that regard his view was in the mainstream of Judaism.

“Paul and other New Testament writers echo the Shema when they affirm that God is one or that there is one God (Rom. 3:30; 1 Cor. 12:6; Gal. 3:20; Eph. 4:6; 1 Tim. 2:5; James 2:19). Jews, however, would just as surely have understood Paul's affirmation of ‘one Lord’' (particularly in the same breath as affirming ‘one God’) as an echo of the Shema–yet with one potentially shocking twist: he identifies this ‘one Lord’ as Jesus Christ.” (Robert M. Bowman Jr. & J. Ed Komoszewski, Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ [Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, MI 2007], Part 3: The Name Above All Names – Jesus Shares the Names of God, Chapter 13. He is Lord, pp.165-166)

The following liberal NT scholar agrees that 1 Corinthians 8:6 is basically a “Christianization” of Israel’s monotheistic creed:

24.2. 1 Cor. 8.6. This verse is widely thought to be a quotation by Paul and so very possibly the earliest statement of belief in the pre-existence of Christ… It is obvious that there are indeed pre-Pauline and pre-Christian elements in v. 6. The confession that God is one is clearly Jewish (cf. particularly Deut. 6:4; James 2:19); the confession that ‘Jesus is Lord’ is particularly beloved by Paul but was certainly characteristic of Hellenistic Christianity apart from Paul (Rom. 10.9; I Cor. 12.3; Eph. 4.5; Phil. 2.11); and the use of prepositions ‘from,’ ‘through’ and ‘to’ when speaking of God and the cosmos (‘all things’) was widespread in the ancient world and typically Stoic. But there is no real parallel to Paul’s formulation (not even 1 Tim. 2.5), and it seems to me more probable that Paul himself has put together these earlier and widespread elements in response to the situation confronting him in Corinth…

Thus he starts from the common ground of the basic monotheistic faith (‘There is one God, the Father’); first he adds ‘from whom (come) all things’, an assertion with which the Corinthians would have been familiar and with which they would no doubt have agreed; but then he also adds ‘and we to him’ or ‘from whom we exist’ (RSV). Next he appends to this the basic confession of Hellenistic or Gentile Christianity, ‘Jesus Christ is Lord’. But with this he does three striking things. First he asserts that Christ the Lord also is one; thereby he splits the Shema (Deut. 6.4), the Jewish confession of monotheism, between God the Father and Christ the Lord in a way that has no earlier parallel. Second he adds ‘through whom (came) all things’; thereby he splits the more regular Stoic formulation also between the one God (‘from him’, ‘to him’) and the one Lord (‘through him’; contrast Rom. 11.36), in a way that is best paralleled in Jewish Wisdom tradition (as we have seen). Third, he again adds a reference to himself and his readers – ‘we (exist) through him’ – using the same preposition as in the preceding phrase. (James D. G. Dunn, Christology in the Making: A New Testament Inquiry into the Origins of the Doctrine of the Incarnation [Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids MI: Second edition, 1996], VI. The Wisdom of God, 24. Christ as Wisdom in Paul, pp. 179-181)

Dunn is quick to make the point that Paul’s splitting the Shema between the Father and the Son doesn’t undermine the Apostle’s commitment to monotheism:

(d) Perhaps we should see I Cor. 8.6 as an extension of the thought of I Cor. 1-2. As there he claims that the crucified Christ is the one who fulfils God’s plan of salvation, who embodies God’s wisdom, so here he extends the thought to assert in effect that God’s plan of salvation is continuous with his power in creation. Here the ‘folly’ to the Gentiles would be that he has united creation and salvation so closely together (breaking down the Hellenistic dualism between spirit and matter; cf. 6:12-20). And the ‘stumbling block’ to the Jews would be that the one Lordship of God (Deut. 6.4) has to be divided with a crucified Christ. Paul is not thereby abandoning his monotheism (and he seems to recognize no such tension in his affirmation of Jesus’ Lordship elsewhere – Rom. 15.6; I Cor. 15.24-8; II Cor. 1.2; 11.31; Eph. 1.3, 17; Col. 1.3; even Phil. 2.11, ‘Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father’), then presumably he must intend something the same in I Cor. 1 – Christ who because he is now Lord now shares in God’s rule over creation and believers, and therefore his Lordship is the continuation and fullest expression of God’s own creative power… (Ibid. p. 181)

Elsewhere Dunn writes:

In an astonishing adaptation of the Shema (Deut. 6.4), Paul attributes the lordship of the one God to Jesus Christ. And yet his confession of God as one is affirmed. Evidently the lordship of Christ was not thought of as any usurpation or replacement of God’s authority, but expressive of it. The one Lord attests the one God. This also ties in with Phil. 2.10-11. As noted above, the universal confession of Jesus’ lordship is understood as glorifying God the Father…

“The only obvious resolution of the tension set up by Paul’s talk of Jesus as Lord, then, is to follow the logic suggested by his reference of Yahweh texts to Jesus as Lord… That is, Jesus’ lordship is a status granted by God, a sharing in his authority. It is not that God has stepped aside and Jesus has taken over. It is rather that God shared his lordship with Christ, without it ceasing to be God’s alone.

“In this light it becomes a matter of little surprise that Paul can speak both of ‘the judgment seat of God’ (Rom. 14.10) and equivalently of ‘the judgment seat of [the] Christ’ (2 Cor. 5.10). Christ is envisaged as acting as God’s representative. In the final day God will judge the secrets of humankind ‘through Jesus Christ’ (Rom. 2.16). Alternatively expressed, the Lord at his coming ‘will bring to light the things hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart’; but the resulting commendation will be from God (1 Cor. 4.5). Similarly, Paul’s talk of ‘the day of the Lord’ is obviously modeled on traditional eschatological expectation. But evidently Paul regarded that as focusing on Christ. Hence, the variations ‘the day of our Lord Jesus Christ,’ ‘the day of the Lord,’ ‘the day of Jesus Christ,’ ‘the day of Christ.’ It is in Christ that God’s purpose reaches its climax. Similarly in Rom. 11.26, the hope of a final deliverer (Isa. 59.20) is transferred from Yahweh to Christ, though the focus in the remaining verses is solely on God (Rom. 11.28-36). This christologizing of traditional theistic eschatology is the best example of a more diffuse phenomenon in which ‘God-language’ becomes implicitly christological, without the Christology ceasing to be theocentric.

“In all this it is clear that Paul’s understanding of God’s purpose and of God’s revelation have been radically altered, but not his understanding of God as one and finally sovereign. Jesus as Lord shares in that sovereignty and exercises it at least in part. If at least the exalted Christ is conceived of as God’s vice-regent, it is not clear what the implied ‘more than (vice-regent)’ amounts to.” (Dunn, The Theology of Paul The Apostle [William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI: Paperback edition, 2006], Chapter 4. The Gospel of Jesus Christ, 10. The Risen Lord, 10.5 Jesus as God?, pp. 253, 254-255; underline emphasis ours)

Thus, it is clear that according to the NT Jesus is Yahweh even though he is not the Father (or the Holy Spirit).

Criterion # 5

“Fifthly, the Divine Veneration criterion: Is the angelomorphic figure the object of some form of veneration? We are limited to literary evidence, which usually does not reveal a group’s religious praxis concerning angel veneration. Several textual details, however, may indicate veneration. Is there a worship posture shown towards the angelomorphic figure? Are praise and prayer offered to him (solely or in conjunction with God)? Does the angelomoprhic figure accept or refuse the veneration? Is his name given cultic status alongside the Divine Name? One should remember that there may be various degrees of veneration in these texts.”

One of the things which the Hebrew Scriptures state that only God can do is hear the prayers of all his people.

“Praise awaits you, O God, in Zion; to you our vows will be fulfilled. O you who hear prayer, to you all men will come.” Psalm 65:1-2

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:11-13

In light of this it is truly amazing to find Jesus exhorting his followers to pray directly to him and in his name!

“I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” John 14:12-14

Jesus informs his disciples that they will be able to do greater number of works than he did while on earth since he is returning to the Father. Jesus’ point is that once he returns to the Father’s heavenly presence he will personally answer all the prayers that are directed to him in his name and will enable his disciples to do more works than he himself did.

In other words Jesus is claiming to be able to answer all prayers and to empower others to do mighty deeds in his glorious name. This indicates that Christ is omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent, all of which are divine attributes that belong exclusively to God!

If this weren’t amazing enough, instead of exhorting the disciples to pray in the name or on the authority of the Father Jesus specifically invites them to pray to him in his very own name and on his own authority!

In the book of Acts we find several examples of Christians praying to their risen Lord:

“In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen (hous exelexato). He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, ‘you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.’ So when they had come together, they asked him, ‘Lord (Kyrie), will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.’ … ‘So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus (ho kyrios ‘Iesous) went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.’ … And they prayed (proseuxamenoi) and said, ‘You, Lord (Kyrie), who know the hearts of all (kardiognosta panton), show which one of these two you have chosen (exelexo) to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.’ And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.” Acts 1:1-8, 21-22, 24-26

The first Christians not only prayed to Jesus they further professed that he is the One who knows the hearts of all men, something which they also ascribed to God!

And God, who knows the heart (kai ho kardiognostes theos), bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us,” Acts 15:8

The believers would also pray to Jesus at the moment of their deaths and would also ask him to forgive those persecuting them:

“And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ And when he had said this, he fell asleep.” Acts 7:59-60

Stephen prayed to the exalted and risen Lord in the same way that the following Psalmist prayed to Yahweh!

Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.” Psalm 31:5

Moreover, the OT teaches that all the earth must worship Yahweh and sing praises to him:

“Shout for joy to God, all the earth; sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise! Say to God, ‘How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power that your enemies come cringing to you.’ All the earth worships you and sings praises to you; they sing praises to your name. Selah” Psalm 66:1-4

“There is none like you among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like yours. All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name. For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God.” Psalm 86:8-10

“From new moon to new moon, and from Sabbath to Sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship before me, declares the LORD.” Isaiah 66:23

“Then everyone who survives of all the nations that have come against Jerusalem shall go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Booths. And if any of the families of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, there will be no rain on them.” Zechariah 14:16-17

And yet according to the NT all true believers are exhorted to sing hymns and psalms to Jesus!

“Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Ephesians 5:18-21

The NT also records instances where Jesus received worship from men and evil spirits:

“During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. ‘It's a ghost,’ they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: ‘Take courage! I AM (ego eimi) Do not be afraid.’ ‘Lord, if it's you,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to you on the water.’ ‘Come,’ he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’ And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’” Matthew 14:25-33

“Suddenly Jesus met them. ‘Greetings,’ he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him… Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.” Matthew 28:9, 16-17

“For he had healed many, so that those with diseases were pushing forward to touch him. Whenever the evil spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, ‘You are the Son of God. But he gave them strict orders not to tell who he was.” Mark 3:10-12

“When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town. For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, ‘What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don't torture me!’ For Jesus had commanded the evil spirit to come out of the man. Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places. Jesus asked him, ‘What is your name?’ ‘Legion,’ he replied, because many demons had gone into him. And they begged him repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss.” Luke 8:27-31

Amazingly, God himself commands all his angels to worship his Son!

“And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, ‘Let all God's angels worship him.’” Hebrews 1:6

Even more amazing is the fact that the inspired Christian Scriptures proclaim that every creature must and shall eventually worship Christ, rendering to him the same exact honor that is supposed to be given to Yahweh God!

“Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son JUST AS they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.” John 5:22-23

“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:9-11

“And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.’ Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they sang: ‘Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!’ Then I heard EVERY CREATURE in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: ‘To him who sits on the throne AND TO THE LAMB be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!’ The four living creatures said, ‘Amen,’ and the elders fell down and worshiped.” Revelation 5:8-14

The following syllogism should bring out more clearly how early Christian veneration of Jesus strongly establishes his absolute Deity,

  1. According to the OT the only legitimate recipient of cultic worship which includes prayers, songs, hymns etc., is Yahweh God.
  2. The NT teaches that Jesus is a legitimate recipient of cultic worship.
  3. Therefore, Jesus is Yahweh God (yet not the Father or the Holy Spirit).

James Dunn further helps us see why such early Christian veneration of Jesus is so significant:

(c) the significance of the veneration offered to the exalted Christ. The use of kyrios for Christ in itself suggests that veneration was indeed offered to the exalted Lord in earliest Christian worship. There is certainly evidence that Jesus was invoked or besought in Christian worship and prayer. 1 Cor. 1.2 and Rom. 10.13 indicate that from very early on believers identified themselves as ‘those who called upon the name of the Lord (Jesus Christ).’ As already noted, 1 Cor. 16.22 is obviously an already well-established invocation, set and retained in Aramaic: ‘Maranatha (Our Lord come!).’ And Paul testifies that he himself ‘besought the Lord three times’ for the thorn in the flesh to be removed (2 Cor. 12.8). The implication of the last at least is that the exalted Lord could effect an alteration of Paul’s personal circumstances. Similar in significance is the way in which the regular format of Paul’s greeting refers to ‘God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ’ as the joint bestowers of grace and peace. The closing benedictions likewise assume a conjoint authority, particularly 1 Thes. 3.11-13: ‘Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way to you; and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another….’ All this at least accords with a high christology of Jesus as highly exalted Lord. (James D. G. Dunn, The Theology of Paul The Apostle, pp. 257-258; underline emphasis ours)

128. Directing a person’s way is a divine prerogative (Bruce, 1 and 2 Thessalonians 71, referring to Pss. 32.8; 37.23; Prov. 3:6b; 16:9). Note also 2 Cor. 13.14: ‘The grace of our Lord Jesus and the love of God the Father and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all’; and 2 Thess. 2.16. Davis Name 153, notes that ‘there are no examples of such binitarian prayer within pre-Christian monotheism.’ (Ibid., p. 258; underline emphasis ours)


After presenting these five criteria Gieschen writes,

“The presence of one or more of these five criteria in a text may indicate that the angelomorphic mediator figure was understood to share God’s status, authority, and nature…”

Since the NT ascribes all five of these criteria to Jesus this leaves absolutely no doubt that the first Christians – most of whom were Jews – believed that Jesus is God. The fact that all of the earliest Christian documents that have come down to us from the first century AD emphatically proclaim that Jesus fully shares God’s status, authority and nature should trouble Muslims and other groups that deny the Deity of Christ. After all, the earliest and most reliable historical data on Christian origins conclusively shows that the beliefs of such aberrant groups were not held by Jesus or his earliest followers. Rather, the documentation proves that the first Christians believed what modern conservative Bible-believing Christians affirm about Christ, i.e., Jesus is the Divine Son of God who became flesh in order to redeem us from our sins by dying on the cross and his bodily resurrection from the dead on the third day.

Amen! Come, Lord Jesus come! We profess that you are the eternal Son of God who became man for our salvation. We love and worship you, O Sovereign Lord of glory and risen King of the ages! Amen.

Addendum: A Critique of James D. G. Dunn’s Assessment of Paul’s Worship of Christ



(1) If Jesus is indeed the Name of God Incarnate then this implies that Christ has always embodied the Divine Name. This is borne out by the fact that Jesus is said to have been God even before creation was brought into existence through his agency (cf. John 1:1-3). In light of this we shouldn’t understand that the giving of the Name to the Son occurred at a specific point in time since he has always existed as God. Rather, we should understand from this that the Name which the Son eternally bears originates from the Person of the Father who is the Fountainhead or Source of Deity. In other words, the Father is the One from whom the Divine essence and attributes flow and originate, which both the Son and the Spirit fully partake in as a result of their eternal relationship with the Father. This is what later theologians would call the eternal begetting/generation of the Son and the eternal procession of the Holy Spirit.