What Did Jesus Believe Himself to Be


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    ... But whom say ye that I am?
    Matthew 16:15


    It has to be said that there is no good evidence that Jesus really existed. There is a respectable case that he did not*. Some of the reasons for doubting his existence are (a) the lack of any independent record - there are three possible references by contemporary authors but they are ambiguous, for example refering to people who believe in Chrestus (sic), or else are known to have been tampered with by later Christians. If the events recorded in the New Testament had really taken place we would expect to find a record of them by one or more of the dozen or so contemporary authors who would have taken an interest in such events. (b) the New Testament cannot be relied on for various reasons - the earliest parts were written a generation more after the supposed lifetime of Jesus, by unidentified authors who are known propagandists, who cannot have met the living man and who contradict each other despite having copied from each other (c) the earliest records, by Paul, betray pretty much no knowledge at all of his life or teaching and a suspicious dependency on "visions" of him (d) early traditions give wildly different birth dates for Jesus (e) all of the elements of Christianity including its central teachings were already in circulation in the Middle East at that time.

    Most historians, though not all, accept that Jesus existed. If he did exist we can make deductions about his appearance based on his ethnicity and supposed age.

    If Jesus did exist he is unlikely to have looked like the image on the left
    and much more likely to have looked like the image on the right.

    For those who accept that Jesus existed, the following represents the sum of what is generally accepted concerning his life :

    • He was a Jew, probably born around 2,000 years ago.
    • He came from Galilee.
    • As an adult he was baptised by a man known as John the Baptist.
    • He preached and taught in Palestine, and attracted a group of followers.
    • He was involved in a controversy about the Jerusalem temple.
    • He was crucified by the Roman authorities.

    Accepting this for present purposes, there is no historically reliable evidence that Jesus believed himself to be God incarnate, nor that he intended to found a new religion. Such ideas stem partly from the New Testament, which, as we have seen, is not regarded by most Church scholars as a reliable historical account. Even if we do accept the New Testament as a factual account of historical events, matters are still not straightforward, and doubt remains about who Jesus was, and what he thought himself to be. The texts can be, and have been, interpreted in many different ways. In the past Christian leaders have declared the biblical Jesus to be a model for dictators and for the oppressed, soldiers and pacifists; for capitalists, socialists and communists; and for kings, gentlemen, peasants and revolutionaries. In the last few decades Jesus has been acclaimed as an Essene, a Zealot, a Buddhist, a sorcerer, a homosexual, a space alien, and the product of hallucinogenic mushrooms.

    One of thousands of sincerely believed Christian claims about Jesus


    It might seem obvious to the devout that these competing claims about who Jesus was are all nonsense and that Jesus knew himself to be God incarnate. After all it is well known that according to the gospels he claimed to be Christ, the divine son of God. As a matter of fact he did not make this claim. What he did claim, and what others claimed, and how these various claims were later interpreted is the subject of this chapter. We will consider the following:

    Our main purpose is to show which of these attributions are historically realistic, and which support the central Christian belief that he was divine.


    Jesus the Rabbi

    Rabbi, when camest thou hither?
    John 6:25

    As a Jewish teacher, Jesus would naturally have been addressed as Rabbi. The title is used in the gospels (e.g. Mark 9:5, 11:21 and 14:45), but it was traditionally translated into English as Master. In the John gospel it was left as Rabbi (e.g. John 1:38, 1:49, and 6:25).

    This form of address was used in the original Greek texts, and we have no reason to doubt its validity.


    Jesus the Miracle Worker

    And he could there do no mighty work, save that he laid hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them.
    Mark 6:5

    Jesus" miracles are discounted by many biblical scholars as additions to the original texts, for reasons that we will look at in some detail later. However, even if we accept the miracles, there is still the question of whether they irrefutably establish claims to Jesus" divinity, as is often asserted.

    To answer this question we need to compare the reported nature of his miracles. Are they substantially different to the equally well-evidenced miracles attributed to ordinary mortals? The answer has to be “no”. Historically, miracles have always been relatively commonplace. They are not hard to find in the Old Testament, albeit often performed with divine assistance. Around the time of Jesus the power to perform miracles was ascribed not only to prophets but also to respected rabbis. For example in the first century BC Honi the Circle-Drawer was credited with the ability to induce rain*. In the first century AD Hanina Ben Dosa was credited with healing the sick by divine means and with possessing the miraculous power of withstanding the venom of poisonous snakes*. Again Rabbi Simeon ben Yohai and Rabbi Eleazar ben Yose were reported to have cured an emperor's daughter by exorcising a demon*. In rabbinic literature a number of Jewish scholars were credited with the power to revive the dead. Pagans also enjoyed extensive miraculous powers. The Roman Emperor Vespasian cured the lame and the blind, while Alexander the Great was credited with emulating Moses" parting of the sea to let his army pass. All these miracles were at least as well attested as those reportedly performed by Jesus.

    Ananias and his wife Sapphira sold their land but failed to hand all of it over to the early Church. When they dissembled about it to Saint Peter they both mysteriously died on the spot. For many centuries these deaths were cited as certain evidence of Peter's miraculous power. For obvious reasons, Christians are less enthusiastic about traditional interpretations of this story, or indeed any interpretations. The story (at Acts Chapter 5) has mysteriously fallen off Sunday School sylabi and from all but the most ardent sermons.


    On the evidence of the gospels a number of people had the power to cast out devils (Mark 9:38 and Luke 10:17); according to the Matthew author Jesus acknowledged this fact (Matthew 12:27). The New Testament is peppered with examples of Jesus" followers working miracles. Since New Testament times the ability to work them has been bestowed more liberally still. Irenaeus of Lyons refers to the raising of the dead by the apostles and by later Christians*. A number of saints have been credited with raising the dead: St Dominic and St Francis Xavier to name but two. In the Middle Ages Christian monarchs were regularly credited with miraculous cures. Again many thousands of saints are recognised by the mainstream Christian Churches as having possessed miraculous powers. Even Martin Luther was credited with having performed miraculous cures. Modern Christian groups are even more blessed. In the United States alone there are hundreds of evangelist ministers routinely performing miraculous deeds of healing every day, all verified by grateful believers. Some of these miracles are performed at great distances through the medium of television. Proponents of many other religions perform miraculous deeds that are as well attested as those of Christianity. Muslims ascribe them to Mohammed and to certain Mullahs, Buddhists ascribe them to Guatama and other Buddhas, Hindus ascribe them to Brahmins and Sadhus.

    Throughout history thousands of people have been credited with the ability to work miracles, without being regarded as gods. The reported working of miracles by Jesus cannot therefore be regarded as evidence of his divinity, especially since his miracles seem to have depended upon faith in much the same way as those of modern miracle workers. In his own time Jesus" miracles were not seen as evidence of divinity, but they might be evidence of the appearance of a new prophet. They were, after all, without exception selected from the standard menu of miracles expected of a prophet at that time.


    Jesus the Prophet

    A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.
    Mark 6:4

    Prophets abounded in Old Testament times, and during New Testament times there seems to have been a widespread expectation that some great figure from the past would reappear on Earth. Elijah and Moses were both expected, and even the Queen of Sheba (Luke 11:31 ). Certainly there was a resurgence of prophetic claimants. The historian Josephus mentions that many false prophets flourished around the time of Jesus*, a fact supported by New Testament warnings about them*. Some prophets are named in the New Testament. John the Baptist for example was counted a prophet* and so was Theudas*. A man called Bar-Jesus was another (Acts 13:6). Paul was mistaken by a Roman tribune for a prophet known as The Egyptian*. Simon Magus, whom Gnostic Samaritans came to regard as the redeemer, was another*, as was a man called Agabus (Acts 11:28 and 21:10). Herod Antipas thought that Jesus was John the Baptist come back from the dead (Mark 6:14 and 6:16), but others believed that he was Elias or another prophet (Mark 6:15). That his disciples regarded him as a prophet is confirmed by Luke 24:19. His prophetic status was compared to that of Moses*. The masses also recognised him as a prophet (Matthew 21:11 and Matthew 21:46), and Jesus referred to himself as a prophet:

    Nevertheless I must walk today, and tomorrow, and the day following: for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem.
    Luke 13:33

    By this he meant that he must go to Jerusalem to die because, as a prophet, it would not be fitting for him to die anywhere else. Like other prophets he was expected to perform miracles. The power to perform miracles was regarded as evidence that a man was truly appointed by God. Indeed the fact that Jesus performed miracles led people to conclude that he was a prophet (Luke 7:16, John 6:14 and John 9:1-17). His healing miracles followed traditional patterns, for example using folk medicine and healing waters*. On one occasion, after he had failed to work the miracles expected of a prophet, he is reported to have spoken the words quoted at the head of this section "A prophet is not without honour ...". His failure to perform as a prophet was the source of doubt about him (Luke 7:39) and made him a butt of ridicule after his arrest*.

    We now tend to regard the foretelling of the future as the principal function of a prophet, an idea reflected in the modern meaning of the term prophecy, but the Jewish idea was somewhat different. The ability to foretell aspects of the future was only one of many preternatural powers expected of the later prophets. Any self-respecting prophet was almost routinely expected to heal the sick, cast out demons and raise the dead.

    As we have seen, around Jesus" time such miracles were ascribed to false prophets, to Jesus" followers, to devout rabbis, and to other religious figures. Whether or not we ourselves accept that anyone has ever worked a miracle, we may accept that, on the evidence of the New Testament, Jesus was believed by some, during his lifetime, to be a prophet. This is still how Muslims and some Jews regard him.


    Jesus the Messiah

    And Moses took the anointing oil....
    Leviticus 8:10

    If Jesus saw himself as a prophet the question naturally arises as to why he is now acclaimed not as a prophet but as the Messiah.

    The word messiah is of Jewish origin. It means "the anointed one". For the Jews long before the time of Jesus the word was applied to those who had been anointed with oil, as Aaron had been anointed by Moses (Leviticus 8:12). Since the practice of anointing with oil was reserved for high priests and kings, it was high priests and kings that were called messiahs. Cyrus the Great is called a messiah in the Bible, though many translations disguise the fact by referring to him as "anointed" rather than as a messiah (as at Isaiah 45:1). Again, the Jewish priest-kings from Saul onwards were all messiahs. Even during the Roman occupation of Judæa the Jewish high priest appointed by the Romans was known as the Priest Messiah*.

    The underlying meaning of the word messiah enabled it to be translated into languages that had no corresponding concept — it was just a matter of adapting the word for oil. From a Greek word for oil we have the English words chrism, denoting holy oil. A christ is simply someone anointed with chrism. The word christ (Greek christos) is thus a literal translation of the Hebrew messiah. The earliest Church historian, Eusebius, was well aware of the significance of the word:

    …it was not only those honoured with the high priesthood, anointed with prepared oil for the symbol's sake, who were distinguished among the Hebrews with the name of Christ, but the kings too.... *

    Modern translations of the Bible sometimes retain the Hebrew word messiah, sometimes translate it as christ, and sometimes use the English equivalent "anointed". Selection on doctrinal, rather than linguistic, grounds allows translators to avoid referring to Jewish high priests and others as "christs" or "messiahs". Incidentally, the ancient practice of anointing priests and kings with oil was regarded as so important that it has been carried into modern Christianity. For example chrism is used in bestowing Holy Orders in the Greek and Roman Churches. It is used in the Anglican Church too. The British monarch is anointed with chrism during the coronation service, just as the ancient Jewish kings were.

    It might be expected that if Jesus was acclaimed as a christ or messiah, then he must have laid claim to the office of high priest or king (or both). There is no doubt about which claim the Bible emphasises. According to the New Testament Jesus was born of the Royal line of David (Romans 1:3), and the authors of both the Matthew and Luke gospels (or later editors) took the trouble to trace his ancestry back to the old Jewish kings and beyond (Matthew 1:1-16 and Luke 3:23-38). The danger that he might become the King of the Jews was the reason for Herod the Great's interest in having him killed at birth*. When he triumphantly entered Jerusalem for the last time he was hailed as the Jewish King: "Fear not, daughter of Sion: behold thy King cometh" (John 12:15). He was condemned to death not because he claimed to be the son of God, but because he claimed to be a king, and he was repeatedly referred to as such during his trial*. Pilate explicitly mentioned that the Jews themselves called Jesus their king (Mark 15:12). The sign attached to the cross reportedly read The King of the Jews. In the gospels Jesus is referred to on two occasions as the King of Israel*, and the Luke author also refers to him simply as the King (Luke 19:37-8). He is represented as being expected to restore David's Kingdom (Mark 11:9-10). His claim to the Jewish kingdom was certainly sufficient to qualify him as a messiah.

    Around the time of Jesus there was an apparently widespread belief that a new messiah would appear. This belief was not held by all Jews or even, it seems, a majority. Those who did look forward to the coming of a messiah expected a warrior leader who would lead a successful uprising against the Romans. After expelling them he would re-establish a Jewish kingdom with himself as king. The messiah expected by the Jews was to be a human, not a divine leader. It was therefore not a blasphemy to claim to be a messiah. Clearly it would not be reasonable to indict everyone who claimed to be a messiah, since sooner or later, as they supposed, one of the claimants would be genuine. Around Jesus" time there were many who claimed to be messiahs. It is not certain that Jesus himself ever claimed to be one himself. In all of the explicit references in the gospels it is others who use the title. Jesus is evasive about it when asked directly whether he is the Christ, and answers enigmatically in the third person about the Son of man (Matthew 26:63-64, Mark 14:61-62). Hegesippus, in the generation after the apostles, mentioned that some followers had come to believe that Jesus was the Christ, suggesting that this was a novel view*. What seems to have happened is that Jesus was known simply as Jesus during his lifetime. Some Jews acknowledged him to be a messiah and styled him Jesus the messiah or Jesus the christ. Later still someone (possibly St Paul) turned this into Jesus Christ , making a name out of an appellation. As a name the first part could be dropped so Jesus Christ became Christ. Numerous ancient manuscripts capture the transition. In many places the oldest strands talk about Jesus, later strands talk about Jesus Christ, and later ones still Christ. These changes were almost certainly made by "orthodox" scribes for doctrinal reasons*.

    In time Jesus Christ would become the second person of the Trinity, and divine. How far the meaning of the title Christ has been changed can be illustrated by the application of the term to others who have been anointed. Thus for example it would be etymologically correct to refer to any British monarch as a Christ. The apparent blasphemy is attributable to the meaning of the word having been altered, so that most people now imagine that it carries implications of uniqueness and divinity.

    In short, Jesus may or may not have thought of himself as a messiah. It is quite possible that he did. In any event, claiming to be a messiah or a christ was far short of claiming to be divine.


    Jesus the Royal Pretender

    A thing is not necessarily true because a man dies for it.
    Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)

    However else Jesus might have been seen, the common point of view was that he was a danger to the state. Potentially he might lead a rebellion against the Romans and re-establish a Jewish kingdom. He was, therefore, liable to be seen as a trouble-maker, a revolutionary, a freedom fighter, a royal pretender, or a rightful king, depending upon one's point of view. There is ample evidence from many sources that Jesus was seen in these lights. The Bible itself shows him to have been a danger to the state. His attitude to the Temple for example was clearly subversive. Not only did he disturb the peace, he also threatened the status of the priesthood along with their money-making activities, and thus indirectly the fiscal power of the State.

    Jesus causing havoc at the Temple with his whip - inciting civil unrest.
    (Mark 11:15–19, 11:27–33, Matthew 21:12–17, 21:23–27, Luke 19:45–48, 20:1–8, John 2:13–16).

    No empire is likely to welcome an alternative authority, especially one with the traditional characteristics of a ruler (the title of King, a royal lineage, reputed adoption as a son of a god), and especially when he claims to have come to bring not peace but a sword. At one stage Jesus was obliged to flee into the mountains because a mob was getting out of hand and threatening to make him King (John 6:15); his reticence may have been due to their timing rather than their intent. At an early stage of his ministry he did not dare be seen in towns but was obliged to stay in the desert because of the attentions of his supporters (Mark 1:45, cf. Luke 5:15-16). According to the John gospel the Jewish authorities feared that Jesus" miracle working would precipitate a violent Roman reaction that would lead to the destruction of the Temple and the nation (John 11:47-50).

    One of Jesus" disciples was Simon the Zealot*, a member of a fanatical anti-Roman sect (the Zealots). According to the author of the Luke gospel, Jesus instructed his disciples to buy swords in preparation for what was to come soon before his arrest (Luke 22:36). By the admission of one early Christian writer the apostles were "ruffians of the deepest dye"*. If Jesus was not a terrorist, then he was at least liable to be seen as one. There is indeed a good, though circumstantial, case to be made that Jesus was himself a Zealot*. Further supporting evidence for the view that Jesus was seen as revolutionary comes from the fact that he was crucified. This mode of execution was reserved for slaves and those found guilty of treason ; and since Jesus was not a slave, we may deduce that he was condemned for treason. When Paul visited Thessalonica the residents had already heard about people who turned the world upside down, contravened the decrees of Caesar, and said that there was another king called Jesus (Acts 17:6-7).

    The early Christians, in their enthusiasm for their own version of orthodoxy, were given to destroying or editing any material that contradicted their beliefs. Consequently it is often difficult to find reliable independent texts concerning Jesus. Scholars are generally agreed for example that mention of him by the historian Josephus has been doctored. The original version was probably one referred to by Origen in the early third century*. This denied that Jesus was the Messiah, but no copy of it has survived. At least, no version was believed to have survived. In the nineteenth century a translation in Old Russian dating from around 1260 was discovered*. It is known as the Slavonic Josephus. In it Jesus is described as being a political revolutionary, and as a king who did not reign.

    It is also significant that Galilee was a hotbed of dissent and revolutionary activity directed against the Romans. It had been a hotbed for decades before Jesus" lifetime, and was to remain so for decades afterwards. In fact it was such an established centre for revolutionary activity that the word Galilæan came to be synonymous with rebel. Many Galilæans had led abortive rebellions against the Romans and their Herodian placemen. A group of Galilæans incited a rebellion in Jerusalem in AD 49*. One of the leaders of the First Jewish War against the Romans (AD 66-70) was John the son of Levi from Gischala in upper Galilee, who led a contingent from there*. Another trouble-maker was a man called Ezekias, who was executed by Herod around 47 BC for his activities in Upper Galilee*. Similar activities were carried on by his son, Judas the Galilaean, a man with royal aspirations who incited revolution and co-founded the Zealot movement, and who is referred to in the New Testament*. Two sons of Judas called Jacob and Simon were crucified around AD 47, which suggests that they continued the Galilaean family tradition*. A third son, Menahem, captured Masada from the Romans in AD 66. In Jerusalem Menahem entered the Temple wearing royal apparel but was subsequently killed in factional fighting*. Another relation, Jairus, is famed as the leader of the group of Zealots who held Masada against the Romans for four years after the fall of Jerusalem*. In AD 67, reacting to a widespread rebellion, the Romans advanced on the family's original home, Gamala in Galilee. Thousands of Jews are said to have died fighting, and thousands more committed suicide.

    It seems that many rebel leaders saw themselves as messiahs. Certainly each sought to establish himself as the new king. No fewer than three of these self appointed kings appeared after the death of Herod the Great in 4 BC, all of them killed by Varus*. The author of Acts and the historian Josephus both refer to a prophet called Theudas who led a rebellion around the time of Jesus, and who was executed for his efforts*. Even foreigners tried their hands. One known as the Egyptian planned to attack Jerusalem with a band of Jewish followers*. The New Testament suggests that St Paul was mistaken for this same Egyptian, the leader of 4,000 assassins (Acts 21:38). The best known of these messianic rebels appeared 100 years or so after Jesus" death. He was Simon Bar Kokhbar, who led the Second Jewish Revolt against the Romans in AD 132-135*. His name suggests a claim to messiahship, and Rabbi Akiba acclaimed him as the king messiah*. As Josephus pointed out, every rebel leader in Judæa was immediately created a king.

    When Judæa had come under direct Roman rule in AD 6, it had been thought necessary to crucify more than 3,000 rebels. In Jesus" time the Roman Prefect of Judæa, Pontius Pilate, maintained his headquarters at Caesarea, but made a practice of staying in Jerusalem during the Passover. He did this because the Passover was a particularly sensitive time when Jewish discontent was likely to boil over into violence. The historian Eusebius reported that over 30,000 Jews were crushed to death in Jerusalem in the course of one Passover during the reign of the Emperor Claudius*. Jesus could hardly be unaware of the sensitivity of this time. In fact the Bible suggests that some form of uprising did take place while Jesus was in Jerusalem. Writing of prisoners who might be released, Mark 15:7 refers to an "insurrection":

    And there was one named Barabbas, which lay bound with them that had made insurrection with him, who had committed murder in the insurrection.

    It is significant that relatives of Jesus were also executed for sedition or rebellion. According to the historian Josephus, John the Baptist, Jesus" cousin, lost his life not because of his views about marriage, as the New Testament suggests, but because Herod Antipas was alarmed by the likelihood of a revolt inspired by his hold over the people*. This explanation fits much better with the fact that Jesus withdrew into Galilee as soon as he heard of the arrest of his cousin (Matthew 4:12 cf. Mark 1:14). Josephus also referred to the execution in AD 62 of James "the brother of Jesus called the Christ"*. A Christian writer says that James suffered martyrdom like the Lord and for the same reason*. According to some sources, this was the event that led to the First Jewish Revolt of AD 66*.

    The Emperor Vespasian issued orders that descendants of David should be rooted out and that no member of the royal house should be left among the Jews*. Domitian also gave orders to extirpate David's line. Two great nephews of Jesus were brought before him because they were of the house of David, but were released because of their insignificance*. This pursuit of the descendants of David continued into the reign of Trajan, when an aged cousin of Jesus, Simon son of Clopas, was crucified*. This may not have been merely irrational vindictiveness. An early Christian writer indicates that Jesus" relatives took pains to preserve and advertise their ancient genealogies, stretching back to King David and beyond, despite Herod's attempts to destroy them*. In passing the writer mentions that these relatives of Jesus referred to themselves as Desposyni, a title that can be translated "Ruling People" and must have invited suspicions of sedition.

    The truth seems to be that Jesus was one of a long series of rebels who sought to overthrow Roman rule and establish himself as king. Being of the house of David he was a particularly potent threat. Like many others he failed, and his reward was crucifixion.


    Jesus the Son of Man

    And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, Son of man, put forth a riddle, and speak a parable unto the house of Israel ...
    Ezekiel 17:1-2

    Jesus usually referred to himself as the son of man, a locution that in Aramaic was a polite way to refer to oneself. After all a son of man is only another man. Writing it Son of man or Son of Man, with capital letters, gives the impression that it is a title. Of course there were no capitals in the original text, or rather all letters are capitalised so that the initial letters are in the same style as the others. How the expression son of man was used as a title, or indeed whether it was used as a title at all, is still a matter of dispute among scholars. There is some evidence that it was. It had been applied, for example, to the King of Israel (as traditionally ascribed in Psalms 8 and 80) and the prophet Ezekiel reported that a heavenly voice had referred to him as son of man*.

    Jesus might well have had in mind the usage in the book of Daniel 7:13ff where in a vision "one like the Son of man" is given dominion, glory and a kingdom*. If so, then like later Christian apologists, he overlooked the fact that the visionary character was subsequently identified in Daniel not as an individual but as the "saints of the most high". An old book of scripture, 1 Enoch, which has been discarded by the modern Church*, uses the expression son of man extensively, and associates it with a semi-divine character who bears a striking resemblance to later Christian ideas of Jesus. Unfortunately this son of man is explicitly identified as Enoch himself, which perhaps explains why some Christians thought of Jesus as Enoch returned, and why others rejected the book of 1 Enoch altogether.

    It is interesting that, according to the gospels, Jesus himself almost always used the expression son of man when speaking of himself. His disciples never seem to have had any difficulty with its meaning. On the other hand St Paul never used the expression, and the Greek Churches seem to have found the idea it conveyed unpreachable. As the grander titles were introduced the modest ones were abandoned. Thus son of man occurs over 60 times in the synoptic gospels, less frequently in the John gospel, and only three times elsewhere. It is not used at all by the authors of any of the New Testament epistles.


    Jesus the Lunatic

    ... people were saying that he was out of his mind.
    Mark 3:21 ( NEB)

    There is evidence that those close to Jesus believed that he was insane, at least during part of his ministry. On one occasion they attempted to take charge of him, i.e. to lock him up (Mark 3:21). His neighbours did not believe his claims to be a prophet and ridiculed him for failing to work the miracles expected of a genuine prophet. Many Jews said "He is possessed, he is raving" (John 10:20 New English Bible). Modern commentators have formed similar opinions. Havelock Ellis observed that the whole religious complexion of the modern world is due to the absence from Jerusalem of a lunatic asylum. Whether or not Jesus was insane is an uncomfortable question for believers, but it is a safe assumption that he did not believe himself to be.


    Jesus the Lord

    ... every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord ...
    Philippians 2:11

    Jesus is sometimes addressed as Lord (Greek kyrios). This is another ambiguous title. It can be used simply as a respectful form of address, which is how people generally used it of Jesus when they wanted his help*. Sometimes it is interchangeable with Master, and once it appears to mean owner (Mark 11:3). At the other extreme God himself was addressed as Lord*. In this respect the English closely parallels the Greek: the word lord can denote anything from a squire (Lord of the Manor) to God himself (Lord of Heaven).

    In the Bible Jesus only once refers to himself unambiguously by the title Lord (John 13:13). Neither this nor any other usage in the New Testament suggests that Jesus was God, though the inherent ambiguity of the word may well have been harnessed in later times to endorse emerging claims to divinity. By interpreting "Lord" as Christ it was possible to read the Old Testament as referring to Jesus. Writers like Paul helped the process along by substituting the term "Lord" for a name or title of God when citing ancient scriptures.

    It was not merely a matter of identifying Jesus with the God of the Jews. Greek gods were also addressed as lords. Hellenic Christians compared their lord with the lords of various mystery cults, such as Osiris, Serapis and Hermes, and also with Caesar, who significantly was referred to as "our Lord and God"*.


    Jesus the Son of God

    One of the distinguishing features of ancient Hasidic piety is its habit of alluding to God precisely as "Father".
    Geza Vermes , Jesus the Jew

    In the earliest gospel there is no suggestion of Jesus" divine birth. His relationship with God begins at his baptism when a heavenly voice announces "Thou art my son" (Mark 1:11). This seems to be a reference to Psalm 2:7: " ... Thou art my son; this day I have begotten thee", applied to Jewish kings. These words were probably used during the coronation ceremony, when the king was anointed and adopted as a son of God. The incident of Jesus" adoption as a son of Jehovah is related elsewhere in the New Testament*. In some manuscripts of Luke the words "Thou art my beloved son ..." are supplemented by the rest of the quote from Psalms "this day I have begotten thee" (Luke 3:22). This fuller form appears in Hebrews 1:5 and is quoted by early Christian writers*. The clear suggestion is that an attempt is being made to identify Jesus as a Jewish king by virtue of his adoption by God.

    That God adopted sons was recognised as a biblical theme by early Christian writers*. Significantly the title Messiah is sometimes yoked to the sonship in New Testament passages, for example: " ... Thou art the Messiah, the Son of the living God"*. It is also notable that the idea features frequently in passages that scholars recognise to be later additions to the gospels. Whoever added the story of Jesus" birth to the Luke gospel used it twice within a few verses when he retrospectively predicted that Jesus would be called the Son of the Highest (Luke 1:31-2) and the Son of God (Luke 1:35).

    The description son of God is known to have been conferred on a number of respected rabbis and charismatics around the time of Jesus. (Remember that the use of a capital letter for "Son" was a later development.) In the case of the first century Galilaean rabbi Hanina ben Doza, it was even reported that a heavenly voice acclaimed him as my son*. The term sons of God had been used for others too. Sometimes it referred to angels*, and sometimes to the people of Israel. Other Jewish sources before and around the time of Jesus identify various beings as sons of God or sons of the Most High — men, angels, a mysterious pre-eminent (first begotten) angel, and the Word (logos)*. According to one biblical work God himself will call any man who acts as "a father to the fatherless and as a husband to their mother" his son*, which means that all step-fathers are entitled to call themselves sons of God. Jesus himself reputedly claimed that all peacemakers will be called children of God (Matthew 5:9), and Paul asserted that all Christians are children of God (Galatians 3:26). It is significant that those who wish to give Jesus a unique status describe him not as God's son (too common), nor as God's only son (untenable*), but as God's only begotten son.

    It is sometimes claimed that the fact that Jesus referred to God as Father is confirmation that he saw himself as the son of God. It is even alleged that this usage was unique, and indicative of his exalted claims. In fact the New Testament itself tells us that Jesus was to be merely the first born among "many" brothers (Romans 8:29 ). Furthermore, many other Jews referred to God as Father (Aramaic Abba). Even an Anglican bishop has accepted that Jesus" teaching about the Fatherhood of God is an old familiar doctrine of the rabbis*. Incidentally it was not an offence among the Jews to claim to be a son of God, as is sometimes claimed*.

    So, did Jesus think of himself as a son of God? If he ever thought of himself as the rightful Jewish king, or as a notable teacher, then the answer may well be that he did. But even if he did, we have no reason to believe that he imagined himself to be divine, any more than we have for the thousands of other sons of God.


    Jesus the Christian

    There is nothing more negative than the result of the critical study of the life of Jesus. The Jesus of Nazareth who came forward publicly as the Messiah, who preached the ethic of the Kingdom of God, who founded the Kingdom of Heaven upon Earth, and died to give his work final consecration, never had any existence.
    Albert Schweitzer , The Quest for the Historical Jesus

    It rarely occurs to anyone brought up as a Christian to question whether Jesus founded the Christian religion: it seems so obvious that he did. But what if we look for biblical evidence that Jesus was the first Christian, and compare it to the evidence that he was a more or less conventional follower of the Jewish religion?

    After almost 2,000 years of Christian development of the story of Jesus it is easy to forget that he was Jewish by descent. In fact Jesus was quite clearly Jewish. He bore a common Jewish name. Animal sacrifices were made by his family to mark his birth in accordance with Jewish custom*, purifying the mother and "redeeming" the son. He was circumcised according to Jewish Law. He accepted the Jewish faith throughout his life. He attended the synagogue, and was familiar with the Jewish scriptures. Indeed he often taught in synagogues (e.g. Mark 1:39 , Matthew 9:35, Luke 4:15). On one occasion he even delivered the liturgical sermon after reading the prophetic lesson for the day*. As a Jewish teacher his followers naturally addressed him as Rabbi. Many of his teachings were characteristic teachings of the Pharisees, one of the many Jewish sects then popular. After healing a leper Jesus instructed him to go to a Jewish priest and make an offering, as required by Jewish Law*. On a number of occasions he indicated that he was interested only in the Jewish people. He is reported as having said:

    I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
    Matthew 15:24*

    Furthermore Jesus specifically forbade his disciples from teaching to the gentiles (Matthew 10:5). He characterised the gentiles as "dogs" (Matthew 15:26 and Mark 7:27) and as "swine" (Matthew 7:6). When a man from the gentile city of Gerasa asked to be allowed to join Jesus" followers his offer was declined and he was told to return home (Mark 5:18-19 and Luke 8:38-39). Jesus" teaching was characteristically Jewish. The aspects that are often pointed up as being new and radically different were not at all new, as we shall see later.

    Jesus worshipped in the Temple and in synagogues. He never expressed any intention that his followers should do otherwise. He never established a Church in the sense that the word is now used. After his death his immediate followers continued to worship at the Temple and to attend synagogues. After Paul and his friends proved too troublesome to be accommodated in synagogues, followers worshipped at home. For generations afterwards gentile Christians worshipped in private houses. It was not until later that buildings were specially built or sequestered as churches. Only after this had happened could it occur to any one to reinterpret the statement "And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter [petros] and upon this rock [petros], I will build my church [ecclesian] .... " (Matthew 16:18). In the centuries to come, new meanings would be found for this statement, but for the time being it could be used to justify a separate Church and separate Church buildings.

    According to the Bible, Jesus never used or heard the word Christian. It was not even coined until around AD 42, years after his death, when it was first used in Antioch (Acts 11:26).

    Apart from anything else, it would not have made much sense for Jesus to found a religion, because it is clear that he believed the end of the world to be imminent — according the New Testament he said so on numerous occasions. There would be little point in establishing a Church and its accompanying hierarchy if the world was going to end within a few years at most. The simple fact is that there is no evidence that Jesus ever intended to found a new religion, Christian or otherwise.


    Jesus the God

    For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.
    Psalm 95:3

    The second century philosopher Celsus noted that there were many Palestinian prophets who had claimed to be God, or a son of God or a Holy Spirit*. He regarded Jesus as just another one of these, but he may have been wrong. It is possible that Jesus never claimed to be divine. Certainly he never made that claim for himself according to the gospels. Here is one of the most influential Christian scholars of the nineteenth century, Joseph Ernest Renan, discussing the matter in his Life of Jesus (1863), chapter 15 :

    That Jesus never dreamt of making himself pass for an incarnation of God, is a matter about which there can be no doubt. Such an idea was entirely foreign to the Jewish mind; and there is no trace of it in the synoptic gospels. i We only find it indicated in portions of the Gospel of John, which cannot be accepted as expressing the thoughts of Jesus. Sometimes Jesus even seems to take precautions to put down such a doctrine. ii The accusation that he made himself God, or equal to God, is presented, even in the Gospel of John, as a calumny of the Jews. iii In this last gospel he declares himself less than the Father. iv Elsewhere he avows that the Father has not revealed everything to him. v He believes himself to be more than an ordinary man, but separated from God by an infinite distance. He is son of God, but all men are, or may become so, in diverse degrees. vi....

    How Jesus came to be regarded as a god is not difficult to reconstruct. During his lifetime he was regarded as a rabbi, a prophet and possibly a messiah. He was seen as "a man approved of God" (Acts 2:22). After his death his title Messiah, with its Jewish associations of military leadership and earthly sovereignty, became untenable. Dead men are not good propositions as earthly kings. Christos, the Greek word corresponding to the Hebrew messiah, soon acquired a new significance, through the claim that Christos had been the son of God. The Greeks and Romans knew well what a son of a god was. They had heard about many of them, and had even seen some of them. Gods frequently coupled with mortals and produced sons that were at least semi-divine. As we shall see, numerous emperors, heroes and even philosophers were acclaimed to have been fathered by divinities. To make any headway, the claims for Jesus would have to be improved. His titles would need to match those of the divine emperors, his chief contenders for a religious following. From the time of Augustus onwards Roman emperors had born the title Divi filius, son of God , so it was not a big step for the title to be ascribed to Jesus. The next step was to improve on the word kyrios or lord. In the latest gospel, written around AD 90, the resurrected Jesus is given the title of a deified emperor: Lord and God (John 20:28). Other familiar divine titles were adopted too: sôtêr for example, the Greek word rendered into English as saviour.

    The development of Jesus" divinity is apparent in the gospels. In the oldest gospel Jesus is adopted by God at his baptism (Mark 1:11). The Matthew and Luke gospels relate stories of a divine conception and Virgin Birth, which many biblical scholars accept to be later additions to the original. Incongruously, they both retain the adoption by God at Jesus" baptism (Matthew 3:17 and Luke 3:22). Like the author of Mark, neither of these two makes any attempt to represent Jesus as God. The John author, writing about a generation later, has a different story. According to this one Jesus was the Word (logos) made flesh: in other words an eternal supernatural being who became incarnate.

    Even Paul never made a connection like this. Although he was arguably the founder of Christianity and thoroughly at home in the Græco-Roman world, Paul was still strictly monotheistic. Jesus could be the son of God, but not God himself*. Even the John author feels obliged to explain why Jesus could describe himself as a god. When he was threatened with stoning for having claimed to be God, Jesus denied the charge by citing a psalm in which God refers to his audience as gods, suggesting that it cannot therefore be blasphemous to use the word god for those to whom the word of God is addressed, nor for him to call himself a son of God*. His argument was questionable (and did not convince his audience), but the important point is that he did not claim to be God, and indeed denied it.

    He is repeatedly shown to be less than God and subject to God (e.g. 1 Corinthians 3:23, 11:3 and 15:25-28). According to the gospels Jesus rebuked people for calling him "Good Master" on the grounds that only God is good. Again, on the cross he is reported as having asked God why he had forsaken him (Mark 15:34). Such statements only make sense if Jesus did not consider himself to be God.

    Reconciling monotheism with Jesus" divinity was impossible for many Jews, and was to prove extremely problematical for Christians in the centuries to come. Many of Jesus" earliest followers denied his divinity. His Jewish followers do not seem to have regarded him as God incarnate. Neither did their successors, who are now referred to as the Ebionites. Neither did a number of other early Christians. According to some of them not only the apostles but the first 12 bishops of Rome agreed that Jesus was merely human*. They said that the official teaching had been tampered with after the time of Zephyrinus, Bishop of Rome (199-217), and the charge seems to be true. Zephyrinus and his successor Callistus were both regarded by progressive contemporary thinkers (like Tertullian and Hippolytus) as holding heretical views, although there is no reason to believe that they had believed anything different from their predecessors. Certainly other contemporary bishops and theologians agreed that Jesus was not God.

    Many Christian scholars accept that to his earliest followers Jesus was only a man, however favoured. He became God later, in an Hellenic world where such things were possible, familiar, popular and expected. Throughout the development of early Christianity we shall see the same phenomenon many times over: a minority belief becomes so popular that it becomes "orthodox" and the old orthodoxy becomes a "heresy" a few years later.




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    § Aaron caused his staff to turn into a snake (Exodus 7:8-13). Moses produced a miraculous method of preventing people from dying of snake bites (Numbers 21:8-9). Elijah successfully revived the dead son of a widow (1 Kings 17:17-24), and on another occasion incinerated his sacrifice of a bull by means of some sort of divine thunderbolt (1 Kings 18:37-38). Elisha demonstrated that he was a prophet by curing the army commander Naaman of a skin disease (2 Kings 5:1-14). He also restored a dead child to life (2 Kings 4:18-37) and caused an iron axe that had been lost in the Jordan to float so that it could be recovered (2 Kings 6:1-7). Joshua brought down strong city walls by miraculous means (Joshua 6:3-5 and 6:15-20).

    § Peter healed the sick and exorcised a number of evil spirits that had possessed people (Acts 5:16). On another occasion he seems to have enjoyed supernatural knowledge and the power to cause people to die through some paranormal effect. Apparently without having been told, Peter knew that a follower, Ananias, who had sold some land, had kept some of the proceeds for himself instead of giving all of it to the apostles. Peter rebuked Ananias and he fell down dead. Later, Ananias's wife Sapphira, not knowing of her husband's death, also was deceitful about the sale proceeds. Peter told her that she would die too, and she promptly did (Acts 5:1-11). Peter also restored a dead woman to life (Acts 9:36-41). Even his shadow was able to work miracles (Acts 5:15). The apostles in general were credited with many unspecified miraculous signs and wonders (Acts 5:12). Paul miraculously blinded the prophet Bar-Jesus in order to impress and convert the proconsul Sergius Paulus (Acts 13:6-12), and was also credited with other miracles. Apparently his miraculous powers even rubbed off onto his handkerchiefs and aprons (Acts 19:11-12).

    § The four canonical gospels, though they disagree about the other words, are unanimous in ascribing the expression "King of the Jews" to the sign placed on the cross: Mark 15:26, Matthew 27:37, Luke 23:38 and John 19:19.

    § Slaves were frequently crucified, others more rarely. This gave the punishment a special stigma. The term treason here covers any activity that threatened the stability of the state. As well as rebellion this could cover spying and desertion, and even forgery (which was also a treasonable offence in England for many centuries because it posed such a serious threat to the state).

    § In the gospels the word church is used to translate the Greek word ecclesia. The term denoted a gathering of citizens in a self-governing city state. In the gospels it is apparently used to mean something like fellowship or brotherhood. Jesus" followers constituted a Church only in this sense. There is no question, for example, that Jesus might have intended Church buildings to be constructed.

    i "Certain passages, such as Acts 2:22, expressly exclude this idea."

    ii "Matthew 19:17; Mark 10:18; Luke 13:19 (sic)"

    iii "John 5:18 ff.; 10:33 ff."

    iv "John 14:28."

    v "Mark 13:32"

    vi "Matthew 5:9, Luke 3:38, 6:35, 20:36, John 1:12-13, 10:34-35."

    §. The historical evidence for Jesus is dealt with by G. A. Wells in Did Jesus Exist? and The Historical Evidence for Jesus. Much of the subject matter in this chapter is dealt with more fully by Geza Vermes in Jesus the Jew.

    §. Mishnah, Ta"anith, 3:8, cited by Vermes, Jesus the Jew, p 70.

    §. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, pp 72ff. "

    §. Babylonian Talmud Me"ilah, 17b, cited by Vermes, Jesus the Jew, p 66.

    §. Irenaeus of Lyons, Adversus Omnes Haereses, II, xxxi, paragraph 2.

    §. Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, 20, 167-8.

    §. For example Mark 13:22 and Matthew 24:24.

    §. Mark 11:32, Matthew 14:5 and Luke 20:6, cf. Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, 18:116-19.

    §. Acts 5:36. Theudas's claim to be a prophet is recorded by Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, 20, 97-8.

    §. Acts 21:38. The claims of The Egyptian are recorded by Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, 20, 169-71.

    §. Chadwick, The Early Church (see bibliography), p 37. Simon Magus is mention in Acts 8:9-24.

    §. Acts 3:22ff and 7:37, cf. Deuteronomy 18:15.

    §. At John 9:1ff Jesus uses a traditional remedy for blindness, making a paste with his own spittle, then sends the blind man to wash in the waters of Siloam. Sanctuaries for the sick were often located by such waters, and Jesus performed miracles there in the traditional way, e.g. the sheep pools of Bethesda (John 5:3-9). See Romer, Testament, p 161.

    §. Matthew 26:67-8, Mark 14:65 and Luke 22:64.

    §. H. Maccoby, Revolution in Judæa ( London, 1973), p 99.

    §. Eusebius, The History of the Church, 1:3.

    §. The magi ask Herod where the King of the Jews is to be born, but Herod then asks others where the Messiah (or Christ) is to be born (Matthew 2:2-4).

    §. Matthew 27:11, Mark 15:2,9,18, and Luke 23:3. In modern translations Jesus explicitly confirms that he is the King of the Jews.

    §. Matthew 27:42, Mark 15:32 and John 12:13.

    §. Cited by Eusebius, The History of the Church, 2:23.

    §. The distinction between Jesus and Christ was particularly important to "Adoptionist" Christians. By changing Jesus to Christ it became possible for the "orthodox" faction to refute some of their arguments. See Ehrman, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, pp 150-163.

    §. In Luke 6:15 and Acts 1:13 Simon is called Simon Zelotes, in Mark 3:18 and Matthew 10:4 Simon the Canaanite. In modern translations he is consistently Simon the Zealot.

    §. The Epistle of Barnabas, this translation from Andrew Louth (ed.), Maxwell Staniforth (trans.) Early Christian Writings, p 164.

    §. See S. G. F. Brandon, Jesus and the Zealots, Manchester University Press ( Manchester, 1967).

    §. Origen, Comm. In Matthaeum 10:17, also Contra Celsum, 1:47.

    §. R. Eisler, Messiah Jesus and John The Baptist, translated by A. H. Krappe ( London, 1932), pp 167 and 427. {THBatHG pp 398, 399 cf. Arabic Christian Agapius JtE p61 + p188}

    §. Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, 20, 120

    §. Josephus, Jewish War, 4, 558

    §. Josephus, Jewish War, 1, 203-4, and Jewish Antiquities 14, 158-9.

    §. Acts 5:37. See also Josephus, Jewish War, 2 (118), and Jewish Antiquities, 17, 5 (271-2), 18, 1, 1 (4-10) and 18, i, 6 (23).

    §. Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, 20, 102.

    §. Josephus, Jewish War, 2, 433-48.

    §. Josephus, Jewish War, 7, 253, 275, 320-410.

    §. Simon Sebag Montifiore, Jerusalem (Weidenfeld & NIcholson, London, 2011) p93 points out that one of them, an ex-slave called Simon, possibly the same Simon who was supposedly acclaimed by the Archangel Gabriel as a "prince of princes". according to this "Gabriel Revellation" Simon would be killed and then resurrected after three days. Simon was killed in 4 BC around the time of Jesus' birth, and over thirty years before Jesus' alleged resurrection.

    §. Acts 5:36. Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, 20:5:1 , although the author of Acts has got his chronology wrong. Josephus was also quoted by Eusebius, The History of the Church, p84.

    §. TheEgyptian is referred to by Josephus, Jewish War, p 135. quoted by Eusebius, The History of the Church, p 97.

    §. Geza Vermes, Jesus the Jew, p 134 citing Jerusalem Talmud Ta"anith 68d.

    §. Y. Yadin, Bar-Kokhbar, Weidenfeld & Nicolson ( London, 1971), p 255. Kokhbar (or Kochba) means star (cf. the star mentioned in Numbers 24:17).

    §. Eusebius, The History of the Church, 2:19 , cf. Josephus, Jewish War, p 144.

    §. Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, XVIII:v:2 (117-18).

    §. Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, XX:ix:1, (200-203).

    §. Eusebius, The History of the Church, 4:22 citing Hegesippus. James is repeatedly referred to as "James the Righteous" (or "James the Just" (Hebrew zaddik)) by Eusebius and the sources he cites: 2:1 (Eusebius himself), 2:1 (citing Clement of Alexandria Outlines Book VI), 2:23 (citing both Hegesippus and Josephus).

    §. Eusebius, The History of the Church, 2:23 (quoting a lost version of Josephus, which was also cited by Origen, Contra Celsum, 1:47, 2:13 ).

    §. Eusebius, The History of the Church, 3:12, pp 124, citing Hegesippus.

    §. Eusebius, The History of the Church, 3:20, pp 126-127, citing Hegesippus.

    §. Eusebius, The History of the Church, 3:32, citing Hegesippus. Clopas was Joseph's brother.

    §. Eusebius, The History of the Church, 1:7 , citing Julius Africanus.

    §. Ezekiel 2, see also the opening verses of almost all subsequent chapters.

    §. In Mark 8:38 Jesus uses the expression son of man of someone who will come with his Father's glory and with the holy angels, which could well be based on the passage in Daniel. He seems to use the expression to refer to someone else.

    §. 1 Enoch was accepted as scripture by the writer of the Epistle of Jude and by many of the Church Fathers. It is still accepted as part of the Old Testament by the Ethiopic Church but was rejected by other Churches and subsequently "lost" to Western Christendom.

    §. Matthew 15:22-27, Mark 7:28; Matthew 8:2, Luke 5:12 (cf. Mark 1:40 which has Lord in some old manuscripts), Matthew 17:15, Mark 9:24; Matthew 20:30-31 and Mark 10:51.

    §. As it was blasphemy to utter the Hebrew word JHVH, Jews used the word adonai instead, which is equivalent to Lord in English and kyrios in Greek.

    §. The styles Kyrios et Deus noster and Dominus et Deus noster were applied to Roman god-emperors especially from about 40 AD. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, p 106.

    §. Matthew 3:17, Luke 3:22 and Hebrews 1:5, cf. 2 Peter 1:17.

    §. See for example Clement, First Epistle to the Corinthians, 36. ".... but of the Son, the Lord declares “You are my son, this very day have I fathered you”".

    §. Eusebius, The History of the Church, 7:25.

    §. Matthew 16:16, cf. Matthew 26:63 and Mark 14:61. The Authorised Version has Christ rather than messiah, but the Greek and Hebrew are interchangeable.

    §. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, pp 206ff.

    §. For example, son of God (meaning angel) is used in Daniel 3:25. Sons of God is used in Genesis 6:2 and 6:4, Deuteronomy 32:8 (Jerusalem Bible), Job 1:6, 2:1 and 38:7, and Psalm 29:1 (where it is translated in the Authorised Version as ye mighty {TMoGI p 111}), cf. Psalm 82:6.

    §. For a number of examples, including the ideas of Philo, see John Hick (ed.), The Myth of God Incarnate, pp 104-5 and 114.

    §. To Roman Catholics this is in the Old Testament: Ecclesiasticus (4:10). For others, Ecclesiasticus is called Ben Sirach or Jesus, Son of Sirach, and is included in the Apocrypha.

    §. God's children are mentioned frequently in the Bible: e.g. "I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High" Psalm 82:6.

    §. Montefiore, Some Elements of the Religious Teaching of Jesus, Macmillan (1910), p 93.

    §. Rabbi Morris Goldstein, Jesus in the Jewish Tradition, Macmillan (New York, 1950), p 26. "According to the Mishnah, only misuse of the Tetragram, the sacrosanct name of God, constitutes blasphemy": Vermes, Jesus the Jew, p 35, citing Mishnah Sanhedrin 7:5.

    §. Luke 2:22-24 referring to an ancient Jewish practice, Leviticus 12:8.

    §. Luke 4:16-24. See Vermes, Jesus the Jew, p 27.

    §. Matthew 8:1-4, Mark 1:40-45 and Luke 5:12-14. The reference is to Leviticus 14.

    §. See also Matthew 10:6. The fact that Jesus healed the servant of a centurion (Matthew 8:5-13 and Luke 7:1-10) is sometimes offered as evidence of his willingness to minister to the gentiles, but there is no reason to believe that the servant was a gentile, in fact Luke 7:3 suggests that he was Jewish.

    §. Origen, Contra Celsum, 7:9.

    §. Paul refers to Jesus as the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4 and Colossians 1:15) or being in the form of God (Philippians 2:6), or to God's fullness dwelling in him (Colossians 2:9). All these fall short of claiming Jesus to be God. Texts where Jesus is apparently called God are ambiguous, dubiously translated or interpolated (e.g. Romans 9:5, Titus 2:13 and arguably 2 Peter 1:1 ).

    §. John 10:33-38 quoting Psalm 82:6. This quotation did not save Jesus. He was obliged to escape to avoid being stoned. Possibly his audience knew their scriptures well enough to know that in the psalm God was talking to his heavenly court.

    §. Hippolytus, Little Labyrinth, cited by Eusebius, The History of the Church, 5:28.












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