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Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Did Jesus Say “I am God”?

The Faulty Premise

A friend and I were asked, “Show me where Jesus said ‘I am God.’” We pointed the inquirer to John 8:58 where Jesus states “before Abraham was I AM.” The response was “he did not say ‘I am God.’” Of course, that is precisely what Jesus was saying and the text makes it clear that the Jews understood this fact so well that they attempted to stone Jesus to death for blasphemy, for claiming to be God. In saying “I AM” He was claiming for Himself the name of God given to Moses from the burning bush in order to identify Him as the one God (see Exodus 3:14). Jesus also sent His apostles to baptize “in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” Note that He did not say names (plural) but name (singular). He makes His name the same as that of the God whom the Jews worship.

Here is the problem; we must first determine whether the question being posed based upon an appropriate premise. A premise is a proposition (a plan or scheme proposed) supporting or helping to support a conclusion. A faulty premise will not end in an appropriate conclusion.

For example, the various skeptics want to hear Jesus say what they want to hear in year 2004 American English grammar (or whichever year and language the skeptic finds himself in). In this case, the person wanted to see the words “I—am—God,” those three words and in that order. Is that an appropriate premise? No, why should Jesus have to say something in the way that you particularly want to hear it said? If a Jehovah’s Witness states that Jesus never claimed to be God and you show them that He did, they will say “Well, He did not claim to be Jehovah God or God Almighty.” You see they want to hear it just how they want to hear it and any other grammatical construct is unacceptable.
Maybe Jesus should have stood up one day and said, “Just to make every one happy, I declare that I am God, the Almighty, Jehovah, YHWH, Yahweh, Adonai, HaShem, Shaddai, Elohim, LORD, Yod Hay Vav Hay, Emet, I AM, etc, etc.” And still I’m sure that someone could come up with other names for God.

An appropriate premise, for example, could be “Did Jesus claim to be God? And if He did, how did He do so?” Now we can get somewhere because He claimed to be God in many ways that may not seem very straightforward in our year 2004 American English grammar. He not only claimed to be God, people called him God and He was called God by God.[i] He was called the creator.[ii] He was called the forgiver of sins.[iii] He was called the judge.[iv] He was called the Alpha and Omega.[v] He was referred to as omnipotent,[vi] omnipresent[vii] and omniscient.[viii] He also allows Himself to be worshipped.[ix] He claimed to be the only way to the Father, to salvation.[x]

In any case, we showed where Jesus said “I AM,” and when they did not accept this as close enough to “I am God,” we asked “What if someone refers to Jesus as God and Jesus does not stop the person from doing so?” We pointed out where Thomas says to Jesus “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28). The response was that Thomas was just surprised or astonished and he was simply expressing that emotion, just as if we won a football game and I turned to my teammate and said “My God, we won!” Certainly we would not be referring to our teammate as God. This is another faulty premise, just because saying “My God” could be a statement of excitement does not mean that Thomas was not calling Jesus God. Just because it could mean the former does not mean that it could not mean the latter.

Interestingly enough in his anti-Christian book, Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan quoted John 16:14; 5:17; 5:22; 10:30; 14:9 and stated, “From these quotes, it seems obvious that Jesus himself claimed to be G-d.”[xi] He has no problem understanding that Jesus did claim to be God even if the verses he sites do not have Jesus saying, “I—am—God.”

It seems to be a good idea to clarify and define terms before arguing or attempting to answer an illogical question or opposition.

[i] Isaiah 7:14 quoted in Matthew 1:23; Isaiah 9:6; Matthew 28:18; Mark 14:61-64; John 1:1, 4, 14-15, 18, 30, 2:24-25, 3:31, 5:18, 21-22, 26-29, 8:58-59, 10:32-33, 17:5, 20:28-29; Romans 9:5; 1st Timothy 2:3; Philippians 2:6; Colossians 1:15, 19, 2:9; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 1:3, 5, 8; 1st John 1:1, 5:20; Revelation 1:8, 1:6
[ii] John 1:3, 10; Hebrews 1:2; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:2, 5, 10-12
[iii] Matthew 9:6, 26:28; Mark 2:5-11, 10; Luke 5:21, 24, 7:48-49; Acts 5:31, 13:38; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:13-14; 1st John 1:7
[iv] Matthew 19:28, 25:31-34, 41, 46; John 5:22-23, 30; Acts 10:42; 2nd Corinthians 5:10
[v] Revelation 1:8, 11, 21:6, 22:13
[vi] Mark 4:39-40, 11:13-14, 20-21; John 1:3-5, 2:19-21, 11:25; Hebrews 1:3
[vii] Matthew 18:20, 28:20; John 1:47-48, 3:13
[viii] John 2:24-25, 16:30, 21:17
[ix] Matthew 2:2, 9:18, 14:33, 20:20, 28:9, 17-18; Mark 5:6; Luke 24:51-52; John 20:28; Hebrews 1:6
[x] John 14:6
[xi] Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, The Real Messiah? A Jewish Response to Missionaries (New York: National Conference of Synagogue Youth, 1976, New edition, 1985), p. 17

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