Who was Jesus?

Who was Jesus according to the scriptures?

This is a question that must be asked critically.  If we take a look at the scriptures, we can see an unbiased picture of who Jesus Christ was.

Jesus was the Jewish Messiah 

Let us first consider the facts about who Jesus was before his ministry began.  Jesus was Jewish. The Bible states that he was from the lineage of the covenant people, “…the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1)   Jesus was the Messiah, who was written about and prophesied in Jewish scriptures.  This is clear from the story of how he proclaimed that he is the long-awaited Messiah. 

Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him. 

He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: 

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” 

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him.  He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” 

– Holy Bible: Luke 4:14-21

Jesus claimed to be the Messiah, who was prophesied in the Jewish scriptures.  Fast forward 2,000 years and Christianity claims that the Messiah, Jesus, is God.  But we need to ask: what did the Jewish people think?

Was the Messiah understood to be God by the Jews? Were they expecting God? Or a prophet? Or a world saviour figure?  What was the nature of the Messiah expected to be?

What did the Jewish prophecies say about the Messiah? 

There are only a few passages that speak explicitly about the Messiah. He is described as a king, saviour, and liberator figure in Jewish eschatology.  

The term “messiah” comes from the Hebrew word “Mashiach,” which means “anointed.” The anointed one is to be a human leader, physically descended from the lineage of prophet David and prophet Solomon (pbut). And he is thought to accomplish predetermined things in only one future arrival, including the unification of the tribes of Israel, the gathering of the Jews, the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem, and perhaps most importantly – the ushering in of the Messianic age.

The Messiah was expected to be a redeemer of the Jewish people:

“The days are coming,” declares the Lord,
“when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely
and do what is just and right in the land.

– Holy Bible: Jeremiah 23:5

The Messiah was expected to be a servant of God, not God himself: 

“Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations.”

– Holy Bible: Isaiah 42:1

The Messiah was expected to be enforced by the Spirit of God: 

The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord— and he will delight in the fear of the Lord. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears;

– Holy Bible: Isaiah 11:2-3

So that’s what we find.  Similar verses describe the qualities of the Messiah.  He will be a ruler, he will be just, and he will be a servant of God, enforced by God.  But what we do not find is an indication that the Messiah will be God in human form.

If Christianity, as it stands today, was the intended outcome of the Hebrew Bible, why isn’t there any mention of God becoming man?

It appears that the scriptures explicitly state that God cannot be human:

God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfil? 

– Holy Bible: Numbers 23:19

Some argue the following verse equates the Messiah with God: 

In His days Judah will be saved, And Israel will dwell safely; Now this is His name by which He will be called: the Lord our righteousness. 

– Holy Bible: Jeremiah 23:6

“The Lord is our righteousness” is the translation of the Hebrew term “YHWH Tsidkenu.” But this is called “theophory” or the theophoric method of speaking where things, which are associated with God are called “the Lord”. This language appears elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible: 

So Gideon built an altar to the Lord there and called it The Lord Is Peace. 

– Holy Bible: Judges 6:24 

Then he erected there an altar and called it El-Elohe-Israel (the God of Israel). 

– Holy Bible: Genesis 33:20

And according to Jeremiah 33, Jerusalem city will be called “the Lord our Righteousness”.

The term is used to refer to things that are not God and therefore, this cannot be argued as proof.  It is never stated that the Mashiach will be God.  That’s why the many Jewish sects today are not looking for God incarnate. They are looking for a saviour figure, a figure more like an to come 

Did Jesus ever call himself God? 

No. He made it very clear that his role was that of a messenger from God.  Jesus taught Monotheism, meaning, he called people to worship God alone.

Then a certain ruler asked Him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call Me good?” Jesus replied. “No one is good except God alone.” 

– Holy Bible: Luke 18:18-19

Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. 

– Holy Bible: John 7:16

You heard that I said to you, ‘I go away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved Me, you would have rejoiced because I go to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 

– Holy Bible: John 14:28

Jesus affirmed the first commandment of Moses, calling people to worship the one true God.

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” 

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’  The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” 

“Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him.  To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 

When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions. 

– Holy Bible: Mark 12:28-34

Jesus prayed to God and he asked God for things.  If we just look at the words of Jesus, it is clear that he was not the absolute God, rather he was a Word of God, a messenger sent by God.  

Did people in Jesus’ time think he was God? 

If we look at the Bible, we find that the people regarded Jesus as a holy man and a prophet of God.

“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 

 Holy Bible: Luke 24:19 

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” 

– Holy Bible: Matthew 16:13-16 

From the statement of Simon Peter, we can infer that some believers regarded Jesus as the “Son of God”  but what exactly does that mean? 

What Does “Son of God” mean in the Bible?

The common interpretation is that the “Son of God” implies Jesus’ deity.  However, the title, “Son of God” is not exclusive to Jesus in the Bible. Although Jesus is called the “Son of God” we also find this term applied to humans and angels. The term “son of God” is applied to the first man Adam, angels, Israel, those who make peace, and Christians.

Adam Was A Son Of God

Adam, the first man, was called the son of God.

The son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.

– Holy Bible: Luke 3:38

Israel Was God’s Son

The Old Testament says that the nation Israel is God’s son.

When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.

– Holy Bible: Hosea 11:1

Angels Are The Sons Of God

Angels are called “sons of God.”

Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the Lord

– Holy Bible: Job 2:1

Those Who Make Peace Are God’s Sons

Those who make peace are called the “sons of God.”

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

– Holy Bible: Matthew 5:9

Christians Are Called God’s Sons

The designation “sons of God” is also used for Christians.

For they cannot even die anymore, because they are like angels, and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.

– Holy Bible: Luke 20:36

The terms “Son of God” and “Son of the LORD” are also found in several passages of the Old Testament.  Therefore, these titles do not indicate absolute divinity. 

How Did Jesus refer to himself in the Bible?

Jesus claimed that he was the Messiah and vicegerent of God, rather than the Almighty God.  He makes it clear that he is sent by God.

“Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.” 

– Holy Bible: Matthew 10:40-42

All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked.
Jesus said to them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself!’ And you will tell me, ‘Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.’”
“Truly I tell you,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown.” 

– Holy Bible: Luke 4:22-24

Jesus said that he doesn’t know “the hour,” only God knows: 

“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” 

– Holy Bible: Matthew 24:36

So if Jesus (pbuh) never portrayed himself as God, the question must be asked: how did Jesus become known as God?

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