Response to Catholic Answers: The Divinity of Christ

Recently, a Roman Catholic friend of mine challenged me to read a tract on the divinity of Christ from Catholic Answers.1 We'd been debating this subject on Facebook, and he is convinced that the creeds distill the truth of Scripture, and this tract he asked me to read should show me where I err. I decided I ought to read it and respond as thoroughly as possible to make sure I'm understanding the texts presented and hopefully present what I understand to be true as articulately as possible. And I hope that other Catholics or Protestant Christians who have only heard one side of the Trinity question would find this and be challenged to reconsider their understanding of the person of Jesus Christ.

Catholic Answers (CA): Christ's divinity is shown over and over again in the New Testament. For example, in John 5:18 we are told that Jesus' opponents sought to kill him because he “called God his Father, making himself equal with God.”

Very, very often, orthodox Christians take the side of Jesus' opponents at the expense of whatever Jesus actually said. Perhaps they assume that his opponents understood him correctly, but most of the time Jesus' accusers did not understand him correctly. That is what we find in this story as well.

In John 5, it was the Sabbath, and Jesus was passing by a pool called Bethesda (House of Grace). There is some lore surrounding this pool and an angel who would bring healing which we shall not bother with here. But there was a paralytic man who'd been at the pool waiting for deliverance for 38 years. Jesus approached the man and told him to pick up his bed and walk home. The man did so and was healed immediately.

Now some Jewish leaders saw the man carrying his mat on the Sabbath. They demanded to know why he was doing work on the Sabbath. In the Mishnah Tractate Shabbat 7:2, the rabbis determined 39 activities which constituted “work” based on the activities performed while building the tabernacle. Of significance, the 39th activity is “carrying out from one domain to another” (that is, from a private domain to a public domain, or vice versa, as in this case). Before we continue with the Jews' reaction to this man carrying his mat, we might ponder whether there is a correlation between the 39 prohibited activities and the fact that this man had been an invalid for 38 years. It may be only a coincidence, or it could be some sort of critique against these rules. After all, they don't come from the Torah itself, but from the rabbis' interpretation of the Torah.

Nevertheless, Jesus took a fairly liberal view toward interpreting the Torah, particularly when it came to the wellbeing of others. We see multiple examples of him healing on the Sabbath and calling out the Pharisees for the hypocrisy of helping an injured animal but condemning him for helping out a fellow man.2 And we find another example in Mark 7:11-13, where Jesus said it was better to recall an item previously dedicated to God if one's parents were in need rather than keep the oath but allowing one's parents to suffer.

With this context in mind, we return to John 5 with a better understanding of the situation. Jesus not only healed a man on the Sabbath, but he commanded the man to carry his mat between domains—from the public domain to his home. According to the Pharisees, this meant Jesus instructed another man to sin. When we get to verse 17, we see Jesus' defense: “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” And the Jews reacted by wanting to kill him, “because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.”

Nothing about Jesus calling God his Father should have surprised the Jews, as this was a well-established concept in the Tanakh.3 But the title “Son of God” also evoked the idea of kingship, even being the Messiah. There are many messiahs in the Bible. It is not an exclusive term used of Jesus. Even a pagan king was called “messiah” by God.4 On more than one occasion, the king of Israel was called God's son.5 And it was probably for this latter reason why they thought he was making himself to be equal with God. The king of Israel had the authority to judge over his subjects.6 In essence, the king spoke for God.

The Pharisees were angry that Jesus was claiming to have the authority to overrule their Sabbath regulations.

Before moving on, we should review the rest of the chapter to see what Jesus had to say about himself. “The son can do nothing of his own accord.”7 “The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the son.”8 “As the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the son also to have life in himself.”9 “And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man.”10 “I can do nothing on my own.”11 Jesus said things like this all throughout the Fourth Gospel, distancing himself from God by saying everything he did was through God, not himself.

CA: In John 8:58, when quizzed about how he has special knowledge of Abraham, Jesus replies, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I Am”—invoking and applying to himself the personal name of God—“I Am” (Ex. 3:14). His audience understood exactly what he was claiming about himself. “So they took up stones to throw at him; but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple” (John 8:59).

This kind of sloppy eisegesis is unbecoming of a website purporting to offer answers about Scripture. First off, Jesus was not “quizzed about how he has special knowledge of Abraham.” Secondly, “I Am” is not the personal name of God in Exodus 3:14.

I will try to be brief in explaining John 8. Beginning in verse 12, Jesus began preaching, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” The Pharisees accused him of being his only witness, while the Torah requires a minimum of two witnesses to establish a matter.12 This requirement for multiple witnesses only pertains to a conviction of a crime. (I don't know the basis of extrapolating this out to what Jesus was saying; perhaps there was another rabbinic requirement.) Nevertheless, Jesus said that his testimony was true because he was one witness and his father was the second witness. If Jesus later on claimed to be God himself, then he only has one witness, because there is only one God.13

The conversation got heated over Jesus' appeal to his father. It is evident that the Jews didn't immediately realize Jesus was talking about God. When they exclaimed, “We were not born of sexual immorality,”14 they seemed to be making a jab at Jesus over the rumors regarding Mary's virgin pregnancy. Throughout this conversation, they continually berated him over the identity of his father. Meanwhile, Jesus made additional claims about himself which insulted his opponents. “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.”15 They appeared to be confused by his words, but verse 31 was the tipping point. “So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, ‘If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free’” (emphasis added). Their reply revealed their offense: “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” Jesus answered that it was their slavery to sin because they continued to practice sin. “I know that you are the offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.”

This set them off. Jesus accused them of being phony sons of Abraham because they did not listen to the truth Jesus brought from God.16 He said they were behaving more like the accuser.17 They rebutted by calling him a bastard, unlike they who were children of God. They countered by declaring him a Samaritan (a half-blood from the Northern Tribes who intermingled with pagans) and said he had a demon. Jesus once again defended himself, saying that God would honor him even if they dishonored him. They said he was possessed for claiming to have the power to grant eternal life, when even Abraham himself died. Jesus retorted that Abraham had looked forward to his day. The Jews mocked him for being a young man (ca. 30 years old18) and twisted his words to insinuate that he meant he'd seen Abraham in person. Then Jesus dropped the infamous bombshell: “Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”

What do we do with this statement? First, we must recognize that this debate became increasingly heated. Their reaction of wanting to stone him proves it, but what else would we expect when they insulted his mother and he called them the spawn of satan? This verbal sparring match was akin to the childhood fight, “My daddy is stronger than your daddy.” So were Jesus to claim to be God himself, this would be an illogical leap we would only expect from a crazy person. The Jews weren't “quiz[zing] about how he has special knowledge of Abraham.” How Catholic Answers got that out of John 8, I haven't the foggiest. In reality, Jesus was claiming to be more important than Abraham.

In the Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Pesachim 54a, we read, “Seven phenomena were created before the world was created, and they are: Torah, and repentance, and the Garden of Eden, and Gehenna, and the Throne of Glory, and the Temple, and the name of Messiah.” While this wasn't written until several centuries after the Apostolic Scriptures, it was likely already a concept in Judaism, as the Talmud was written from oral traditions. As such, Jesus was likely appealing to this idea, that the Messiah was foreknown in God's mind before Creation, and yet there is no mention of Abraham. I believe the point Jesus was making is that Abraham was ultimately just a step in bringing God's kingdom to earth to be ruled by the Messiah (not that Jesus was denying Abraham's importance, of course).

Before we move on to the next claim in the Catholic Answers site, we must consider the idea that Jesus was appropriating the Divine Name, which they say is “I Am”. This is based on a shallow, Anglocentric reading of Exodus 3:14. In Hebrew, God told Moses, “Ehyeh asher ehyeh,” which roughly translates to “I am who I am”. The Seventy chose to render this expression as “Ego eimi ho on”—“I am the one”. Further on in the verse, he said, “[Ho on] has sent me to you.” There are nearly 1,000 instances of the phrase “I am” in the Bible, and Exodus 3:14 is the only verse wherein God refers to himself by this name. Every other instance of God's name in Scripture (nearly 7,000 times in the Tanakh), he is called Yehovah (יְהֹוָה), which may be a contraction of the phrase “He is, he was, he will be”.19 So it is hardly accurate to claim that God's name is “I Am” (ehyeh), seeing he called himself “Yehovah” hundreds of times, even in Exodus 3:15. But jumping back to the Greek, the significance of the phrase “Ego eimi ho on” is all about “ho on” (the one). The phrase “ego eimi” (I am) means exactly what it does in English. There is nothing significant about it. John 8:58 throws us off a little bit because Jesus left off the predicate, but it is easy to infer what he meant. It is ridiculous to assume he was claiming to be Yehovah given all the abundant evidence to the contrary.

Brother Kel20 recently released an in-depth video on John 8:58. I don't always agree with him, particularly on his interpretation of 2 Corinthians 3 (see my own post on this21) and on the Christian's relationship to the Torah, but this video is spot-on. I recommend watching at 1.25× speed.

CA: In John 20:28, Thomas falls at Jesus' feet, exclaiming, “My Lord and my God!” Greek: (Ho Kurios mou kai ho Theos mou—literally, “The Lord of me and the God of me!”)

Before we get into this verse, we must look at Thomas' arc in the Fourth Gospel. He has a grand total of four lines: John 11:16, 14:5, 20:25, and 20:28. In the first three, we get the picture that Thomas is sincere in his love for Jesus, but he's, how shall we say, slow on the uptake. When Lazarus died, Thomas expressed great sympathy but had no clue that Jesus was about to resuscitate him. During the Last Supper, as Jesus was preparing them for his coming departure, Lazarus expressed concern because he misunderstood what Jesus meant and thought he was leaving for a journey. When the disciples were gathered around after the resurrection and were discussing his appearance, Thomas, who'd been away when Jesus first revealed himself, voiced his doubt (and apparent heartbreak) that Jesus was alive again. But finally we see his enthusiastic embrace of his lord a few verses later when Jesus showed up before him.

What shall we make of this? Three out of four times Thomas opened his mouth in the Gospel of John, he showed himself to be a loveable buffoon of sorts. He was undoubtedly sincere, but he lacked understanding. And suddenly, the Trinitarian would have us believe that he uttered the most profound statement in the Bible with more theological clarity than any other person in Scripture? I'm not buying it. What other meaning could Thomas have intended? I have devoted a great deal more time than intended to the first two claims of the Catholic Answers page, so I will simply refer the reader to the Biblical Unitarian webpage dealing with this verse.22

I would like to direct the reader back a few verses to John 20:17, wherein Jesus said to Mary Magdalene, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” How could Jesus possibly be God if he has a God? (To my friends involved in the conversation that provoked this post, I am aware of your interpretations, but I find them logically and biblically untennable.) There are plenty of other verses in the Apostolic Scriptures which state that Jesus has a God—who is the same God as our God, mind you—but the pinnacle of these is Revelation 3:12, presumably written by the same author of this Gospel. “The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name” (emphasis added).

CA: In Philippians 2:6, Paul tells us that Christ Jesus “[w]ho, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped” (New International Version). So Jesus chose to be born in humble, human form though he could have simply remained in equal glory with the Father for he was “in very nature God.”

It strikes me as odd—not to mention, deceptive—that Catholic Answers would rely on a quotation from the New International Version instead of one of the Catholic translations. The Douay-Rheims Bible agrees with the ESV (my preferred version) in saying, “in the form of God,” as does the New American Bible. I'm not very familiar with the different Catholic translations out there, but why does Catholic Answers eschew these translations in favor of a Protestant version of the text? The reason is in how the NIV translates morphē, which means “form”, emphasizing the physical or functional appearance. Morphē does not mean “nature” as the NIV translators erroneously render it. Surprisingly, they chose not to use the Knox Bible, despite recommending it on their own website.23 It not only agrees with the NIV but surpasses it in overreaching the author's intent by saying, “His nature is, from the first, divine, and yet he did not see, in the rank of Godhead, a prize to be coveted.” Perhaps they realized how blatantly far off that is from the verse in Greek or from any other English translation.24

There are a number of different Biblical Unitarian interpretations of Philippians 2:6-11, and I won't take the time to address them all. The one that I lean toward as being most credible is the idea that this is an example of Adam Christology, wherein Jesus was being compared to Adam. While I've heard some good objections to this view even from other Biblical Unitarians, it still makes the most sense to me, since both men were created in the form25 of God, and both had the opportunity to grasp at equality with him, but while Adam grasped at it and fell, Jesus humbled himself and became a servant, even to the point of death on a cross.

The most important verses from this section are 9-11, which read, “Therefore God has highly exalted [Jesus] and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so 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.” Many Trinitarians get excited over the fact that verse 10 quotes from Isaiah 45:23, which reads, “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.’” But they overlook verse 9, which says that God has highly exalted Jesus. Jesus didn't exalt himself;26 God did that. And God gave him the name above every name. Now we may speculate on whether this name is “Jesus” or the divine name, “Yehovah”. I lean toward the latter based on Exodus 23:21, where God implored Moses and Israel to listen to the angel appointed to lead them. “Pay careful attention to him and obey his voice; do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgression, for my name is in him.” And it is evident from Psalm 110:1 and the various places this is exposited in the Apostolic Scriptures27 that Jesus has been given the authority to rule on behalf of God, just as Joseph was given the authority to rule under Pharaoh.28 So giving Jesus the name “Yehovah” (that is, giving him the authority to rule as Yehovah) is not beyond the realm of Scripture, but it in no way means that he is Yehovah or the Creator.

When we look deeper into Isaiah 45:23, we see a discrepancy between it and Philippians 2:10-11, but this can partially be squared away by looking at the other place where Paul cites this verse, Romans 14:11. For context, we will examine verses 10-12. “Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, ‘As I live, says the Lord,29 every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.’ So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.” According to Strong's, the word here translated “confess” is ἐξομολογήσεται, or exomologēsetai. It means “will agree, confess”. Other conjugations of this verb yield a wider semantic range including “to praise, thank”. I don't know enough about Greek to comment on what the best translation should be in Romans 14:11, but the idea seems to conform more to the concept of swearing an oath rather than thanking or praising God. Jumping back to Philippians 2:11, the same word is used, although it is spelled slightly differently (ἐξομολογήσηται, exomologēsētai).30

So what is the point of trifling over these Greek words between Romans 14:11 an Philippians 2:11? It is important because we are trying to narrow down what it means to “confess that Jesus Christ is Lord”. Given that Romans 14:10-12 seems to be about swearing fealty to God as we stand before him and give an individual account of each of our lives, it only makes sense that Philippians 2:10-11 is similarly saying that we will swear fealty to Jesus the Messiah. Moreover, we ought to consider the preposition ὅτι (hoti), which here is rendered as “that”, that is, “that Jesus Christ is Lord”. Prepositions can be notoriously difficult to translate because they bear an implicit shade of meaning only understood through exposure. Anyone who has suffered through high school Spanish and the burden of learning the proper usage of por versus para knows exactly what I mean. By skimming the list of every verse containing hoti,31 it seems evident that it carries the nuance of “because of, for that”. So based on the reading so far, we might say verse 11 should read, “Every tongue will swear fealty because of Jesus Christ is Lord”—but wait, that doesn't make sense! “Because of Jesus Christ is Lord”? Something is off about this phrase. The thing that is off is the translators' insertion of the verb “is”, which is absent in the Greek. Perhaps it isn't always necessary as in English, but it makes more sense to leave it out in this case. So what we're left with is the following: “Every tongue will swear fealty because of Lord Jesus Christ.”

Before wrapping up this section, there is one more thing we must look at, that being the phrase “God the Father”. It is my suspicion that translators have favored this phrase due to the Trinitarian division of “God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit”. I have not looked into this exhaustively, but from the verses I have observed, we usually find something that translates better as “Father God” or “the God, the Father”. In the case of Philippians 2:11, we have the former. You may ask, What is the substantive distinction between “God the Father” and “Father God”? It isn't major, but I bring it up specifically due to the Trinitarian labels used to parse up God. Jews have no distinction between “God” and “the Father”. They are both titles for the same being. This is how they understood Jesus when he referred to “the Father”, and this is what Paul's audience would've heard as well. Their minds would not have conjured up suggestions of the Trinity, as ours are wont to do when reading the expression “God the Father”.

So what do we have going on with Philippians 2:9-11? I'll put it in my own words here; take it or leave it. “Therefore God has highly exalted him and given him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus ‘every knee should bow,’ in heaven and on earth and under the earth, ‘and every tongue swear fealty’ because of [the] Lord Jesus Christ, to the glory of Father God.” Paul is not necessarily arguing that all flesh will confess that Jesus Christ is [the] Lord, but that we will swear fealty to God because of Jesus Christ the Lord.

CA: Also significant are passages that apply the title “the First and the Last” to Jesus. This is one of the Old Testament titles of Yahweh: “Thus says Yahweh, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, Yahweh of armies: ‘I am the First and I am the Last; besides me there is no god’” (Isa. 44:6; cf. 41:4, 48:12).

This title is directly applied to Jesus three times in the book of Revelation: “When I saw him [Christ], I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand upon me, saying, ‘Fear not, I am the First and the Last’” (Rev. 1:17). “And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: ‘The words of the First and the Last, who died and came to life’” (Rev. 2:8). “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense, to repay everyone for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the beginning and the end” (Rev. 22:12-13).

The last quote is especially significant since it applies to Jesus the parallel title “the Alpha and the Omega,” which Revelation earlier applied to the Lord God: “’I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty” (Rev. 1:8).

On the surface, this sounds like a solid argument. After all, “the First and the Last” carries an air of importance, like saying, “I'm the most important thing in all of time”. And I wouldn't disagree with that. But as usual, we must dig a little deeper to see whether this shared title is enough to say they are the same being. After all, it is a HUGE deal if the One God of Israel32 turns out to have been a Trinity all along, and so far the proof texts employed by Catholic Answers to defend that proposition have been easily exposed. If any book is going to prove once and for all that Jesus is God, albeit not the Father, it would be Revelation… right? We'll get back to that one in a few moments. First, I want to look into the idea of sharing titles.

There is a similar title shared by God and Jesus, “King of kings”. In 1 Timothy 6:15, we see this applied to God in a doxology.33 In Revelation 17:14 and 19:16, we see it attributed to Jesus. But there are also two other people who bear this title in the Bible: Artaxerxes34 and Nebuchadnezzar.35 The former is self-attributed, so perhaps we could ignore it, but God himself called Nebuchadnezzar—a pagan king—the “king of kings”. Does this mean he's on the same level as God and Jesus, even part of the Godhead? Heaven forbid!

Another title we see given to multiple people is “Christ” or “Messiah”. Now this is never used in reference to God, because it literally means “Anointed”, as in anointed with oil by God for a certain purpose in leading his people. God doesn't need to anoint himself, as this was always done by a person of higher station for someone of lower rank who was lifted up for a specific task. In the Tanakh, priests,36 prophets,37 and kings38 were all anointed with oil (“mashiached” or “messiahed”). By implication, every priest and every king was a messiah, and probably at least some of the prophets. But even more astoundingly, we find yet another messiah in the Hebrew Bible whom we might not expect: Cyrus, king of Persia. “Thus says Yehovah, your Redeemer… who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd, and he shall fulfill all my purpose’… Thus says Yehovah to his messiah, to Cyrus….”39 Just as Nebuchadnezzar was called the king of kings, Cyrus was called the messiah. So it is plainly evident that shared titles do not indicate a unity of being or nature. We must still address what “the First and the Last” and “the Alpha and the Omega” mean when applied to Jesus, but it is not a given that they make him God simply because he shares these distinctions with God.

Another shared title we should examine is “shepherd”, seeing as it is also applied to Cyrus. I have often seen Christians present the “Good Shepherd” text in John 10:1-18 as proof of Jesus' divinity due to God being called Israel’s shepherd. The most notable example is in Psalm 23:1, “Yehovah is my shepherd; I shall not want”; as well as Psalm 80:1, “Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock. You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth”; and Jeremiah 31:10, “Hear the word of Yehovah, O nations, and declare it in the coastlands far away; say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him, and will keep him as a shepherd keeps his flock.” Many Christians believe that Jesus claiming to be the Good Shepherd is a claim to divinity. But not only does God call Cyrus his shepherd, he does the same for the judges,40 King Saul,41 and others. Since Catholic Answers didn't bring this one up and I'm only using it as another example of a shared title, I won't delve any deeper into the distinction between Jesus and God as our Shepherds, but it is thoroughly and beautifully explained in Ezekiel 34, particularly verses 11-24, but the whole chapter is worth a read.

Now that we have determined that shared titles do not prove that the one sharing a title with God is God, let us examine whether Revelation reveals Jesus to be God. This will not be a thorough examination, as we can rule out any possibility of that within the first three chapters.
  • “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants the things that must soon take place” (1:1a).
  • “He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw” (1:1b-2).
  • “John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come,42 and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth” (1:4-5a).
  • “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1:5b-6).
  • “Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. … The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels” (3:2, 5).
  • “The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name” (3:12).
  • “The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne” (3:21).
  • And then one of my favorite verses in Scripture, “Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus”43 (14:12).

So then, what does it mean for Jesus to be called the First and the Last? I believe this is evident from the context. “When I saw [Jesus], I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, ‘Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys44 of Death and Hades.’”45 In what sense is Jesus the first and the last? He's the first and last in the kingdom of God, because he is the firstborn of the dead, and he will only lay down his crown before God after conquering all the nations and powers of this world.46 Then God himself will come down to rule over the world.47 Regarding the specific claim that Revelation 22:12-13 is Jesus claiming to be the Alpha and Omega, I don't think it is so cut-and-dry. In verse 6, the angel is talking. Then in verse 7, the speaker seems to be Jesus, although it could be the angel still, or possibly even God. Then in verses 8-9, the angel speaks again after John bows to worship him. In verses 10-11, the speaker is still the angel. Verses 12-13 are supposedly from Jesus, although he is never identified as the speaker. It could be God, or it could still be the angel speaking on behalf of God. The ESV attributes verses 14-15 to John by placing them outside quotation marks. Then in verse 16, Jesus is speaking again. And in verse 17, the Spirit and the Bride are speaking. The spirit may be God48 Jesus,49 or something else. Finally, verses 18-21 are in John's voice once more. So it is not possible to confidently assert that Jesus called himself “the Alpha and Omega” in verses 12-13.

CA: As the following quotes show, the early Church Fathers also recognized that Jesus Christ is God and were adamant in maintaining this precious truth.

I don't particularly care what the Church Fathers had to say, given the radical departure Greek Christianity took from the Messianic Jewish faith of Jesus, the apostles, and the Jerusalem assembly in the late first/early second century. That said, I don't believe Catholic Answers' interpretation of their words is without challenge. I highly recommend the book The God of Jesus in Light of Christian Dogma by Kegan Chandler.50 He delves deeply into the supposed uniformity of early Christian belief about Jesus as God, exposing the Gnostic and Platonic influences that warped the purity of Jesus' own creed: Hear O Israel, Yehovah is our God, Yehovah is one.51

I'll admit, I am disappointed but not surprised by this article from Catholic Answers. When it comes down to it, biblical support for the idea that Jesus is God is nearly non-existent and is based on a highly selective reading over a scant few verses. There are more supposed proof-texts they could have included, but it wouldn't bolster their case any. At the very least, I hope I have proven that the verses supposedly proving the Trinity is real or that Jesus is Yehovah the Creator can be interpreted differently—and more importantly, consistently—to support the position that the Father alone is the Creator God, and Jesus is his human servant.

I won't merely leave it there, however. Although Jesus is not the God, Yehovah himself, he has been glorified. He has been deified, and by that I mean by God himself, not merely by Trinitarians and Modalists who mistake him as the Creator and part of the Trinity. As Jesus is the son of God who has been elevated to the highest authority under God himself, it is fitting we worship him as God or a god, not in the sense of pagan idolatry, but because it is honorable to the Father himself.52 Jesus is the culmination of God's plans for humanity and the means by which he will bring all the world to himself. He is the Seed of Abraham who will bless all the nations.53 He is the offshoot of David, the Nazarene.54 He is the prophet who would be the very mouthpiece of God.55 He is our high priest who mediates before God day and night on our behalf.56 I could go on and on. Jesus is most certainly worthy of being praised, but for the right reasons. He is not the Creator, he is the first man to overcome all sin and temptation to obtain the prize of the resurrection and immortality.57 And we are called to walk as he walked in perfect obedience to God, trusting in God for forgiveness but nevertheless holding to the faith of Jesus.58

  2. Cf. Matthew 12:11.
  3. Cf. Exodus 4:22; Deuteronomy 1:30-31, 8:5, 32:6; Isaiah 63:16, 64:8; Hosea 11:1.
  4. Isaiah 45:1.
  5. E.g., 2 Samuel 7:14-16; Psalm 2:7.
  6. Cf. 1 Kings 3:16-28.
  7. John 5:19.
  8. John 5:22.
  9. John 5:26.
  10. John 5:27; cf. Daniel 7:13-14.
  11. John 5:30.
  12. Deuteronomy 17:6, 19:15.
  13. Deuteronomy 6:4; Mark 12:29.
  14. John 8:41; cf. John 8:27.
  15. John 8:23.
  16. John 12:49.
  17. Diabolos, “devil”, means “accuser”.
  18. Luke 3:23.
  19.; cf. Revelation 1:8.
  24. In full candor, I have not read every single English translation of the Bible to verify if this statement is true.
  25. One objection is that the LXX uses a different Greek word which is translated as “form”, indicating that perhaps a different idea was intended by Paul.
  26. John 8:54.
  27. E.g., 1 Corinthians 15:20-28.
  28. Genesis 41:41-43.
  29. As this is a direct quotation, the identity of this Kurios is obviously Adonai Yehovah.
  30. I have no idea if lengthening the epsilon (ε) to an eta (η) changes the meaning in any way, but it does not appear to be the case based on the translations. That said, the final verb in Mark 7:19 has a textual variant wherein one vowel is long and the other short, and this changes the subject of the verb. See more on that here:
  32. Deuteronomy 6:4.
  33. Some translators erroneously attribute it to Jesus, which can easily be disproven, but that is for another time.
  34. Ezra 7:12.
  35. Ezekiel 26:7; Daniel 2:37.
  36. Exodus 28:41, 40:15; Numbers 3:3.
  37. 1 Kings 19:16.
  38. 1 Samuel 9:16, 16:3; 2 Samuel 12:7.
  39. Isaiah 44:24, 28, 45:1.
  40. 2 Samuel 7:7; 1 Chronicles 17:6.
  41. 2 Samuel 5:2; 1 Chronicles 11:2.
  42. Remember earlier that “Yehovah”, the name of God, is likely a contraction of these three verbs in Hebrew. See footnote 18 for more information.
  43. The phrase “the faith of Jesus” is found a few places in the New Testament in various forms, and it is often deliberately distorted as “faith in Jesus”. While we do find the phrase “faith in Jesus” a couple of times in the Apostolic Scriptures, most of its occurrences are blatant mistranslations to disguise the appeal that we have the same faith in God as Jesus did, namely the faith needed to obey him despite the temptations we face. I've written about this elsewhere and won't go into detail here, but this kind of deceit angers me.
  44. In a fragment of Revelation written in Hebrew, uncovered in the British Library and dating to the 17th century, this word is rendered as “nails” instead of “keys”. It has intriguing implications considering the implementations which held our Messiah to the tree. You can learn more about it here: and
  45. Revelation 1:17-18.
  46. Cf. 1 Corinthians 15:20-28.
  47. Revelation 21:3, 23, 22:3-4.
  48. John 4:24; cf. Acts 5:3-4, 9.
  49. 1 Corinthians 15:45.
  51. Mark 12:29-30.
  52. John 5:23.
  53. Galatians 3:16.
  54. Isaiah 11:1; Matthew 2:23.
  55. Deuteronomy 18:15-19; Acts 3:22-23.
  56. Pretty much half of the Book of Hebrews; cf. Zechariah 3:1-10.
  57. Hebrews 4:15, 12:1-2.
  58. 1 John 2:1-6; Romans 3:22; Galatians 2:16, 3:22; Revelation 14:12.


Popular posts from this blog

Why I Left Answers in Genesis

Problems with the Ark Kinds

Dangers of the Anti-Nomian Movement: A Rebuttal to Answers in Genesis