General Question

u101547's avatar

Was Jesus really God?

Asked by u101547 (193 points ) October 31st, 2007

Some people believe Jesus was God, some people believe Jesus was A god, and some people believe Jesus was a good man and teacher, and I think some people actually believe Jesus was a mythological character. It can’t be that hard to figure out, can it? How can anyone really know? What does the record of history say? Is the Bible clear on this point? Why can’t people agree?

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55 Answers

desberg's avatar

Well, for starters, the Bible is clear in my opinion about this, when in John 10:30 it says, “I and the Father are one”.

bob's avatar

Maybe it’s not too difficult to figure out what the Bible says, but lots of people distrust the Bible (or don’t know whether to believe other religions texts which describe Jesus differently—I’m thinking specifically of the Koran).

You could probably use the historical record to establish that a religious teacher named Jesus existed, or to corroborate other parts of the story of the Gospels (for example, the existence of a census in 4 B.C. or so). That wouldn’t establish whether the miracles described in the Gospels really happened, or whether God exists.

In other words, you might be able to establish the possibility that what the Bible says happened actually happened. But you won’t be able to empirically verify your assertions; it’s possible that you won’t even be able to make a clear case for the probability of any particular set of events.

u101547's avatar

gee, you sound pretty post-modern, bob.

why is it so important for you to have empirical evidence on this topic? There are a myriad of events recorded in historical docs that you have even less empirical evidence for – you weren’t there, and nobody recorded it, but you don’t mistrust all those claims. In fact, i’ll wager you never question them, you assume they are true without empirical evidence. why are you so mistrusting of claims in the bible? we cannot learn everything there is to know personally, first-hand experience. Can’t happen. At some point you gotta trust what somebody else said or wrote. Honestly, how many of our opinions were formed independently? Very few. We rely on input from others, without empirical evidence, and without first-hand experience, all the time.

desberg's avatar

One of the very best books written on this an associated subjects of Jesus Christ being who he claims he was outside the Bible itself, is “The Case For Christ” by Dr. Lee Stroebel. For me, with it’s very detailed and comprehensive investigative format, I found it to be as conclusive as possible without being there in Biblical times to witness his presence and deity myself.

brownlemur's avatar

Don’t confuse Re-constructing history with Constructing history. You can’t prove or disprove the existence of God, which is why it is called faith. As far as the bible goes, I feel a bit ignorant on the subject and I cannot discuss it in an intelligent manner. However, I am wondering as to how many versions of the bible there are, and who wrote these versions? Are the sources reliable? As a scientist I am always thinking about how to deal with a hypothesis by using observations and gathering evidence to either support or refute it (never prove). With the empirical data gathered, I can then come to a conclusion based on the best available evidence. As a curious bystander to this post, I would just like some background on the aforementioned. Let’s just remember to be respectful of each other and the views of one another, no matter how you see the world or how antithetical to your belief system someone’s post is.

u101547's avatar

brownlemur, help me out here, please. Your comment, “As a curious bystander to this post, I would just like some background on the aforementioned. Let’s just remember to be respectful of each other and the views of one another, no matter how you see the world or how antithetical to your belief system someone’s post is.” What are you asking/saying? I am a little confused
.

brownlemur's avatar

I mean, I am in no way religious, and don’t want to pretend that I know what I am talking about. By background, I mean, how many versions of the bible are there and are they in agreement or are they contradictory? What are competing hypotheses regarding Jesus and his life/existence?

u101547's avatar

thank you for your quick reply.

my understanding is this:

“The Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew, and the New Testament was written in Greek. The first translation of the English Bible was initiated by John Wycliffe and completed by John Purvey in 1388. A few chapters of the books Ezra (ch. 4:8–6:18; 7:12–26) and Daniel (ch. 2:4 to 7:28), one verse in Jeremiah (ch. 10:11, and a word in Genesis (ch. 31:47) are written, not in ancient Hebrew, but in Aramaic. Aramaic is about as closely related to Hebrew as Spanish is to Portuguese. However, the differences between Aramaic and Hebrew are not those of dialect, and the two are regarded as two separate languages.

From which language was the KJV was translated. Here is how it came about: 54 college professors, preachers, deans and bishops ranging in ages from 27 to 73 were engaged in the project of translating the KJV. To work on their masterpiece, these men were divided into six panels: two at Oxford, two at Cambridge, two at Westminster. Each panel concentrated on one portion of the Bible, and each scholar in the panel was assigned portions to translate. As guides the scholars used a Hebrew Text of the Old Testament, a Greek text for the New. Some Aramaic was used in each. They consulted translations in Chaldean, Latin, Spanish, French, Italian and Dutch. And, of course, they used earlier English Bibles—at least six, including William Tyndale’s New Testament, the first to be printed in English. So what language did they use? Everything that was available.

The first American edition of the Bible was probably published some time before 1752.

The Bible has been translated in part or in whole as of 1964 in over 1,200 different languages or dialects.”

Modern translations always begin with the oldest texts, and involve many scholars. The differences are usually attributable to slight differences of opinion regarding what any particular ancient foreign word meant in that culture. Great effort and debate can be engaged to balance the purest definition of the single word with the usage of that word in the context of the sentence, paragraph, book, and entire bible.

But sometimes the contemporary culture influences the translators to use language that will be, well, contemporary. Sometimes a translation team will bow to the preconceived doctrines of the religious group they represent, to the detriment of the translation.

bob's avatar

I don’t mean to sound too postmodern on this answer; if anything, I think my answer sounds modern (i.e., it’s based on empirical skepticism rather than postmodern relativism). I didn’t mean to explain my beliefs as much as explain why people do disagree—that’s the question.

To add to u101’s post above, the Christian Bible is a collection of texts. The New Testament was canonized over a period of centuries. The wikipedia page is somewhat helpful about this, but it’s a complex issue. link.

Is it important to have empirical evidence for Christianity? I don’t know. I find it important to believe that the events described in the Bible could have possibly happened—so I find it reassuring that there is some historical basis to believe that Jesus existed.

It’s probably stupid to ask for empirical evidence of God’s existence—even though I really want it. But the reason I bring it up is that the lack of verifiable evidence is one reason so many people disagree on the subject of religion. That’s the question.

I would also like to note that Jesus’s disciples are described as having great faith, even though they’d seen Jesus perform miracles. They had proof, and they also had faith. I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive.

hossman's avatar

There generally is no longer any serious historical question that a man Jesus existed. Contemporary accounts from non-Christians such as Josephus and the numerous eyewitness accounts of others confirm a man Jesus lived at that time and also confirm a number of what I guess you would call the “secular” events of his life (his travels, his Passover entry into Jerusalem, etc.). It has been quite some time since any serious historian questioned whether this man existed historically. I have read a comparative article by a non-Christian historian that suggested there is more historical confirmation of the life of Jesus than there is of the life of Alexander the Great. Thus Jesus the man is almost certainly not a “mythological character.” That part, probably the least significant part, isn’t hard to figure out. The evidence of the historical existence of his disciples, including Paul, Peter, Thomas, James, Matthew, Luke and John is even more clear, as there are many contemporary Roman and Jewish (in other words, non-Christian) records of their lives and the events in their lives after the death of Jesus.

The rest of the question above then is: was Jesus God, was Jesus a god, or was Jesus just a man. I think the best place to start is with what Jesus the historical person CLAIMED to be. Jesus NEVER claimed to be God the Father, but rather claimed to be “one with God,” “Son of Man,” “Son of the Father,” and the Jewish Messiah. This is an important distinction. Most of Christianity (excluding the various Unitarian and Binatarian sects) believes in a Triune God composed of one God with three Persons. What that means exactly is difficult to conceptualize, requires far more space than we have available here, and has been the subject of debate and division for as long as Christianity has existed. In fact, it is that concept that has led to more fragmentation in Christianity than any other. I’m not sure it is possible to fully understand this concept, nor is it necessary to understand it to be a Christian or attain salvation, rather it is only necessary to believe it is so. It is one of those things I take on faith, just as Robert Sherman takes on faith that God does not exist. So to paraphrase, and probably give the interplay between Jesus the Son and the Triune God short shrift, Jesus did NOT claim to be all of God, or the same as God the Father/Creator, but did claim to be “part” of God. My phrasing here is imperfect.

Most of Judaism, I imagine, denies Jesus was even a god. Islam denies Jesus was a god (and also denies Mohammed was a god, Islam states there is no God but Allah, Jesus and Mohammed are merely human, non-Divine prophets of God). Jesus denied He was “a god,” as He repeatedly stated the only path to God was through Him (Jesus), thus there could not be any other God (although the Bible does discuss other gods, at least today the modern trend is to interpret this as referring to false gods, either non-existent mythological “things” mistakenly worshipped by humans or existing demons posing as gods, as opposed to gods referring to existing supernatural “powers” or deities of lesser power than God).

The polytheistic and pantheistic beliefs in “multiple paths to Paradise” or that the God of Islam is the same as the God of Judaism and Christianity and the same as various other culture’s Gods, and that all faiths and religions are equivalent paths to “heaven” or “enlightenment” or whatever destiny/fate is chosen, is a modern trend, gaining ground both within and outside of Christianity, but is unsupported (in my reading and study) by any statements of Jesus, his disciples, or any of the early Christian authorities.

Trying to conceptualize the exact nature of Jesus has also been a difficult debate within Christianity, with opinions ranging from Jesus being entirely human, to Jesus being entirely Divine, with myriad variations between (such as Jesus the man was possessed by God, Jesus was only a physical “illusion” created by God, etc.). I myself choose to believe Jesus was simultaneously both God and Man, as if he was not Divine God, his death’s sacrificial atonement for our salvation would have no power, and if he was not earthly Man, his sacrifice would have no meaning (if you are solely Divine, then you could simply “turn off” the pain of the crucifixion). Again, my explanation is flawed as trying to recreate the full significance and weight of these concepts would require much more thought and editing than I can provide at this time.

As Jesus claimed he was both Son of Man and Son of God, then three possibilities exist: 1) Jesus was insane; 2) Jesus was a liar; or 3) Jesus was the human and Divine Messiah. I choose to believe he was the Messiah. That is a choice. It requires faith. I cannot prove it, no one can disprove it. It is neither more logical and intellectual, nor less logical and intellectual than any other faith or religion, or even agnosticism and atheism, the religions that deny they are religions. Unlike some religions, and despite the image portrayed by our media and culture, Christianity (or at least the majority of Christianity) has a history of permitting open debate and differences of opinion on all of these questions. That is why there is such an immense variety of practices, sects and denominations within Christianity. I can only speak for my own beliefs and what I perceive to be the majority view or views within Christianity. Jesus was a liar, lunatic, or Messiah. It’s up to you to decide.

desberg's avatar

Hossman. Great answer. The only thing I would add from the beginning should have been, Jesus is God, (as part of the Trinity of God the Father, God the Son (Jesus) and God The Holy Spirit); not “Was Jesus really God”.
You are absolutely right in my opinion that we all have a choice to make concerning this issue. For me Ephesians 2:8–9 “For by Grace are you saved, through faith, it is the gift from God, not of works lest anyone should boast” . There is nothing we can do to earn our way to eternal life in heaven, it’s a free gift for the taking. And John 14:6, Where Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one come to the father except through Me”
That’s what I believe and now you all are free to believe that or not, but you will now never be able to say you have not heard the Gospel. In my opinion, what you do decide about this, will determine where you will spend eternity. I choose to believe with all my heart that Jesus is who He said He is and that he died for my sins and yours, rose from the dead and is coming again, and soon I believe. No other “religious” leader in Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, or any other “ism” died for my sins and rose from the dead, but Jesus did.
I’m not religious either, but I do have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior and believe that indeed He is The Messiah.

Poser's avatar

I know this is going to come off as negative and judgmental, and I truly don’t intend it to be, but I’ve never appreciated how Christians come off when they begin doing their “Christian duty” of preaching the gospel. It’s almost as if simply by stating the magic words “Jesus died for your sins,” our job is done, and we can get back to what we were doing.

I always imagined a superhero with a big “C” on his chest. The red phone rings, and he cries, “There are souls to be saved!” With that he slides down his pole, rushes to where people who’ve never heard the Gospel are gathered, states, “Don’t you know that Jesus died for your sins and only by accepting Him into your heart can you be saved?” and with a hearty “My job here is done,” he rushes off to save someone else.

It’s almost as if Christians have to make sure every person they’ve ever come into contact with has heard those magic words so they won’t have to be held accountable for not having said it. On judgment day they can point their finger and say, “Don’t blame me, God. I told him.”

Christians seem to put too much emphasis on the command to spread the word, and not enough emphasis on the one to treat others with respect and dignity. Maybe it’s all those years of Sunday school teachers telling us we are in God’s army that we think we have to be militant.

Please note, I’m not criticizing anyone here personally. This is just something I’ve noticed in my experiences and desberg’s post merely reminded me.

To answer the original question, it’s not that hard to know—it’s impossible to know if Jesus was (or is) God. Just as it’s impossible to know if Allah, Buddha or Dr. Pepper are God(s). The reason no one can agree on this is really not that different than the reason people can’t agree on many, many things—we are six billion individuals, all unsure of what happens when we shuffle off this mortal coil. And that scares us. We need something to grasp onto for hope. Once we find such a thing, since it all relies upon faith in the unknowable, our hope lies on shaky ground. Anything that disagrees with our conclusions threatens to send our hope crashing to the ground. Therefore we fight (figuratively and, unfortunately sometimes literally) to defend our faith. The more we defend, the more we believe. It’s almost like all the other religions make our faith stronger, because it gives us something to defend our religion against.

bob's avatar

Nice answer, Hossman. I am skeptical, however, of the trilemma you raise. I’ve read C.S. Lewis’s account of it, and Josh McDowell’s, and I think there are more options about what to believe about Jesus than just “Lord, Liar, or Lunatic.” Maybe he was a great teacher who had delusions of grandeur; maybe he was a great teacher whose disciples (and their disciples) amplified his stories after his death, as can happen in an oral culture (and especially in a culture that might not value the literal truth of a story as much as the moral or figurative truth). Maybe the Gospels are inaccurate—maybe we chose the wrong gospels.

I also tend to think that there are religions I can rule out—Scientology, for example, seems less logical and intellectual than either Christianity or atheism. (This is not to say I might not be wrong about Scientology in particular; I just want to illustrate that it’s possible to imagine a religion that isn’t equally logical to any other. Poser doesn’t really think there’s any chance Dr. Pepper is a god. I think we can rule that one out safely.)

aguy's avatar

Jesus is not God but God’s Son. If Jesus was God, why in Mark 10:18 Does he respond when referred to as a Great teacher “Why do you call me Good? No one is Good except God!”

Also, if Jesus was God, then why at Jesus baptism did God’s voice state “You are my son the beloved I have approved you” (Luke 3:21–23; Matthew 3:17) What was God saying that he was his own son and he approved of himself?

If Jesus was God, then how come at Matthew 28:18 he states “All authority has been given me in heaven and on the earth”. The wording specifically states that he has been “given authority”. If he was God he wouldn’t need to be given authority since he would already have it. Also, if he was God who could possibly grant God authority anyway?

Or how about Hebrews 5:8 where it states that “Though he was a Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered.” If Jesus was God, then shouldn’t God know everything therefore why would he and how could he learn anything if he already knows all there is to know? So doesn’t he already know what obedience is? Yet Jesus learned obedience! Also, of what value would obedience be to God anyway? God is refered to in the bible as almighty. Therefore, he doesn’t need to be obedient to anyone as he is the ultimate authority. But Jesus could learn obedience because he is God’s son and not God. He therefore has to be obedient to God just as we do. Unlike God Jesus does not know everything.

Jesus is also not equal to God as John 14:28 clearly states where Jesus says “The Father is greater…” Similarly, 1 Corinthians 11:3 states that the head of every man is Christ, in turn the head of the woman is the man, in turn the head of Christ is God”
Clearly showing once again that Jesus is inferior to God. Or how about John 20:17 where Jesus states “I am ascending to My Father and your Father and to my God and your God” clearly showing that God is God to Jesus as well.

Also, if Jesus was God who would have resurrected him to life after he died? The bible shows in Ecclesiastes 9:5 that the “dead are conscious of nothing at all” therefore if Jesus was God that would imply that God was mortal. If God was in fact mortal then why would Satan not have tried to kill God?

Or how about this scripture: Matthew 24:36 “Concerning that day and hour nobody knows, neither the angels of the heavens nor the Son, but only the Father” If Jesus were God or equal to God he should be expected to know what God knows here once again he is shown having less knowledge than God.

Further evidence that Jesus is not God can be found in the following bible verses:
John 20:31; Gal. 3:16; John 19:25;Acts 7:55;Mark 14:61–64;John 3:16–18;Psalm 110

Furthermore, to say Jesus is God shows a lack of understanding of scripture from another perspective. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God, they did so because of Satan convincing them that knowledge of Good and Bad and independence wre more important than obeying God. Later Satan pushed his claim even further by claiming in essence that no one would serve God if given the chance and that the only real reason why mankind serves God is due to selfish reasons. If you look at Job 1:8–11 it says“Is it for nothing that Job has feared God? Have not you yourself put up a hedge about him and about his house and about everything that he has all around? But, for a change, thrust out your hand, please, and touch everything he has [and see] whether he will not curse you to your very face.” Satan, shortly later, went even further by stating in Job 2:4,5:
But Satan answered Jehovah and said: “Skin in behalf of skin, and everything that a man has he will give in behalf of his soul. For a change, thrust out your hand, please, and touch as far as his bone and his flesh [and see] whether he will not curse you to your very face.”

So Satan was directly challenging God and insinuating that humans only serve God because it benefits them. He implied that no human would serve God if it no longer benefited them or suited their purpose. In order to answer this challenge, God would have to prove that humans would serve him if given a choice. How could God prove Satan wrong though when. by this point in time, all human beings on earth were imperfect and could not perfectly serve God if given the choice? Clearly, God needed a perfect human to accomplish this task and prove Satan wrong. Since there were no humans on earth, God could only choose from the heavenly realm. Jesus clearly accepted this mission as God’s heavenly angel refered to as Michael in his pre-human existence. That is why it states at Matthew 20:28 “Just as the Son of man came, not to be ministered to, but to minister and to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many.” Jesus gave his life as a “propitiatory sacrifice” for our sins as also stated in 1 John 2:2 “And he is a propitiatory sacrifice for our sins, yet not for ours only but also for the whole world’s.” If Jesus was God, God could not answer Satan’s taunt by sacrificing his own life for our sins as that wouldn’t prove anything. Satan was saying that “no human” would serve God if given the choice. Certainly Satan would have laughed in God’s face if God were to transform himself into human form as Jesus and then offer his own life up. In summary, Jesus is not God but God’s Son as shown over and over again through scripture.

Any who claim that Jesus is God, are in fact, part of the antichrist. After all, Jesus himself never claimed to be equal to God. Also, the term antichrist means in place of or against Christ. To claim Jesus is equal to God or that Jesus is God when he is not would certainly not please God or Christ. Therefore, this teaching is clearly “demon inspired”. As the scripture itself says, (1 John 4:1) Beloved ones, do not believe every inspired expression, but test the inspired expressions to see whether they originate with God, because many false prophets have gone forth into the world.

Soon as stated in 1 Corinthians 15:24 “Next, the end, when he hands over the kingdom to his God and Father, when he has brought to nothing all government and all authority and power” Jesus who is currently ruling over the earth will hand the kingdom back to God once again showing Jesus is not God!

hossman's avatar

aguy is an example of why the concept of the Triune God has led to such division in Christianity. aguy asserts Jesus the Son is not “equal” to God the Father. I respectfully disagree. aguy cites a few Scriptures that are really tangential to that issue and not relevant, but also a few Scriptures that appear to support his position, if given certain interpretations. While this is not the forum, I could cite many Scriptures supporting the assertion Jesus is “coequal to but distinct from God the Father.” Others would assert there is no distinction between Jesus and God the Father, and support Scriptures in support, and again I could cite Scripture for the contrary position.

I do have to take exception to aguy’s assertion “Any who claim that Jesus is God, are in fact, part of the antichrist.” First, that is a position wholly without support in the Bible. Second, it is unnecessarily antagonistic and contrary to the Christian ideals of tolerance and love, even for those who are spiritually mistaken or misled. Third, aguy wholly evades the distinction clearly made in my post, that Jesus is NOT God the Father, but is rather one of the three Personhoods composing the Triune God. While I don’t wish to enter a passionate theological debate with aguy, I would point out that such an antagonistic and absolutist position toward the question of the divinity of Jesus is far more consistent with Islam than with Christianity. Further, aguy’s assertion Jesus was an angel rather than one of the Triune aspects of God suggests to me not only is aguy’s theology outside the majority of Christianity, but would qualify as heresy and blasphemy to the Catholic Church and many other denominations. In fact, on review, I suspect that although aguy has not disclosed it, aguy is very possibly a Jehovah’s Witness, a denomination some authorities label as part of Christianity, but I myself would say is outside the proper scope of Christianity as it denies the Triune God.

@bob: It is possible Jesus was, as you say, a teacher with “delusions of grandeur,” but that would place Him in either the liar or lunatic category, and thus is not contradictory to my assertion. As far as the assertion Jesus’ disciples created a mythology re Jesus’ divinity after His death, while again possible, the disciples were very quickly dispersed throughout the world. In some regards, they had contrary views regarding some nonessential doctrine (Acts makes clear there was dissension between Paul and the Gentile Christians and James and the Jewish Christians). It strains credulity, in my opinion, that they all conspired to form this amazingly consistent mythology, even when they were not in contact with each other. As an example, Thomas traveled to India and spread the Gospel to India. The Church in India was without any significant contact with the rest of the Church for centuries, yet when the Western Church came to India, they found there was very little theological difference between the two churches despite centuries of isolation. In my opinion, the position that Jesus’ assertions of his divinity were created by a conspiracy of followers is the least possible of the options, as conspirators are seldom this consistent. This theory, however, has the potential of being provable, if credible historical documentation was found establishing Jesus never made these assertions and establishing a conspiracy.

@poser: I can agree with you that many Christians do a better job of the initial sharing of the Gospel than they do of follow-through and long-term guidance of the unbelieving into the faith. Part of this is a function of time, as it is difficult to follow-through on anything if you do not have repeated opportunities for contact. I must disagree that Christians do not treat others with respect and dignity. My observations are that we do. Since some people define any attempt on our part to share or practice our faith, as our faith requires of us, as offensive, then these people are finding offense when none is intended. I have never seen a Christian continue past a polite “no thank you” from another. There are, of course, exceptions in ANY group.

As for your “SuperChristian” image, hey, that’s just plain funny, and is a valid criticism. However, acceptance of Christianity IS just as easy as you described, a sincere belief that Jesus died for our sins. Why should a religion be difficult? The hard part is maintaining that faith in our lives.

Given that a Christian sincerely believes that acceptance of Jesus’ sacrifice brings a person’s soul from eternal reward to eternal punishment, how could any moral person believing that not feel an obligation to share this message? If your inaction might result in such severe consequences, how could you not act? It would be like walking past a drowning man. Perhaps part of the problem is overzealousness by a few individuals you have met. Perhaps part of the problem is you choose to be offended. Try approaching these moments as that person having a genuine concern for your well-being. To use an imperfect analogy, think of it as if that person was a physician telling you that you are ill, but you disagree. Thank them for their opinion, and either listen to it, or politely move on.

Christians every day must deal with others trying to dissuade us from our chosen path, yet we are met with criticism when we act consistent with our beliefs. If Christians reacted to atheists, agnostics, and other faiths in the hostile manner with which we are often treated, then we would deserve the labels we are frequently undeservedly given.

desberg's avatar

I believe Jesus is eternally the Son of God. Perhaps no name or title of Christ has been so misunderstood as this one. Some have taken the term to mean that Christ came into existence at a point in time and that He is in some way inferior to the Father. Some believe that since Christ is the Son of God, He cannot possibly be God in the same sense as the Father. Such an understanding is based on a faulty conception of what “son of” meant among the ancients. Though the term can refer to “offspring of”, it carries the more important meaning “of the order of”. The phrase is often used this way in the Old Testament. For example, “sons of the prophets” meant “of the order of prophets” (1 Kings 20:35). “Sons of the singers” meant “of the order of singers” (Nehemiah 12:28). Likewise, the phrase “Son of God” means “of the order of God”, and represents a claim to undiminished deity.

Modern_Classic's avatar

Does anyone know when (year) the gospels were first written down?

desberg's avatar

I believe this is a reasonable question. To try to respond to it in short fashion would not be providing a reasonable answer. This type question and a wealth of related questions on the subject of Jesus Christ is handled quite well in the book I referenced earlier by Lee Strobel, “The Case For Christ”. It was as an award-winning reporter for the Chicago Tribune and an avowed atheist that Lee Strobel first investigated the greatest news story of all-the Gospel of jesus Christ. He presents compelling evidence and expert testimoney for the claims of Christianity. Strobel ferrets out historical evidence, scientific evidence, physchiatic evidence, and other evidence that addresses Jesus’ death, the missing body, eyewitness accounts, and claims of personal encounters.
I challenge any doubters, agnostics, and so-called atheists to keep an open mind and read it, if you have the intestinal fortitude.

hossman's avatar

To respond to Modern Classic and the original poster, this is a difficult question. It is very helpful that you have narrowed this to the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), as trying to answer that question for the whole Bible would take way too much space.

Perhaps it is easier if I actually answer two questions: 1) When were the Gospels first written down; and 2) What are the probable dates of the existing fragments of written copies of the Gospels. These are two separate questions, as the first original manuscripts, written down or dictated by the authors, apparently have not been found.

Historically, the most probable dates of Jesus’ death are April 3, 33 A.D. or April 7, 30 A.D. For various reasons we don’t have space to go into, I prefer April 3, 33 A.D.

As to the dates when the Gospels were first written, “conservative” scholars tend to advocate earlier dates, “liberal” scholars later dates (these labels do not refer to political beliefs). I am an advocate of the Augustinian hypothesis which relies upon the historical accounts of early Christian authorities in the 2nd century A.D. rather than modern attempts at textual analysis, many of which I find to be either flawed or straining to support a particular viewpoint. These dates are based on the accounts of Irenaeus and Origen, two early Christian authorities I find to be consistent and reliable. Their accounts were based on accounts which were only two or three generations removed from the original writings. The most important account was that of Papias, who had been a student of John, and had learned the dates of the Gospels from John. This would then be about as authoritative as the accounts of Plato and Socrates we have been given by their students.

The Augustinian hypothesis has recently received strengthened support by modern scholars, including W.R. Farmer, B.C. Butler, John Wenham, and surprisingly, the usually very “liberal” John Robinson. These scholars estimate the date of the first writings of the Gospels as follows: Matthew: 40–60 A.D., Mark 45–60 A.D., Luke 57–60 A.D., and John 40–70 A.D.

The strongest argument for these early dates is that the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament would have certainly made some mention of the death of Paul in 65 A.D.or the complete destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 A.D.

Although seldom discussed by scholars, I find another convincing argument to be the accounts of Eusebius of Caesarea, perhaps the first “official” Christian historian, who wrote in 325 A.D. that Pantaneus, an early missionary, viewed in India in 180 A.D. a copy of a manuscript of Matthew that the disciples Bartholomew and Matthew had taken to India around 60 A.D., certainly before Thomas’ death in 72 A.D. This is consistent with Indian accounts. Further, Jewish authorities hostile to Christianity describe a “parody” of Matthew written by Rabban Gamaliel around 70 A.D.

My own conclusion is the Synoptic Gospels were probably written between 40 and 60 A.D., with John written 10 to 20 years later. Thus, the Synoptic Gospels would have been first written 10 to 30 years after Jesus’ death.

Scholars used to generally agree the earliest existing manuscript is the Rylands Library Papyrus P52, a fragment of John generally dated by scholars to have been written between 125 and 160 A.D., although the full potential range for its writing is roughly 50 to 325 A.D. Recent finds and redating of some of the fragments in the Dead Sea scrolls now lead some scholars to suggest these text fragments may have been written as early as shortly after the death of Jesus to 60 A.D.

u101547's avatar

Poser, regarding your comment above, it is very understandable how you and many others might come to the conclusion you have regarding the intentions of Christians who tell others the gospel message. I hope you will read this with kindness but firmness:It is unfortunate, but you have misunderstood a majority of those people’s intentions. Below is a very simple and accurate explanation of the intentions of most Christians. (These comments were written to Christians, by the way.)

“Jesus cares so much about the salvation of lost souls and the spiritual growth of believers that He has asked us not to just sit back and enjoy our own relationship with the Lord but, out of love and compassion for others, to take our spiritual knowledge and the gift of eternal life to a world in need.”
-David Jeremiah
“God loves you tenderly. What He gives you is not to be kept under lock and key but to be shared.”
-Mother Teresa

The reason Christians behave this way is because their Savior asked them to do this. It is out of love, joy, respect and obedience that they speak. Some are not as good at it as others, and that fact is not lost on Christians, but they are compelled to, “Go tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere.”

desberg's avatar

Right on target u101547.

Espin01's avatar

Because there is only one god in Christianity, God, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost are all the same person.

desberg's avatar

It is my understanding that, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are “persons” in the sense that each has the personal attributes of mind, emotions, and will, and each of the three is aware of the others, speaks to the others, and carries on a loving relationship with the others. If you find it difficult to comprehend all this, you are in good company.
A story is told that one day while puzzling over the doctrine of the Trinity, the great theologian Augustine was walking along a beach when he observed a young boy with a bucket, running back and forth to pour water into a little hole. Augustine asked, “What are you doing?” The boy replied, “I’m trying to put the ocean into this hole.”
Augustine smiled, recognizing the utter futility of what the boy was attempting to do.
After pondering the boy’s words for a few moments however, Augustine came to a sudden realization. He realized that he had been trying to put an infinite God into his finite mind. It can’t be done. We can accept God’s revelation to us that He is triune in nature and that He has infinite perfections. But with our finite minds we cannot fully understand everything about God. Our God is an awesome God.

Poser's avatar

But the attitude with which many Christians tell the Gospel message is fear, not love.

As in, “I’m afraid God will judge me for not telling this person about the Gospel, so I’ll do it for fear of God’s wrath.”

I concede there are exceptions, but statements such as “You will now never be able to say you have not heard the Gospel,” make me wonder about the speaker’s motivation.

desberg's avatar

Poser.
Perhaps the driving force for many Christians, and I can tell you it is for me, is the often quoted Bible verse, John 3:16–17, “For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in Him, shall not perish but has eternal life” and verse 17, “For God did not send His Son to condem the world, but to save the world through Him”.
Does that sound like fear to you?

u101547's avatar

Poser, I believe you when you write that you have seen, heard and read presentations of the gospel that rubbed you the wrong way. I sympathize with you when you get turned off by those roughly hewn sermons (mini or otherwise). I have been offended and turned off by them myself. But I think it is wrong to claim to know that “the attitude with which many Christians tell the gospel message is fear, not love.”

Motivations are extremely complex and partially subconscious. We don’t always know ourselves well enough to know what motivates us to do the things we do. I doubt that others can know with certainty either. How undeniably frequent is the experience of being misunderstood? Universal, I would say. How can that happen so often? Other people making assumptions about what they think our motivations are.

The attitude may look like fear, but maybe it is fear of offending you, or fear of being rejected, or fear of getting punched in the nose (!) or maybe it isn’t fear at all…just nervousness. Or maybe they just need to find a restroom soon. Unless they tell you outright, or you see clear and obvious behavior to prove your suspicions, it is just that: a suspicion…a guess.

Granted, there are hateful, angry, bitter, fearful people who either are Christians or who think they are Christians. And they stick in our craw and they stick in our memory, but do we know for certain how many of these people there are? Can we say they are “many”, or “most” or a majority? I have been a true believer, a Christain, for over 50 years and I can count on one hand the people I have met who left that kind of an impression on me. They most certainly are not the majority based on my experiences in America and Europe. I know they exist, but they haven’t crossed my path in majority numbers.

Poser's avatar

How to explain the sermons I’ve heard warning Christians about the judgment they’ll face when God asks why they didn’t preach the Gospel to enough people?

Spiritual fear mongering.

u101547's avatar

Oh, I agree with you here, my friend. Clearly, those sermons have been preached. Clearly, some wish to engender fear. Clearly, some are afraid.

Clearly, you have been negatively affected.

Are they a majority? Are they even “many”? I don’t think the evidence exists to support that claim. But they sure get the press. Everybody loves to hate a bad Christian. He may be America’s favorite whipping boy.

But more important than anything else we have discussed are the questions, “Is that orthodox? Is that the right way to believe? Is that the right way to behave? Is that what God wants? Is that really what it says in the Bible?” No, no, no, no, and no. Poser, look around you. There are hypocrites everywhere. Do they all wear a cross around their neck or wear Jesus jewelry? No. Hypocrisy is not exclusive to Christians. Hypocrisy is not a Christian trait. All around us are people who claim to support, agree with and live by a system or credo, but really don’t. Hypocrites, every one.

It is manifestly unfair to judge any system of belief by its hypocrites, or even by its unfortunately mistaken and wrong-headed proponents. Have you ever met wrong-headed Christians? Get over it! Move on! Don’t let them cause you to go off the track and into the weeds

The test of Christianity is: “Is it true?” A tough question, at best, but the essential one. “Is it true? Is Jesus really God, like orthodox, historic Christianity claims? Did that fellow really die and then come back to life three days later?”

Because if that IS true, then all the rest is a moot point. It is just a distraction. Because if THAT is true, then he really did save me, and I owe him more than I can ever repay. I owe him my entire existence. If it IS true, I am selling out for him. I am going to do the best I can not to by hypocritical, not to be a phony, to love him and live for him. Does that mean I am perfect? Absolutely not. Flawed to the bone, but bought back from my self-inflicted doom by no other than God himself. Are there going to be problems? You betcha’. Am I going to suffer? You betcha’. Are people going to ridicule me? You betcha’. To run this race I must be focused and single-minded. The hypocrites are off in the weeds, but I must press on.

“Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.”

Poser's avatar

Granted, if Jesus did die for me, then I do owe him. But shouldn’t I try my best to avoid hypocrisy and phoniness regardless? Whether Jesus is God is rather irrelevant to the lives we should lead anyway. Isn’t the shunning of bad things good anyway? Come to think of it, are hypocrisy and phoniness bad because God told us they are, or are they inherently bad? (Somebody grab the hemlock!)

But I have to disagree with you, from an orthodox standpoint. The whole point of Jesus death was to show that we are incapable of good on our own (doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try—you just won’t succeed). You can’t keep from being hypocritical or phony. That was why he died for us.

u101547's avatar

We digress from the original question now. This will be my last post on this question, but feel free to respond to anything you like or dislike.

I think one could build a strong argument that “Good” and “Bad” are irrelevant concepts without an ultimate, authoritative, universal standard to measure by.

If there is a God, then his value system is that standard. Not mine. Not anyone else’s. And inside that system, Hypocrisy and Phoniness (hereafter,“H&P”), which are only representative of anything contrary to God’s value system for the sake of discussion, are character traits to avoid.

If there is no God, then the ultimate right is physical and intellectual superiority, and Nietzsche, Hitler and Darwin might as well be the new Trinity. And that Finnish high school shooter in the news right now is their disciple. H&P are not to be avoided at all. Rather, they are valid tools to give us an edge, to achieve dominance and superiority over “the other.” You said, “Shouldn’t I try my best to avoid hypocrisy and phoniness regardless? Whether Jesus is God is rather irrelevant to the lives we should lead anyway. Isn’t the shunning of bad things good anyway?” I disagree. Either the good is good and the bad is bad, both being true because God has these values, or good and bad are myths from the ignorant past to be shucked like corn husks because they just get in the way of what I want.

I must admit, though, I don’t quite follow what you are being disagreeable with me over. What exactly did I write that you disagree with. Quote me, please, for clarity sake.

Poser's avatar

I’m not in disagreement with anything you’ve said (though perhaps I am being disagreeable—that’s not my intention). I understand that the Christian’s charter is to “go ye forth and preach the gospel,” and I don’t have anything against that. My original point was that I’ve seen far too many Christians whose motivations for doing so I’ve had to question. You are correct (in my interpretation) about the reasons Christians are told to go out and spread the gospel. My point was simply my irritation at the Christians who do it for the wrong reasons.

There is absolutely no shortage of hypocrites outside of the Christian community. “For every man has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Even those who may not believe in Him. That means that all people lie, or cheat, or steal or “sin” in some way. And most of those people would tell you that those things are wrong, thereby making them hypocritical.

I guess, however, as a Christian, I would expect those who call themselves the representatives of the One True God to hold themselves to a higher standard (myself included). The rest of the world is going to naturally point out all Christianity’s faults—I believe the Body should beat them to the punch. I don’t wear my religion on my sleeve. Many times I’ve been approached by someone trying to convert me. I’ll listen to their spiel and imagine I’m not secure in my spiritual well-being. Most times, they come across as anything but loving. I’m always reminded of the Pharisees who knew the letter of the law, but the spirit of it was completely lost on them.

I believe Christians should lovingly preach the Gospel, and, to paraphrase a man much greater than myself, use words when necessary.

hossman's avatar

Poser, I’d suggest you perhaps have not been exposed to a fair sampling of witnessing Christians, which by the laws of statistics inevitably happens to someone. I suggest the evangelism of Christians is preferable to the forced conversion that occurs in any country where an Islamic state arises. Most of Christianity today has an open philosophical and academic approach to theology, even when it is not necessarily in the best interest of the Church or that believer. Of course, that is not true everywhere, nor has it been true at all times in the Church’s history.

I’d suggest the Body (thanks for that term, I prefer it to the Church, which impliedly does not include believers not belonging to an organized denomination, and is a term frequently taken to mean only Catholicism) does hold itself to a higher standard. That, perhaps, is the reason why it appears there is a double standard between conservative politics and liberal politics. Conservative (politically) Christians tend to require a stricter morality of the politicians they support (who tend to be conservative), while liberal Christians and other people tend to maintain a greater distinction between the personal lives and political lives of the politicians they support (who tend to be liberal). Thus, Trent Lott was forced out of Republican leadership for a relatively innocuous statement about Strom Thurmond, while Robert Byrd, a former Ku Klux Klan leader, remains in Democratic leadership. Thus, Dan Crane is not reelected by a conservative Republican district after being censured for having an affair with a 17 year old female page, while Gerry Studds is reelected by a liberal Democratic district after being censured for having an affair with a 17 year old male page. Thus, Larry Craig loses support after being charged with lewd conduct in a bathroom, while Barney Frank maintains his career after being reprimanded by Congress for his relationship to a male prostitute who was operating a prostitution business from Frank’s residence.

What does baffle me, Poser, is that, unless I am reading the post above incorrectly, you are asserting you are yourself a Christian, which would be at odds with some of your prior posts, which have asserted positions contradictory to the Ten Commandments and other Biblical prohibitions. I am thus extremely confused by your suggestion above that “we” should avoid “hypocrisy and phoniness,” as this thread would seem to be directly in conflict with the Poser we have seen in other threads.

I suggest both you and u101547 (who I wish would have a more typeable name) are correct. You are correct that “bad” and “good,” which I suggest are better labeled as “Evil” and “Righteous,” are independent of the Divinity of Christ. Christians do not have a monopoly on morality. I risk being labeled unorthodox by asserting my personal belief that in many ways Christianity could learn from Islam when it comes to leading a devout and moral life. All people should live a righteous life regardless of their religious beliefs. The avoidance of evil is always good, thus my “absolutist” position regarding lying always being wrong on another thread (is my memory correct you opposed that position?)

On the other hand, u101547 is also correct that if you reject or make relative an absolute moral code (such as that asserted by the Ten Commandments), then you have opened the door to morality being anything you wish it to be. Thus, we have Bill Clinton redefining adultery, despite maintaining he is a devout Christian. Once you open the door to Man, rather than God, defining evil and righteousness, then the only possible standards are those either asserted by the majority, or the physically or intellectually superior (in a “might,” not “right” sense).

You state you “don’t wear my [your] religion on your sleeve.” While I cannot know what you mean by this, I assert Jesus and the Bible REQUIRE evangelism of every believer. Further, they both REQUIRE leading a righteous life, as defined by God through the Scriptures. While none of us can be perfect, it would seem that these two requirements alone should make every Christian visibly different from non-Christians. We are to be in the world, but not of the world. We are not to hold our lights under a bushel. If we have lost our “saltiness,” our distinctive Christian nature, then we are not actively furthering the Gospel. We cannot be lukewarm. I don’t know what you mean by “wearing religion on your sleeve,” but you cannot assert you are a Christian while hiding your Christianity under your shirt. THAT is hypocrisy, not the occasional visible imperfections and lapses by Christians. We are all, regardless of our faith, sinners. Being human is not hypocrisy. Living a secret life of repeated sin is hypocrisy.

chloEnak's avatar

the holey trinity. believe it or not.

chatnoir's avatar

I believe Jesus is God.

gatablanca's avatar

Jesus was not a God nor he was God himself- According to my beliefs, he was an arch-angel and its written somewhere in the first part of the Bible- and In the second testament it states that Jesus is superior to man and inferior to angels- because when God(Jehovah) made his son come to earth by the virgin, Jesus became inferior to Angels. Yes he was an archangel. Also I believe that he was the archangel Michael- he’s the same and If you need more information over my theory- look for the Jehovah’s Witnesses beliefs or ask one.
Note—I’m not trying to upset noone- If anyone has a different belief- then thats absolutely fine

beccalynnx's avatar

i’m still learning what i beleive, but i do think Jesus is God, as is the Holy Spirit.

kruger_d's avatar

Yes, Jesus was God. As Lutheran I believe in a triune God, Father, Son, Holy Spirit, Three in One. I believe that I was choosen through my baptism and am saved by grace through faith. Grace is big with Lutherans. My salvation is completely beyond my control. It was writ before I was born. I don’t strive to be lead a virtuous life in order to be saved, but as a joyful response to the knowledge that I have been saved, am being saved, will be saved.

PIXEL's avatar

We are all one.

Crusader's avatar

Jesus was both Man And the Son of God. Both.

Crusader's avatar

Kruger,
Virtue and Grace are synonymous.
All sins are forgiveable-to a degree with genuine repentance,
‘The first shall be last and the last shall be first,’
Yes, the Best Places are reserved for those who are
the first to follow Christ with conviction, though they
will wait until all the other, mostly unrepentant throughout
their lives, pass through to the afterlife. The First
as Last is an Honor and they will see the face of GOD,
and have the greatest honor of eternal association
with the celestial family; wife and children…All the
righteous will be together, for eternity in paradise…
Yes, the sins of Adams transgression are absolved,
Not You Own…..........................
But True Repentance=True Forgiveness, Yet Hypocrisy
and deliberate subversion of others=Damnation….

mellamashermosa's avatar

Of course he was God. He claimed to be God and the Jews hated it…read this: “I and the Father are one.” 31 The Jews took up stones again to stone Him. 32 Jesus answered them, “I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?” 33 The Jews answered Him, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God,” (John 10:30–33)....
Now when it comes to Jesus you either have two options. Either he is the Son of God, or he is a Liar…He cannot be a JUST A GOOD MAN…because Good men dont lie…he would have been breaking the commandments…Then again, if you dont want to say that he was a liar then you are calling him crazy, but how could you call crazy and a lunatic someone who spoke suck amazing words like the Sermon on the Mount. Even Jesus’ worst enemies would not say he was a lunatic…so if he is not a lunatic, and he is not a liar then indeed he must be GOD and the DIVINE SON OF GOD for he said, “before Abraham was, I AM” in John 8:58

SirGoofy's avatar

We’ll all find out…one way…or the other.

LTaylor's avatar

Read the Bible and get you full answer.

Nullo's avatar

People don’t agree because there is no consensus on which source material to use. The Bible, which has the most to say about Him and predates the other texts says that He is God.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

I never believed Jesus was more than a teacher and a social activist.

I respect that Christians, pretty much by definition, believe Jesus was part of the G_D family and that he was the son of G_D.

Since he did not fulfill the tasks that the Messiah was to accomplish according to the predictions that preexisted his historical time, I consider him to be one of those who claimed the title before and after Jesus.

I do not criticise Christian belief, I just don’t agree with them.

Many of my people were tortured or slaughtered for such a belief. Remember the Crusades, the Inquisition, The Holocaust? I’m sure more Christians today have no plans to wipe out the Jews at this time. Most are pretty tolerant and decent people. As long as they don’t try to preach at me or try and force me to believe as they do, I am happy to live and let live.

I love G_d who is the One and only G_d not just for my people but for all peoples. He is Allah to the Muslims, and is called other things by other monotheistic religions.

Nullo's avatar

@Dr_Lawrence
Which predictions do you refer to? Some aren’t scheduled to happen for a little while yet, but I’m pretty sure that He nailed down the rest of them.
I feel that this is a good time to point out that being a Christian doesn’t necessarily mean that a person is going to act like one; one of the core tenants of the faith is that everybody’s a dirty, rotten sinner, and that that nature sticks around and messes with you for some time. Especially if you encourage it. The Crusades, for instance, were not as Christian as their perpetrators would like to have thought, being largely another excuse for conquest and plundering. And the Holocaust has absolutely no scriptural grounding.
You will likely get “preached at” at some point; it’s one of the things that we’re supposed to do, after all. But anybody who’s going to force you to convert needs to reevaluate his actions, and not just because a forced conversion is meaningless.

I’d be interested to see how you reconcile the differences between God and other monotheistic deities, and their teachings; some of that stuff is mutually exclusive.

Nullo's avatar

@Poser
“Christians seem to put too much emphasis on the command to spread the word, and not enough emphasis on the one to treat others with respect and dignity. Maybe it’s all those years of Sunday school teachers telling us we are in God’s army that we think we have to be militant.”
Could you elaborate on this? I think that there’s a confusion of terms here.

davidk's avatar

Numbers 23:19
God is not a man

Seem pretty clear to me. Though I must admit to being an atheist of Jewish heritage.

Nullo's avatar

@davidk
Keep in mind that Numbers was written before the Gospels. As you may have picked up, Jesus’ incarnation was kind of a big deal.

davidk's avatar

@Nullo
Are you suggesting that the “Words of God” in Numbers have been nullified by the “Words of Jesus” in the “Gospels?”

Nullo's avatar

@davidk Not as such, no.
“God is not a man” in Numbers. Fast-forward a couple of centuries to 0 A.D. where we see part of the Trinity incarnated. Now God is God and Man, satisfying what amounts to a technicality.

The entirety of Numbers 23:19 reads thusly:

God is not a man, that he should lie,
nor a son of man, that he should change his mind.
Does he speak and then not act?
Does he promise and not fulfill?

This says that, unlike humans, God does not lie or change His mind or mess around. Jesus can be described in exactly the same terms.

HowlingCreature's avatar

. “If you seek the Lord with all your heart and soul, you will surely find him” Deut 4:29 Try it! God is waiting and so excited to have a relationship with you! Jesus is God!

Honestly God really revealed who he is to me after sincerely seeking him. It is a humbling experience because it leaves you vulnerable, but it is the best decision you will ever make! Try it, I promise you, if you really want to know God, you will find him.

aziza's avatar

jesus is a mankind like you shosen by god .he will judged by god like you.the god is not a man.no one know him.only the one who will go to paradies will see the god soubhanaho.

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