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Was Jesus God?

Duane Troxel | Apr 30, 2015

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Duane Troxel | Apr 30, 2015

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

Jesus addressing the Apostles: “But whom say ye that I am?” And Peter answereth and saith unto him, “Thou art the Christ.” – Mark 8:29

Was Jesus God?

Probably the most vexing issue confounding Christian unity is the Christology of Christ. What relationship does the nature and person of Jesus have with the nature and person of God? In other words, was Jesus human or divine, or somehow both human and divine?

For many Christians the question of Jesus’ nature has a simple answer: Jesus was God incarnate. Thus, logically, such a doctrine makes Christianity superior to any religion founded by mere mortals, prophets or teachers. This widespread claim of exclusivity and finality characterizes the Christian doctrine of Incarnation.

At the Council of Chalcedon in 451 A.D., the prevailing Christian theology claimed that Christ possessed two natures, ‘one human and one divine.’ This doctrine, called hypostatic union, still exists today among eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic and many Protestant Christians.

holy-trinity-diagramLater, another attempt emerged to reconcile the nature of Jesus–the doctrine of the Trinity. The Trinity, as expressed in the graphic below, explains that God exists in three persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Although the word “trinity” appears nowhere in the Bible, the concept perhaps most directly derives from Matthew 28:19: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

Christian teachers sometimes explain that the Trinity resembles an egg. The egg—like the Trinity—has three parts: a shell, the white and the yolk. Another argues that one man can be a father, a son and an uncle, all at the same time; and thus be three in one.

Another approach is to argue that no analogy—however ingenious—can explain God; therefore one should stop trying to understand and simply believe. The Trinity is a mystery, and as such is incomprehensible.

The issue of the Christology of Christ is further confounded by the apparent contradictory verses uttered by Christ in the New Testament.

Jesus appears to argue that he is God. For example:

…and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father? – John 14:9, 10, 11

I and my Father are one. – John 10:30

Jesus appears to argue that he is not God:

Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good–except God alone. – Mark 10:18; Luke 18:19; Matt 19:17

No one has seen God at any time – 1 John 14:12

“For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother. – Matt 12:50

I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. – John 14:16

Logic contains the law of non-contradiction. For example, something cannot be both true and untrue simultaneously. A swan may be all white or all black, but not all white and all black simultaneously.

In Matthew 24:36, Christ is questioned about his return. He responds, “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.”

According to the law of non-contradiction, Jesus cannot be the All-Knowing God, because Jesus cannot both know and not know something simultaneously.

The Baha’i revelation offers examples that reconcile these apparent contradictions in Bible verses. Abdu’l-Baha addressed the issue of the Trinity using the analogy of the Sun (God), the Mirror (Jesus) and the Rays of the Sun (the Holy Spirit):

All that is mentioned regarding the manifestation and revelation of God pertains to the effulgence of His light and not to a descent into the degrees of existence.

God is pure perfection and the creation is absolute imperfection. For God to descend into the degrees of existence would be the greatest of imperfections; rather, His manifestation, dawning, and effulgence are even as the appearance of the sun in a clear, bright and polished mirror.

…The Perfect Man, however, is even as a clear mirror in which the Sun of Truth is revealed and manifested in the fullness of its attributes and perfections. Thus the Reality of Christ was a bright and polished mirror of the greatest purity and clarity. The Sun of Truth, the Essence of the Divinity, appeared in that mirror and manifested its light and heat therein; yet it did not descend from the heights of holiness and the heaven of sanctity to reside within it. No, it continues to abide in its loftiness and sublimity, but has been revealed and manifested in the mirror in all its beauty and perfection.

Now if we say that we have beheld the Sun in two mirrors—one Christ and the other the Holy Spirit—or, in other words, that we have seen three Suns–one in heaven and two upon the earth—we would be speaking the truth. And if we were to say that there is only one Sun, that it is absolute singleness, and that it has no peer or partner, we would again be speaking the truth.

The purport of our words is that the Reality of Christ was a clear mirror wherein the Sun of Truth—that is, the divine Essence—appeared and shone forth with infinite perfections and attributes. It is not that the Sun, which is the Essence of the Divinity, was ever divided and multiplied—for it remains one—but it became manifest in the mirror. That is why Christ said, “The Father is in the Son,” meaning that that Sun is manifest and visible in this mirror. – Some Answered Questions, (newly revised edition), pp. 127-129.

This Baha’i analogy uses the concept of manifestation, not incarnation. This explanation opens the way to understanding that the Founders of the world’s living religions all come from the same God and teach the same Faith.

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Comments

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  • Phil Walker
    Jun 23, 2020
    -
    A singularly unambiguous verse where Jesus denies being God is John 14:28, "The Father is greater than I."
  • Nima Mohajeri
    Aug 12, 2017
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    "No one has seen God at any time – 1 John 14:12"
    This verse is quoted wrong. The correct verse is : John 1:18
  • May 5, 2015
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    Duane - with respect, you err in that you do not understand the Scriptures. When Jesus asks "why do you call me good?", he is not challenging his own goodness (ie. - acknowledging in some way that he is morally inferior to God), but challenging the man's concept of "goodness", which leads to self-righteousness... In 1 Jn. 14, John is referring to God THE FATHER, who is spirit and does not have a body as the Son does... Matt.12:50 is a perfect illustration of your diagram - Jesus is NOT the Father; he is the Son. And whomever believes in ...Him (including his full deity!), is adopted into the family of God - hence, we are Christ's "brother". Jn.14:6 is the same idea - Jesus is not the Father, but he is the WAY to the Father. As the only fully God, fully Man being that has ever existed, he is UNIQUELY qualified to bring us into the presence of the Father - through his sacrificial death on the cross. That all said, your comment from earlier on in your article, is actually true(!): "Thus, logically, such a doctrine makes Christianity superior to any religion founded by mere mortals, prophets or teachers." I pray that one day you will recognize Jesus for who He truly is - the God/Man who came to save us from our sins...
    Read more...
  • May 1, 2015
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    Mankind, mortal, fallible, is yet able to recognize Holy Beings as Perfect, while at the same time, in the same estimation of fallible man, they are not perfect or they would have...well, done this or that differently. Man has failed to realize that the proof that the Sun exists is the Sun itself, and continues to challenge that belief with his own deficient understandings of Reality. But "the Books of God are open" in this day, and all knowledge is widely available. We are still learning the meaning of true knowledge.
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