Have you ever heard anyone say, “I think Jesus was just a great teacher,” or “Jesus was a prophet, but only a man,” or “Jesus never claimed to be God”? But are those valid claims? Did Jesus really and clearly claim to be God? Yes, He did.
The gospels are filled with examples of Jesus’ claims to be one with God. Geisler and Brooks [Norman Geisler and Ron Brooks, When Skeptics Ask: A Handbook on Christian Evidences (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1990)] list the following (not meant to be an exclusive list):
On what passages in the Bible do they base these claims? Let’s examine each one.
To be Yahweh.
“Yahweh” is the personal name for God used in the Old Testament. Some older versions use the English version of the name, “Jehovah.” Most newer English versions substitute LORD in capital letters because of the Jewish tradition not to say the holy name (so we don’t really know how to pronounce it). The name comes from Exodus 3 when Moses met God on Mount Horeb and was told to go back to Egypt to deliver the Hebrews from slavery–
13 Then Moses said to God, “Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I will say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you.’ Now they may say to me, ‘What is His name ?’ What shall I say to them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM “; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, “I AM has sent me to you.’ ” 15 God, furthermore, said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘The LORD [Yahweh], the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations.
I AM WHO I AM in Hebrew is Yahweh. It comes from the Hebrew root word “to be,” and seems to mean “I have always existed – I existed in eternity past, I exist now in the present and I exist in the future.” Yahweh is the eternal, uncreated, self-existent One, who exists outside time and space, and created the universe and all that is in it..
1. Jesus also claimed to be pre-existing:
“Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?” Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and keep his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.” “You are not yet fifty years old,” the Jews said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!”8″I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am! 59 Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple.” John 8:53-59.
While many in our time may not see this statement as a claim to be God, the Jewish audience certainly knew the background of this phrase. Given the name Yahweh-I AM revealed in Exodus, the words of Jesus are extremely significant. He meant to claim that he was the eternally existing One GOD of the Hebrew Scriptures and existed even before their ancestor Abraham, and his audience understood this claim, which is why they wanted to stone him to death for blasphemy.
2. Jesus said that He and the “Father” are one, not simply in person or purpose, but also in essence (the Greek meaning of “one”).
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?” “We are not stoning you for any of these,” replied the Jews, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.” John 10:27-33
Again, his Jewish audience clearly understood his claim.