The Deity of Jesus Part 3

The Claims of the Gospel of John

Dan Barkman

In Part 2 of this series we saw that the Jesus portrayed in the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) was one who believed Himself to have a divine authority and the right to exercise divine privileges. In this installment we will examine the Gospel of John in an attempt to gain further insight into how Jesus saw Himself and how He was perceived by His disciples. For the purposes of this article, I will be assuming the historical reliability of John's gospel and that the statements and actions attributed to Jesus in this gospel can be said to accurately reflect what actually took place. Others have already produced strong arguments to that effect. [1] Moreover, recent scholarship has shown that a substantial amount of eyewitness material lies behind this gospel. [2]

Right from the beginning of this work, John wastes no time in identifying who Jesus is and His relationship to the Father. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made" (John 1:1-3). Several verses later John describes the Word as having become incarnate in Jesus Christ: "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). In John's theology, the Word is divine, had a part in the creation of our universe, and later took on human flesh. John finishes his prologue by making Jesus' identity perfectly clear. "No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known" (John 1:18). As the gospel progresses, Jesus repeatedly speaks of having pre-existed His earthly life (John 6:33, 38; 6:62; 8:23). While debating the Jewish leaders, Jesus declared that He existed prior to Abraham — despite the fact that Abraham lived centuries before Jesus' birth (John 8:58)! As in the synoptic gospels, Jesus is again portrayed as the object of worship (John 9:38); and again, He never condemns such adoration — despite being a faithful Jew who knew that worship was reserved only for Yahweh. Jesus declared that He had the power to raise Himself from death (John 10:17), equated hating Him with hating God the Father (John 15:23), and claimed to have authority over every person (John 17:2).

In one of the most discussed episodes of John's gospel, Jesus is directly referred to as "God." After having been absent for Jesus' post-mortem appearance to His disciples, the Apostle Thomas remarked, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe" (John 20:25). Jesus would soon acquiesce to Thomas' request:
A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe." Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!" Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. John 20:26-29
It is again instructive that Jesus does not correct Thomas for having referred to Jesus as his God. Rather, He accepts such a designation and adds that others who believe are blessed.

From prologue to conclusion, the Gospel of John presents Jesus Christ as an eternally divine Person who took on human flesh to provide redemption for His people so "that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16).

The Series
Part 1: The Testimony of Jesus
Part 2: The Account of the Synoptic Gospels
Part 3: The Claims of the Gospel of John
Part 4: The Assertions of the Apostles

1. Craig L. Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of John's Gospel: Issues and Commentary (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2001); F.F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are they Reliable? 6th ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1981) pp. 44-60
2. Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2006), pp. 358-411

Image Credit: Joe Shlabotnick; "King Of Kings"; Creative Commons

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Republished 4-15-12