Crash Goes the Da Vinci Code/Part 11
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2005|
|Dan Brown’s view is flatly false. The New Testament writers themselves fully recognized that Jesus was absolute deity.|
by Dr. Ron Rhodes, Reasoning from the Scriptures Ministries, P.O. Box 2526, Frisco, TX, 75034. 214-618-0912. www.ronrhodes.org (Used by permission.)
Is it True that Jesus Was Not Considered to be God Until the Fourth Century When Constantine “Upgraded His Status for Political Purposes?
DAN BROWN’S POSITION:
“Almost everything our fathers taught us about Christ is false.” (Page 235)
Jesus was a “mortal prophet… a great and powerful man, but a man nonetheless. A mortal.” (Page 233)
“Constantine upgraded Jesus’ status almost four centuries after Jesus’ death.” (Page 234)
“Thousands of documents already existed chronicling His life as a mortal man.” (Page 234)
“Jesus’ establishment as the ‘Son of God’ was officially proposed and voted on by the Council of Nicea…. [and it was] “a relatively close vote at that.” (Page 233)
“Many scholars claim that the early Church literally stole Jesus from His original followers, hijacking His human message, shrouding it in an impenetrable cloak of divinity, and using it to expand their own power.” (Page 233)
THE TRUTH OF THE MATTER:
Dan Brown’s view is flatly false. The New Testament writers themselves fully recognized that Jesus was absolute deity. One point of evidence is the apostle Paul’s assertion in Colossians 1:16: “For by him [Jesus Christ] all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.” Paul was a Hebrew of Hebrews, an Old Testament scholar par excellence. And Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote Colossians 1:16 against the Old Testament backdrop that only Yahweh is the Creator. Indeed, in Isaiah 44:24 Yahweh Himself asserts: “I am the LORD, who has made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself.” There can be no doubt that Paul in Colossians 1:16 was affirming Jesus as absolute deity. The same is true of the apostle John, who wrote: “Through him [Jesus Christ] all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made” (John 1:3).
Along these same lines, in Psalm 102:25-27 we read of Yahweh: “In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. Like clothing you will change them and they will be discarded. But you remain the same, and your years will never end.” Significantly, these words are quoted in Hebrews 1:10-12 as being fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ. The writer of Hebrews fully recognized the absolute deity of Jesus.
The same is true in regard to Jesus’ role as Savior. In the Old Testament we read Yahweh’s own words: “I, even I, am the LORD, and apart from me there is no Savior” (Isaiah 43:11). So, there is no Savior but Yahweh. In the New Testament, however, Jesus is repeatedly seen to be the Savior of God’s people. Indeed, in Titus 2:13 we read of “the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” There can be no doubt that Jesus is recognized here as absolute deity, centuries before Constantine and the Council of Nicea.
Still further, we see this to be true in terms of Jesus being the God of glory. In Isaiah 6:1-5, the prophet recounts his vision of Yahweh “seated on a throne high and exalted” (verse 1). He said, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord [Yahweh] Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory” (verse 3). Isaiah also quotes Yahweh as saying: “I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another” (42:8). Later, the apostle John—under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit—wrote that Isaiah “saw Jesus’ glory” (John 12:41). Yahweh’s glory and Jesus’ glory are equated. Jesus is the God of glory.
Christ’s deity is further confirmed for us in that many of the actions of Yahweh in the Old Testament are performed by Christ in the New Testament. For example, in Psalm 119 we are told about a dozen times that it is Yahweh alone who gives and preserves life. But in the New Testament, Jesus claims this power for Himself: “For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it” (John 5:21). Later in John’s Gospel, when speaking to Lazarus’s sister Martha, Jesus said: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:25).
In the Old Testament the voice of Yahweh was said to be “like the roar of rushing waters” (Ezek. 43:2). Likewise, we read of the glorified Jesus in heaven: “His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters” (Rev. 1:15). What is true of Yahweh is just as true of Jesus.
It is also significant that in the Old Testament, Yahweh is described as “an everlasting light,” one that would make the sun, moon, and stars obsolete: “The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end” (Isa. 60:19-20). Jesus will do the same for the future eternal city in which the saints will dwell forever: “The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp” (Rev. 21:23).
David F. Wells, in his book The Person of Christ, points us to even further parallels between Christ and Yahweh: If Yahweh is our sanctifier (Exod. 31:13), is omnipresent (Ps. 139:710), is our peace (Judg. 6:24), is our righteousness (Jer. 23:6), is our victory (Exod. 17:8-16), and is our healer (Exod. 15:26), then so is Christ all of these things (1 Cor. 1:30; Col. 1:27; Eph. 2:14). If the gospel is God’s (1 Thess. 2:2, 6-9; Gal. 3:8), then that same gospel is also Christ’s (1 Thess. 3:2; Gal. 1:7). If the church is God’s (Gal. 1:13; 1 Cor. 15:9), then that same church is also Christ’s (Rom. 16:16). God’s Kingdom (1 Thess. 2:12) is Christ’s (Eph. 5:5); God’s love (Eph. 1:3-5) is Christ’s (Rom. 8:35); God’s Word (Col. 1:25; 1 Thess. 2:13) is Christ’s (1 Thess. 1:8; 4:15); God’s Spirit (1 Thess. 4:8) is Christ’s (Phil. 1:19); God’s peace (Gal. 5:22; Phil. 4:9) is Christ’s (Col. 3:15; cf. Col. 1:2; Phil. 1:2; 4:7); God’s “Day” of judgment (Isa. 13:6) is Christ’s “Day” of judgment (Phil. 1:6, 10; 2:16; 1 Cor. 1:8); God’s grace (Eph. 2:8, 9; Col. 1:6; Gal. 1:15) is Christ’s grace (1 Thess. 5:28; Gal. 1:6; 6:18); God’s salvation (Col. 1:13) is Christ’s salvation (1 Thess. 1:10); and God’s will (Eph. 1:11; 1 Thess. 4:3; Gal. 1:4) is Christ’s will (Eph. 5:17; cf. 1 Thess. 5:18). So it is no surprise to hear Paul say that he is both God’s slave (Rom. 1:9) and Christ’s (Rom. 1:1; Gal. 1:10), that he lives for that glory which is both God’s (Rom. 5:2; Gal. 1: 24) and Christ’s (2 Cor. 8:19, 23; cf. 2 Cor. 4:6), that his faith is in God (1 Thess. 1:8, 9; Rom. 4:1-5) and in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3: 22), and that to know God, which is salvation (Gal. 4:8; 1 Thess. 4:5), is to know Christ (2 Cor. 4:6). Certainly Jesus was worshipped (Greek: proskuneo) as God many times according to the Gospel accounts, and He always accepted such worship as perfectly appropriate. (As God, such worship would be appropriate.) Jesus accepted worship from Thomas (John 20:28), the angels (Hebrews 1:6), some wise men (Matthew 2:11), a leper (Matthew 8:2), a ruler (Matthew 9:18), a blind man (John 9:38), an anonymous woman (Matthew 15:25), Mary Magdalene (Matthew 28:9), and the disciples (Matthew 28: 17). All these verses contain the word proskuneo, the same word used of worshipping the Father in the New Testament. Now, to draw a contrast, consider that when Paul and Barnabas were in Lystra and miraculously healed a man by God’s mighty power, those in the crowd shouted, “The gods have come down to us in human form!” (Acts 14:11). When Paul and Barnabas perceived that the people were preparing to worship them, “they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting: ‘Men, why are you doing this? We too are only men, human like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them’” (verses 14 -15). As soon as they perceived what was happening, they immediately corrected the gross misconception that they were gods. Unlike Paul and Barnabas, Jesus never sought to correct His followers when they bowed down and worshipped Him. Indeed, Jesus considered such worship as perfectly appropriate. Of course, we would not expect Jesus to try to correct people in worshipping Him if He truly was God in the flesh, as He claimed to be.
The fact that Jesus willingly received (and condoned) worship on various occasions says a lot about His true identity, for it is the consistent testimony of Scripture that only God can be worshipped. Exodus 34:14 tells us: “Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God” (cf. Deuteronomy 6:13; Matthew 4:10). In view of this, the fact that Jesus was worshipped on numerous occasions shows that He is in fact God. All this took place centuries before Constantine and the Council of Nicea.
Certainly the early church leaders believed Jesus was divine. Ignatius believed Jesus was God manifested “in human form.” Clement, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Origin, Novatian, and Cyprian all believed Jesus was God.
I could go on and on providing evidences for the fact that Jesus was recognized as absolute deity in the first century and later, but I think the above is sufficient to make the point. Allow me now to briefly shift attention to the Council of Nicea.
The Council of Nicea convened in A.D. 325 to settle a dispute regarding the nature of Christ. Arius, a presbyter of Alexandria who was the founder of Arianism, argued that the Son was created from the non-existent, and was of a different substance than the Father. There was a time, Arius argued, when the Son was not. But Christ was the highest of all created beings. Arius heavily promoted his views, sending letters to numerous churches. The effect was that Constantine’s empire was suffering religious disharmony and division. To deal with this, Constantine called the Council of Nicea so the bishops could settle the controversy.
Athanasius of Alexandria, the champion of orthodoxy, set forth the correct orthodox (and long-held) view that the Son was the same divine substance as the Father (and hence, was fully divine). Athanasius argued for the eternally personal existence of the Son. The bishops sided with Athanasius because they had long recognized that this was, in fact, the biblical teaching. Seen in this light, Dan Brown is flat wrong in his assertion that Jesus was not recognized as God until the Council of Nicea voted him as God by a “close vote.” (By the way, the vote in the council was 300 to 2, hardly a close vote.)
- David F. Wells, THE PERSON OF CHRIST (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1984), pp. 64 65.
- David Bercot, ed., A DICTIONARY OF EARLY CHRISTIAN BELIEFS (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1998), pp. 93-100.