The Search for Jesus – Program 5

By: Dr. Gabriel Barkay, Dr. Craig Blomberg, Dr. Darrell L. Bock, Dr. Magen Broshi, Dr. William Lane Craig, Dr. Craig Evans, Dr. Hillel Geva, Dr. Gary Habermas, Mrs. Claire Pfann, Dr. Stephen Pfann, Dr. Ben Witherington, Dr. N.T. Wright; ©2001
Jesus claimed to forgive sin. He claimed authority that belonged only to God. He claimed, in fact, to be the son of God; to have a unique relationship with God.

The Claims of Jesus


Announcer: When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Whom do people say the Son of Man is?” [Matt. 16:13]
Dr. Craig Evans: If I were a secular historian and looking at what Jesus is saying, I’d say this guy clearly thinks that he’s some kind of emissary from Heaven.
Announcer: They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” [Matt. 16:14]
Dr. Edwin Yamauchi: There are also many implicit indications that Jesus was more than an ordinary human being.
Announcer: “What about you?” He asked, “Whom do you say that I am?” [Matt. 16:15]
Dr. Darrell Bock: I think that the voice addressed Jesus: “You are my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” [Luke 3:22]
Announcer: Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” [Matt. 16:16]
Today, Jesus’ question continues to challenge historians and theologians, believers and unbelievers, alike. Some still acclaim him as the Messiah, the Son of God, as did his followers in the first century. Others declare that Jesus never said or did most of what is recorded about him in the Gospels. Still, the search for Jesus continues.

Dr. John Ankerberg: After Jesus began his ministry, he moved to the city of Capernaum along the Sea of Galilee. Archaeologists tell us that Simon Peter also lived here with his family. They have found the remains of Peter’s house and determined that one of the rooms was used as a house church. We traveled to Capernaum and examined the ruins of a Jewish synagogue where Jesus opened and read the Scriptures about himself and performed an exorcism. This synagogue overlooks Peter’s house, possibly the very house where Jesus said and did something that Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record.
One of the most startling statements that Jesus ever made was made right here at Capernaum when he said to a paralytic, “Son, your sins be forgiven you.” [Mark 2:5] The Jewish teachers of the Law were sitting there in the audience listening, and they said, “This is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” [Mark 2:6-7] Which brings up the question, “Who was Jesus claiming to be?”
You have a day in the life of the Lord Jesus and in that account, early account, Jesus says to a man, instead of “Be healed,” he says, “Your sins are forgiven,” and they accused him of blasphemy. And He told the religious leaders what?
Dr. Darrell Bock: He told the religious leaders “That you might know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins, I say to him, ‘Get up and walk.’” [Mark 2:10-11] I love this story! The guy drops down out of the roof. His friends are there. Jesus first says to him, “Your sins are forgiven.” He’s lying there on the mat. He basically says, “That isn’t why I came here. I mean, I appreciate the fact that you want to forgive my sins, but the reason I came here was so I could get up and walk.”
And then what Jesus does is he links sin and walking together so that you have an audio-visual of the sin claim, which you can’t see, with the evidence of God’s work through him. So that when he gets up and walks, his walk talks and says, “Sin’s been forgiven and look who did the forgiving.”
And so in that context Jesus displays his authority and who he is.
Dr. Claire Pfann: The right to forgive sins, of course, is a right that only belongs to God, but Jesus in his healing power, whether he heals or whether he forgives sins, is still executing a divine imperative, a divine privilege.
Dr. Ben Witherington: And of course the crowd, or the Jews who were there, react negatively: How in the world could he know this? How could he… I mean he’s not been to the temple, he has not offered a sacrifice, he hasn’t heard the pronouncement of the priest, “Your sins are absolved.” How could Jesus know that? How could Jesus say that? How would he dare say something like that?
Well, at the very least the Markian narrative is saying that Jesus believed that he had the authority to pronounce the forgiveness of sins. What kind of person had that kind of authority?
Dr. John Ankerberg: Yes. And they called that blasphemy.
Dr. Ben Witherington: Exactly, which is the bestowing on yourself prerogatives that only God should have.
Dr. John Ankerberg: But in addition to claiming he had the authority to forgive sins, did Jesus ever come right out and claim to be the Son of God in a unique sense that applied to no one else?
Dr. N. T. Wright: Jesus talks about himself as the Son of God: “If you confess Me, My Father will confess you,” whatever, or “before My Father who is in heaven.” [Matt. 10:32] And then there are sayings about Jesus not knowing what the time of the destruction of Jerusalem is going to happen but “only the Father knows that and not the Son.” [Matt. 24:36] So Jesus does talk about himself as Son of God in ways which it doesn’t look as though the early Church would have made up, like the famous saying in Mark 10 where the rich young ruler says, “Good Master.” And He says, “Don’t call me good. No one is good but God alone.” [Mark 10:17-18] Now, the early Church certainly didn’t make that up.
Dr. John Ankerberg: Now, even if one uses the critics’ own assumption that only those sayings of Jesus are credible which are found in multiple sources, the evidence still shows Jesus referred to himself as the Son of God.
Dr. Gary Habermas: First of all, in Matthew 11:27 and its parallel in Luke, here we have a passage that comes from what the critics call “Q,” early sayings document. Very, very early. They believe this predates the Gospels by decades. And yet in Matthew 11:27 and its parallel [Luke 10:22] Jesus says, “No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom he will reveal him.”
Now, in that passage Jesus is claiming unique knowledge of God, and this is found in the very early “Q” strata, according to the way the critics arrange this, and that’s a tough text.
Dr. John Ankerberg: The Gospel writers also tell us that Jesus referred to God as “Abba.” [Mark 14:36] Is this evidence that Jesus thought he had a special and unique relationship with God?
Dr. Ben Witherington: We do have good, strong, historical evidence that Jesus prayed to God as “Abba,” Father, and we have multiply attested pieces of evidence that he saw himself in some sense as God’s special or unique Son.
Dr. John Ankerberg: Tell the people what “Abba” means.
Dr. Ben Witherington: Well, Abba means “father.” It means more than…. It’s not quite like the familiar term “daddy,” but it means “father dearest.” It implies an intimate relationship with one’s heavenly parent. And Jesus believed he had that unique kind of relationship which made him in some unique and special sense “the Son of God.” And there’s plenty of evidence for this. It’s in the Synoptics and the Gospel of John, it’s in the Pauline letters. [Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6] It’s all over the New Testament. It’s one of the most characteristic things that’s predicated of Jesus, that he was the Son of God.
Dr. Gary Habermas: So you have a statement in “Q,” you have “Abba.” And maybe the strongest statement of all, Mark 13:32. Now, if you look this up you’re going to think, “Man! Is he nuts?” This isn’t a verse about the deity of Christ because Jesus is saying, “the time of my coming.” He says, “That time, no man knows; the angels don’t know; not even the Son but the Father only.” The reason that’s a strong verse that Jesus is the Son of the Father or the Son of God is that he says he doesn’t know the time of his coming.
My point is this. If the Church is making this statement up and putting the words back onto the lips of Jesus, why doesn’t he know the time of his coming? Now, I think that can be explained traditionally because Jesus had a human nature/Jesus had a divine nature. But be that as it may, that sentence does not seem like it can be made up because it’s too embarrassing. Just say he claimed to be the Son of God. No. They had to say “the Son doesn’t know the time of his coming.” And that’s a rough sentence. So Jesus probably said it.
You’ve got a “Q” statement; you’ve got an “Abba” statement; you’ve got an “I don’t know the time of my coming” statement. And I think in all of those cases we have evidence that Jesus did claim to be the Son of God, as the Gospels proclaim.
Dr. John Ankerberg: Further evidence of who Jesus claimed to be is found in The Sermon on the Mount. On a hillside near the Sea of Galilee is a place where Jesus is said to have preached this famous sermon. At the conclusion Matthew records, “When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teachings, for he was teaching them as one having authority and not as their scribes.” [Matt. 7:28] What kind of authority did Jesus have?
Dr. Darrell Bock: He forgave sin. He told the Jews what they could and could not do on the Sabbath. Now, the Sabbath is one of the Ten Commandments. You don’t mess with the Ten Commandments unless you have authority to mess with the Ten Commandments.
He talked about who should and should not be associated with. He claimed that he could sit at the right hand of the Father. That’s not any person who gets to go directly into God’s presence and, if you will, park there. You’ve got to have a lot of authority and a lot of nerve to think that you can sit next to God.
Dr. John Ankerberg: In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus taught, “You have heard that it has been said, ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery.’” [Matt. 5:27] Everyone knew this was one of the Ten Commandments. Then He declared, “But I say unto you,” [Matt. 5:28] and added to what God had said. In doing so, He indicated his words were equal in authority with God’s.
Dr. Craig Evans: He had taught as one having authority, not as the scribes. And I think authority means not only he could make pronouncements and say, “Hey, I know you’ve heard this and I know you’ve heard that, but this is the way it is.” It’s his teaching style, but it’s also backed up with the way he commands unclean spirits, “Shut up and go.” [Mark 1:25] They’d never seen that. Were there exorcists in Jesus’ day? Yes, Josephus tells us about a few. We know from other sources that there were exorcists. But, they had to do all kinds of rigmarole to get the spirit out. They would even burn incense that would go up a person’s nose to draw the spirit out through the person’s nose. Jesus would not bargain with the unclean spirit; that’s what they would do, they would argue. Jesus would just say, “Shut up and leave!” And, it happened. And people were just astounded by that. That’s an authority that we’d never seen before.
Dr. Edwin Yamauchi: There are also many implicit indications that Jesus was more than an ordinary human being. His claim to be able to forgive sins; his oneness with God the Father; and the import of this is the reaction of the Jews who tended to stone Him and cried out that this was blasphemous in his close identification with God the Father.
Dr. John Ankerberg: Another question raised about Jesus is, “Did he ever claim to be the Messiah?”
Dr. N. T. Wright: It’s often said in contemporary scholarship, and has been for over a century, that Jesus couldn’t have thought he was the Messiah because only crazy people think like that and Jesus was such a shrewd teacher, etc., etc. And the Jesus Seminar have often said, “Well, Jesus taught people humility and taught that they should be self-effacing, so how could he at the same time have given himself such airs as to think that he was the Messiah?” That’s a complete misunderstanding of how first century Judaism works and of how Jesus’ vocation works. Not only was he announcing the kingdom of God, by bringing it himself, he seems to think he was not just a prophet announcing it, he was actually the Messiah.
Dr. John Ankerberg: Did Jesus ever claim to be the Messiah?
Dr. Darrell Bock: He accepted the confession of the Messiah at Caesarea Philippi. [Matt. 16; Mark 8] Now, he turned right around and began to explain what that meant because the disciples didn’t understand exactly what it meant at the time they confessed it at the starting point.
Dr. John Ankerberg: What did it mean?
Dr. Darrell Bock: Well, what it meant, of course, ultimately, was not just that he was going to be a victorious figure but that he was going to be a suffering figure. But in the context of Judaism, there was no category of “suffering Messiah,” at least to the best of the evidence that we have now.
Dr. John Ankerberg: As a result of the information in the Dead Sea Scrolls, we know that some of the things Jesus said were a clear-cut indication to people in his day that He was claiming to be the Messiah.
What do you say to those scholars that say the early disciples just invented the concept of Jesus being the Messiah?
Dr. Claire Pfann: I think that that is laughable in the face of Jewish literature from the Second Temple Period. We have to look at the Dead Sea Scrolls, for example, to see the messianic hope that existed among Jews before the coming of Jesus. We recognize, of course, things like 4Q521 – now, that’s Cave 4, Qumran, Manuscript 521 – in which it says that when the Messiah comes, he will heal the blind; he will heal the lame; and he will raise the dead. We see the same claim given by Jesus himself in Luke 7 when John the Baptist sends his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you it? The real thing? Or do we wait for somebody else?”[Luke 7:20] Jesus says, “Tell John what you’ve seen: the blind are healed, the lame walk, and the dead are raised.” [Luke 7:22] This is a pre-Christian, Jewish messianic expectation that finds its fulfillment in Jesus.
Dr. Craig Evans: I think a good example of where the Jesus Seminar is inconsistent in their own criteria is the whole question of Jesus’ messianic self-understanding. They assume that this is the early Church reading back into the Gospels. Here’s the problem with this: you have multiple attestation. Everywhere in the tradition, Jesus is regarded as the Messiah; in all four Gospels, in the Epistles, everything in the New Testament. And how in the world that could emerge in the aftermath of Easter, if Jesus had never claimed to be Messiah, had never allowed his following to think of that? Where does all of this come from? Multiply attested.
And also, another criterion is the criterion of result. How do you explain that? Or, another way of putting it is, “Where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire.” Everybody is calling him the Messiah after Easter. Where did that come from? Probably from the “fire” of Jesus himself in his ministry before Easter.
Dr. John Ankerberg: So the historical evidence that we’ve examined indicates Jesus forgave sins, taught that he was the unique Son of God, claimed to be the Messiah, and performed the very miracles the Jewish people thought the Messiah would do. But after preaching in the villages of the Galilee, Jesus went to Jerusalem, the very center of Jewish life, and a week later, he was dead. Why? We’ll turn to that next.

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