Does the Bible teach that Jesus is God, co-equal with the Father and the Holy Spirit? Before launching into an examination of Christ’s deity, it is important to define two terms. The first is “deity.” As used here “deity” refers to “absolute” deity—not that Christ is “a god,” but that he is “the eternal God”—Jehovah. Second, from time to time I will refer to a view the early church condemned; that view is “Arianism.” Arianism recognizes only the Father as God. According to Arianism, while Christ might be viewed as a lesser deity, somewhat on a par with the highest of the angels, he is not viewed as absolute, or eternal deity; hence, to the Arian Jesus might be “a god,” but he is not “the God.” The early church rejected Arianism, and orthodox Christianity has always viewed Arianism as the most egregious heresy, since it denies the core tenant upon which the Christian faith, and the gospel, is built. It certainly seems to be true that old heresies never die; they just get recycled. Why is that? Perhaps it is because so few people really understand the basis of the Christian faith. The deity of Christ is the one doctrine that every Christian must understand and believe; in fact, it is necessary to understand this truth in order to accept the gospel of salvation.
Christ’s deity can be seen from the Bible through numerous lines of evidence; three will be examined here: biblical statements that explicitly say he is God, biblical statements that imply he is God, and biblical statements ascribing to him attributes that only God could possess.
The Bible Explicitly Says That Jesus is God
Jesus is identified as the “Messiah” (“Christ” is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word for “Messiah”). Isaiah said that the Messiah is “the Mighty God,” “the Eternal Father,” “the Prince of Peace.”
Isaiah 40:3,9 cf. Matthew 3:1-14, John 1:6-18
According to Matthew 3:1-14 and John 1:6-18, John the Baptizer fulfilled the prophetic ministry described in Isaiah 40:3-11 of the one who would proclaim the coming of the Messiah. For whom was John sent to prepare the way? It was the LORD God, i.e., Jehovah (Isa. 40:3,9). Since John’s prophetic ministry was based on Isaiah 40:3-9, and since John would have known that the one for whom he prepared the way was Jehovah, John’s testimony concerning Jesus is nothing less than a prophetic proclamation that Jesus is Jehovah. John’s prophetic proclamation is the fountainhead of the doctrine of the deity of Christ.
Isaiah 44:6 cf. Rev. 22:13-16 and Rev. 1:8
In this passage Jehovah said, “I am the first and I am the last, and there is no God besides Me.” In Revelation 22:13‑16, Jesus said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” Consequently, Revelation 22:13‑16 is a patent claim that Jesus is Jehovah—a claim already made by John. Interestingly, Revelation 1:8 begins by identifying the one who is “the Alpha and the Omega”; he is “the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty”; thus, Jesus is identified in Revelation as the eternal God.
Psalm 45:6 cf. Heb. 1:8
In Hebrews 1:8, a quotation from Psalm 45:6, the Son (Christ) is expressly called “God” (“the God”), and thus identified as the God of the Old Testament.
This is a clear and emphatic statement of the absolute deity of Christ. It is little wonder that modern-day Arians have sought to obscure these verses. Actually, this passage provides three independent witnesses to the deity of Christ: In verse 1, Christ is expressly called “God.” In verse 2, he is said to have been in the beginning with God (the Father), which could only be true if he were eternal, existing prior to the creation. In verse 3 we are told that he created all things (everything, without exception), which could only be true if he is eternal, since he could not have created himself. We will discuss verses 2 and 3 below; for now, we will focus on verse 1. Interestingly, every major English translation spells “God” with a capital “G,” in recognition that it refers to absolute deity (i.e., the God of the Bible). The Jehovah’s Witness’ New World Translation (NWT) reads, “a god.” It is the position of Jehovah’s Witness that Jesus is not absolute deity, but a lesser “god,” a created being on the same level as the angels. Such a view is untenable on at least two grounds: 1) Although Satan is referred to as, “the god of this world” (i.e., a false god), to suggest that the New Testament presents Christ as such is to display deplorable ignorance of the scriptures. The Bible is clear that there is only one true God (Isaiah 44:6,8; 45:5,6,14,18,21,22; 46:9). Unless Christ is a false god, like Satan, then he must be the true God. 2) This entire discussion is built on a misrepresentation of the Greek text of this passage by Jehovah’s Witness. In Greek, when a substantive isn’t definite, an indefinite article (“a(n)”) can sometimes be inserted, but not if the word is otherwise indicated to be definite, which is often the case. Because “God” in verse 1 does not have a definite article (“the”), the translators of the NWT inserted an indefinite article and made the last part of the verse read: “and the Word was a god.” However, such translation is completely erroneous since “God” is definite in the original. Although “God,” which in this sentence is the predicate nominative, has no article, it is definite because the subject has an article, and it is impossible to have an indefinite predicate nominative with a definite subject. The reason the article is absent from the predicate nominative (God) is that John here uses an emphatic form to emphasize the deity of “the Word” (Christ); in doing so he reversed the order of the subject and the predicate nominative, placing the predicate nominative (God) before the verb. In such cases the article must be dropped from the predicate nominative so as not to confuse it with the subject. This grammatical feature is appropriately called, “the rule of the definite predicate”; it is a common and well-understood feature of Greek grammar with which any competent translator should be familiar. If the verse is translated giving proper emphasis as indicated by the grammatical construction, it would be translated: “GOD, that’s what the Word was.”
The apostle John wrote that, “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.” Did you notice what Christ is called by John—“the only begotten God.” Remember, according to Isaiah 44:6,8; 45:5,6,14,18,21,22; 46:9, there is no God but Jehovah. Thus, John’s proclamation is a claim that Jesus is the eternal God referred to in Isaiah—the LORD God, Jehovah.
In this passage Jesus referred to the heavenly Father not as “our Father,” but as “my Father” (i.e., “my own father”), a transparent claim to be of the same substance as the Father. The Jews, understanding this claim, sought to kill him because he not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was “calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God” (v. 18). It might be charged that the Jews simply misunderstood what Jesus said; even in that unlikely case, it would have been incumbent upon John, the author of this Gospel, to point that out. Far from correcting any misimpression, John continued to reinforce the claim of Jesus’ deity throughout this gospel. If Jesus did not claim to be God, then John is to be greatly faulted for failing to present an accurate picture of what actually happened. There are really just two choices: 1) Jesus claimed to be God, or 2) John’s gospel account is not inspired.
John 8:24, 56-58
Jesus said to his audience, “…unless you believe that I am, you shall die in your sins.” Some versions read, “…unless you believe that I am he…”; however, there is no pronoun in the original. In the Old Testament God called himself “I am” (Ex. 3:14) in view of his eternality. Here, Jesus was saying that unless men believe that he is the eternal God, they will perish in their sins. That this is the correct understanding of this verse is confirmed in verses 56-58, where Jesus again claimed to be “I am.” Note that he didn’t say, “…before Abraham was, I was,” which would be correct if he were claiming merely to have pre-existed Abraham; he said, “…before Abraham came into being [Gr. genesthai, aorist infinitive], I am” [Gr. egō eimi, present tense]. In other words, Jesus was saying: I am the eternal God, the God who appeared to Moses by the name, “I am” (Ex. 3:14). While this might not be as clear to the modern reader, we can be certain that the Jews to whom Jesus was speaking understood exactly what he meant.
Here Jesus claimed to be one with the Father. Those who deny the absolute deity of Jesus argue that this was a benign claim to be “in harmony” with the Father, not a claim of deity. However, the reaction of the Jews present at the time evidences that this was not simply a benign affirmation of unity with God, for they took up stones to stone him, giving the reason: “You, being a man, make yourself out to be God” (v. 33).
In this verse Jesus said the one seeing him is seeing the One who sent him (i.e., the Father, cf. vv. 49-50). Of course one might argue that he was simply affirming that he (a man) was made in the image of God. However, if that were all he meant, why is it stated here in reference to believing in him, and why is it that no other God-fearing individual in biblical history made such a claim? Clearly Jesus was claiming to be God.
Here, as in John 12:45, Jesus made the claim that to see him was to see the Father (v. 7). Philip, not comprehending what Jesus was saying, asked that Jesus show them the Father. To this Jesus replied, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how do you say, ‘Show us the Father?’” This statement could not be more clear; Jesus was claiming that he and the Father were of the same divine essence (v. 10), to see one is to see the other, a claim that this Jewish audience clearly understood to be a claim to be God (cf. 10:33).
Thomas had not been present on the previous occasion when the risen Jesus had appeared to the disciples (20:19-25), and he had said that unless he saw Jesus and put his finger into the place of the nails and his hand in his side, he would not believe. Thomas was not a man to be tricked; he demanded hard evidence, and we can appreciate that trait. Thomas got that evidence eight days later when Jesus reappeared to the disciples while Thomas was present. Thomas’ response was to say to Christ: “My Lord and my God.” Arians, such as Jehovah’s Witness, typically respond that Thomas, in his excitement, was simply glorifying God instead of referring to Jesus as Lord and God. However, the text is clear that Thomas was referring to Jesus as Lord and God. (The words “Lord” and “God” are not in the vocative case, as the Arian interpretation would require.) Also, the text is clear that Thomas was speaking directly to Jesus when he said to him, “My Lord and my God.” Thus it is clear that this could only be an appellative statement. It should be understood as: “[You are] my Lord and my God!” The omission of the verb with subject (“you are”) was actually a rather common form of emphasis.
Here Paul instructed the church to be on guard for the flock over which the Holy Spirit had made them overseers, “to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with his own blood.” The blood can only be the blood of Jesus.
[Special note on Romans 9:5]
Did Paul say, “Christ…who is over all, God, blessed forever”? Or, did he say, Christ…who is over all. God [be] blessed forever”? The question of whether Paul here refers to Christ as God, or merely offers a doxology, boils down to a question of punctuation. And since the punctuation of the Greek New Testament is not inspired (it was added later), it is difficult to use this passage as a proof-text for the deity of Christ. [There is an excellent summary of the interpretive options for this passage given in, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament by Bruce M. Metzger, which is the companion volume to the UBS Greek New Testament (3rd edition). However, we must take issue with the statement that Paul never referred to Christ as God in his “genuine” writings. First, Titus 2:13 is a very clear statement of Christ’s deity, which forces Metzger (the textual committee) to reject Titus 2:13 as genuine (an a priori) argument. Second, Paul clearly referred to Christ as God in his instructions given to the elders at Ephesus (Acts 20:28), an important fact not taken into account by Metzger and the textual committee. (Also see Paul’s discussion in Philippians 2:6, that Christ existed “in the form of God.”) However, due to the uncertainty of the punctuation, this passage probably should not be used as a proof-text.]
Paul said that Christ, prior to his incarnation, “existed in the form of God.” This is equivalent to saying that Christ is God; for who but God could exist “in the form of God”? The reason that Paul addressed the issue of “form” is that he was contrasting the visible appearance of Christ before and after the incarnation, for the purpose of illustrating humility. The thought of the passage is this: If Christ, being manifest as God, could humble himself, becoming manifest as a man, we who believe in him should also be humble. Incidentally, this passage illustrates a very important point regarding Paul’s understanding and use of the doctrine of the deity of Christ. Many have questioned why Paul, if he believed Christ to be God, did not devote more attention to this doctrine. This has led some to conclude that the doctrine of Christ’s deity is of post-Pauline origin. However, quite the opposite is true. As we have already seen, Christ claimed to be God. From the very beginning the deity of Christ was the cornerstone of the gospel. The fact that Paul alludes to the deity of Christ as a primary truth from which other secondary teachings could be derived, indicates that in Pauline theology the deity of Christ was already considered to be established beyond dispute. To Paul, Christians were people who believe in Christ, in his deity, in his substitutionary death, and his burial, resurrection, and ascension. In his letters to the churches, Paul assumed the deity of Christ to be common doctrinal ground, since it was part of the gospel the churches had been founded upon, and one does not need to state the obvious.
This passage so clearly teaches the deity of Christ that those who believe the doctrine to be of post-Pauline origin are forced to deny that Paul wrote this portion of Titus, even though there isn’t a shred of textual or historical evidence for rejecting Pauline authorship of this verse. Paul emphatically declared Christ to be both God (“the” God) and Savior. Note that Paul here employs a single article (“the”) for both “God” and “Savior” (tou megalou theou kai sōtēros hēmōn, Christou Iēsou), indicating that both titles, “God” and “Savior,” apply to the same person: Jesus Christ. [It isn’t uncommon for Arians to place a comma after “God” in order to separate Christ, as Savior, from “God.” However, that isn’t translation, it’s alteration of the text, for the verse absolutely cannot be translated that way. Why? First, there is no indication from any ancient sources that the text was ever punctuated that way. Secondly, and more importantly, the rule of the “copulative kai” requires that two substantives modified by a single article and joined by kai (the conjunction “and”) must refer to the same object. This passage is without any doubt the prime example of Pauline theology regarding the deity of Christ. It is clear and unassailable historically, textually, and grammatically.]
This is indeed an interesting passage in that it expresses the deity of Christ in numerous ways, both direct and indirect. We will note here only the direct expressions of deity and comment on the indirect expressions below. In three verses (vv. 8,9, and 10) the author explicitly refers to the Son as God. In verses 8 and 9 he is expressly called “God” (“the” God), and in verse 10 he is called “LORD” (Jehovah). [The Hebrew word “Jehovah” (or “Yahweh”), the personal name of God given in the Old Testament, is not written in the Greek New Testament; however, verse 10, which is explicitly applied to Christ, is a condensed quotation taken from Psalm 102:22-25, where the word “LORD” (v. 22) is “Jehovah.”] Thus, the writer of Hebrews explicitly identifies Christ as “Jehovah.” [Jehovah’s Witness claim that two of these statements should be translated differently. They translate verse 8: “God is your throne forever;” and verse 9 as: “God, your God, anointed you,” in an attempt to remove the direct attribution of deity to Jesus. However, they mistranslate both verses. Of course if even one of these three statements stands, Christ is God. However, let us go back and ask whether the translation Jehovah’s Witness offer in verses 8 is legitimate. From a purely grammatical standpoint one could translate verses 8 and 9 as they appear in the NWT; however, grammar isn’t the whole story in translation. In translation, when confronted with multiple possibilities of meaning, one must ask if the context, or common sense, provides some clue as to which translation is preferable. In this case there is strong contextual evidence that Christ is here referred to as Jehovah God (v. 10). Also, there seems to be a hierarchical problem with the NWT. If God doesn’t refer to Christ (because he isn’t God), then Jehovah God would be inferior to Christ, who is not God, since Christ would be seated upon God, which makes no sense at all. To say that God secures one’s throne is one thing, but to say that God is the throne upon which one sits is quite another thing. How could God be the eternal throne of an inferior being?] Below we will look at the numerous ways in which this passage also implies the deity of Christ.
Revelation 1:8 (cf. Isaiah 41:4)
(See Isaiah 44:6, above.) Here “the Alpha and the Omega” is identified as “the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” In the same book (Rev. 22:13) John records Christ as saying, “I am the Alpha and the Omega.” Thus, if the Lord God, the Almighty, is the Alpha and the Omega, and Christ is the Alpha and the Omega, Christ must be the Lord God, the Almighty. Revelation 1:8 is condensed from Zechariah 12:6-10, and there, the one who is LORD is Jehovah (cf. v. 7).
Biblical Statements That Imply Jesus is God
The following passages record statements made by, or about Jesus that only make sense if he is God.
Matthew 7:21 cf. 13:41
Christ taught that he is the Lord of the kingdom of Heaven, and he referred to that kingdom as his kingdom.
While all of the prophets called men unto God, Jesus called men unto himself.
Christ said that he is greater than God’s temple and Lord of the Sabbath, a patent claim to be Jehovah.
Jesus claimed to be in command of God’s angels.
Matthew 22:41-46 cf. Mark 12:35-37
At one point late in Jesus’ ministry, each of the three leading parties of the Jews, the Herodians, the Sadducees, and the Pharisees, attempted to discredit him by asking disingenuous questions by which they intended to entrap him in a theological (or political) argument. Jesus outwitted them on each occasion. In this pivotal encounter, Jesus turned the tables. It was a strategic move, a move that permanently ended the intellectual dueling; for Jesus displayed himself to be a vastly superior intellect than his opponents. Let’s listen in as Jesus deals this final, crushing defeat to the theologians of his day. In contrast to the previous three engagements, Jesus initiated this encounter with a strategic question: “What do you think about the Christ, whose son is He?” This seems like an innocuous question, at least the Pharisees thought so, and so they answered, “The Son of David.” That answer landed them right into Jesus’ trap, for it is precisely the answer he knew they would give. The Pharisaic conception of Messiah was of a great leader, yet still only a man. Their charge against Jesus was not that he claimed to be the Messiah (though they did not accept him as such); their charge was that he claimed to be God, and to them that was blasphemy—that a man should presume to be God. Jesus then closed the trap. He asked this simple question: “Then how does David in [by] the Spirit call him ‘Lord.’ Here he quotes Psalm 110:1; saying: “The LORD said to my Lord, ‘sit at my right hand, until I put thine enemies beneath thy feet.’” We can imagine that the Pharisees started to sweat, for they knew that Jesus had slammed the trap shut. They had said it themselves: The Messiah is David’s Son, yet Jesus had quoted a Davidic psalm in which David, speaking by the Spirit of God, stated that Messiah is, in fact, his Lord, proving that the Messiah is greater than David. Jesus closed the dialogue with a simple, “How is that?” and was greeted with stunned silence, not a word. In fact, we are told that from that day forward these shell-shocked experts of the Hebrew Scriptures never dared to ask Jesus another question.
Jesus said that he will determine who will enter the kingdom of God, and who will go into everlasting punishment. In other words, he is the Judge before whom all men will one day stand.
Jesus claimed to possess all authority in Heaven and on earth. He didn’t simply claim to have some authority; he claimed to have all authority, not only on earth, but in Heaven as well. What a stupendous claim! Who but God could properly exercise such authority? Could the Father wisely commit such absolute authority into the hands of a mere creature?
Christ forgave sins committed against God. While one might forgive sins committed against one’s self, it would hardly be appropriate for one to forgive sins committed against another. How much more inappropriate would it be for Jesus, if he were not God, to forgive sins against God? This must be seen as an implicit claim to deity, and was clearly recognized as such by those present, since they regarded this act as blasphemous (vv. 6-7).
Jesus claimed that he is the focus of all the scriptures.
John 1:3,10; Colossians 1:15-17 (cf. Gen. 1:1-2)
He is referred to as the Creator of the world.
He has authority to make men God’s children.
John 4:42 cf. Isaiah 43:10-11
He is referred to as the “Savior” of the world, even though the Old Testament stated that Jehovah is the only Savior!
John 3:15-16, 36; 6:47-51; 10:27-28; 11:21-27
Jesus said that he is able to impart eternal life, which would hardly be possible were he not eternal himself.
Jesus said that he would resurrect believers in the last day.
He taught that all men should honor him in the same way that they honor the Father. Even on the lips of an archangel, such words would be blasphemous. There are only two options: either Christ is God Almighty (Jehovah), or he is a blasphemer.
Jesus claimed to be the Son of God and he accepted the worship of men. Yet he taught that men should worship God alone (Lk. 4:8). Even angels sent directly from God refuse to be worshiped (Rev. 22:8-9); thus, when Christ permitted others to worship him it was an implicit claim of deity.
John 10:27-33 cf. 5:17-18
He claimed to be of the same essence as the Father.
His Jewish audience clearly understood that in referring to himself as “the Son of God,” he was claiming to be God.
Jesus raised the dead. Elijah and Paul also raised the dead, but they did not claim to be God while doing so. Remember, the purpose of miracles is to validate the message of the one who works the miracle. If Jesus claimed to be God and raised the dead as evidence for his claim, his claim must be true.
The charge against Jesus at his trial was that he claimed to be the Son of God, a charge he did not dispute.
Jesus said that his work was co-extensive (on an equal level) with the Father’s work.
He taught that the Holy Spirit (himself God, cf. Acts 5:3-4) would not speak of himself, but would glorify him (Jesus).
Jesus claimed to have shared the Father’s own glory before the world was created.
He claimed to share the very essence of the Father.
Acts 1:3 cf. Romans 1:4
Jesus arose from the dead, which was the validation of all of his claims.
Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3
Christ is referred to as the very “image of God.” “Being the image” and “being made in the image” are not the same. Christ is the image.
Hebrews 1:6 cf. Matthew 4:10
The Father commanded the angels to worship the Son. Yet only God is worthy of worship, and angels refuse to accept worship (Rev. 22:8-9).
The Attributes of God are Ascribed to Jesus
Note how the following attributes, which are peculiar to God are ascribed to Christ: eternality (Mic. 5:2; Rev. 1:11-18; Jn. 1:1-3; 17:5; Col. 1:16‑17); omnipotence (Mt. 28:18; Philp. 3:20-21; Heb. 1:3; 2 Pt. 1:3); omniscience (Lk. 7:36-50; Jn. 1:43-51; Mt. 9:4; Jn. 21:17); omnipresence (Mt. 18:20; Eph. 1:22-23); immutability (Heb. 1:11-12; 13:8); sovereignty (Isa. 6:1-5 cf. Jn. 12:41; Col. 1:16-17).
We have looked at three lines of evidence: biblical statements that explicitly say Jesus is God, biblical statements that imply he is God, and biblical statements ascribing to him attributes that only God possesses. Along the way we have noted how he exercises the prerogatives that belong to God alone, such as forgiveness of sin, raising the dead, eternal judgment, etc. From the volume of evidence drawn from so many sources it is clear that the Bible not only teaches that Jesus is God (big “G”), but that this doctrine is one of the central themes of the New Testament.
(Adapted in 2017 from Major Bible Doctrines, by Sam A. Smith. Click or tap for the print edition, [404 pages] or the e-book edition [356 pages-abridged], illustrated.)