What did Jesus claim about himself? I argue on this page that Jesus did claim a status that relates him to God in a unique way. Does that prove he was right? It's important first to understand that the made the claim.
He can't be the "eternal one" without being God. That's the eternal one. No Jew would understand it any other way. All of the things he says in these verses subsume God's territory, forgiving sin and being an object of worship, the gate for the sheep, the way the truth and the life, the bread of life, these are all things God says of himself in the old Testament.
A. Jesus Claimed to be exclusive the way to truth
"I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the father but by Me"( John 14:6)
"I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in me though he were dead yet shall he live." (John 11:25)
"I am the gate for the sheep, by me if any man enter in he shall be saved..."(John 10:9)
He also said "I am..." The Messiah (Jn 4:26),
bread of life, 6:45,
from above 8:23,
the eternal one 8: 58,
(note: son of man is not an admittion that he is only man, it refers to the vision of Daniel (book of Daniel) of one "Like unto a son of man" sitting on a throne..." It was a designation for the Messiah. Note: The reader might find some of these claims confussing because some seem to imply that he is God, others that he is sent by God and is the Son of God. This is Trinitarian language and will be dealt wtih below in the doctrine of the Trinity. Moreover, These claims are also not isolated enstances, they make of the whole fabric of all four Gospels. If the reader would just read any one or all four of these books he/she would see that one cannot remove the calim of deity from Christ without the entire narratival framework collapsing.
B.Claimed to be divine
"Jesus said the work of God is this, believe on the one he has sent"
"So they asked him what miraculous sign will you do give that we may believe?..."I am the bread of life, he who comes to me will never go hungry and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. ...for I have come down from heaven not to do my will but the will of him who sent me, and this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me...(John 6: 31-39)
This is not just one lone passage. The Gospel of John begins with the prologue annuncing that Jesus is the eternal logos come in the flesh (see 1:1,6,18) and in 3:16 the famous passages is placed in the mouth of Jesus (yes, placed, see the Bible page for details of my liberal view--i admitt t redaction of the text, but the basic texts can be cross referenced with even non-canonical Gospels). That famous passage being "for God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten son that whosoever believes on him shall shall not perish but have everlasting life." The chapters 6-8 take up a running dialogue over the Jesus statements about being the bread of life and the one who came down form heaven. There are far too many to go into here.
In John 8:56-59 Jesus is conversing with some Jews and says to them "...your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day, he saw it and was glad." They asked "you are not yet 50 years old and you saw Abraham?" Jesus replies "I tell you the truth, before Abram was, I am."( KJV) They understood this to mean the sacred name of God because they immediately pitcked up stones to stone him.
John 17:4 "And now father glorify we with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was."
John 8: 42 "For I proceed forth and come from God"
John 10:30 "I and the father are one." And they picked up stones to stone him, so they knew what he was saying.
John 12:45 "He that sees me sees the one that sent me."
John 14:10 "Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me"
Mark 2.5ff: When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven." 6 Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 7 "Why does this fellow talk like that? He's blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?" 8 Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, "Why are you thinking these things? 9 Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up, take your mat and walk'? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins...."- Mark 2.28: So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath."--
Mark 9:42: "And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, - (Notice that He is endorsing Himself as an appropriate object of religious faith! A rather important clue as to deity--cf. Jer 17.5: This is what the LORD says: "Cursed is the one who trusts in man.)
Mark 12.35-37: While Jesus was teaching in the temple courts, he asked, "How is it that the teachers of the law say that the Christ is the son of David? 36 David himself, speaking by the Holy Spirit, declared: "'The Lord said to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet."' 37 David himself calls him 'Lord.' How then can he be his son?"-
- Mt 7:21-23: "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' 23 Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'--
Mt 11.10: Jesus applies the Mal 3.1 passage to John the Baptist, which would put Jesus in the role of YHWH in those passages (e.g. 'the LORD will come to His temple').
Mt 12.6: I tell you that one greater than the temple is here. 7 If you had known what these words mean, `I desire mercy, not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the innocent. 8 For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath."--
Mt 18.20: For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them."--
Mt 23.34: Therefore I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town.
Luke 7.48-49: Then Jesus said to her, "Your sins are forgiven."
49 The other guests began to say among themselves, "Who is this who even forgives sins?"-
44 They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you."-
All the discourses revolve around Jesus' relation to diety or his Messianic identitity. This too will be discussed below: see Trinity and Divine claims.
C. Can we trust that Jesus said these things?
Let's assume for a minute that we can't trust that Jesus said these things. How should we regard them? Let's assume they are the status the early Christians sought to confer upon Jesus. Makes these claims to go in the mouth of Jesus the early Chrsitians, Jews, would making a permanent break with their own people. They were leaving behind their bleief that motivated them to follow Jesus in the first place. They followed Jesus becuase he was representing the right way to follow God, so they find up abandoning tht way to follow Jesus instead? There would have to be a pretty power testimony to Jesus' value and efficacy and pathos to enable them to make this kind of break in their minds, and accept Jesus in ways that Jews never accepted anyone before. Of course they didn't do that all in one go, but these claims are in the Gospel marital that can be proved to be pretty much as we have it by the end of the first century. There had to be something very power about Jesus to draw them to such radical departure and foment such strong attachment to him.
1) Can't disentangle the narrative.
We want the great moral teaching so it's not hard to imagine he said them and few really deny it. But why then do some think that it is so unlikely that he made divine claims? When we start to disentangle the narrative we find that it is all so tightly woven we wind up with no Jesus at all. Everything relates back to Jesus' deity and Messianic mission. Demons and enemies as well as followers acknowledge it, all the dialogues revolve around it, he says it over and over again and to slip those statments out make the rest incomprehensible.
IF he did not claim to be God, why were they willing to stone him? If all he said was "love your enemies," why did they execute him? The skeptic might at this pint try to argue that he didn't make the great moral teachings either. But if we disentangle the narrative and we find that he didn't say either set of things, why would anyone even remember him? The same interwovenness is also true of the miracles.
We cannot reduce Jesus to just a nice guy, his amazing clams, his unbelievable miracles, and his great ethical teachings all go hand in hand.
We want the great moral teaching so it's not hard to imagine he said them and few really deny it. But why then do some think that it is so unlikely that he made divine claims? When we start to disentangle the narrative we find that it is all so tightly woven we wind up with no Jesus at all. Everything relates back to Jesus' deity and Messianic mission. Demons and enemies as well as followers acknowledge it, all the dialogues revolve around it, he says it over and over again and to slip those statments out make the rest incomprehensible. IF he did not cliam to be God, why were they willing to stone him? If all he said was "love your enemies," why did they exicute him? The skeptic might at this pint try to argue that he didn't make the great moral teachings either. But if we disentangle the narrative and we find that he didn't say either set of things, why would anyone even remember him? The same interwovenness is also true of the miracles.
2) Gnostic Jesus makes same divine claims
Some try to claim historicity for the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas, arguing that its saying are me authentic and older than those of the canonical. If this is true it does not get the skeptic off the hook. The Gnostic Jesus of the Gospel of Thomas makes the same claims. 28 Jesus said:
"I took my stand in the midst of the world, and in flesh I appeared to them. I found them all drunk, and I did not find any of them thirsty. My soul ached for the children of humanity, because they are blind in their hearts and do not see, for they came into the world empty, and they also seek to depart from the world empty. But meanwhile they are drunk. When they shake off their wine, then they will change their ways."
D. First flesh and Blood Person to make these claims seriously.
Some claim that Paithagoras made claims to being the son of Apollo who he took to be the creator of the world.But that cant' really be proven. There is nothing like the kind of validation for anything he said that there is for Jesus' teachings. And he didn't sacrifice himself for anyone. Besides, does being a great mathematician mean he was a great moral teacher? And we have no idea how metaphorical this may have been.
E. Personal confirmation and leap of faith
In part I we saw that Jesus is highly trustworthy and wise, and probably very self aware. In part II we saw that he did claim to be the Son of God. Thus we have a high probability that we can trust him to know what he's talking about and to be right about his claim.
Ultimately, the decision rests with each individual, and no amount of argument or evidence can really "prove" that Jesus was the son of God. There is, however, reason to trust the claims that he made about himself, since he was a great moral teacher and profound spiritual teacher. Moreover, the best way to decide these things is just to read the Gospels--not looking for contradictions--but focusing on the character and teachings of Jesus. I am confident that any thinking and sensitive individual will, after honest concentration upon Jesus and little help with understanding from a good commentary or two, will have to seriously grapple with the possibility of Jesus as the Son of God.