Did every New Testament author believe in the deity of Jesus?

by Luke Wayne
8/29/18

Something need not be stated over and over again in Scripture to be true. God does not have to repeat Himself. If the Bible reveals something even once, that thing must be believed and trusted. This truth applies to the issue of the deity of Christ just as much as it does to anything else. If even one verse in all the Bible teaches that Jesus is Yahweh, the one true God, the great "I AM," then that is certainly who Christ is. Yet, it is powerful to note that this truth was not merely taught in just one place or alluded to by only one biblical author. In fact, every single author in the New Testament makes it clear that they and their audiences shared this central, defining tenet of Christian faith. Jesus is God.

The Synoptic Gospels

Matthew, Mark, and Luke repeat much of the same material, and much of that shared material points to the deity of Christ. In each of their narratives, Jesus' identifies Himself as the "Son of Man," a title from Daniel 7 describing a king who rules the world forever and is rightly worshiped by all nations. There is a reason that the Pharisees considered Jesus' claim to be the Son of Man as blasphemy (Matthew 26:64-65, Mark 14:62-64, Luke 22:69-71). The way Jesus was using it, this was a divine title which no mere man had the right to claim for himself. Jesus also reveals a number of startling details further revealing exactly who the Son of Man is, such as:

  • The Son of Man is the one who can forgive sins, which only God can do (Matthew 9:2-7, Mark 2:4-10, Luke 5:20-25).
  • The Son of Man is the bridegroom of the New Covenant with God's people (Matthew 9:15-17, Mark 2:19-22, Luke 5:34-39).
  • The Son of Man is the Lord of the Sabbath (Matthew 12:8, Mark 2:28, Luke 6:5).

Who is Lord of the Sabbath? The Sabbath is a day that specially belongs to God, the LORD, and was to be kept holy in devotion to Him. Thus, there is no Lord of the Sabbath but Yahweh, the one true God! Likewise, the prophets are clear that the New Covenant is between God and His people, and the analogy of marriage is frequently employed by the Old Testament prophets. "As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, So your God will rejoice over you," (Isaiah 62:5). And the Son of man forgives sins. But who can forgive except the offended party? If you sin against someone else, what does it mean for me to forgive you for it? More to the point, the passages themselves say that Jesus' claims to forgive sins were considered blasphemy precisely because no one can forgive sins but God.

And note that both Mark and Luke place all three of these episodes back-to-back to build one coherent theme (Matthew does so with two of the three then tells a story of Jesus raising the dead). Thus, they are drawing out the point as clearly as possible just who this "Son of Man" is. Lord of the Sabbath. Bridegroom of the Covenant. Forgiver of Sins. The Son of Man is God, and it would be blasphemy for a mere mortal to claim His identity.

This is just one of many examples of how the Synoptic Gospels show Jesus to be God. For yet another, click HERE.

John

John opens His gospel with the striking lines:

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being," (John 1:1-3).

Of this "Word" we read shortly thereafter:

"And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth," (John 1:14).

And, in case it wasn't clear enough who this Word who is God and created all things is, the verses that follow (15-17) state explicitly that it is Jesus. Understood in its cultural context, the very title "the Word" itself becomes further testimony that Jesus is God, as does a deeper knowledge of the Greek used here. Yet, even without that level of background research, the plain context makes it clear. Jesus, the Word, was already there in the beginning and is plainly stated to be God, (John 1:1). He is said to be the creator of all things; that literally nothing was made without Him making it, (John 1:3). Not only is the Word the creator God, but it is said that:

"He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him," (John 1:11).

Jesus came to "His own," and they did not receive Him. To whom did Jesus come? Who then rejected Him? The Jews. The Jews were "His own." So, who is the creator God whose people are the Jews? Yahweh. The LORD. The one true God. The Great I AM. That is who John claimed Jesus to be, and He was not subtle about it! And this is just one example from the first chapter! For more info on John's view of Jesus, click HERE.

Paul

The Apostle Paul's writings are filled with references to Jesus' deity. Paul, for example, directly calls Jesus God when writing to Titus:

"looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus," (Titus 2:13).

Jesus Christ is our great God and savior. Paul also says so in His letter to the Romans:

"whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen," (Romans 9:5).

While the NASB's translation here makes it a little less obvious what Paul is saying, other translations render this particular verse much clearer:

"To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen," (ESV).

"Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen," (NIV).

"of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen," (NKJV).

In each of these translations (and many others), it is especially clear that Paul is saying that Christ is the eternally blessed God who is over all. Paul likewise states that Jesus is the creator of all things in heaven and on earth, and the one who holds all things together:

"For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together," (Colossians 1:16-17).

And again, after stating that Jesus "existed in the form of God" (Philippians 2:6) before His incarnation on earth, Paul goes on to boldly proclaim that:

"at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father," (Philippians 2:10-11).

Here, Paul applies to Jesus a rather powerful passage from Isaiah where Yahweh claims this right exclusively for Himself as the one true God who will have no rivals:

"Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; For I am God, and there is no other. I have sworn by Myself, The word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness And will not turn back, That to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance," (Isaiah 45:22-23).

Thus, Paul identifies Jesus specifically as Yahweh, the one true God of Israel. For more on Paul's testimony to the deity of Christ, click HERE.

The Author of Hebrews

The author of the Book of Hebrews opens his letter with a powerful testimony to the deity of Christ. Right out of the gate, he declares of Jesus that:

"God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power," (Hebrews 1:1-3).

Jesus is described as the very radiance of God's glory and the means by which God created the world. This harkens us back to John's discussion of Jesus as "the Word." He likewise says that it is Jesus who upholds all things "by the word of His power." This is rather lofty language, especially in the context of strict Jewish monotheism! He then applies a series of Scriptures to Jesus, such as:

"But of the Son He says, 'Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, And the righteous scepter is the scepter of His kingdom,'" (Hebrews 1:8).

Here, he directly calls Jesus "O God." Yet, the next reference is even more striking. He then writes:

"And, 'You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, And the heavens are the works of Your hands; They will perish, but You remain; And they all will become old like a garment, And like a mantle You will roll them up; Like a garment they will also be changed. But You are the same, And Your years will not come to an end," (Hebrews 1:10-12).

Here, the author quotes Psalm 102, a praise Psalm to Yahweh as Lord and Creator, and says that the Psalm is speaking about Jesus. The "Lord" in Psalm 102 is actually the personal name Yahweh (YHWH). Thus, the author not only identifies Jesus as the creator God worshiped by the Psalmist but, indeed, as Yahweh by name! For more detail on Trinitarian views of the Book of Hebrews, click HERE.

James

James writes in chapter 5 of his letter:

"Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!" (James 5:7-9).

Here, James is clearly speaking of the Christian hope of the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. James opens his letter by calling himself a slave of "the Lord Jesus Christ," (James 1:1) and elsewhere calls Jesus "our glorious Lord Jesus Christ," (James 2:1) or "Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory" (James 1:2, KJV & ESV). It is the Lord Jesus whose coming every Christian eagerly awaited. He is the judge standing at the door. Yet, in the very next verse, right after speaking repeatedly of the "Lord's coming" in reference to Jesus Christ, James continues on to say:

"Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy," (James 5:10-11).

There is no break in the context. The thought continues seamlessly. Be patient until the Lord's coming. The Lord's coming is very near. Take as an example the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. The Lord blessed Job after his perseverance. "The Lord" does not change identities partway through this passage. Thus, the same Lord who blessed Job and in whose name the prophets spoke is also the Lord whose coming is near and for whom we are to patiently wait. The Lord Jesus is the LORD God of the Old Testament. There is simply no other way to read this passage. Thus, James believed that Jesus is God and assumed that all His readers did as well, and he wrote these words accordingly. For more details on the deity of Christ in James, click HERE.

Peter

Peter opens his second letter by directly calling Jesus Christ our "God and Savior," stating:

"Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours," (2 Peter 1:1).

Some have tried to blunt this plain statement by rendering the phrase "our God and the Savior Jesus Christ," thus making "God" and "Savior" appear to be two separate individuals, Jesus being only the latter. This, however, fails to take into account the way this same grammar is used elsewhere in the book. On three other occasions, Peter speaks of "our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ," (2 Peter 1:11, 2:20, 3:18). No translator thinks that "Lord' and "Savior" are referring to two different individuals. All agree that Peter is calling Jesus both Lord and Savior. Yet, the grammar in each of these instances is identical to that of 2 Peter 1:1. One doesn't even need knowledge of Greek to see this. Note:

"...θεοῦ ἡμῶν καὶ σωτῆρος Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ," (2 Peter 1:1).

"...κυρίου ἡμῶν καὶ σωτῆρος Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ," (2 Peter 1:11).

Literally the only difference between these two phrases, only ten verses apart, is the first noun θεοῦ (God) versus κυρίου (Lord). Beyond that, the wording is identical. Thus, if 2 Peter 1:11 calls Jesus our Lord and Savior (and it does), then 2 Peter 1:1 is calling Jesus our God and Savior. Peter believed that Jesus is God, and so did those to whom he wrote this letter. For more on this and other passages where Jesus is directly called "God," click HERE.

Jude

Even in the tiny little book of Jude, the deity of Christ is evident. Jude writes, for example:

"For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ," (Jude 4).

Jesus is said to be our "only Master and Lord." The very next sentence reads:

"Now I desire to remind you, though you know all things once for all, that the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, subsequently destroyed those who did not believe," (Jude 5).

There is no break whatsoever here. Jesus is our only Master and Lord, and I want to remind you that the Lord, after saving the people from Egypt, destroyed those who did not believe. Jude is quite clear that his readers already well knew this. Jesus is the Lord who saved Israel from Egypt and judged them in the wilderness. Jesus is the LORD God of the Old Testament, the God who sent the plagues on Egypt and parted the sea and spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai. That's what it means to Jude to call Jesus "Lord." Indeed, some ancient manuscripts don't even use the title "Lord" in verse 5 but actually use the personal name "Jesus," as reflected in the ESV's rendering here:

"Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe."

This was also the reading found in the Latin tradition, as reflected in the 14th-century English translation of John Wycliffe:

"But I will admonish you once, that know all things, that Jesus saved his people from the land of Egypt, and the second time destroyed them that believed not."

Still, even if one accepts the reading "Lord" here rather than the reading "Jesus," the meaning is the same. Jesus was just said to be "our only Master and Lord." He is, without question, the "Lord" mentioned in the very next sentence. Thus, Jude and his readers all believed Jesus to be the one true God of Israel. For more detail on this, click HERE.

Conclusion

Every single author in the New Testament, from Paul to Peter to James and Jude to each of the Gospel writers, all identified Jesus as God. This was the universal belief of all the New Testament churches and a revealed truth that was foundational to anything else that any Apostolic writer had to say. Thus, any author in the New Testament, whatever they were writing about, nevertheless could not help but allude to the divinity of the Lord Jesus. This belief ought to be just as foundational today as was then, at least for anyone who seeks to call themselves a New Testament believer.