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The Deity of Jesus: Is Jesus an Eternal Member of the Godhead or a Created Being?


II. Jesus Wears the Unique Names of God.


Do the Scriptures use the unique names of Deity to refer to Jesus? Did Bible writers call Him "God," "Lord of lords," "Alpha and Omega," "I Am," and Even "Jehovah"? Was Jesus God in the flesh?

Note: This article continues a series of studies about Jesus' Deity: His names, character, works, and honor. If you have not read the previous articles, then please click here to start at the beginning.

The Bible uses certain terms that refer only to the true God or are used in ways that show they refer to the true God. We will see that inspired men used these unique terms to refer to Jesus. This would be blasphemy if Jesus did not possess Deity.

A. "God"

The Old Testament word for "God" is ELOHIM (and the variations EL, ELAH, ELOAH). It comes from a root meaning "to fear and reverence," emphasizing the respect that is due God because of His power and authority. The corresponding New Testament word is theos .

Since the Bible teaches there is only one true God, if the word is used for Jesus then He must possess true Deity (unless something in context shows He is a false god or that an exceptional meaning is being employed).

We have already studied some general passages where forms of this word are used for Jesus: John 1:1; Colossians 2:9; and Philippians 2:6. Consider these other cases:

John 20:28,29

After he saw proof of Jesus' resurrection, Thomas address Jesus as "my Lord and my God" (KJV, NKJV, ASV, NASB, RSV, NEB, NIV). Clearly Thomas is here calling Jesus "God." Consider:

This statement is clearly addressed to Jesus. Some claim Thomas spoke to the Father, but the passage clearly shows "Thomas answered and said to Him," i.e., to Jesus.

The word for God is theos with the definite article. According to their argument on John 1:1, even Jehovah's Witnesses must admit that this means the one true God, in the same sense as the Father.

If Jesus did not possess Deity, Thomas' statement would have been blasphemy, and Jesus should have rebuked Him. Instead, Jesus praised Thomas and pronounced a blessing on everyone who believes the same (v29)!

Note further that Thomas combined the terms "Lord" and "God" in a phrase of address to Jesus. These terms, when so combined in the Scriptures, are always a term of address for the True God.

Hebrews 1:8

The Father said to Son, "Your throne, O God, is forever and ever" (KJV, NKJV, ASV, NASB, RSV, NEB, NIV). This is a quotation from Psalm 45:6,7, which is translated exactly the same (KJV, NKJV, ASV, NASB, NIV).

Note that God the Father Himself is here addressing Jesus as "God" (cf. vv 1-9).

Further "God" here has the definite article so even Jehovah's Witnesses must admit it refers to the one True God.

To try to avoid the force of the argument, the Jehovah's Witnesses' "New World Translation" says, "God is thy throne for ever and ever." This makes "God" the subject of the sentence, not a noun of address. However:

* The translation "God is thy throne..." is meaningless and absurd. How could God be Jesus' throne? God is not a throne, but a person. No Scripture elsewhere ever uses such language.

* No other standard translation so translates Hebrews 1:8. All translate "Thy throne, O God, ..." (see above). [The ASV places in the footnote "Thy throne is God...," and the RSV and NEB have "God is thy throne" as footnotes, but none of them accept it as being the best translation here. The others do not even list it as a possibility.]

* On Psalm 45:6,7 no standard translation gives "Your throne is God" as even a possibility in the footnote! Keil and Delitzch say, regarding such translation, that it "cannot possibly be supported in Hebrew by any syntax." So, even if it could be grammatically possible in the Greek of Hebrews 1:8, it is not possible in the Hebrew passage from which Hebrews 1:8 is quoted! 

Hence, the only possible translation that fits both the Greek of Hebrews 1:8 and the Hebrew of Psalm 45:6 is "Your throne, O God, is for ever and ever." God the Father Himself called Jesus "God" (with the definite article).

Psalm 102:24

"I said, O my God, Do not take me away..." Hebrews 1:10-12 directly quotes Psalm 102:25-27 and says that it was spoken "to the Son" (v8). The context of Psalm 102:24 shows it is clearly addressed to the same person addressed in vv 25-27.

Hence, in v24 Jesus is addressed as "O my God."

Isaiah 9:6

Jesus' name would be called "Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God..." This is clearly a prophecy of the Son, as seen in the beginning of the verse. Hence, Jesus is called "Mighty God."

Some respond that there is no definite article, but this position has been answered on John 1:1 (see notes there). Note also Isaiah 10:21 where identical language (EL-GIBBOR), without the article, clearly refers to the one true God (even in the NWT). Cf. Jeremiah 32:18; Deuteronomy 10:17; Nehemiah 9:32.

Titus 2:13

"...looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ" (NKJV, NASB, RSV, NEB, NIV, ASV footnote). Older translations say "the great God and our Savior" (KJV, ASV), which some argue implies two separate persons. Consider:

* Newer translations listed above all make clear that one person (Jesus) is being referred to both as "God" and "Savior."

* We are looking for the glorious appearing of this "great God." But whose appearing are we expecting? Other similar passages refer to the coming of Jesus: 1 Timothy 6:14 (1 Corinthians 1:7; Colossians 3:4; Philippians 3:20; Acts 1:11; 2 Timothy 4:1,8).

* In the Greek, one article here precedes two descriptive terms ("God" and "Savior") connected by "and." Whenever this is done, both terms describe the same person. In order for two people to be meant, two articles would be needed.

Here are other similar examples (in each case, one Greek article precedes two descriptive terms, both terms therefore describing one person.):

2 Peter 1:11 - "the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ"

2 Peter 2:20 - "the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" [cf. 3:18]

2 Peter 3:2 - "the apostles of the Lord and Savior"

[This is called Sharp's rule. Arndt & Gingrich say, "theos certainly refers to Christ in ... Titus 2:13..." See Vine (Vol. II, pp. 160f), also the grammars of Schmiedel, Moulton, Robertson, and Blass-Debrunner (quoted by Metzger), Dana & Mantey, and Blackwelder (quoted by Barnett).]

Hence, here is another passage referring to Jesus as "our great God," using a definite article in Greek. This expression is used often in the Old Testament referring to the true God (Daniel 2:45; Deuteronomy 10:17; Jeremiah 32:18; Ezra 5:8).

2 Peter 1:1

"...the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ" (NKJV, NASB, RSV, NEB, NIV, ASV footnote). The point here is the same as on Titus 2:13. The Greek has one article then two descriptive terms separated by "and." The rule described above means both terms refer to the same person. Hence, Jesus is here called "our God" with the definite article.

Conclusion regarding the term "God."

Hence, the Scriptures repeatedly call Jesus "God." But there is only one true God. Jesus is not a false God. Hence, He must be referred to as the one true God. He possesses Deity and is part of the Godhead along with the Father (and the Holy Spirit, as other passages show).

Note Acts 12:20-23 where Herod was killed for allowing people to call him a god. If Jesus were not Deity, the references to him as "God" in all these passages would be blasphemous. Yet they were spoken by inspired men and were praised by Jesus.

B "The First and the Last," "Alpha and Omega"

These terms are used for the Almighty Jehovah God.

Isaiah 44:6 - "Thus saith Jehovah ... Jehovah of hosts: I am the first, and I am the last; and besides me there is no God" (ASV). Clearly "the first and the last" refers to the one true God. Like the terms "I am" and "Jehovah," this expression emphasizes God's eternal self-existence (cf. Isaiah 43:10). See also Isaiah 41:4; 48:12.

Revelation 1:8 - "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End ... who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty." Hence, the Almighty, who is eternally existent, calls Himself "the Alpha and the Omega" (the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet), "the Beginning and the End." The meaning is the same as "the first and the last."

Revelation 21:6,7 also shows that "Alpha and Omega" means the same as "Beginning and End" and refers to God.

These terms are also used for Jesus.

Revelation 1:17 - "I am the First and the Last." The context (vv 10-20) shows Jesus is speaking. He was like the Son of Man (v13), who lives, was dead, and is alive forever (v18). [1:11 uses these same expressions in NKJV, but they are not in ASV.]

Revelation 2:8 - "These things says the First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life." Clearly this is Jesus again speaking. Some quibble saying this means He was the first and last to be raised by the Father. But no such dodge is available on the next verse.

Revelation 22:13 - "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last." All three expressions are used together, showing they mean the same thing. The identical use in Revelation 1:8 proves they refer to the Almighty. But who is speaking here?

* The "I" of v13 is identified in v12 as the "I" who comes quickly to reward everyone according to His work. Throughout Revelation this refers to Jesus (Revelation 1:1,2,7; 3:3,11; 2:23; 22:20; cf. Matthew 16:27; 2 Corinthians 5:10). The Father has given all judgment to the Son (John 5:22,23).

* The "I" of v13 is identified in v16 as "Jesus" who sent His angel to testify these things to the churches. He is the offspring of David.

* The "I" of v13, who comes quickly (v12) and who testified these things (v16), is identified in v20 as the "Lord Jesus."

Hence, Jesus is the "First and Last," the "Alpha and Omega," "Beginning and End." These are terms for Deity in Isaiah 44:6 and Revelation 1:8, yet are used in exactly the same way for Jesus.

C. "Lord of Lords"

This expression is used for the true God.

Scripture sometimes uses "Lord" to refer to people who exercise authority over others (masters or civil rulers). When used religiously, however, it is a term for Deity (Hebrews ADONAI, Gk. kurios).

Deuteronomy 10:17; Psalm 136:3; Daniel 2:47 - The true God is called "Lord of lords" and "Lord of kings." This shows He has supreme authority over all rulers. Others may rule over men, but God rules over all rulers. Hence, "Lord of lords."

Psalm 97:5; Joshua 3:11,13 - God is Lord of the whole earth. [Psalm 95:3]

This expression is also used for Jesus

Revelation 17:14; 19:16 - Jesus (the Lamb) is "King of kings" and "Lord of lords."

Acts 10:36; Romans 10:12 - He is Lord of all (cf. Lord of the whole earth).

Here is another term used in the Bible to show the supreme authority of God, yet it is used for Jesus.

D. "I Am"

The expression is a unique name for God

Exodus 3:13-15 - When God called Moses to lead Israel from captivity, Moses asked God's name. God replied, "I AM WHO I AM." Moses was to tell Israel that "I AM" (Hebrews EHYEH) had sent him.

This expression is related in form to "Jehovah" (ASV footnote). It describes the eternal, self-existing, unchanging nature of God.

"I am" is also used with no modifying words (substantively or absolutely) to describe God in Deuteronomy 32:39; Isaiah 41:4; 43:10,13; 46:4; 48:12. The meaning is the same as Exodus 3:14 [see Keil and others].

The expression is used for Jesus.

John 8:58 - Jesus said, "...before Abraham was, I AM" (capitals in the original - NKJV; NASB). Other translations say "I am" (no capitals - KJV, ASV, RSV, NEB, NIV). There are several reasons for believing Jesus intended the meaning to be the same as the name for God in Exodus 3:14.

* "I am" (Gk. ego eimi) has no modifiers (substantive or absolute use) just as in Exodus 3:14. There is no predicate nominative (as "I am tired," "I am a Jew," etc.). 

* Jesus' statement is clearly intended to claim He has existed eternally. When questioned about how He could be old enough to have seen Abraham (vv 56,57), He said Abraham existed (had a birth and death), but before that, "I am." He did not say, "I was," meaning just that He was older than Abraham. "I am" implies no beginning but just continual existence even prior to Abraham. This is the very significance of the term "I am" as used by God in Exodus 3:14. 

* The Jews tried to stone Jesus for this statement (v59). The only possible reason for this reaction is that, knowing the Old Testament and the verb tense Jesus used, they recognized the expression "I am" to be a claim to Deity. Since they did not believe Jesus to be God, they viewed His use of the term to be blasphemy.

Hence, here is another unique name of God which is used by Jesus to refer to Himself. He is the eternally existent "I am."

Additional notes

Jehovah's Witnesses respond to the above evidence by claiming that the wording of Exodus 3:14 is different from John 8:58. They claim that Exodus 3:14 in the Septuagint uses ho on where John 8:58 used ego eimi.

The Septuagint is not the original Scripture, but simply a translation of the original into Greek. Nevertheless, the argument is deceptive. In fact ego eimi is found in Exodus 3:14. The Septuagint says "ego eimiHO ON" ("I am who I am").

The argument is also deceptive because it leaves the impression ho on is different from ego eimi, but in fact they are just different forms of the word for being (like our words "am" and "being"). on is simply the present participle of eimi (Analytical Greek Lexicon).

Jehovah's Witnesses also try to argue that John 8:58 is simply "historical present" tense. But that tense is used only in narration, not in argumentation such as in John 8:58. Further, this view ignores the contextual evidence we have discussed showing that Jesus was referring to His eternal existence and that the Jews attempted to stone Him for blasphemy.

E. "Jehovah"

Exodus 6:3; Psalm 83:18; Isaiah 12:2; 26:4 are a few passages where the true God is called "Jehovah" (KJV). However, this is actually the most frequently used Old Testament name for God. Most translations translate it "Lord," but the best way to observe the word is in the ASV which uses "Jehovah." It is never used in the New Testament, (though the "New World Translation" adds it whenever it suits their doctrine).

The word means "He who is," and is a form of the word for being (related to "I am"). It emphasizes God's eternal, changeless, self-existence.

Since it is strictly an Old Testament word, and Jesus is described mostly in the New Testament, the only way to determine whether or not Jesus is called "Jehovah" is to look at Old Testament passages which are proved by the New Testament to refer to Jesus.

We have earlier learned that Jesus possesses Deity and is repeatedly called by other unique names of God, so we should not be surprised to learn that Jesus is also called "Jehovah."

Isaiah 44:6 compared to Revelation 22:13 (1:17; 2:10)

In Isaiah 44:6 Jehovah says that He is the first and the last, and there is no other God.

But we earlier showed that Jesus calls Himself "the first and the last" in Revelation 22:13, etc.

So there is no God but Jehovah and He is the first and the last. But Jesus is the first and the last, therefore the term Jehovah must include Jesus!

Psalm 102 compared to Hebrews 1:10-12

We earlier showed that Psalm 102:25-27 is quoted in Hebrews 1:10-12, where v8 shows it is spoken "to the Son." But the context of Psalm 102 shows that the whole chapter is addressed to the same "God." And this God is repeatedly called "Jehovah" (vv 1,12,15,16,18,19,21,22).

Since the "God" addressed in Psalm 102 includes Jesus, and since that God is called "Jehovah," we must conclude that here is a passage in which Jesus is addressed as "Jehovah."

Isaiah 6:1-5,10 compared to John 12:36-43

In Isaiah 6, Isaiah saw the Lord sitting upon a throne (v1). He said that his eyes had seen Jehovah of hosts (v5; cf. v3). He was then told to go tell the people that they would see but not understand because they would shut their eyes, etc. (vv 9,10).

In John 12, Jesus said He would be lifted up (die) to draw all people to Himself (vv 32-36). Nevertheless though He (Jesus) did so many signs, yet the people did not believe in Him (v37). Their refusal to believe was a fulfillment of what Isaiah had prophesied - their hearts were hardened so they would not be converted (vv 39,40).

Then John adds that Isaiah said this "when he saw His glory and spoke of Him" (v41). Vv 42,43 then show clearly that it was Jesus that the people were not confessing. Clearly John is saying that the refusal of the people to believe in Jesus was the fulfillment of the prophecy Isaiah spoke when he saw His glory and spoke of Him (Jesus). But the original passage in Isaiah said He saw "Jehovah of hosts."

Hence, when Isaiah saw "Jehovah of hosts," he was seeing Jesus!

Isaiah 8:13-15 compared to 1 Peter 2:8

Isaiah 8:13-15 says "Jehovah of hosts" would be a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.

1 Peter 2:8 quotes this very passage saying it was fulfilled when Israel rejected Jesus and killed Him (see 1 Peter 2:4-8; cf. Acts 4:10,11).

Hence, when the Jews stumbled at Jesus, they were stumbling at Jehovah.

Joel 2:32 compared to Acts 2:16-21 & Romans 10:13

Joel 2:32 - Whosoever calls on the name of Jehovah shall be delivered. This is part of a lengthy prophecy regarding the Messiah's kingdom (vv 28-32).

Acts 2:16-21 quotes this very section from Joel, including that men must "call on the name of the Lord" to be saved. Romans 10:13 likewise quotes it, but the context shows throughout that the "Lord" refers to Jesus (vv 4,6,7,9,12,16). Specifically, calling on the Lord includes confessing the Lord Jesus (vv 9,10).

Acts 22:16 shows we call on the name of the Lord when we are baptized. 1 Corinthians 1:2 then shows that all Christians call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Hence, the prediction that, during the reign of the Messiah, men would call on the name of Jehovah is fulfilled in that men call on the name of Jesus.

Isaiah 45:21-23 compared to Philippians 2:10,11

In Isaiah 45:21-23 Jehovah claims "there is no God else besides me," "I am God, and there is none else." (Note: It follows that, if Jesus is not the true God, then He is not God at all.) This one true God swears that "unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear." Hence, the knees would be bowed, etc., to the true God, Jehovah.

Romans 14:10,11 - This passage quotes the Isaiah passage and says it will be fulfilled when we stand before the judgment seat of Christ. He will be the judge (John 5:22,23).

Philippians 2:10,11 - Then at the name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue confess. Hence, every knee will bow and confess to "Me" (Jehovah), the one true God. But that is done by men bowing to Jesus and confessing His name.

Note Philippians 2:9. This exaltation of Jesus occurs because God has given Him "the name which is above every name." How can this not include the name "Jehovah"? If Jesus has "the name which is above every name," how can the Father have a higher name? In any case, Jesus' must wear the names of Deity.

Conclusion

To appreciate the force of this evidence, try to find specific passages in which you can prove that the Heavenly Father is called "Jehovah." Do not assume anything (nor add "Jehovah" into New Testament passages without proof). How do you prove that the Father is called "Jehovah"? You can do it, of course, but the effort to do it will help you appreciate the evidence above to show Jesus is called Jehovah.

Jesus wears the unique names of Deity. This would be blasphemy if He did not possess Deity. Therefore, He does possess Deity even as the Father does. If He possesses Deity, then He has always possessed it and must always fully possess all the qualities of Deity. And He must be included in the one true God.

Click here to continue this study by considering the characteristics of Deity possessed by Jesus.

Note: This article continues a series of studies about Jesus' Deity: His names, character, works, and honor. If you have not read the previous articles, then please click here to start at the beginning.

(C) Copyright 1995, 2005, David E. Pratte
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