[The following is directly excerpted from BECA by Norman Geisler, sec. Deity of Jesus]
Jesus’ Claim to Be God.
Jesus claimed to be God, both directly and by necessary implication from what he said and did.
Jesus Claimed to Be Yahweh. Yahweh (YHWH; sometimes appearing in English translations as “Jehovah” or in small capital letters as “LORD”) is the special name given by God for himself in the Old Testament. It is the name revealed to Moses in Exodus 3:14, when God said, “I AM WHO I AM.” Other titles for God may be used of humans, such as Adonai (“Lord”) in Gen. 18:12, or false gods, such as elohim (“gods”) in Deut. 6:14. Yahweh, however, only refers to the one true God. No other person or thing was to be worshiped or served (Exod. 20:5), and his name and glory were not to be given to another. Isaiah wrote, “This is what the LORD says. . . . I am the first, and I am the last; apart from me there is no God” (Isa. 44:6) and, “I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another, or my praise to idols” (42:8).
Jesus claimed to be Yahweh. He prayed, “And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was” (John 17:5). But Yahweh of the Old Testament said, “my glory will I not give to another” (Isa. 42:8). Jesus also declared, “I am the first and the last” (Rev. 1:17)—precisely the words used by Jehovah in Isaiah 42:8. He said, “I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11), but the Old Testament said, “Yahweh is my shepherd” (Ps. 23:1). Further, Jesus claimed to be the judge of all people (Matt. 25:31f.; John 5:27f.), but Joel quotes Jehovah as saying, “for there I will sit to judge all the nations on every side” (Joel 3:12). Likewise, Jesus spoke of himself as the “bridegroom” (Matt. 25:1) while the Old Testament identifies Jehovah in this way (Isa. 62:5; Hos. 2:16). While the Psalmist declares, “The LORD is my light” (Ps. 27:1), Jesus said, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12).
Perhaps the strongest claim Jesus made to be Yahweh is in John 8:58, where he says, “Before Abraham was, I am.” This statement claims not only existence before Abraham, but equality with the “I AM” of Exodus 3:14. The Jews around him clearly understood his meaning and picked up stones to kill him for blaspheming (cf. John 8:58 and 10:31–33). The same claim is made in Mark 14:62 and John 18:5–6.
Jesus Claimed to Be Equal with God. Jesus claimed to be equal with God in other ways. One was by claiming for himself the prerogatives of God. He said to a paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven” (Mark 2:5–11). The scribes correctly responded, “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” So, to prove that his claim was not an empty boast he healed the man, offering direct proof that what he had said about forgiving sins was true also.
Another prerogative Jesus claimed was the power to raise and judge the dead: “I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live . . . and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned” (John 5:25, 29). He removed all doubt about his meaning when he added, “For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it” (John 5:21). But the Old Testament clearly taught that only God was the giver of life (Deut. 32:39; 1 Sam. 2:6) and the one to raise the dead (Ps. 2:7) and the only judge (Deut. 32:35; Joel 3:12). Jesus boldly assumed for himself powers that only God has.
Jesus also claimed that he should be honored as God. He said that all men should “honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him” (John 5:23). The Jews listening knew that no one should claim to be equal with God in this way, and again they reached for stones (John 5:18).
Jesus Claimed to Be Messiah-God. Even the Qur’an recognizes that Jesus was the Messiah (sura 5:17, 75). But the Old Testament teaches that the coming Messiah would be God himself. So when Jesus claimed to be that Messiah, he was also claiming to be God. For example, the prophet Isaiah (in 9:6) calls the Messiah, “Mighty God.” The psalmist wrote of Messiah, “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever” (Ps. 45:6; cf. Heb. 1:8). Psalm 110:1 records a conversation between the Father and the Son: “The LORD (Yahweh) says to my Lord (Adonai): ‘Sit at my right hand.’ ” Jesus applied this passage to himself in Matthew 22:43–44. In the great messianic prophecy of Daniel 7, the Son of Man is called the “Ancient of Days” (vs. 22), a phrase used twice in the same passage of God the Father (vss. 9, 13). Jesus also said he was the Messiah at his trial before the high priest. When asked, “Are you the Christ [Greek for “Messiah”], the Son of the Blessed One?” Jesus responded, “I am. . . . And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” At this, the high priest tore his robe and said, “Why do we need any more witnesses? . . . You have heard the blasphemy!” (Mark 14:61–64). There was no doubt that in claiming to be Messiah, Jesus also claimed to be God (see also Matt. 26:54; Luke 24:27).
Jesus Claimed to Be God by Accepting Worship. The Old Testament forbids worshiping anyone other than God (Exod. 20:1–4; Deut. 5:6–9). The New Testament agrees, showing that humans refused worship (Acts 14:15), as did angels (Rev. 22:8–9). But Jesus accepted worship on numerous occasions, showing he claimed to be God. A healed leper worshiped him (Matt. 8:2), and a ruler knelt before him with a request (Matt. 9:18). After he stilled the storm, “those who were in the boat worshiped him saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God’ ” (Matt. 14:33). A group of Canaanite women (Matt. 15:25), the mother of James and John (Matt. 20:20), the Gerasene demoniac (Mark 5:6), all worshiped Jesus without one word of rebuke. The disciples worshiped him after his resurrection (Matt. 28:17). Thomas saw the risen Christ and cried out, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28). This could only be allowed by a person who seriously considered himself to be God. Not only did Jesus accept this worship due to God alone without rebuking those who gave it, but he even commended those who acknowledged his deity (John 20:29; Matt. 16:17).
Jesus Claimed to Have Equal Authority with God. Jesus also put his words on a par with God’s. “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago. . . . But I tell you . . .” (Matt. 5:21, 22) is repeated over and over again. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations . . .” (Matt. 28:18–19). God had given the Ten Commandments to Moses, but Jesus said, “A new commandment I give you: Love one another” (John 13:34). Jesus said, “until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law” (Matt. 5:18), but later Jesus said of his words, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Matt. 24:35). Speaking of those who reject him, Jesus said, “that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day” (John 12:48). There is no question that Jesus expected his words to have equal authority with God’s declarations in the Old Testament.
Jesus Claimed to Be God by Requesting Prayer in His Name. Jesus not only asked people to believe in him and obey his commandments, but he asked them to pray in his name. “And I will do whatever you ask in my name. . . . You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” (John 14:13–14). “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you”
(John 15:7). Jesus even insisted, “No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). In response to this, the disciples not only prayed in Jesus’ name (1 Cor. 5:4), but prayed to Christ (Acts 7:59). Jesus certainly intended that his name be invoked both before God and as God in prayer.
In view of these clear ways in which Jesus claimed to be God, any unbiased observer of the Gospels should recognize that Jesus of Nazareth did claim to be God in human flesh. He claimed to be identical to Yahweh of the Old Testament.
Alleged Counter-claims of Christ. In spite of these repeated claims to be God, some critics take certain statements of Jesus as denials of deity. Two such incidents are commonly used: In one, a rich young ruler came to Jesus and addressed him as “Good teacher.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Why do you call me good? No one is good—except God alone” (Mark 10:17–18; see Mark 10:17–27; cf. parallels Matt. 19:16–30; Luke 18:18–30).
Notice, however, that Jesus did not deny that he was God; he asked the young man to examine the implications of what he said. Jesus was saying, “Do you realize what you are saying when you call me good? Are you really saying that I am God?” Of course, the man did not realize the implications of either his statements or what the law was really saying, so Jesus was forcing him into a very uncomfortable dilemma. Either Jesus was good and God, or he was evil and human, for each human is evil and does not deserve eternal life.
The second supposed counter-example is found in John 14:28, where Jesus said, “My Father is greater than I.” How can the Father be greater if Jesus is equal to God? The answer is that, as a man, Jesus subordinated himself to the Father and accepted limitations inherent with humanity. So, as man the Father was greater. Further, in the economy of salvation, the Father holds a higher office than does the Son. Jesus proceeded from the Father as a prophet who brought God’s words and a high priest who interceded for his people. In nature of being as God, Jesus and the Father are equals (John 1:1; 8:58; 10:30). An earthly father is equally human with his son, but holds a higher office. So the Father and Son in the Trinity are equal in essence but different in function. In like manner, we speak of the president of a nation as being greater in dignity of office, but not in character.
Jesus cannot be said to have considered himself less than God by nature. This summary helps us understand the differences:
Jesus and the Father as God
Jesus Is Subordinate . . .
- in his human nature.
- in his human function.
- in his human office.
- in his divine character.
Jesus’ Claim to Be God. In addition to Jesus’ claim about himself, his disciples also acknowledged his claim to deity. This they manifested in many ways, including the following:
Disciples Attributed the Titles of Deity to Christ. In agreement with their Master, Jesus’ Apostles called him “the first and the last” (Rev. 1:17; 2:8; 22:13), “the true light” (John 1:9), their “rock” or “stone” (1 Cor. 10:4; 1 Peter 2:6–8; cf. Pss. 18:2; 95:1), the “bridegroom” (Eph. 5:28–33; Rev. 21:2), “the chief shepherd” (1 Peter 5:4), and “the great shepherd” (Heb. 13:20). The Old Testament role of “redeemer” (Ps. 130:7; Hos. 13:14) is given to Jesus in the New Testament (Titus 2:13; Rev. 5:9). He is seen as the forgiver of sins (Acts 5:31; Col. 3:13; cf. Ps. 130:4; Jer. 31:34) and “savior of the world” (John 4:42; cf. Isa. 43:3). The apostles also taught of him, “Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead” (2 Tim. 4:1). All of these titles are unique to Jehovah in the Old Testament but are given to Jesus in the New.
Disciples Considered Jesus the Messiah-God. The New Testament opens with a passage concluding that Jesus is Immanuel (God with us), which refers to the messianic prediction of Isaiah 7:14. The very title “Christ” carries the same meaning as the Hebrew appellation Messiah (“anointed”). In Zechariah
Jesus Is Equal . . .
- in his divine nature.
- in his divine essence.
- in his divine attributes.
- in his human position.
In Zechariah 12:10, Jehovah says, “They will look on me, the one they have pierced.” But the New Testament writers apply this passage to Jesus’ crucifixion (John 19:37; Rev. 1:7). Paul interprets Isaiah 45:22–23 (“For I am God, and there is no other. . . . Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear”) as applying to Jesus: “At the name of Jesus every knee should bow . . . and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:10–11). Paul says that all created beings will call Jesus both Messiah (Christ) and Yahweh (Lord).
Disciples Attributed the Powers of God to Jesus. Works and authority that are God’s alone are attributed to Jesus by his disciples. He is said to raise the dead (John 5:21; 11:38–44) and to forgive sins (Acts 5:31; 13:38). He is said to have been the primary agent in creating (John 1:2; Col. 1:16) and sustaining (Col. 1:17) the universe.
Disciples Associated Jesus’ Name with God’s. His followers used Jesus’ name as the agent for answering and the recipient of prayer (Acts 7:59; 1 Cor. 5:4). Often in prayers or benedictions, Jesus’ name is used alongside God’s, as in, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal. 1:3; Eph. 1:2). The name of Jesus appears with equal status to God’s in the so-called trinitarian formulas: Jesus commanded to baptize “in the name [singular] of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19). This association is made at the end of 2 Corinthians (13:14): “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”
Disciples Called Jesus God. Thomas saw Jesus’ wounds and cried, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28). Paul calls Jesus the one in whom “all the fullness of Deity lives in bodily form” (Col. 2:9). In Titus, Jesus is “our great God and Savior” (2:13), and the writer to the Hebrews says of him, “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever” (Heb. 1:8). Paul says that before Christ existed in the form of man, which clearly refers to being really human, he existed in the “form of God” (Phil. 2:5–8). The parallel phrases suggest that if Jesus was fully human, then he was also fully God. A similar phrase, “the image of God,” refers in Colossians 1:15 to the manifestation of God. This description is strengthened in Hebrews where it says, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word” (1:3).
The prologue to John’s Gospel states categorically, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word [Jesus] was God” (John 1:1).
Disciples Considered Jesus Superior to Angels. The disciples did not simply believe that Christ was more than a man; they believed him to be greater than any created being, including angels. Paul says Jesus is “far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come” (Eph. 1:21). The demons submitted to his command (Matt. 8:32). Angels that refused the worship of humans are seen worshiping him (Rev. 22:8–9). The author of Hebrews presents a complete argument for Christ’s superiority over angels, saying, “For to which of the angels did God ever say, ‘You are my Son; today I have become your Father’? . . . And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, ‘Let all God’s angels worship him’ ” (Heb. 1:5–6).
Disciples’ Alleged Counter-claims to Jesus’ Deity. Critics offer texts to argue that Jesus’ disciples did not believe he was God. They need to be briefly examined in context. Jehovah’s Witnesses use John 1:1 to show that Jesus was “a god,” not “the God,” because no definite article the appears in the Greek. This misunderstands both the language and the verse. In Greek, the definite article is normally used to stress “the individual,” and when it is not present the reference is to “the nature” of the one denoted. Thus, the verse can be rendered, “And the Word was of the nature of God.” In the context of the following verses and the rest of John (for example, 1:3; 8:58; 10:30; 20:28) it is impossible that John 1:1 suggests that Jesus is anything less than divine. The rest of the New Testament joins John in forthrightly proclaiming that Jesus is God (for example, in Colossians 1:15–16 and Titus 2:13).
Further, some New Testament texts use the definite article and clearly refer to Christ as “the God.” It does not matter whether John used the definite article in 1:1. He and other writers of Scripture considered Jesus as God, not “a god” (see Heb. 1:8).
Critics also use Colossians 1:15, where Paul classifies Christ as “firstborn of all creation.” This seems to imply that Christ is a creature, the first creature as the universe was made. This interpretation likewise is contrary to the context, for Paul in Colossians 1:16 has just said that Christ “created all things” and he is about to say that “the fullness of the Godhead” is in him (2:9). The term firstborn frequently refers to a position of preeminence in the family which it clearly does in this context (cf. 1:18). Christ is heir of all things, creator and owner. He is before all things.
The same applies to Revelation 3:14, another verse used to deny Christ’s deity. John refers to Christ as the “beginning of the creation of God.” This sounds as if Christ was the first created being. Here, though, the meaning is that Christ is the Beginner of God’s creation, not the beginning in God’s creation. The same Greek word for beginning is used of God the Father in Revelation 21:6–7: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.”
Force of the Testimony. There is manifold testimony from Jesus and from those who knew him best that Jesus claimed to be God and that his followers believed that he was. Whether this was the case, there can be no doubt that this is what they believed. As C. S. Lewis observed, when confronted with the boldness of Christ’s claims, we are faced with distinct alternatives.
I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish things that people often say about Him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would rather be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. [Lewis, 55– 56]
Evidence That Jesus Is God. To say that Jesus and his disciples claimed that he was God in human flesh does not in itself prove that he is God. The real question is whether there is any good reason to believe the claims. To support his claims to deity, Jesus showed supernatural power and authority that is unique in human history.
Fulfilled Messianic Prophecies. There were dozens of predictive prophecies in the Old Testament regarding the Messiah (see PROPHECY AS PROOF FOR BIBLE). Consider the following predictions, made centuries in advance, that Jesus would be:
- born of a woman (Gen. 3:15; cf. Gal. 4:4).
- born of a virgin (Isa 7:14; cf. Matt. 1:21f.) (see VIRGIN BIRTH).
- cut off (would die) 483 years after the declaration to reconstruct the temple in 444 B.C. (Dan. 9:24f.; this was fulfilled to the year. See Hoehner, 115–38).
- The seed of Abraham (Gen. 12:1–3 and 22:18; cf. Matt. 1:1 and Gal. 3:16). of the tribe of Judah (Gen. 49:10; cf. Luke 3:23, 33 and Heb. 7:14).
- a descendant of David (2 Sam. 7:12f.; cf. Matt. 1:1).
- born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2; cf. Matt. 2:1 and Luke 2:4–7).
- anointed by the Holy Spirit (Isa. 11:2; cf. Matt. 3:16–17).
- heralded by a messenger (Isa. 40:3 and Mal. 3:1; cf. Matt. 3:1–2).
- a worker of miracles (Isa. 35:5–6; cf. Matt. 9:35; see MIRACLES IN THE BIBLE). cleanser of the temple (Mal. 3:1; cf. Matt. 21:12f.).
- rejected by Jews (Ps. 118:22; cf. 1 Peter 2:7).
- die a humiliating death (Ps. 22 and Isa. 53; cf. Matt. 27:31f.). His death would involve:
- enduring rejection by his own people (Isa. 53:3; cf. John 1:10–11; 7:5, 48). standing silence before his accusers (Isa. 53:7; cf. Matt. 27:12–19).
- being mocked (Ps. 22:7–8; cf. Matt. 27:31).
- having hands and feet pierced (Ps. 22:16; cf. Luke 23:33).
- being crucified with thieves (Isa. 53:12; cf. Mark 15:27–28). praying for his persecutors (Isa. 53:12; cf. Luke 23:34).
- the piercing of his side (Zech. 12:10; cf. John 19:34).
- burial in a rich man’s tomb (Isa. 53:9; cf. Matt. 27:57–60).
- the casting of lots for his garments (Ps. 22:18; cf. John 19:23–24).
- being raised from the dead (Ps. 2:7 and 16:10; cf. Acts 2:31 and Mark 16:6).
- ascending into heaven (Ps. 68:18; cf. Acts 1:9).
- sitting at the right hand of God (Ps. 110:1; cf. Heb. 1:3).
These prophecies were written hundreds of years before Christ was born. They are too precise to have been based on reading trends of the times or just intelligent guesses, like “prophecies” in a supermarket tabloid.
They are also more precise than the so-called prophecies of Muhammad in the Qur’an (see QUR’AN ALLEGED DIVINE ORIGIN OF). Even the most liberal critics admit that the prophetic books were completed at least 400 years before Christ and the Book of Daniel no later than 165 B.C (see DANIEL, DATING OF). There is good evidence to date these books much earlier (some Psalms and early prophets to the eighth and ninth centuries B.C.). But any reasonable dating places these writings long before Jesus lived. It is humanly impossible to make clear, repeated and accurate predictions 200 years in the future. The fulfillment of these prophecies in a theistic universe is miraculous and points to a divine confirmation of Jesus as the Messiah.
Some have suggested that there is a natural explanation for what only seem to be supernatural predictions here. One explanation is that the prophecies were accidentally fulfilled in Jesus. He happened to be in the right place at the right time. But what are we to say about the prophecies involving miracles? “He just happened to make the blind man see?” “He just happened to be resurrected from the dead?” These hardly seem to be chance events. If a God is in control of the universe, then chance is ruled out. Further, it is unlikely that these events would have converged in the life of one man. The probability of sixteen predictions being fulfilled in one man has been calculated at 1 in 1045. If we go to forty-eight predictions, the probability is 1 in 10157. It is almost impossible to conceive of a number that big (Stoner, 108).
But it is not just a logical improbability that rules out this theory; it is the moral implausibility of an all-powerful and all-knowing God letting things get out of control so that all his plans for prophetic fulfillment are ruined by someone who just happened to be in the right place at the right time. God cannot lie, nor can he break a promise (Heb. 6:18). So we must conclude that he did not allow his prophetic promises to be thwarted by chance. All the evidence points to Jesus as the divinely appointed fulfillment of the messianic prophecies. He was God’s man, confirmed by God’s signs. If God made the predictions to be fulfilled in the life of Christ, he would not allow them to be fulfilled in the life of any other. The God of truth would not allow a lie to be confirmed as true (see MIRACLES AS CONFIRMATION OF TRUTH).
A Miraculous and Sinless Life. The very nature of Christ’s life demonstrates his claim to deity. To live a truly sinless life would be a momentous accomplishment, but to claim to be God and offer a sinless life as evidence is another matter. Muhammad did not (see MUHAMMAD, CHARACTER OF). Nor did Buddha nor any other religious leader (see CHRIST, UNIQUENESS OF). Some of Jesus’ enemies brought false accusations against him, but the verdict of Pilate at his trial has been the verdict of history: “I find no basis for a charge against this man” (Luke 23:4). A soldier at the cross agreed, saying, “Surely this was a righteous man” (Luke 23:47), and the thief on the cross next to Jesus said, “this man has done nothing wrong” (Luke 23:41). But the real test is what those who were closest to Jesus said of his character. His disciples had lived and worked with him for three years at close range, yet their opinions of him were not diminished. Peter called Christ, “a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:19) and added, “no deceit was found in his mouth” (2:22). John called him, “Jesus Christ, the Righteous One” (1 John 2:1; cf. 3:7). Paul expressed the unanimous belief of the early church that Christ “had no sin” (2 Cor. 5:21), and the writer of Hebrews says that he was tempted as a man, “yet was without sin” (4:15). Jesus himself once challenged his accusers, “Can any of you prove me guilty of sin?” (John 8:46), but no one was able to find him guilty of anything. He forbid retaliation (Matt. 5:38–42). Unlike Muhammad, he never used the sword to spread his message (Matt. 26:52). This being the case, the impeccable character of Christ gives a double testimony to the truth of his claim. It provides supporting evidence as he suggested, but it also assures us that he was not lying when he said that he was God.
Beyond the moral aspects of his life, the miraculous nature of his ministry is a divine confirmation. Jesus performed an unprecedented display of miracles. He turned water to wine (John 2:7f.), walked on water (Matt. 14:25), multiplied bread (John 6:11f.), opened the eyes of the blind (John 9:7f.), made the lame to walk (Mark 2:3f.), cast out demons (Mark 3:11f.), healed the multitudes of all kinds of sickness (Matt. 9:35), including leprosy (Mark 1:40–42), and even raised the dead to life on several occasions (John 11:43–44; Luke 7:11–15; Mark 5:35f.). When asked if he was the Messiah, he used his miracles as evidence to support the claim saying, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised” (Matt. 11:4–5). This special outpouring of miracles was a special sign that Messiah had come (see Isa. 35:5–6). The Jewish leader Nicodemus even said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him” (John 3:2). To a first-century Jew, miracles such as Christ performed were clear indications of God’s approval of the performer’s message (see MIRACLES AS CONFIRMATION OF TRUTH). But in Jesus’ case, part of that message was that he was God in human flesh. Thus, his miracles verify his claim to be true deity.
The Resurrection. Nothing like the resurrection of Christ is claimed by any other religion, and no other miracle has as much historical confirmation. Jesus Christ rose from the dead on the third day in the same physical body, though transformed, in which he died. In this resurrected physical body he appeared to more than 500 disciples on at least one of twelve different occasions over a forty-day period and conversed with them (Acts 1:3; 1 Cor. 15:3–6; see RESURRECTION, ORDER OF EVENTS). The nature, extent, and times of, these appearances remove any doubt that Jesus indeed rose from the dead in the numerically same body of flesh and bones in which he died. During each appearance he was seen and heard with the natural senses of the observer. On at least four occasions he was touched or offered himself to be touched. At least twice he definitely was touched with physical hands. Four times Jesus ate physical food with his disciples. Four times they saw his empty tomb, and twice he showed them his crucifixion scars. He literally exhausted the ways it is possible to prove that he rose bodily from the grave. No event in the ancient world has more eyewitness verification than does the resurrection of Jesus (see RESURRECTION, EVIDENCE FOR).
What is more amazing about the resurrection is the fact that both the Old Testament and Jesus predicted that he would rise from the dead. This highlights the evidential value of the resurrection of Christ in a unique way.
Old Testament prediction of the resurrection. Jewish prophets predicted the resurrection in specific statements and by logical deduction. The apostles applied specific Old Testament texts to the resurrection of Christ (Ps. 2:7; cf. Heb. 1:5 and Acts 13:33). Peter says that, since we know that David died and was buried, he must have been speaking of the Christ when he said, “you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay” (Ps. 16:8–11, quoted in Acts 2:25–31). No doubt Paul used this and similar passages in the Jewish synagogues when “he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead” (Acts 17:2–3).
Also, the Old Testament teaches the resurrection by logical deduction. There is clear teaching that the Messiah was to die (cf. Ps. 22; Isa. 53) and equally evident teaching that he is to have an enduring political reign from Jerusalem (Isa. 9:6; Dan. 2:44; Zech. 13:1). There is no viable way to reconcile these two teachings unless the Messiah who dies is raised from the dead to reign forever. There is no indication in the Old Testament of two Messiahs, one suffering and one reigning, as some Jewish scholars have suggested. References to the Messiah are always in the singular (cf. Isa. 9:6; 53:1f.; Dan. 9:26). No second Messiah is ever designated.
Yet Jesus had begun no reign when he died. Only by his resurrection could the prophecies of a Messianic kingdom be fulfilled.
Jesus’ prediction of his resurrection. On several occasions Jesus also predicted his resurrection from the dead. In the earliest part of his ministry, he said, “Destroy this temple, [of my body] and I will raise it again in three days” (John 2:19, 21). In Matthew 12:40, he said, “as Jonah was three days and nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and nights in the heart of the earth.” To those who had seen his miracles and stubbornly would not believe, he said, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah”
(Matt. 12:39; 16:4). After Peter’s confession, “he then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things . . . and that he must be killed and after three days rise again” (Mark 8:31). This became a central part of his teaching from that point until his death (Matt. 27:63; Mark 14:59). Further, Jesus taught that he would raise himself from the dead, saying of his life, “I have authority to lay it down and I have authority to take it up again” (John 10:18).
Philosopher of science Karl Popper argued that, whenever a “risky prediction” is fulfilled, it counts as confirmation of the theory that predicted it. If so, then the fulfillment of Jesus’ prediction of his own resurrection is confirmation of his claim to be God. For what could be riskier than predicting your own resurrection? If a person will not accept these lines of evidence as support of Christ’s truth claim, then he has a bias that will not accept anything as evidence.
Summary. Jesus claimed to be God and proved it by a convergence of three unprecedented sets of miracles: fulfilled prophecy, a miraculous life, and his resurrection from the dead. This unique convergence of supernatural events confirms his claims to be God in human flesh. It also answers David Hume’s objection that, since all miracles have similar claims, their proof claims are mutually canceling. Not all religions have like miracle claims. Only in Christianity does its leader claim to prove to be God by a convergence of unique supernatural events such as Jesus offered (see CHRIST, UNIQUENESS OF). Hence, only Christ is miraculously confirmed to be God and, by virtue of that, to be believed in whatever he teaches as true.