We’re using the “Handbook of Apologetics” by Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli to go over the arguments for the existence of God. Today, we will be covering the above referenced subject in relation to the existence of God. Dr. Kreeft teaches logic in two major universities, so his arguments tend to be clear, concise and very helpful.
Huston Smith notes, in The World’s Religions, that only the people ever astounded their contemporaries so much that the question they evoked was not “Who is he?” but “What is he?” They were Jesus and Buddha. The answers these two gave were exactly opposite. Buddha said unequivocally that he was a mere man, not a god—almost as if he foresaw later attempts to worship him. Jesus, on the other hand, claimed in many ways to be divine.
The problem of Jesus’ identity emerges from the data. The data are the four Gospels, which inform us about the claims he made about himself and the claims others made about him. In all four Gospels the claim is shockingly strong. (See Some Scriptural Data For Christ’s Claim to Divinity.)
Jesus called himself the “Son of God”—that is, of the same nature as God. A son is of the same nature, the same species, the same essence, as his father. Jesus called God his Father: “I and the Father are one” (Jn 10:30) and “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn 14:9).
He also claimed to be sinless: “Which of you can convict me of sin?” He claimed to forgive sins—all sins, against everyone. The Jews protested: “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” They were much more clear-thinking theologians than the modernists, who “nuance” this claim. The only one who has the right to forgive all sins is the only One who is offended in all sins, namely, God. I have a right to forgive you for your sins against me, but not for your sins against others.
Jesus claimed to save us from sin and death. He said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will never die.” He said he had come from heaven, not just earth, and that he would return again from heaven at the end of the world to judge everyone. Meanwhile, he gave us his flesh to eat, and said that this would give us eternal life.
Jesus changed Simon’s name to Peter. For a Jew, changing names was something only God could do, for your name was not just a human, arbitrary label, but your real identity, which was given to you by God alone. In the Old Testament, only God changed names, and destinies—Abram became Abraham, Sarai became Sarah, Jacob became Israel. An orthodox Jew who got his name legally changed was excommunicated.
Jesus kept pointing people to himself, saying “Come unto me.” Buddha said, “Look not to me; look to my dharma (doctrine).” Buddha also said, “Be ye lamps unto yourselves.” Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.”
Buddha, Confucius, Muhammad and other religious founders performed no miracles and did not rise from the dead. Jesus offered his many miracles and his resurrection as evidence for his divinity.
Most clearly and shockingly of all, he invited crucifixion (or stoning) by saying: “Very truly, I tell you [i.e., I am not exaggerating or speaking symbolically here; take this in all its force], before Abraham was, I am” (Jn 8:58). He spoke and claimed the sacred name that God revealed to Moses, the name God used to name himself (Ex 3:14). If he was not God, no one in history ever said anything more blasphemous than this; by Jewish law, no one ever deserved to be crucified more than Jesus.
Who then was Jesus, really?
You cannot even ask the question without implicitly choosing among answers. The very wording of the question, in the past tense (“Who was Jesus?”) or the present (“Who is Jesus?”), presupposes its own answer. For those who believe his claim do not say that he was divine, but is divine. Divinity does not change or die or disappear into the past. Furthermore, if he really rose from the dead, he still is, and is very much alive today.