Review of “The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus” by Habermas and Licona, Chapter 10: Who Did Jesus Think He Was?

As conservative Christians, authors Habermas and Licona believe that Jesus believed that he was God.  The authors spend chapter 10 of their book attempting to prove he did.  But did he?

I believe that the Gospel of Mark most likely gives us the most accurate portrayal of the historical Jesus.  I think that Jesus believed that he was divine in some sense of that word. I think Jesus believed that he was the messiah. He believed that God had given him special supernatural powers, powers above and beyond the typical prophet. I think he believed it was fully within his God-given powers to pronounce God’s forgiveness of sins, just as the priests did in the Temple. But I do not think that Jesus ever believed that he was Yahweh himself, Creator of the universe, who had existed for all eternity. Yes, he considered himself to be the “son of God” but he never refers to himself as the “ONLY Son of God, born of a virgin, fathered by the Holy Spirit”. (The kings of Israel were also referred to as “the son of God”, so this title was not something unique to Jesus.)

The Jesus of the Gospel of John is unrecognizable compared to the Jesus of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.  I believe that the Jesus of the Gospel of John and the Jesus of the Synoptics are two different men!  I believe that the Jesus of the Gospel of John is a literary invention of late first century Christians who had developed a very high (but fictional) Christology.

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8 thoughts on “Review of “The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus” by Habermas and Licona, Chapter 10: Who Did Jesus Think He Was?

      1. Nothing supernatural. Most likely one of the many Jewish apocalyptic “preachers.” Seriously, I think it was the imaginative gospel writers that made him the “special guy” that Christians see him as today.

        If anything, I think he was trying to reinforce the promises that Yahweh had made since the Jewish people had been through a number of trials and many had drifted away. He was trying to reassure them they hadn’t been forgotten and eventually everything Yahweh had promised to them was going to come to pass.

        I know that’s a pretty far out perspective, but from the research I did for my book, I got a very different image of Yeshua than what’s taught in the churches today.

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          1. Gary, I didn’t spend a lot of time on this issue when researching my book (and it isn’t included) so my answer here is pretty much off the top of my head. Also, I’m answering your question more from the angle of why he had to die, rather than why was he crucified. I think the latter has been answered in a number of places.

            From what I’ve read, one of the acts that Yeshua committed that threw people into a tizzy was the temple cleansing. It appears this started the whole idea that he was a bit of a rebel and the Roman government was most definitely concerned about rebels. But in essence, there is actually very little in the gospels as to the “true” reason Jesus was killed. There is, however, reams of “opinions” by apologists and scholars … and wannabes of both.

            Answering this question really goes back to how much “faith” one puts into the gospel writers. Personally, I feel there’s a lot of “fiction writing” in the New Testament (I addressed this recently on my blog) so it’s next to impossible for me to answer your question substantively. Sorry.

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          2. I think you make a very good point, Nan. Since the anonymous authors of Matthew, Luke, and possibly John were copying large sections of the anonymous author of Mark, how do we know if Jesus said ANY of these statements?

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  1. But, if a high Christology was only developed much later by the church, what are you feeling concerning this very early creed embedded in Paul’s letter to the Phillippians which far precedes the writing of the gospel of John. And, along with that what led the earliest believers who came from a fiercely Jewish monotheistic background to accept such an exalted view of Jesus Christ in the first place?

    Philippians 2:5-11
    Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

    Who, being in very nature God,
    Did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
    But made himself nothing,
    Taking the very nature of a servant,
    Being made in human likeness.
    And being found in appearance as a man,
    He humbled himself
    And became obedient to death –
    Even death on a cross.
    Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    And gave him the name that is above every name,
    That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    In heaven and on earth and under the earth,
    And every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    To the glory of God the Father

    Are you thinking this could have been related to Paul’s mental illness, or the apostle’s possible hallucinations or perhaps something more?

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    1. I don’t think that Paul ever considered Jesus to be Yahweh but this passage certainly sounds very “high” as far as Christology goes.

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