It is interesting that in the first three Gospels, Jesus never expressly states that he is God, contrary to the cardinal doctrine of Trinitarian Christianity codified at the Council of Nicea in 325 CE. The truth is, there are many passages in the Synoptics which indicate that Jesus very definitely did not believe that he was God. Here is one such passage from the Gospel of Mark:
Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.
When confronted with these passages, Trinitarian Christians twist themselves into pretzels inventing the most complicated of explanations for why the simple reading of these passages is not correct. In addition, they will often appeal to the episode in which Jesus declares the forgiveness of sins to the paralytic man lowered through the roof of a house.
And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 6 Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this fellow speak in this way? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 8 At once Jesus perceived in his spirit that they were discussing these questions among themselves; and he said to them, “Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? 9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and take your mat and walk’? 10 But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— 11 “I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home.”
That certainly sounds as if Jesus believed he had the power to forgive sins. Notice, however, that Jesus did not say,
“I am the Lord your God, Creator of heaven and earth, all-powerful and all-knowing, who delivered your fathers, the children of Israel, from the hands of the Egyptians. Arise and walk. I forgive you of your sins.”
Jesus doesn’t say anything remotely like the statements made by God (Jesus, according to Trinitarians) when identifying himself in the Old Testament, does he? What Jesus does say in this passage in Mark infers that a higher power has given him the authority to forgive sins while on earth. That certainly does not sound as if Jesus believes that he is God or equal to God.
But even more proof that Jesus did not believe that he was God is Jesus’ alleged statement on the cross:
Father forgive them for they know not what they do.
If Jesus was God, why did he need to ask the Father to forgive those who were crucifying him? Why didn’t he forgive them himself? And what happened to his alleged power to forgive sins while on earth???
What a theological mess!
Here is a statement by New Testament scholar, Raymond Brown, on this alleged prayer by Jesus on the cross:
“This prayer is not found in all copies of the New Testament. It is omitted in important textual witnesses, some of them very early. Yet other major Greek codices and early versions have it. This is a case where the weight of textual witnesses on one side almost offsets that on the other side. What emerges is that already in the second century, some copies of Luke had the prayer while others did not. From that situation the following possibilities for the origin of the prayer in Luke 23:34a emerge.
-It was spoken by Jesus (in the crucifixion context or elsewhere) and preserved only by Luke. Some later copyists, finding it unacceptable, removed it.
-It was spoken by Jesus but not preserved by Luke. It circulated as an independent saying and only in the second century was inserted in the present context by a copyist who thought that it fit well the sentiments of this Gospel.
-It was not spoken by Jesus but was formulated by Luke (or in the immediate pre-Lukan tradition) as an appropriate vocalization of what Jesus must have thought: He actually forgave silently. Some later copyists, finding it unacceptable, removed it.
-It was not spoken by Jesus but was formulated by post-Gospel Christian thought as appropriate to Jesus and inserted by a copyist in Luke’s Passion Narrative as a fitting context.”
—The Death of the Messiah, p. 975
Gary: Wow! Holy Textual Unreliability, Batman!!!
Conservative Christians like to claim that the Jewish Christians of the first century meticulously maintained the accuracy of their oral traditions, and therefore we can trust the accuracy and historical reliability of the Gospels. But just look at what happened with one of the most famous statements of Jesus in the entire Bible, allegedly said on the cross!!! Even mainstream Christian scholars like Raymond Brown are not sure if Jesus really ever said this!
Christians will counter that even if this verse is a fictitious invention (either by “Luke”, by a copying scribe, or by post-Gospel Church authorities), it doesn’t matter. It does not change one single Christian doctrine.
However, they are missing a crucial point. They fail to address this issue: Raymond Brown has given massive quantities of evidence in The Death of the Messiah that the authors of Matthew and Luke used Mark’s Gospel extensively to write their Gospels. Brown also states that a significant percentage of New Testament scholars believe that John also used Mark as a boiler plate for his Gospel.
So if all that is true, and, we have evidence that early Christians did alter, delete, and add (invent?) details to Mark’s original story…how do we know that Mark, the original source, did not invent much of the material in his Gospel???
Dear Readers, for all we know the original Resurrection Story is what we find in First Corinthians 15: a bare bones account devoid of an empty rock tomb and devoid of any description of anyone seeing a flesh and blood body in an alleged appearance experience. It is entirely possible that the rock tomb of Arimathea and all the detailed appearances stories in the Gospels are fictitious literary or theological inventions.
For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received:
that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures,
and that he was buried,
and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures,
and that he appeared to Cephas,
then to the twelve.
Then he appeared to James,
then to all the apostles.
Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.
–Paul, First Corinthians 15