This article first appeared in the Christian Research Journal, volume 31, number 4 (2008). For further information or to subscribe to the Christian Research Journal go to: http://www.equip.org
In the current scholarly debate, the answer to Jesus’ question, “Who do you say that I am?” has encountered a few stumbling blocks. For example, Jesus never used the term “God” when referring to Himself, none of the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, or Luke) ever explicitly gives the title “God” to Jesus, no sermon in the Book of Acts attributes the title “God” to Jesus, no existing Christian confession(s) of Jesus as “God” exist earlier than the late 50s and, although there are seventeen texts that are considered to be possible “Jesus-God” passages, only four of them appear in the approximately fifty Greek New Testament manuscripts that predate the fourth century. Also, and perhaps the biggest obstacle in ascribing the title “God” to Jesus, the existing New Testament manuscripts differ in all potential passages that explicitly call Jesus “God.” What is at stake, if these stumbling blocks are not removed, is that the traditional and essential Christian doctrine of the divinity of Christ is undermined.
“Who do you say that I am?”
As we turn to the Bible, we expect an explicit answer to Jesus’ question. Most New Testament scholars, at some point, have searched the New Testament for passages that explicitly refer to Jesus as “God.”1 This may seem like a painless pursuit with plenty of “proof” passages, but several stumbling blocks quickly emerge from it.
First, Jesus never used the term “God” when referring to Himself. Mark10:18 and 15:34 even record that He differentiates Himself from God (the Father). He similarly differentiates Himself in other statements throughout the other gospels, such as Matthew19:17,27:46; Luke18:19; and John20:17.2
Second, none of the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, or Luke) ever explicitly gives the title “God” to Jesus.
Third, no sermon in the Book of Acts attributes the title “God” to Jesus.
Fourth, no existing Christian confession(s) of Jesus as “God” exist earlier than the late 50s. Romans 9:5 probably would be the first, but its punctuation and grammar is uncertain, which casts doubt on whether it qualifies as such a confession. In other words, the absence of systematic punctuation in the earliest transmission of New Testament manuscripts prevents us from definitively solving the grammar of this text.3
Fifth, although there are seventeen texts that are considered to be possible “Jesus-God” passages, only four of them appear in the approximately fifty Greek New Testament manuscripts that predate the fourth century. The importance of this period in Church history (especially regarding this topic) revolves around the raging Christological debates, leading some scholars to suspect that the Orthodox Church corrupted all or most of the manuscripts in order to make them agree with their own doctrine.
Finally—and arguably the biggest obstacle in ascribing the title “God” to Jesus—the existing New Testament manuscripts differ in all potential passages that explicitly call Jesus “God.” The authors of a recent book, Reinventing Jesus, emphasize this problem by noting, “If a particular verse does not teach the deity of Christ in some of the manuscripts, does this mean that that doctrine is suspect? It would only be suspect if all the verses that affirm Christ’s deity are textually suspect.”5 Regarding the explicit “Jesus-God” passages, however, that unfortunately is the case. The authors continue, “even then the variants [differences between the manuscripts] would have to be plausible.” This further reveals the importance of this topic.
What is at stake here is that this undermines the traditional and essential Christian doctrine of the divinity of Christ. All three branches of Christianity (Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Protestantism) confess Jesus as “God,” often pointing to the first ecumenical council that formalized this into a creedal confession concerning Jesus: “True God from true God” (Nicaea, AD3256).
This ascription of Jesus as “God” appears in some of our earliest writings outside the New Testament. “We must think about Christ as we think about God,” the author of 2 Clement opens his homily. “I bid you farewell always in our God Jesus Christ,” concludes early Christian author Ignatius in his letter to Polycarp. These writers seem to agree that the title “God” significantly contributes to our understanding of who Christ is.
Likewise, G.K. Chesterton, in Orthodoxy, explains, “Orthodox theology has specially insisted that Christ was not a being apart from God and man, like an elf, not yet a being half human and half not, like a centaur, but both things at once and both things thoroughly, very man and very God.”7
As Paul Barnett, respected classicist and ancient historian, rightly states, “It was Christology that gave birth to Christianity,” therefore, “Christianity is Christology.”8
Why is this issue important? Several scholars continually challenge the textual authenticity of these passages—leaving people in doubt whether the New Testament ever explicitly calls Jesus “God.” For example, professor and best-selling author Bart Ehrman, in at least three published books and one published lecture series, suggests that the original text does not necessarily teach the deity of Christ. He bases these allegations on alleged textual problems that he attributes to manipulative scribes (those who made copies of the manuscripts). He almost exclusively leans toward the manipulation of these early proto-orthodox scribes in the development of a high Christology in his book The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture: The Effect of Early Christological Controversies on the Text of the New Testament.
In the face of these challenges, we too, however, can turn to the Scriptures and their transmission. Close examination will demonstrate that the New Testament actually does call Jesus “God.”9
A BRIEF INTRODUCTION TO TEXTUAL CRITICISM
We begin by considering the compilation of the Bible. After a group or person received an original gospel or letter (called an “autograph”), copies were made in order to make them accessible to a wider audience. The apostle Paul commands the Colossian church to distribute his letter to a wider audience in Colossians 4:16: “And after you have read this letter, have it read to the church of Laodicea; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea.”
The loss of the original autographs over time is not surprising due to their constant usage and the materials on which they were written (typically the papyrus plant). Unfortunately for us, scribes lacked the “copy and paste” functions current technology offers. They wrote copies by hand, and such copies were inconsistent. Most of the inconsistencies happened by mistake, such as spelling errors or word-order differences, but some changes were intentional. How do we know what they did and why? How can we know for sure what the original autograph said?
Textual criticism is the study and comparison of surviving copies of lost documents in order to determine the exact wording of the original autograph. In this case, it is the study of the surviving copies of the New Testament.
A textual critic, then, is not one who has a “critical attitude” toward the Bible, but rather one who works in the field of determining originals. This task is important because we have none of the original New Testament autographs, and all the copies we do have differ from one another. As a result, we first must determine what the Bible says, before we can determine what the Bible means. It is for this reason that some textual critics now challenge the “Jesus-God” passages.
Though different methods exist for determining what the original said, most textual critics today include both internal and external evidence when deciding on the original text. In other words, they evaluate everything, including where it was geographically written, when it was written, how it was written (e.g., style, context, vocabulary), what type of scribal tendencies are detectable (e.g., faulty eyesight, misspellings, theological manipulations), and so forth. This may seem mechanical, but most scholars working in this discipline would say that it is both an art and a science.10
Let us now turn to the Scriptures. Each of the following is a potential “Jesus-God” passage that scholars hold in dispute.
Until 1996, when Bart Ehrman first published The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, New Testament scholars agreed unanimously in their textual certainty of the statement in John 1:1, “and the Word was God”11 (a verse that appears in at least one manuscript prior to the second century). This scholarly agreement continues today12 with the exception of Ehrman. In this case, John 1:1, he remains unpersuaded by the scholarly consensus because of his hesitancy to dismiss a single eighth-century manuscript—a manuscript that has an additional Greek article in front of “God.”13 This manuscript, then, gives him the “distinct impression” that the Orthodox Church changed the text in order to confirm the full deity of Christ.14
The Church allegedly changed this after declaring a bishop named Arius heretical for denying the full deity of Christ. The Orthodox Church, then, according to Ehrman, changed this text so that the implicit identification—Jesus as simply divine—would become an explicit one—God Himself.
One problem with Ehrman’s thesis is that Arius never had a problem calling Jesus “God.” In fact, he does so in a letter he wrote to Eusebius, bishop of Nicomedia, in which he wrote, “He [the Son] subsisted before times and ages, full of grace and truth, God, only-begotten, unchangeable.”15 Ehrman’s orthodox-corruption theory, in this case, remains unjustifiable at its basic level.16
Further, the difference in this one eighth-century manuscript does not deny the deity of Jesus (with or without the additional Greek article). Most scholars interpret this phrase as, “the Word had the same nature as God.”17
“Regarding Jesus as merely ‘divine’ but not deity violates the context,” New Testament professor Craig Keener writes in his commentary on the Gospel of John, “identifying him with the Father does the same. For this reason…scholars from across the contemporary theological spectrum recognize that, although Father and Son are distinct in this text, they share deity in the same way.”18
Attempts to understand the theological motive(s) behind the variant in this one eighth-century manuscript do not change the fact that the text is certain and it explicitly ascribes the title “God” to Jesus: “and the Word was God.”
Next we consider John 20:28. As world-renowned New Testament scholar N. T. Wright believes, John 20:28 is the fullest confession of faith in the entire Gospel.19 “My Lord and my God,” cries Thomas upon touching the risen Christ. Even more intriguing is that this confession comes from the lips of “doubting Thomas.”
Now before we assess its textual pedigree, some have argued that Jesus merely allowed this statement in order not to “ruin the moment.” Jesus’ teachings and convictions (here and elsewhere), however, seem to contradict this option. For example, in Matthew 4:10 and Luke 4:8, He quotes Deuteronomy 6:13, “You are to worship the Lord your God and serve only Him.”
Does John 20:28 have an untrustworthy textual history? Once again, a single fifth-century manuscript has given Ehrman some textual reflux because it omits a Greek article before “God,” thus changing Thomas’s confession. Assuming Ehrman is correct, however, his argument is backwards. If the variant in this one manuscript maintained the original wording, then the verse has a Greek grammatical construction that requires the application of a rule scholars label Granville Sharp’s Rule. This grammatical rule requires us to understand both “Lord” and “God” in this verse as referring to Jesus. In other words, if Ehrman is correct in going with this one fifth-century manuscript, this verse is actually even more explicit. No matter which manuscript contains the original wording, John 20:28 thus explicitly refers to Jesus as “God.”
Titus 2:13 presumably reveals a conceptual unity between “God” and Jesus: “of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.”20 Much of the debate over this verse congregates around the Greek grammatical construction mentioned earlier and the application of Granville Sharp’s Rule to it. Daniel Wallace in his forthcoming book Granville Sharp’s Canon and Its Kin, concisely explains:
By way of conclusion, we are reminded of A. T. Robertson’s words: “Sharp stands vindicated after all the dust has settled.” As I began this investigation, I assumed that perhaps he was too bold, too premature in his assessment. But the evidence has shown that Robertson was right on the mark, and that Sharp’s canon has been terribly neglected and abused in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. In the least, it ought to be resurrected as a sound principle that has overwhelming validity in all of Greek literature—when properly understood. Consequently, in Titus 2:13 and 2 Pet 1:1 we should at least recognize that, on a grammatical level, a heavy burden of proof rests with the one who wishes to deny that “God and Savior” refers to one person, Jesus Christ. (emphases in original)21
This issue, however, should not entirely distract us as we look at the textual evidence behind the translation of Titus 2:13. With that aside, the prior question remains, “Is the textual pedigree certain?”22 The answer is absolutely, “Yes!”23 This assessment still has its foes, but most grammarians, like Wallace, state that this text clearly indicates that one person is in view. (The only possible variant in it concerns the order of the last two words: “Jesus Christ” or “Christ Jesus.”) To my knowledge, not one jot or tittle ever has been penned against its textual certainty, making Titus 2:13 an explicit reference to Jesus as “God,” as it reads: “of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.”24
Hebrews 1:8, “but to the Son [he declares], ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, and a righteous scepter is the scepter of your kingdom.’” is another verse that possibly attributes “God” to Jesus. The main textual difference is whether the last word in Greek should read “his” or “your.”25 The answer will help us determine whether it explicitly calls Jesus “God”:
Option 1 is a direct address, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, and a righteous scepter is the scepter of your kingdom.”
Option 2 makes God the subject, “God is your throne [or, Your throne is God] forever and ever, and a righteous scepter is the scepter of his [i.e. God’s] kingdom.”
Given the internal context, whereas both of these options are grammatically possible, only the first (i.e., direct address) is contextually plausible. It resonates with the central theme of the section and book, which is the exalted Christ. The portions of the quote within this verse that are not in dispute clearly match Psalm 45:6; of the portions that are in dispute, only those in option 1 match the Psalm.26 The author of Hebrews and those of the rest of the New Testament, who stood in the exegetical tradition of the quoted Psalm, surely viewed such texts as Davidic prophecies that escalated, culminated, and thus were fulfilled in Christ. A clear distinction exists between the angels (subordinate, ephemeral, and servants) and Christ (superior, eternal, and deity), which disappears if the second option (i.e., God as subject) is chosen.
External evidence favors the pronoun “your” (in option 1) as having better textual credentials than the pronoun “his” (in option 2).27 Ehrman nonetheless says, “It is interesting to observe that the same manuscripts that evidence corruption in Hebrews 1:8 do so in John 1:18 as well, one of the other [“Jesus-God”] passages.”28 This brief statement is correct, but it leaves the reader with a blurred view of the manuscript evidence. Indeed, all the manuscripts Ehrman used in discussing this topic include other “Jesus-God” passages in them. Let’s look at four examples:
1. The fifth-century Western manuscript (D/05)
· Corrupted text according to Ehrman: John 1:1.
· Text that supports Ehrman’s reading: John 20:28.
2. The eighth-century Alexandrian manuscript (L/019)
· Corrupted text according to Ehrman: John 20:28.
· Text that supports Ehrman’s reading: John 1:1.
3. The fourth-century Alexandrian manuscript (A/01)
· Corrupted texts according to Ehrman: John 1:1; 1:18; 20:28.
· Texts that support Ehrman’s reading: Heb. 1:8; 2 Pet. 1:1.
4. The fourth/fifth-century Alexandrian manuscript (W/032)
· Corrupted texts according to Ehrman: John 1:1; John 20:28.
· Text that supports Ehrman’s reading: John 1:18.
In light of these four examples, which are only a small sampling, no groups would have received a distorted view of the deity of Christ if they received only their manuscript. All of the manuscripts listed above have at least one “Jesus-God” verse that affirms the full deity of Christ. It is not essential, then, that every potential “Jesus-God” passage in every manuscript affirm the same. This evidential conclusion causes another major problem in Ehrman’s overall orthodox-corruption thesis.
In the end, the best evidence in Hebrews 1:8 points to the true textual reading, “but to the Son [he declares], ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, and a righteous scepter is the scepter of your kingdom.’” In other words, there is a high probability that Hebrews 1:8 is another explicit affirmation of Jesus as “God.”
2 Peter 1:1
Second Peter 1:1 is potentially the last New Testament verse for explicitly equating Jesus with “God.” Some manuscripts read “Lord” instead of “God” in verse 1:
“through the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ.”
“through the righteousness of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”
Those who accept “Lord” as the original reading attempt to justify their conclusion several different ways. First, the phrase “Lord and Savior” occurs much more frequently in 2 Peter (1:11; 2:20; 3:2; 3:18). Second, all New Testament references to righteousness refer to God, not to Christ (except perhaps Phil. 1:11). Third, “Lord” maintains the possible parallelism between 1:1 and 1:2, distinguishing God and Jesus. Fourth, a shift to “God” could have been a motivated orthodox corruption to make the text speak explicitly of Jesus as “God.” Fifth, the New Testament rarely attributes “God” to Jesus.
Those who accept “God” as the original reading reverse most of the critiques above while including a few additional ones. First, since “Lord and Savior” is the New Testament norm, a scribe could have changed it to harmonize with his familiarity of other biblical passages. Second, almost all references to righteousness in the New Testament do refer to God, so a scribe may have changed it to agree. Third, “Lord” maintains the alleged parallelism between 1:1 and 1:2 (even though this alleged parallelism would be extremely rare in the New Testament). Fourth, “God” is the harder reading as the opposing critiques correctly reveal (the harder reading is often preferred in the discipline of Textual Criticism, based on the observation that scribes had a tendency to simplify the text). Fifth, when an author desires to distinguish two people, he uses a different Greek construction (e.g., 2 Pet. 1:2). Sixth, the external evidence is much better and earlier (not to mention the complete agreement within all major published Greek texts).
It is highly probable, then, that “God” goes back to the original manuscript because it best accounts for all the evidence. If so, this verse explicitly attributes the title “God” to Jesus.
A REASONABLE INFERENCEFROM REVIEWED STATEMENTS
No one contests that the New Testament usually reserves the title “God” for the Father. This usage, however, though dominant, is not exclusive.29 The question, therefore, is not whether Jesus is explicitly called “God” in the New Testament, but how many times He is thus identified and by whom.30 This debate, then, does not jeopardize Orthodox Christology, since textual criticism demonstrates that Jesus is called God: the title “God” only makes explicit what other Christological titles such as “Lord” and “Son of God” imply. We therefore can have confidence amid these Christological challenges. As Murray Harris, prolific author and expert on the deity of Christ, concludes:
Even if the early Church had never applied the title [“God”] to Jesus, his deity would still be apparent in his being the object of human and angelic worship and of saving faith; the exerciser of exclusively divine functions such as creatorial agency, the forgiveness of sins, and the final judgment; the addressee in petitionary prayer; the possessor of all divine attributes; the bearer of numerous titles used of Yahweh in the Old Testament; and the co-author of divine blessing. Faith in the deity of Christ does not rest on the evidence or validity of a series of “proof-texts” in which Jesus may receive the title [“God”] but on the general testimony of the New Testament corroborated at the bar of personal experience.31
With at least one text that undoubtedly calls Jesus “God” in every respect (John 20:28), the question whether Jesus is ever called “God” in the New Testament is resolved.32 This still will not silence the cries of all skeptics, but any other conclusion divorces itself from the textual evidence, internally and externally. In other words, the overwhelming testimony of available ancient manuscripts clearly attests that the claim “Jesus is God” is in fact a scriptural claim. Whether one chooses to believe in Him as such is another matter.
1. I am discussing the origin of the title “God” and not the origin of understanding Jesus as divine. That understanding was early and expressed in various ways. See, among others, C.F.D. Moule, The Origin of Christology (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1977).
2. It may be true that Jesus never uses the term “God” for Himself, but none of these texts or interpretations are intended to portray a complete New Testament Christology.
3. For more information, see Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (New York: United Bible Societies, 2005), 459–62. Cf. Bart Ehrman’s comment, “Nor will I take into account variant modes of punctuation that prove christologically significant, as these cannot be traced back to the period of our concern, when most manuscripts were not punctuated,” Bart D. Ehrman, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture: The Effect of Early Christological Controversies on the Text of the New Testament, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), 31; and Cuthbert Lattey, “The Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus in Romans ix. 5,” [ExpT 35 (1923–24)], 42–43. For the most recent critical discussion see Robert Jewett, Romans (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2007), 555, 566–69.
4. The number fifty only represents Greek New Testament manuscripts and not any of the earlier manuscripts (e.g., Latin, Coptic, and Syriac) or the works of other Christian writers prior to the fourth century (e.g., Clement, Ignatius, and Irenaeus). For more information, see Ed Komoszewski, M. James Sawyer, and Daniel B. Wallace, Reinventing Jesus: What The Da Vinci Code and Other Novel Speculations Don’t Tell You (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2006), 116.
5. Ibid., 114.
6. F. L. Cross and E. A. Livingstone, The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 3rd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 1151–52.
7. G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1995), 98.
8. Paul Barnett, The Birth of Christianity: The First Twenty Years (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005), 8 and 26.
9. For a recent argument for an early high Christology, see Larry W. Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003).
10. For more information see Bart D. Ehrman, Bruce M. Metzger, The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration, 4th ed. (Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2005).
11. Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations are my own Greek translations.
12. To my knowledge no standard work lists any textual debates on this passage. Neither the United Bible Society 4 nor the Nestle Aland 27 list variants of any kind for John 1:1c. Only three other major published Greek texts even list it in their textual apparatus (Tischendorf, Merk, von Soden), with one-hundred percent scholarly unanimity as to its original form.
13. Another manuscript (W/032) exists that has the additional Greek article before “God,” but since neither Ehrman nor others have used it, to my knowledge, I will not dialogue with it here. For a more thorough textual examination regarding this passage, though, see Matthew P. Morgan, Egregious Regius: Sabellianism or Scribal Blunder in John 1:1c? (Grand Rapids: Kregel, forthcoming).
14. Ehrman, Orthodox Corruption, 179.
15. William Rusch, The Trinitarian Controversy (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1983), 29–30. For Greek text see Urkunden zur Geschichte des arianischen Streites, ed. H. G. Opitz (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1934). Cf. R. P. C. Hanson, The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God: The Arian Controversy, 318–381 (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2005), 6; Lewis Ayres, Nicaea and its Legacy: An Approach to Fourth-Century Trinitarian Theology (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), 105–126.
16. As theologian Wayne Grudem states, “Arius taught that God the Son was at one point created by God the Father, and that before that time the Son did not exist, nor did the Holy Spirit, but the Father only. Thus, though the Son is a heavenly being who existed before the rest of creation and who is far greater than all the rest of creation, he is still not equal to the Father in all his attributes—he may even be said to be ‘like the Father’ or ‘similar to the Father’ in his nature, but he cannot be said to be ‘of the same nature’ as the Father.” Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 243.
17. For surveys of the grammar in this passage, see Wallace 1996: 256–70; Colwell 1933: 12–31; Köstenberger, John: 28–29; Mastin, “Theos in the Christology of John”: 32–51; Harris, Jesus as God: 51–71; Westcott 1975: 8–22; Harner 1973: 75–87.
18. Craig S. Keener, The Gospel of John: A Commentary (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2003), 372–74.
19. N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2003), 664.
20. The wording “our great God and Savior,” which is applied to Jesus in this verse, was current among Greek-speaking Christians. See James H. Moulton, “Prolegomena,” vol. 1 of A Grammar of New Testament Greek (Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1906), 84.
21. Daniel B. Wallace, Granville Sharp’s Canon and Its Kin (Bern: Peter Lang, forthcoming).
22. This seemingly backwards approach has not influenced my method or conviction that the text determines the grammar, not the reverse.
23. Cf. Moulton, 1:84; Robertson, 786; Wallace, 270–78, esp. 276; Moule, Idiom 109–10; Blass-Debrunner, §276; A. Brooks, Carlton L. Winbery, Syntax of New Testament Greek (Washington, D.C.: University Press of America, 1979), 76. Further, the majority of critical commentators and exegetes agree with the grammarians.
24. For a grammatical (not textual) treatment against this view, see Gordon Fee, Pauline Christology: An Exegetical-Theological Study (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2007). Cf. Wallace, Granville Sharp’s Canon and Its Kin.
25. Actually, two other variants in this verse exist that do not need further discussion here. The second one in no way affects our question of whether the author explicitly calls Jesus “God” and the first one, according to many textual critics (e.g., Bruce Metzger), would only slightly reduce the difficulty of the last variant if it were to read “of him.” See Bruce Metzger.
26. The phrase, “Your throne, O God,” from option 1, is taken directly from Psalm 45:6. The phrase “God is your throne” from option 2 of Heb. 1:8, however, is used nowhere else, to my knowledge. The expression, according to commentator T. K. Cheyne, is not “consistent with the religion of the psalmists.” See T. K. Cheyne, The Book of Psalms, or, The Praises of Israel (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, and Company, 1888), 127.
27. For more information, see G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson, eds. Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007), 938–39.
28. Ehrman, Orthodox Corruption, 265.
29. I should also note that an argument based on the New Testament’s usage or nonusage of the title “God” for Jesus is different from the claim that the New Testament authors were so embedded with Jewish monotheism that they could not have thought of Jesus as God. Such a claim assumes that the New Testament authors could not reconcile two truths or break away from their prior presuppositions. Even though they may use “contradictory” terminology, they believed in the divinity of Jesus, sometimes even in preexistent categories. Cf. Larry W. Hurtado, How on Earth Did Jesus Become a God? Historical Questions about Earliest Devotion to Jesus (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005).
30. A conceptual fallacy exists when any scholar rejects every possible text in support of a concept to show that the original author(s) did not support that concept. The answer to this question nevertheless inevitably will boil down to the presuppositions of each scholar. See, for example, Robert H. Stein, Jesus the Messiah: A Survey of the Life of Christ (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 17.
31. Murray J. Harris, “Titus 2:13 and the Deity of Christ,” in Pauline Studies, ed. Donald A. Hagner and Murray J. Harris (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980), 271.
32. Theologian A. W. Wainwright makes two additional points. First, he says that many critics have chosen a less natural translation of the Greek because they believe it was psychologically impossible for the writer to have said that Jesus was God. Second, he feels that the argument from inconsistency in usage must be used with care because we are not certain that the writer saw an inconsistency in only occasionally using a title (the rarity of usage to some extent is dependent on the rejection of most of the potential “Jesus-God” passages. By combining only a few of these instances with the others the usage thus is not so rare). His conclusion, therefore, is that just because “God” for Jesus seems rare in the New Testament it should not always be considered improbable. See A. W. Wainwright, “The Confession ‘Jesus as God’ in the New Testament,” Scottish Journal of Theology 10 (1957): 274–99 esp. 277.