Beyond Belief: a Buddhist Critique of Christianity
Fact and fiction in
the life of Jesus
Was Jesus God?
Christians claim that Jesus was God. Let us see if there is any
justification for these claims. If Jesus really was God it is very
strange that he never said so. There is not one place in the whole of
the Bible where Jesus simply and unambiguously says, "I am God".
Christians will object to this and say that Jesus often called himself
or was called the Son of God. However, the Bible clearly shows that
any person who was good and had faith qualified to be called a Son
of God. For example, Jesus called Adam a son of God (Lk 3:38).
It will happen that in the very place where it was said of them "you are not my people" they will be called "sons of the living God" (Rom 9:26).
Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your father in heaven (Matt 5:44-45).
You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus (Gal 3:26).
You are God's; you are all sons of the most high (Ps 82:6).
Jesus is called God's 'only begotten son' but even this is not unique.
In the Psalms God says to King David, "You are my son, today I have begotten you" (Ps 2:7) In fact, Jesus said distinctly that when
he called himself a son of God, he did not mean he was God or
related to God in a literal sense. When the Jewish priests criticized
him for claiming to be equal with God, Jesus said:
Is it not written in your law, "I have said you are gods"? If he called them "gods" to whom the word of God came - and the Scripture cannot be broken what about one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? (Jn 10:34-36).
Christians will protest that in these quotes 'son of god' is not written
in capitals but when Jesus makes his claims capitals are used thus,
'Son of God'. But capital letters to make a phrase outstanding or to
give it emphasis is an innovation of modern English. In ancient
Greek and Aramaic, the languages in which the New Testament was
written, capital letters were never used and so the distinction
between 'son of god' and 'Son of God' did not exist. Christians make
an enormous fuss about Jesus' claims to be a son of God but as we
can see, there is absolutely nothing unique in this claim. Christians
could claim that the term 'son of God' is used in the Bible in two
different ways - as a title for a particularly holy person and for the
actual son of God, Jesus, who was with God in heaven before
coming to earth. But even in this second sense Jesus was not unique.
The Bible tells us that God had numerous sons with him in heaven
who later came to earth and lived with humans just as Jesus did.
When mankind began to increase and spread all over the earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful; so they took for themselves such women as they chose. (Gen 6:1-3)
In the Bible Jesus is called the Son of Man more than 80 times. Yet
the Bible also tells us that in the eyes of God the Son of Man is
nothing more than a worm (Job, 25:6). How can Christians claim
that the Son of Man is God when the Bible itself says that the Son
of Man is nothing more than a worm? Christians will then insist that Jesus was called the Messiah, but
again it was not unusual to be called a Messiah. The Hebrew word
messiah of which the Greek translation is christos simply means
'anointed one', and refers to anyone sent by God to help the people
of Israel. Even a non-Jew could be and sometimes was called a
Messiah. The Bible even calls the pagan Persian King Cyrus a
Messiah because he let God's people return to their homeland (Is 45:1).
So just because Jesus was called the Messiah does not prove
he was God. In fact, throughout the Bible Jesus goes out of his way
to make it clear that he was not God. When someone called Jesus 'good teacher' he said:
Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone (Lk 18:19).
Now if Jesus was God why would he deny that he was good? We
are told that Jesus prayed, but if he was God why would he need to
pray to himself? And when Jesus prayed, he said to God, "not my will but yours"
(Lk 22:42). Quite clearly Jesus is making a
distinction between God's will and his own. Jesus says that no one
has even seen God (Jn 1:18), meaning that when people saw him
they were not seeing God. Again Jesus says he can do nothing
I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can only do what he sees the Father do (Jn 5:19).
By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me (Jn 5:30).
I can do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me (Jn :28).
If Jesus was God he could do anything he wanted to do, and in these
passages and dozens of others he is making it as clear as crystal that
he is one thing and God another. Jesus said, "The Father is greater than I" (Jn 14:28) making it clear that he is not as great as God and
therefore different from God. He says:
Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven (Lk 12:10).
Now if Jesus and the Holy Spirit were the same, to blaspheme one
would be the same as blaspheming the other. In the Bible we are
told that no one born of a woman can be pure (Job 25:4). Jesus was
born of a woman, his mother Mary, so he likewise must have been
impure. Now if Jesus was impure how could he be God? We are
told that Jesus was dead for three days before ascending into heaven.
How can God possibly die? Who was looking after the universe
while he was dead? Jesus said that at the end of the world he would
be sitting at the right hand of God to judge the world (Lk 22:69). If
Jesus and God are the same being, how is this possible? Quite
clearly the two are separate and different. And again David is
described as sitting on the right hand of God, so to do this one does
not have be a god (Ps 110:1). We are told that Jesus stands between God and man.
For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ (1 Tim 2:5).
This passage clearly states that Jesus is not God, for if he was, how
could he stand' between God and men? It also specifically calls Jesus
a man (see also Acts l7:3-31). In the Gospels of Matthew and Luke
(Matt 1:16, Lk 3:23) we are given the name of Jesus' father, his
father's father, and so on, back through many generations. if God
was really Jesus' father, why does the Bible list all Jesus' ancestors
on his father's side? Christians are forever claiming that Jesus is God
and at the same time that he is the son of God. But how is this
possible? How can a father be his own son and himself all at the
same time? And to make matters more confused, the Holy Spirit is
brought in and we are asked to believe that Jesus, God and the Holy
Spirit are different and yet the same.
The claim of Christians that Jesus is God contradicts what the Bible
says, it goes against common sense and it raises numerous logical problems. Whereas if we see Jesus as he was, a reformer and
prophet, none of these problems arise.
Go to Chapter 5: Fact and fiction in the life of Jesus. Part 3
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