Concerning the Nature of Jesus

  1. Philosophy Forum
  2. » Christianity
  3. » Concerning the Nature of Jesus

Get Email Updates Email this Topic Print this Page

Reply Wed 21 Nov, 2007 06:24 am
For nearly two thousand years, the clearly dominant opinion among Christian scholars, teachers, chruch officials and laiety, has been that Jesus was divine as the Son of God.
Jesus often refers to himself as the son of god, but he also suggests that we are all the children of God. Recall, "Our father...". Of course, in the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus is quite clear that we are all equally the children of god, but even in the New Testament, he does disagree with those who call him good, replying that only God is good.

Considering the figure of Jesus and his message, can we be anything other than compelled to reconsider the criticisms of a number of early theologians and ask ourselves "Should a Christian necessarily view Jesus as particularly divine?"

Of course, the presentation of Jesus is but a small consideration. If we say, yes Jesus is divine, we have to say what it is to not be divine, and the nature of that difference without slipping into some sort of silly dualism. No easy task.
 
NeitherExtreme
 
Reply Wed 21 Nov, 2007 01:30 pm
@Didymos Thomas,
Interesting topic... Like you said, this one's been debated for time out of mind. I am one who believes that Jesus is God, but after you're question I'm going have to go back and look again at why it is that I believe that. It's always good to have others keep me on my toes so I don't get lazy and forgetfull. Smile

As far as Jesus' divinity: I can't quote chapter and verse, but I do feel like I remember it being pretty hard to read John's gospel without the sense that Jesus is divine.

As far as the divinity of anyone else: I see at least a few differences in Jesus' claim as the Son of God and the idea that all followers of Christ are sons of God. Jesus was with God from the begining. Jesus was perfect, and did not need to be redeemed, but instead redeemed others. Jesus was not born to an earthly father. And there is also the idea that God has adopted others to be sons and daughters, whereas the idea of adoption is nowhere indicated toward Jeus.

Didymos Thomas wrote:
he does disagree with those who call him good, replying that only God is good.


I always understood this as Jesus pointing out the belief/disbelief in the person asking the question. Jesus doesn't deny that He is good, He says "Why do you call me good, only God is good." This leaves the questioner to either decide that Jesus is not good, or that Jesus is in fact God.
 
Didymos Thomas
 
Reply Thu 22 Nov, 2007 12:53 am
@NeitherExtreme,
You are absolutely right about John's Gospel. My only concern here is that the notion that Jesus is divine in a way others are not, and cannot be, seems to be unique to John's Gospel.

"Jesus was with God from the begining. Jesus was perfect, and did not need to be redeemed, but instead redeemed others. Jesus was not born to an earthly father. And there is also the idea that God has adopted others to be sons and daughters, whereas the idea of adoption is nowhere indicated toward Jeus."

I want to be careful because I do not want to argue issues that may be articles of faith. My interest is more in the careful evaluation of the texts we have in which the figure Jesus is presented. In other words, I am interested in the coming as close as possible to what Jesus taught; not in what his students thought of his teachings, or what the Old Testament suggests he should be. I'm not sure I see the ideas that Jesus was with God from the begining or that he was perfect presented consistently in the Gospels. Though, I do agree that Jesus' role in redemption seems clear - he did not need to be redeemed, and his teaching redeemed others; however, that he did not need to be redeemed himself seems worth considering as the gospels are, again, seem to be in disagreement. With respect to the divinity of Jesus' birth, I have two issues. The first being that the earliest texts, according to some scholars anyway, have "young maiden" which was mistranslated as "virgin". Second, that a human being exists without having a biological father defies , to say the least, a great deal of scientific understanding.

"I always understood this as Jesus pointing out the belief/disbelief in the person asking the question. Jesus doesn't deny that He is good, He says "Why do you call me good, only God is good." This leaves the questioner to either decide that Jesus is not good, or that Jesus is in fact God."

But if he says "Only God is good." isn't he limiting goodness to God by saying "Only God"? Also, why is the decision between Jesus being either good or not good, could he not be either? Then again, if Jesus is God, then Jesus would be good. Or maybe he just meant that the influence God in all of us is what is good about us.
 
NeitherExtreme
 
Reply Thu 22 Nov, 2007 03:05 pm
@Didymos Thomas,
Didymos Thomas wrote:
In other words, I am interested in the coming as close as possible to what Jesus taught; not in what his students thought of his teachings, or what the Old Testament suggests he should be.


Hmm... I think I see where you're coming from. Can't say that I've ever looked at it from that perspective, but now I want to go and do some reading and get back to you. The only thought I have at the moment is to wonder if the Old Testament prophecies ought to be included in what Jesus taught about Himself, if in fact He taught or accepted that Old Testament Messianic prophecy was descriptive of Himself.

Hope to get back to you with some more thoughts in a little while. Smile

PS, any significance between your username and this topic?
 
NeitherExtreme
 
Reply Thu 22 Nov, 2007 03:13 pm
@Didymos Thomas,
Didymos Thomas wrote:

But if he says "Only God is good." isn't he limiting goodness to God by saying "Only God"? Also, why is the decision between Jesus being either good or not good, could he not be either? Then again, if Jesus is God, then Jesus would be good. Or maybe he just meant that the influence God in all of us is what is good about us.


The problem of whether He was limiting goodness to God would be present no matter what He is claiming about Himself... Personally I think we might be doing a "western thought interpretation injustice" (if you know what I mean :confused: ) to the text to take the statements as a blanket theological statement. I think Jesus really is just trying to bring to the front the quesiton of whether or not the man He is speaking to believes that Jesus is God. It is a bit of a confusing passage though, and I've spent some time scratching my head about it. Wink Surprised
 
Didymos Thomas
 
Reply Thu 22 Nov, 2007 09:57 pm
@NeitherExtreme,
Quote:
The problem of whether He was limiting goodness to God would be present no matter what He is claiming about Himself... Personally I think we might be doing a "western thought interpretation injustice" (if you know what I mean ) to the text to take the statements as a blanket theological statement. I think Jesus really is just trying to bring to the front the quesiton of whether or not the man He is speaking to believes that Jesus is God. It is a bit of a confusing passage though, and I've spent some time scratching my head about it.


As you pointed out, Jesus isn't making a direct claim about himself, rather, the claim is about God, that "only God is good". As for the significance of the statement, I'm not convinced that it should be taken as a blanket theological statement that should be applied as absolute; though, the statement does have significant theological meaning, which is why it's important. Given my interest here, a philosophical rather than spiritual, I look at such statements, compare them to similar statements, and attempt to sift through the material we have to learn about the message of Jesus. Also, I wonder if you could explain why you think the passage relates to the divinity of Jesus. It seems to me that Jesus is, more than anything else, directing the focus away from himself and towards God.

Quote:
The only thought I have at the moment is to wonder if the Old Testament prophecies ought to be included in what Jesus taught about Himself, if in fact He taught or accepted that Old Testament Messianic prophecy was descriptive of Himself.


A question probably best answered by examining the instances of Jesus referring to the Old Testament. Often times he does this, saying something to the effect of 'Have you not read' this or that. At the same time, Jesus does seem to hint that the Old Testament, rather, the bulk of what is today the Old Testament (as the contents of the OT varies from tradition to tradition), has at least been surpassed in importance by his teachings.

For me, the line was drawn when his disciples asked which of the commandments were most important and Jesus replied by saying that 'Love God' and 'Love thy neighbor as thyself' were most important, and upon those two commandemtns hang all the laws and prophecies. Also, we have the Pharisees again and again trying to trick Jesus by quoting Law, and Jesus always finds such issues to be irrelevant. Thus, it seems, Jesus was suggesting that we know the law and prophecies, because they can be very useful in your spiritual life; however, we should approach them with those two commandments in mind - 'Love God' and 'Love thy neighbor as thyself'.

As for the name, it's derived from the supposed author of The Gospel of Thomas, whose identity is of some debate. This Gospel should not be confused with the Acts of Thomas or the Infancy Gospel of Thomas which were written much later.
 
cjames phil
 
Reply Fri 23 Nov, 2007 09:48 am
@Didymos Thomas,
 
Didymos Thomas
 
Reply Fri 23 Nov, 2007 01:04 pm
@cjames phil,
I had an opprotunity to read some of Baha'u'llah's writing, which I enjoyed and found useful. From what I can tell, Baha'i attempts to reconcile various faith traditions in much the same way Buddhism does. My only problem with Baha'i teaching is that Baha'u'llah claimed to be the future prophet of many faiths. The coming prophet spoken of in various traditions does exist - be it the second coming of Jesus or the future Buddha, the Maitreya. Baha'u'llah claimed the title Maitreya, the problem being that the Maitreya, according to Buddhist scripture, will not come until the teachings of Buddha, Gautama Buddha, are entirely forgotten. This may seem to be a quibble, but to me, the claiming of such a title, one that he obviously cannot rightly claim, is a degree of spiritual materialism that I have a hard time accepting. Maybe someone better versed in Baha'i could clear this up for me.
 
cjames phil
 
Reply Sun 25 Nov, 2007 02:17 am
@Didymos Thomas,
Forgot to write the link sorry : http://www.info.bahai.org/article-1-4-0-3.html
 
NeitherExtreme
 
Reply Sun 25 Nov, 2007 12:13 pm
@Didymos Thomas,
Some thoughts and questions...

Didymos Thomas wrote:
You are absolutely right about John's Gospel. My only concern here is that the notion that Jesus is divine in a way others are not, and cannot be, seems to be unique to John's Gospel.


Just wondering, why the exclusion of John?

Didymos Thomas wrote:

however, that he did not need to be redeemed himself seems worth considering as the gospels are, again, seem to be in disagreement.


I must not be seeing the same thing... where do you find the disagreement?

Didymos Thomas wrote:
With respect to the divinity of Jesus' birth, I have two issues. The first being that the earliest texts, according to some scholars anyway, have "young maiden" which was mistranslated as "virgin". Second, that a human being exists without having a biological father defies , to say the least, a great deal of scientific understanding.


As far as the translation goes, I think the text of story would suggest a "fatherless" conception with or without the actual use of the word virgin. As for the possability of such an event, it would obviously fall under the catagory of being a miracle, and one unique to Jesus' life. (which by the way is one of the reasons that I would find Jesus to be a "son" in a way that others are not) If you don't believe in God's ability to do the miraculous, then I think you would really have to do away with all Biblical teaching as being any source of accurate information, and proceed to study it in an accademic way only.

As far as wether or not Jesus taught that He was the Son of God in way that others could not be (in the synoptic Gospels), I would have to say that He obviously never teaches directly on the subject. But that really does raise the quesiton that if it were our ultimate goal to be Sons of God the way Jesus is, then why would He not have taught that? And there are plenty of implications that He is something that others are not, and I believe, never would be. Mathew 16 is a good (thought not the only) example of this. Peter claims that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and Jesus responds by saying that this is right and that God have revealed this to Peter. Jesus then gives Peter his name, and says that He will build His Church on Peter. If Peter's eventual destination was to be another "the Son of God", this would seem to have been a natural time to state that.

All in all, I think that the lack of Jesus teaching about it, and the witness of the Old Testament prophecies as well as His own that point to His uniqueness, and the "fatherless" birth lead me to believe that Jesus was intended to be the Son of God in a way that no other would or could be.

As far as the Gospel of Thomas, I have never read it and don't know what it teaches. Do you know of a good website to learn about it?
 
Didymos Thomas
 
Reply Sun 25 Nov, 2007 05:34 pm
@NeitherExtreme,
Quote:
Just wondering, why the exclusion of John?


I do not suggest the exclusion of John; I suggest we look at John critically, something I suggest we do with each of the Gospels.

Quote:
I must not be seeing the same thing... where do you find the disagreement?


Was Jesus not tempted by Satan? Just as Buddha was tempted by Mara, Jesus was tempted by Satan, and the result was the same in both cases - the devil, upset with the prophets wise answers, left. The story is the story of Jesus casting away the last of Satan's grasp upon his soul.

Quote:
As far as the translation goes, I think the text of story would suggest a "fatherless" conception with or without the actual use of the word virgin.


Before I go much further with this, I only speak English. I am certainly no authority on translation regarding Biblical texts. I think part of the problem exists also in that the virgin birth of Jesus is not addressed in our earliest texts, and is something that appears in later texts, leading some scholars to think the notion of a virgin birth was an addition made by later Christians and not part of Jesus' own doctrine.
Also, in Isaiah, instead of using the Hebrew word for virgin, a more general term is used which means young woman. This has lead some to argue that Isaiah does not predict the virgin birth of the messiah.
However, in the time of Jesus, and to the present, the prevailing thought among practitioners is that the messiah is to be born to a virgin. This may be the reason why early Christians added the virgin birth to their accounts of Jesus (appearing in Mathew and Luke), so as to make Jesus more appealing to Jews, just as many pagan traditions were adopted by Christians to make Christianity more appealing.

Quote:
If you don't believe in God's ability to do the miraculous, then I think you would really have to do away with all Biblical teaching as being any source of accurate information, and proceed to study it in an accademic way only.


Rejecting the notion of miracles does not mean one must reject all Biblical teaching. Why should it? If we reject miracles, why must we reject the notion that love for all human kind is a good thing, something to be practiced?

Quote:
But that really does raise the quesiton that if it were our ultimate goal to be Sons of God the way Jesus is, then why would He not have taught that?


And I quote "Our father, who art in heaven..." If God is the father of all, then we are all His children, sons of God.

You are right to say that Jesus and the disciples see Jesus as something special - he is the messiah, their teacher and certainly was thought to be a holy man, more holy than any other perhaps. I do not argue that Jesus was no more holy than anyone else - he seems to have been far more holy. What I doubt is that this holiness which we ascribe to Jesus can only be attributed to Jesus.

Quote:
As far as wether or not Jesus taught that He was the Son of God in way that others could not be (in the synoptic Gospels), I would have to say that He obviously never teaches directly on the subject.


But he seems to teach otherwise when he instructs those gathered to pray "Our father".

Quote:
All in all, I think that the lack of Jesus teaching about it, and the witness of the Old Testament prophecies as well as His own that point to His uniqueness, and the "fatherless" birth lead me to believe that Jesus was intended to be the Son of God in a way that no other would or could be.


All in all, I think the fact that Jesus teaches us that God is "our" father is enough to show that being the son of God is not a unique title. As for the OT prophecies, I want to bring up again what Jesus says about the prophets and the laws - that the value in them is their instruction with respect to loving God and loving our neighbors as we love ourselves. I'm not convinced that Jesus was, or that we should be, concerned with the dogmatic beliefs many OT lines have spawned, as Jesus is clear that we should not let them become dogma.

Quote:
As far as the Gospel of Thomas, I have never read it and don't know what it teaches. Do you know of a good website to learn about it?


If you want some background information, the wiki article is decent. You can find full versions of the text in a simple google search.
 
tat tvam asi
 
Reply Tue 27 Nov, 2007 11:17 am
@Didymos Thomas,
this is probably very dim and misses the point of this discussion, so apologies in advance, but has no one considered that what we know of jesus from the bible has been subject to various other agendas of the people who actually put the book together? i mean that for various different people throughout history it has been beneficial for jesus to come across as god personified ect.
you said at the start, unless i misunderstand, that you wnated to seperate what jesus actually taught from what we have been told he taught. but surely what is written in the new testament is a result of what numerous other parties wanted it to look like he taught, and jesus' actual teachings in their original form are lost to history...
 
Didymos Thomas
 
Reply Tue 27 Nov, 2007 12:36 pm
@tat tvam asi,
Your concerns are more than valid - they're spot on.

Luckily for us scholars, the history of the Bible is well documented. This leaves us the messy job of sorting out the records we have; no easy task. For any given book of the Bible, an original copy simply does not exist. What we have instead are a number of early copies, and references to even earlier versions. Wikipedia has a decent series on Biblical scholarship of this sort.

Given the nature of the subject, no one would suggest that any amount of study and research will allow us to definitively sort out true Jesus from invented Jesus. What we can do; however, is look at the information we have and sort out what is most likely Jesus from what is most likely added.

One interesting example of this is the Jeffersonian Bible and a study done on the language of Jesus. Thomas Jefferson collected, from a wide variety of translations and versions, sayings of Jesus which he found to be spiritually valuable in his own practice. Recently, scholars and linguistic experts studied the language Jesus used to highlight sayings most likely used by Jesus. Jefferson's Bible and the teachings these experts decided can be attributed to Jesus with a degree of certainty turned out to be remarkably similar in content.
 
dpmartin
 
Reply Tue 27 Nov, 2007 06:35 pm
@Didymos Thomas,
Didymos Thomas

I may be mistaken here (which wouldn't be the first time) but what I find interesting is the scepticism on who or what Jesus is. Considering the "christian church example" it may be warranted, but just the same. Jesus is about the Truth and the Mercy of God. The concept of all men as son's of God was God's intention according to scripture. In other words, are we sons of God or are we suppose to become son's of God?

Adam is referred to as a son of God in Luke: 3
38: Which was the son of Enos, which was the son of Seth, which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God.
(was the son of God is also key) but Jesus is referred to as the only begotten Son of God, I think there is over 10 references to this in the NT and some in the OT. Which supports the "virgin" claim. Not of a man but of God through a woman. And why would the apostles themselves proclaim this if Mary didn't tell them so, she did hang out with them a lot.

Why there would be a conspiracy to fake the world into believing that God's mercy is no further then one turning to God to become that which God made man to be (With God and not without God), so that he can know the Living God. I don't get the motivation to deceive. If you do so, will you not know? If He is who they say He is, and one calls upon His name( in private mind you) asking Him to be one's Lord and Savior, would you not know?

If the concern is christian abuse of submission as a submission to them or the church. Oh ya that is true, they seek it from others all the time. But the true submission is to the Mercy of God through the acceptable Way ordained by God. Which is Jesus. Not religion.

It is proclaimed that He fulfilled the OT. Most jews that except, including rabbis, Jesus as the Christ, the Promised One. Usually come to that Truth when studying Isaiah.

Another thing to take into consideration is the people that wrote and maintained the OT do not consider Jesus as the Christ, but yet it prophesy's Him. So it would have to be a collaboration of two opposing beliefs. Which back in the day, where venomous towards each other.
 
THINKER phil
 
Reply Tue 27 Nov, 2007 11:53 pm
@Didymos Thomas,
I'd like to believe that we are all sons and daughters of God and that we can and should follow the path of Jesus. I believe that Jesus believed in many of the same beliefs taught in other religions and would not be opposed to other religions.
 
Didymos Thomas
 
Reply Wed 28 Nov, 2007 05:04 am
@THINKER phil,
Quote:
I may be mistaken here (which wouldn't be the first time) but what I find interesting is the scepticism on who or what Jesus is. Considering the "christian church example" it may be warranted, but just the same. Jesus is about the Truth and the Mercy of God. The concept of all men as son's of God was God's intention according to scripture. In other words, are we sons of God or are we suppose to become son's of God?


I think the skepticism is justified due to the nature of the information we have about Jesus. Record of him outside of Biblical literature is almost non-existent. What we do know amounts to him being some sort of Jewish spiritual teacher, in the general vicinity of where the Bible claims, and that he was executed. As for the Biblical literature, we must also be careful. What we have is an oral tradition (though a recent one) being written down, and copies being produced by hand, rarely by trained scholars. The original copy of each work is long lost to time, and even within the earliest versions we find, discrepencies appear.
As for your question about our relationship to God, I can explain my perspective. Looking at scripture, and seeing the phrases "Son of God", "Our father", ect., I found value in the following understanding: We are all the children of God, we are all of God, thus we should strive to act as children of God should act.

As for a conspiracy, I'm not sure what you mean. The point I was trying to make was that the most common perspective is that Jesus, as the only Son of God, is of a more divine nature than the rest of humanity.

Quote:
Another thing to take into consideration is the people that wrote and maintained the OT do not consider Jesus as the Christ, but yet it prophesy's Him. So it would have to be a collaboration of two opposing beliefs. Which back in the day, where venomous towards each other.


Except that the Old Testament, rather, the books that compose it, predate Jesus. Of course the authors of the OT did not think Jesus to be the Messiah, Jesus was yet to be born.

Quote:
I'd like to believe that we are all sons and daughters of God and that we can and should follow the path of Jesus. I believe that Jesus believed in many of the same beliefs taught in other religions and would not be opposed to other religions.


You should check out Karen Armstrong's "Living Buddha, Living Christ" if you haven't already.
 
boagie
 
Reply Wed 28 Nov, 2007 12:25 pm
@Didymos Thomas,
Acharya SSmile
http://www.TruthBeKnown.com
 
dpmartin
 
Reply Wed 28 Nov, 2007 06:48 pm
@Didymos Thomas,
just to clarify

How can one be the son of that which he does not know? A son knows his father and the father knows his son. If one doesn't have a relationship with God then one is not a son of His.
 
NeitherExtreme
 
Reply Wed 28 Nov, 2007 07:38 pm
@boagie,
boagie wrote:

Interesting video. (The music was a bit dramatic though...:rolleyes: ) Some of it seemed a little fabricated, or was at least reaching pretty far. (Example: I don't think any Christian scholar really thinks Jesus was born on the December 25th, we know that that was added later.) It also didn't take into account that a lot of Christians believe in Christ-types that point to the truth of Jesus (though I understand from their perspective that sounds absurd). I wish they would have expounded a bit more on how they think the story was actually fabricated, not just on what part of the story simbolizes what sign, etc.

It reminds me to a degree of some of the one-sided videos produced by Christians themselves: Far reaching claims that can't really be substantiated in 1/2 an hour, dramatic music, one-sided arguments, etc.

Definetely a worthwhile one to watch for Christians, unless you are quickly angered or confused by people who hold very different world-views and support it with arguments, in which case maybe you'd better steer clear. :eek:

Edited to add: Just wanted to add that I started doing a little "research", and though I don't want to start an argument, some of the "facts" in the video don't line up with what I'm finding (mostly wikipedia though :rolleyes:). Just adds to my opinion that it seems a bit like one of those "one-sided" videos that people make (both Christians and others), which can be interesting and informative but definetely set up to look more complete than it is...
 
NeitherExtreme
 
Reply Wed 28 Nov, 2007 07:55 pm
@Didymos Thomas,
Going back to finish up my thoughts on the Gospels' testimony about Jesus' Divinity, virgin birht, etc. I didn't end up with anything conclusive, but here are the few thoughts I had:

As far as the Gospel of Thomas goes, I am no expert, but it seems to me that it is in direct disagreement with at least two of the others. And since it seems to be the most questionable (open to debate of course), and it is outnumbered, I'd probably eventually go with a consensus of the others if I can. Of the other four Luke and Mathew clearly (to me anyway) spell out Jesus' virgin birth, and therefore His divinity. Mark gives no background whatsoever, but starts right in with the baptism of Jesus and God saying "You are my Son". And John begins with Jesus being described as devine, though again no birth details are given. So from all of that, I think I'd say that if I was going to take just those 5 books as my resources, I would come away with the idea that Jesus was the (singular) Son of God, and this was demonstrated through a fatherless birth.
 
 

 
  1. Philosophy Forum
  2. » Christianity
  3. » Concerning the Nature of Jesus
Copyright © 2019 MadLab, LLC :: Terms of Service :: Privacy Policy :: Page generated in 0.02 seconds on 07/16/2019 at 05:40:06