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How Jesus became God?

How Jesus became God? Chronological changes of belief about Jesus as God according to History.

When Allah will say O Isa, son of Mary, did you say to people to take you and your mother as Gods besides Allah?(Quran 5:116)” – A Jumma Khutbah by Dr Manzur Ashraf, Melbourne A timeline of How Jesus was declared as a full power God is illustrated for your information in the following Image (link):

Background 1:

  • Isa (As) and contemporary Palestinians talked using a language called SYRIAC (which is a dialect of Armaic).
  • More than 200 years before Jesus, HEBREW was extinct and was replaced by SYRIAC.
  • GREEK also entered (by ROMANS) and was confined to higher class people.
  • General people used to talk in SYRIAC language.

Background 2:

  • Four GOSPELS written by Greek-speaking Christians who entered Christianity after JESUS.
  • All these are Oral tradition – they don’t have any written form.
  • Translated directly into own GREEK language.
  • None of the GOSPEL written before 70 CE.
  • Gospel of John was written after a century of Jesus in a city in Asia Minor.
  • No original GREEK copy of Gospels exists.
  • None of the original manuscripts (in SYRIAC language) discovered.
  • Therefore, it is difficult to say what changes might have been taken in three centuries.

Background 3:

  • Muslim conquest of Jerusalem: SYRIAC to ARABIC
  • Muslim scholars of the first 3 centuries obtained Information through SYRIAC speaking CHRISTIANS about CHRISTIANITY.
  • Rather than in Romans: SYRIAC to GREEK to LATIN
  • Greater chance of original SYRIAC words spoken by Jesus preserved with Palestinian Christians than with others.

What happened after the Death of Jesus:

30 CE: Christ died

Apostle Paul:

  • 20-30 yrs after Jesus died
  • Number of Paul’s letters included in New Testament.
  • Paul didn’t know Jesus personally. He doesn’t tell very much about Jesus’s teaching, experience & activities.
  • Paul never said: Jesus declared himself to be a God (Divine).

GOSPELS: They are not written by eyewitnesses of Jesus.

  • Mathew: Named after Jesus’s disciple (tax collector).
  • Mark: Secretary of Peter (Apostle)
  • Luke: Traveling companion of Paul
  • John: Jesus’s disciple.

However, books are written anonymously – the authors never identified themselves.

They are circulated for decaded:

Jesus died in 30 CE

Mark: 65-70 CE

Mathew, Luke: 80 – 85 CE

John: 90-95 CE

Huge time gap. The very first account of Jesus life written 35-40 yrs after his death.

EXAMPLE:

Therefore, any statement of John, after a number of unknown people’s oral traditions, was finally written in Gospel of John after 60 years.

We don’t know how many people were in the chain of narration.

We don’t know the identities of those people.

We don’t know the authors even.

Did Jesus claim to be God?

Jesus claims to be God (divine) in the Last of Gospels : The Gospel of John.

  • Before Abraham, was I am. (8:15)
  • I and the Father are one. (John 10:30)
  • The one who has seen me has seen the Father. (14:9)
  • My Glory that you gave me .. Before the foundation of the World. (17:24)

Paul, none of other 3 Gospels gave exalted claims of his sort however.

BIG Question: if Jesus went around claiming himself to be a God, one who existed with God before the creation of worlds, one who was equal with God, could anything else that he might say be more important that that claim?

YET, None of those earlier sources say any such explicit claim about him!!

Beliefs of Earliest Christians

  • Apostle Paul’s earliest wroing in 50 CE (20 years after Jesus died).
  • Paul changed from aggressive persecutor of Christians to being one of the strongest supporter.
  • He claimed that he had a vision (dream) of Jesus: personallycalled by God, to engage in Missionary activities among the Pagans (gentiles).
  • Only belief in Messiah put a person might standing before God because Messiah died for the sins of others.
  • 13 letters under Paul inserted in New testament.
  • Paul claimed as Founder of Christianity community. He nver visited Rome and hi splan to visit Rome now.
  • He never mentioned Peter.
  • He claimed Jesus as: (i) Seed of Flesh (David) (ii) Holy Spirit and (iii) Son of God

Raymond Brown (20 century scholar, Roman Catholic Priest)’s view on Chronological development of Gospels

Raymond Brown pointed out that a chronological development through Gospels. How Christinas developed their views about Jesus!

  • Oldest tradition in Paul & Books of ACTS: Jesus is: (i) Seed of Flesh (David) (ii) Holy Spirit and (iii) Son of God (Mix of Flesh and God)
  • Oldest Gospel MARK (65-70 CE): at his BAPTISM, Jesus became son of God.

“Jesus was baptized by John, the Baptist. When Jesus comes up out of water he sses heaven split open, “You are my beloved son” (Mark 1:9-11)

  • Mathew, Lukw (80-85 CE): Jesus became Son of God when he was born.

“He became Son of God  at his birth.” (1:35)

  • John (80-95 CE): Jesus as the son of God before creation of everything.

“My Glory that you gave me .. before the foundation of the world. (17:24)

Modalism

  • Majority of Christians at the beginning of 3rd century (201-300 CE) – prominent church of Rome.
  • Oneness of God.
  • Christ was God, God was God, because they are the same person/
  • God exists in different modes of being (Modalism)
  • All 3 are God, but there is only one God.

Example: I’m different person in my different relationships (father, husband and son), Like water, ice and vapor all are same thing.

Although I’m same person. Similarly, father, son & holy spirit.

Same view by Callistus, Roman Bishop (217-222 CE)

Support:

Isaiah 44:6 (old testament): “I’m first and the Last, beside me there is no other.”

Paul in Romans 9:5: “Christ, who is over all, God blessed forever”.

The above two statements are contradicting.

Opposition by Tertullian (African scholar): similar time of 200 CE+

Tertullian: scripture portrays Christ as a separate being from God, The Father and so they cannot be the same.

John 1:18: No one has seen God at any time; the only son who is in the bosom of my father, has made him known.

Mathew 11:27: Christ says all things are given me by my Father.

Divine economy / Resultant doctrine of trinity:

Father is one, son is the one and spirit is one, they are distinct from each other.

Arius of Alexandria (260 CE)

  • Arius came from Libya, moved to Alexandria (vibrant Christian community)
  • Christ had not always existed. God existed alone.
  • Son of God came into existence only later.
  • Only God is without a beginning.
  • Jesus was created in God’s own image by God himself. So Christ bears the title of God, but he is not true God.
  • Christ, in a nutshell, a kind of second-tier God, subordinate to God, and inferior to God in every aspect.

Bishop of Alexandria VS Arius

Bishop of Alexandria was not pleased with Arius view and considered heretical and dangerous.

Why?

Hebrew 1:2: “It was through Christ that God “made the Ages”.”

So he argued there couldn’t be a time before the Jesus. He insisted God cannot change – since He is the God. That God couldn’t become the Father. So He must always have been father. And He must always have been the son.

Bishop of Alexander claimed: Christ is immutable, not changeable like father.

Council of NICEA

  • Constantine saw political value of Religion. Constantine was not a devout Christian.
  • Constantine saw a dream – Jesus was saying to him!  He claimed to Put CROSS at the front of soldiers – no one could defeat them!
  • He tried to encourage ARIUS and Bishop of Alexandria to resolve the dispute. Then Christianity could move forward as a unified whole to confront the greater problems of Empire.
  • 325 CE: 218 Bishops around Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Asia Minor, Mesopotomia) gathered.

CREED established after VOTE:

  • Christ is same substance as God as Father.
  • They are absolutely EQUAL.
  • Christ is true God, Not subordinate to God.
  • It is now heresy to claim there was a time when Christ didn’t exist.
  • Only 20 out of 318 disagreed the above CREED.
  • Constantine forced 17 out of 20 to accept it.
  • Arius and 2 other Bishops exiled / banished from Egypt. A few others signed but refused to agree: they were also exiled.

Conclusion / Aftermath of Council of NICEA: Jesus is SAME as God.

Reference:

[1] Bart D. Ehrman,  “How Jesus Became God”, 2014.

[2] Tafheemul Quran, Chapter 61, Sura As-Saff.

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