Who did Jesus claim to be?
We’ll discuss, “Who did Jesus claim to be?” Did Jesus really claim to be the Messiah, the Son of God? In this program you will learn why the balance of scholarly opinion has tipped in favor of accepting that Jesus really did claim to be the Messiah, and the unique Son of God.
today on the johnny Coburg show, who did jesus understand himself to be? Is it true that the balance of scholarly opinion today has tipped in favor of accepting the fact that Jesus really did claim to be Israel’s messiah and the unique son of God. My guest today, who will tell us is philosopher, Dr William Lane Craig, who holds a PhD in philosophy from the University of Birmingham in England, join us for this edition of the johnny Coburg show, welcome to our program, john Achterberg, Thanks for joining me today. We had a great program for you. My guest is Dr William Lane Craig, who’s one of the finest philosophers of our time. He has engaged in debates and dialogues with many of the most well known skeptics in our universities around the world and dr craig, I’m very glad that you’re here today and this is such an important topic. We’re talking about who is jesus. And can we really tell that Jesus actually said the things that are recorded about him in the gospels. And we started this last week in talking about the historical credibility of the new testament Gospels, our earliest sources regarding jesus and why we should trust them. Let’s kind of give a summary of that. And then let’s move on, did Jesus claim to be the messiah? Did Jesus claim to be the son of God? Did Jesus claim to be the son of man, What do those terms mean? How do we know he actually said it? And so let’s start during our last program. We looked at several criteria of authenticity which historical scholars use in investigating jesus and these criteria enable us to increase the historical credibility of an event or saying ascribed to jesus things like historical fit, embarrassment, dissimilarity, um independent early sources and so forth. And we began to apply these to the sayings in the life of jesus concerning his being the jewish messiah. And we saw in his reply to john the baptist in prison, that jesus recounts to john the typical signs that first century jews believed would attend the messiah when he appeared as is evident from the dead sea scrolls of the community in Qumran. In addition to that, there’s another very intriguing saying, ascribed to jesus that I think is authentic and that also implies his Messianic status as the king of Israel. In luke 22 jesus says to his 12 disciples whom he had chosen in the new world, when the son of man will sit on his glorious throne, you also shall sit upon 12 Thrones, judging the 12 tribes of Israel, Jesus had selected 12 apostles as his disciples and here he says that they will sit on 12 Thrones, judging the 12 tribes of Israel. Now this is very likely to be a saying from the historical Jesus, Because the early church knew that there were not 12 disciples anymore Judas had defected and then committed suicide. So there weren’t 12 disciples to sit on 12 Thrones of Israel. So this makes it highly likely that this is a saying, that goes back to Jesus himself. Now, if the Disciples will each sit on one of the 12 Thrones, judging the 12 tribes of Israel, who will be over Israel itself, who will be over all of Israel Jesus could not have been under one of the 12 tribes, under one of the Thrones sat upon by the disciples. He had to be the king of Israel who sat over all of the disciples, judging the 12 tribes of Israel and that is what he means when he says that the son of man will sit on his glorious throne. In other words, he thinks of himself as the king of Israel, the promised messiah and Bill, I think we need to drive this into folks that these are radical claims of jesus in the sense that an ordinary person would not make these statements. That’s right, john, this shows that Jesus did not think of him, it’s just an ordinary rabbi or jewish holy man or jewish teacher. He thought that he was extraordinary. Set apart by God, he was the long promised david king, the messiah whom God would establish over his reign on earth Bill, among many of the statements that Jesus made about being the messiah. Maybe one of the clearest statements of this is actually the plaque that was nailed to his cross by the roman authorities talk about that, that’s right, Jesus, not only claimed to be the messiah, but what he did also, I think evidenced his Messianic status in being crucified as the king of the jews. Those were the words on the plaque that was nailed to the cross above him. It shows that jesus was crucified as a Messianic pretender. He thought of himself as Israel’s promised king. We know that this is historical because the expression the king of the jews is never used by the later christian church to designate jesus, this is not a title that was used for jesus in the early christian movement, nor is it obviously a title that jews would have used of jesus since they rejected his Messianic status, This can only be ascribed to the roman executioners of jesus as the actual plaque that was nailed to his cross. And so it shows again that jesus was crucified as a Messianic pretender and thereby shows his Messianic self consciousness, we need to remind ourselves of the fact that we discussed in the previous program that the early christian church believed that jesus was the messiah, despite the fact that he looked utterly unlike what messiah was supposed to be messiah was supposed to be the king of Israel who would throw off Israel’s enemies. That meant Rome, in this case, reestablish David’s throne in Jerusalem where he would command the respect of jew and gentile alike. He was not supposed to be ignominiously crucified as a common criminal and yet the early christian church, despite that believed jesus to have been the messiah, he must have made these claims of himself and the early disciples believed those claims despite his crucifixion because of their belief in his resurrection from the dead. Yeah, we’re gonna get to the resurrection in full next program. But let’s continue. Did jesus ever say that he was the son of God and how do we know what he meant when he was saying that I think that Jesus of Nazareth did actually claim to be the son of God in a unique sense that set him apart from jewish kings and holy men and the rest of the disciples. This is evidenced in his parable of the wicked tenants of the venue which is found in Mark chapter 12. Let me read and put up on the screen for the folks so they can understand this, jesus began to speak to them in parables, a man planted a vineyard, put a hedge around it, dug a wine press and built a tower. Then he leased it to tenant farmers and left on a journey at the proper time. He sent a servant to the tenants to obtain for them some of the produce of the vineyard, but they seized him, beat him, sent him away empty handed again. He sent them another servant and that one they beat over the head and treated shamefully. He sent yet another whom they killed, They did this to many others as well. Some they beat others they killed. He had one other to send a beloved son. He sent him to them, last of all thinking they will respect my son. But those tenants said to one another, this is the air come let us kill him and the inheritance will be ours. So they seized him and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard. And then it goes on to say those that were listening. The jewish leaders wanted to kill him because they knew that he was talking about them. Now explain this. The tenants of the vineyard represent the jewish religious leaders of jesus time. The owner of the vineyard is God, the servants sent by God to the vineyard to collect its fruit are the various prophets that God has sent from time in memorial to Israel and they beat the prophets. They kill them, they abuse them, they disobey him. Finally, God has one left to send my only beloved son. They will listen to my son, he says, but instead they kill the son because he is the heir of the vineyard. Now, what does this tell us about jesus self understanding. He thought of himself as the only son of God distinct from all the prophets who had gone before and even the air of Israel itself. Even skeptical scholars recognized the authenticity of this Parable because it’s also found in the extra biblical gospel of thomas. And yet in this parable, we see clear evidence of jesus consciousness of being the unique son of God. Bill jesus, radical self understanding himself as God’s son, I think, comes to expression here in Matthew chapter 11 verse 27. What is that verse read that for us? In Matthew 11 27 Jesus says, all things have been delivered to me by my father and no one knows the son except the father, and no one knows the father except the son and anyone to whom the son chooses to reveal him. Now there’s very good reason to think this is an authentic saying of the historical jesus. First of all, it’s drawn from a very old source which is shared by Matthew and luke in writing their gospels. Moreover, it’s very unlikely the early church invented this saying because it says that the sun is unknowable. It says no one knows the son except the father, but for the post easter Church we can know the Sun, we know christ as our savior. So this is highly unlikely to be a later invention. This goes back to the historical jesus, but then what does it tell us? It tells us that Jesus thought of himself as the only son of God and the unique revelation of God the father to mankind. This is truly a radical claim. Yeah, Let’s go to the next one and that’s Mark 1332, Jesus talking about the date of his second coming, he says, but of that day or that hour. No man knows not even the angels in heaven, nor the son, but only the father alone, talk about this one again. This is likely to be an authentic saying of the historical jesus, because the later christian church, which believed jesus to be divine, would never have invented a saying, ascribing ignorance to jesus. But here, jeez, he says, he doesn’t know the date of his Second Coming. This makes it likely that this is a word from the historical jesus itself. But what does jesus say in this saying? He refers to himself, um as the Son of God, and it presents us with a sort of ascending scale from men to the angels, to the Sun to the Father, a scale on which jesus transcends every human being in every angelic being and is approximate to the Father. This is really an astonishing claim, I will summarize where we’re at right now. Well, we’ve examined some of the sayings and the deeds of the historical jesus with a view toward determining his self understanding, his self concept. And we’ve seen first of all that the historical jesus thought that he was the long awaited messiah, the jewish king who would establish the kingdom of God in Israel. Secondly, we saw that Jesus thought of himself as God’s Son, in a unique sense that set him apart from jewish Kings and Holy Man, uh the only Revelation of God the Father to Humankind. Then he used this title about himself, son of man, and referred to himself over 82 times in the gospels. Nobody else did this before or after him. The fact is, what did it mean? Most laymen would probably understand the title, the son of man, to be Jesus reference to his humanity in the same way that his use of the title, the son of God refers to his divinity, but in fact almost the opposite is true. John Jesus did not refer to himself as a Son of Man, as did the Prophet Ezekiel indicating his humanity. He always used the definite article, The Son of Man. And as you indicated, this is a self designation of jesus used in the gospels, but is never used except with one exception in the Book of Acts outside the gospels. This shows again that this is not the invention of the later christian church, that didn’t refer to jesus as the Son of Man. This is the way Jesus referred to himself now in using the definite article whom is jesus referring to. Well, this reference harks back to the seventh chapter of the Prophet Daniel, where Daniel sees a vision in the night and he sees a divine human figure that he says is like a Son of Man descending and coming before God before the throne of God And God gives to him all judgment and authority that all the peoples on Earth should worship and serve him and it is onto this enigmatic figure in Daniel seven that Jesus latches to describe himself as the son of man. Some of these statements are just amazing bill, but in the gospels we also have the account of jesus healing a paralytic and when he was doing it, he said that in order that you might know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins, he said to this guy that couldn’t walk, get up and the guy got up, walked out in front of all of them. What does this show? Once again, john the key here is that title, The Son of Man and the authority that is given the Son of Man by God himself to exercise this sort of judgment upon earth and a visible demonstration of jesus authority as the divine human Son of Man is the ability to forgive sins and the people that are sitting there listening said, who do you think you are God? Because who can forgive sins but God alone. So this is incredible evidence. But let’s jump to a passage that you say, pulls all three of these titles together. You’ve got jesus saying that he’s the messiah. He’s the son of God and he’s the Son of Man. Here’s we have an account of his trial where the jewish leaders specifically ask him questions and tell us what that is. This trial scene before the jewish sanhedrin or Supreme Court is remarkable because all three of the titles that we’ve discussed so far coalesce in this single scene. Let me read it for our viewers again. The High priest asked him, are you the messiah, the Son of the Blessed? And jesus said, I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of power and coming with the clouds of heaven here, Jesus claims to be the messiah, the Son of God and the Son of Man, virtually quoting Daniel seven, seated at the right hand of power and coming with the clouds of Heaven. All three of the titles come together. In this dramatic scene, how does the high priest react? The high priest tore his garments and said, why do we still need witnesses? You have heard his blasphemy? What is your decision? And they all condemned him as deserving death. Now, the fact is, he made all of these statements and he was crucified. Which leads up to the fact of why did the early Church then worship him, call him God after he had been crucified and we’re gonna get into this in full next week. But explain this. The one key fact that comes next is what the key that comes next is the resurrection of jesus. The crucifixion of jesus was a catastrophe for these early disciples, not just because their beloved teacher was now dead and gone. Rather it was because the crucifixion placed a question mark behind everything he had claimed and taught about himself. The messiah was supposed to establish David’s throne in Jerusalem, throw off the yoke of the roman oppressors and command the respect of jew and gentile alike and rule and reign in God’s kingdom from Jerusalem, Jesus instead, like so many other Messianic pretenders before him, met his death at the hands of the roman executioners as a common criminal, defeated and shamed publicly. How in the world could he be the messiah after all? So the crucifixion was an absolute catastrophe for these early followers of jesus, they could never have believed that he was in fact the messiah had not something dramatic happened to reverse the catastrophe of the crucifixion and they claimed that something did, they claimed that God raised Jesus of Nazareth from the dead. Hi Bill, do you remember the time when you were a non christian and you were reading the new testament and you figured out Jesus claimed to be the messiah. Jesus claimed to be the son of God, that Jesus claimed to be the son of man and that he rose from the dead and now you’re face to face with this person who claimed these things, a real historical person for people that are listening that are facing that question right now, what would you advise them to do? I think that the resurrection of jesus from the dead requires us like the first disciples to radically reinterpret jesus messiah ship and kingdom, I can really sympathize john with the jewish people of jesus day who said he doesn’t look like the promised messiah. He doesn’t look like the king descended from David who’s going to throw off our oppressors. He just a common criminal. I can understand why they wouldn’t believe in jesus, he didn’t fit their Messianic expectations. But if God has raised jesus from the dead, that means that jesus concept of God’s kingdom, which he said was breaking into human history and his person was not an earthly political kingdom and his kingship was not an earthly political reign. Rather, jesus said, the kingdom of God is among you. The reign of God is wherever God is king in the lives of those who believe and follow him and Jesus death then needs to be seen not as some accident of history, some tragic mishap, but rather as something interestingly that Jesus himself provoked. He knew when he went into Jerusalem that it was going to end in his death, he set the ball rolling, that would lead to his execution. Why did he do such a thing? It was because he saw that his death would be a sacrifice to God that would inaugurate a new covenant between man and God, a means of forgiveness of sins and restoration of a right relationship to God and we see this in his celebration of the last supper with the disciples, he took the bread of the Passover and gave it to them and said uh this is my body, which is for you. And then he took the wine and he says, this is my blood of the new covenant which is poured out for many drink this and he was illustrating to them how he was making a sacrificial offering to God of his life, his body and blood in order to inaugurate a new covenant between God and man. So that jesus death now takes on a tremendous significance as the source of our salvation. It’s not a tragic mishap, it is jesus offered as the Passover lamb to God to restore us to a right relationship with God. And and that’s why the early church proclaimed consistently, he died for our sins. He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross. So this requires a radical reinterpretation of of the messiah ship of jesus, the kingdom of God, which now becomes his reign in our hearts among those who follow him until he comes again to establish and on earth and of his death, not as a tragic defeat, but rather as the means of the inauguration of a new covenant between God and man, a sacrificial offering for sin, whereby we find forgiveness and right relationship to God and so we’re called upon. Now do we place our faith, do we place our trust and confidence in jesus as our sacrifice, as our savior and as our lord, our messiah, our king, that’s the choice that we now confront folks. This is very important to think about and I hope that if these facts have kind of hit you right in the face and you realize you have never put your faith in jesus, you’ve never asked him to enter your life and to rescue you and take away your sin, then I’m just saying why not right now? Ask christ to be your savior, invite him into your life. Now, next week we’re going to turn to is there real historical evidence that Jesus rose from the dead and Bill is an expert in this area? And I hope that you’ll join us, that’s gonna be very important and very interesting, join us. Then stay tuned for scenes from next week’s program. Well, thank you for joining us today here on the john Achterberg show. If you’re interested in becoming a christian, please go to our website at J A show dot org and click on become a christian, which you’ll find at the top of our homepage. You’ll also be able to read information and how you may start a personal relationship with jesus christ as your savior. For more information concerning today’s program. Or if you’d like to watch some of our other programs and topics, Go to our website at J A show dot org and click on watch. 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In in luke’s case, it was eyewitnesses, Marx comes together and the scholars can tell that this is one continuous flow of information and Mark used this early source, scholars can document this, this is what you’re talking about. That’s right. That’s exactly right now. A second reason to think that the burial story is accurate is the criterion of embarrassment. This criterion states that if an incident or event is awkward or embarrassing for the early christian church, then it’s more likely to be historical and the story of the burial by joseph of Arimathea passes this criterion, jesus was not buried by his family members or by his devoted disciples. Instead they all deserted him and instead he’s buried by a member of the hated sanhedrin, the jewish court, all of whom Mark says voted to condemn jesus to the cross. So the burial by joseph of Arimathea is very probable. Historically, it is highly unlikely that the early christians would have invented a story about a member of the sanhedrin giving jesus a proper burial in a tomb if this had not been in fact the case. So I find this just amazing that we actually know the name of the man who was responsible for the interment of jesus of Nazareth. This is just astonishing, john a T Robinson, professor of New testament studies at Cambridge University and someone very far from a conservative or evangelical, summarizes it by saying that the burial of jesus in the tomb is one of the earliest and best attested facts about jesus. Yeah, Alright, let’s move on to fact number two, that the majority of critical scholars accept