p.ost

(how to tell the biblical story in a way that makes a difference)

Does Luke present Jesus as God in Acts?

Marc Taylor has taken issue with my argument that there is little scope for a “high christology” in Acts because the proclamation that Jesus is Lord is “accounted for almost entirely by reference to narratives found in the Psalms, in which Israel’s king is delivered by God and given authority to judge and rule over the nations”.

Marc contends, to the contrary, that there is a high christology in Acts and sets out a number of arguments to back up his claim. I think he fails for two basic reasons: i) he ignores the central kerygma about exaltation and lordship; and he gives insufficient attention to the context of the “proof texts” that he cites. Feel free to disagree.

1. There is some debate over whether “Lord” in Acts 1:24 refers to Jesus or to God, but in the context the former seems most likely: they pray to the recently ascended Jesus in order to know whom he had chosen to replace Judas (cf. Acts 1:2).

And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen… (Acts 1:24)

The earlier warning about not knowing “times or seasons” (1:7), however, reminds us of the saying in Mark 13:32 and Matthew 24:36 that the Son does not know the day or hour when judgment will come upon Jerusalem, so to take “knowing the heart” as proof of omniscience seems inappropriate. John the Baptist knew the hearts of those who questioned whether he might be the Christ (Lk. 3:15). Peter clearly knew the heart of Ananias (Acts 5:3). It is not such an exceptional ability.

Luke tells us that Jesus knew people’s hearts (Lk. 5:22; 9:47), but the assumption would be that this knowledge had been revealed to him by is Father. This is the point of Luke 10:21-22. Understanding has been given to the disciples because the Father has “handed over” (paredothē) all things to the Son. In other words, Jesus has this knowledge because—exceptionally—it has been given to him by God.

2. There are a number of passages where people call upon the name of the Lord Jesus or on the name of Jesus (Acts 2:21; 7:59-60; 9:14, 21; 22:16). Since such language is applied to YHWH in the Old Testament, it could be argued that Luke identifies Jesus with YHWH by transferring the Old Testament formula to him.

However, Peter gives an unambiguous explanation for the reassignment of the saying “everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved”, cited from Joel 2:32. The “man” Jesus of Nazareth was killed by lawless men but was not allowed to see corruption; God raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand, thus granting him a royal status greater than that of David. So Peter concludes by testifying to the house of Israel that in this way “God has made (epoiēsen) him both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:22-36).

When Stephen and Paul call on the name of the Lord Jesus who has been revealed to them seated at the right hand of God, they are appealing not to Jesus as God but to Jesus as the Son of Man—the “Righteous One” who suffered and was vindicated. This is explicit in Stephen’s case (Acts 7:56). In the Damascus road passages it is implied in the identification of the risen Lord with the persecuted community of disciples.

3. The “absolute” reference to the “name” in Acts 5:41 is not intended to evoke such Old Testament texts as Leviticus 24:11 (“the Israelite woman’s son blasphemed the Name”). The apostles have been explaining to the council that God raised Jesus from the dead and “exalted him at his right hand as Leader (archēgon) and Saviour, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins” (5:30-31). As before, Jesus is the man who has been given authority to judge, save and lead Israel. The apostles are let off with a warning “not to speak in the name of Jesus”, and they rejoice that they have been “counted worthy to suffer dishonour for the name” (5:41). Here the “name” is a reference not to God but to Jesus, who has been made (byGod) Lord and Christ, Leader and Saviour for the purpose of redeeming Israel.

4. If “walking in the fear of the Lord” has the Lord Jesus in view, the verse simply reflects the fact that Jesus has been given the authority to act as, and be approached as, Lord—an authority that YHWH would otherwise have reserved for himself alone.

5. The residents of Lydda and Sharon who “turned to the Lord” (Acts 9:35) were Jews who were doing exactly what the Jewish believers in Jerusalem had done: they were calling on the name of the one who had been made Lord and Christ. They were submitting themselves to Israel’s Messiah.

6. When Peter says that Jesus is “Lord of all”, he explains it, as he has done before, by retelling the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection, culminating this time in the assertion that Jesus has been “appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead” (Acts 10:42). Peter is still talking about Israel here. He means that entailed in the status of “Lord” is the authority to judge all Israel.

7. We are told in Acts 13:1-2 that prophets and teachers were “serving (leitourgountōn) the Lord” in Antioch. The word is used in the Septuagint for the service of the priests in the tabernacle and temple (cf. Deut. 18:5). In the context of Acts, however, the point is that the prophets and teachers were serving the interests of the risen Lord Jesus by managing the life and practice of the communities that confessed him as Lord and Christ. There is perhaps an analogy with the service of the priests before the Lord in the Old Testament, but the christology is fully accounted for by the dominant narrative about Jesus, who was crucified, raised, exalted and given the status of Lord.

8. Paul tells the elders from the church in Ephesus that he has been “serving (douleuōn) the Lord with all humility and tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews” (Acts 20:19). The fact that in the Old Testament people such as Moses served or were servants of YHWH (eg. Deut. 34:5) is neither here nor there. Paul is simply doing what the exalted Jesus, Israel’s Messiah, had instructed him to do.

9. A further example of Paul’s service of the Lord who commissioned him is provided by Acts 21:14:

Then Paul answered, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” And since he would not be persuaded, we ceased and said, “Let the will of the Lord be done.” (Acts 21:13–14)

Jesus has been made Lord and Christ, and as such he is dynamically overseeing, through the Spirit, from his position at the right hand of the Father, the mission of the apostles and the witness of the churches. The apostles’ statement here, in response to Paul’s stubbornness, simply reflects this apocalyptic conviction.

10. The uncertainty regarding whether kurios refers to Jesus or to God in some passages is not “testimony to His Supreme Deity”. It’s testimony to a lack of clarity on Luke’s part.

11. If the apostles and disciples sometimes pray to the Lord Jesus in Acts (eg. Acts 1:24), it is not because they think he is God but for the reason given repeatedly above: they believe that their life and mission are in his hands. He has been put in charge, and he has direct access to the Father. As Paul says: “Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us” (Rom. 8:34). The visions through which Jesus directs his followers are a further example of this (Acts 9:10-16; 22:17-21).

In fact, in most cases the person to whom prayer (proseuchē) is directed is not specified, and we should probably assume it is prayer to God (cf. Acts 16:25). This whole question was explored at some length in a previous post, coincidentally also in dialogue with Marc. There are good reasons for thinking that Acts 1:24 is not normative for the rest of Acts (it closes the selection of the apostles, it happens before Pentecost, elsewhere the apostles communicated with Jesus through visions).


So what, I think, comes out of this is that Luke is telling a consistent story about the man Jesus, anointed and attested by God, a descendant of David, who was killed, who was raised and exalted to the right hand of God, who has been made Lord and Christ, Leader and Saviour, appointed as judge and ruler of Israel—and who dynamically oversees the unfolding mission of the apostles for the sake of the purposes of God.

It’s a pretty high apocalyptic christology, and it serves an important purpose. But it falls short of the sort of divine identity christology that Marc is looking for. What it lacks, I think, is the association of Jesus with the creative Wisdom/Word of God, which is what gets us going in a Trinitarian direction.

Comments

Andrew,

5. The residents of Lydda and Sharon who “turned to the Lord” (Acts 9:35) were Jews who were doing exactly what the Jewish believers in Jerusalem had done: they were calling on the name of the one who had been made Lord and Christ. They were submitting themselves to Israel’s Messiah

When you say things like this and stress “made Lord and Christ”, I’m not seeing how that proves anything. Just because Jesus was made Lord and Christ by the Father doesn’t negate whether or not he is divine. He could have still been the second YHWH figure, which was a concept the Jews accepted until the 2nd century. In NT times those who rejected Jesus didn’t accept he was that figure because he was born of the flesh via a women like any other man. In OT times the second YHWH figure just appeared bodily in the flesh. Having now been born of a women, being a man in the full sense and thus empting himself and taking the form of a servant he had to be made Lord and Christ. Lord and Christ are also descriptions of position. A position doesn’t speak to one’s nature.

Rich, your argument looks rather speculative to me. There’s nothing in Acts to suggest that either Luke or the apostles thought that Jesus was divine. On the contrary, the emphasis is on the fact that he was a man who would have decomposed in the grave as David had done if God had not raised him from the dead.

Joseph says: “So hurry, go up to my father, and say to him, ‘This is what your son Joseph says, God made me lord (epoiēsen me ho theos kurion) of all the land of Egypt…’” (Gen. 45:9 LXX). This seems to be exactly the sort of statement that is made in Acts 2:36.

The position doesn’t speak to the metaphysical status of the one who is made lord, but unless that question is clearly raised, the obvious assumption is that no change of nature was required for Joseph to become lord over all of Egypt.

The onus is on those who argue that Luke asserts the divinity of Christ in this book to show how he does it. As it is, I don’t see how we can maintain that it was a premise of his narrative. Luke doesn’t present Jesus as God. He presents him as the “Son of the Most High”, to whom God will give “the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Lk. 1:32-33).

By the way, what do you mean by this: “In OT times the second YHWH figure just appeared bodily in the flesh”?

Andrew,

I wasn’t trying to argue per se that Jesus was presented as divine in Acts by Luke, just that your argument about Jesus being “made Lord and Christ”, in my eyes, doesn’t prove that he was not. That’s all I was trying to point out.

By the way, what do you mean by this: “In OT times the second YHWH figure just appeared bodily in the flesh”?

Concerning OT theophanies. It has been demonstrated, pretty convincingly (see Alan Segal’s “Two Powers in Heaven”), that OT Jews recognized, and had no problem with, YHWH being both in heaven while at the same time on earth bodily. And still held to their monotheism. This is also presented in Heiser’s book The Unseen Realm.

I’m sure you’re familiar with the multitude of passages where YHWH appears, speaks, sits, eats etc.. - Gen. 18 for example.

Luke doesn’t present Jesus as God. He presents him as the “Son of the Most High”

I would argue that being proclaimed as the “Son of the Most High” is a statement of divinity for Luke. This being in contrast to the other “sons of God” (beney elohim - Job 38:4-7) referenced all over the OT (YHWH’s divine council). Jesus as “monogenes” (Jn. 3:16) was accepted and understood by the Apostles and would have certainly also been accepted by Luke. Thus, his reference to Jesus as “Son of the Most High”.

Hello Andrew,

Thank you for your comments. I reply to each of them and give further proof as to why the Lord Jesus is God.

1. As properly defined the Greek word kardiognōstēs means the same thing as being omniscient. Thus since the Lord Jesus fully knows the hearts of all demonstrates that He is God.
a. T. Sorg: This belief in the omniscience of God is expressed succinctly by the adj. kardiognōstēs (NIDNTT 2:183, Heart).
b. J. Behm: The designation of God as ho kardiognōstēs , “the One who knows the heart,” expresses in a single term (Ac. 1:24; 15:8) something which is familiar to both the NT and OT piety…namely that the omniscient God knows the innermost being of every man where the decision is made either for Him or against Him (TDNT 3:613, kardiognōstēs).
The exalted Lord did not claim He didn’t know the times or seasons in Acts 1:7 but stated it was in the Father’s hands. That is not a denial of such knowledge.
Furthermore, although the Bible records that certain individuals had more insight than others (cf. 1 Kings 14:5; 2 Kings 6:12; 8:11-12; Acts 5:3-5) they were never said to be able to know the totality of the hearts of all people let alone the totality of just one of them (2 Kings 4:27). Only God has this knowledge (omniscience).

2. To call upon the name of the Lord
Ceslas Spicq: “Let every tongue proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord,” that is, God. Such is the object of faith profession and worship: “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.” Henceforth, Christians are those who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that is, who worship his divine majesty and implore his sovereign protection (Theological Lexicon of the New Testament, 2:350, Lord).
That even one passage where the divine name of YHWH (“Lord” in the LXX) is applied to the Lord Jesus demonstrates that He is God.

3. The Name
You wrote, “The “absolute” reference to the “name” in Acts 5:41 is not intended to evoke such Old Testament texts as Leviticus 24:11 (“the Israelite woman’s son blasphemed the Name”).”
a. Joseph Thayer: Citing Acts 5:41 and 3 John 1:7 affirms that “The name is used absolutely…cf. Leviticus 24:11, 16” (Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, onoma; see 2e).
http://biblehub.com/greek/3686.htm
The fact that the Lord Jesus is the Supreme Judge of all is another testimony that He is God for as E. J. Young insightfully points out that for “absolute justice, there must be absolute knowledge” (The Book of Isaiah, Volume 1, page 384).

4. The fear of the Lord
a. Douglass Moo: The “fear of the Lord” is, of course, a prominent them in the Old Testament, combing a sense of appropriate awe in the presence of God in submission to his will. But the theme is by no means absent from the New Testament (e.g., 2 Cor. 7:1; 1 Pet. 2:17; Rev. 11:18; 14:7; 15:4; 19:5), where, in a move typical of the “Christological monotheism” of the early church, the Lord is sometimes defined as Christ (Acts 9:31; 2 Cor. 5:11; Eph. 5:21). This is certainly the case here, as the high Christology of the letter to the Colossians as a whole is again brought to bear on the ordinary situation of the Christian household (The Letters to the Colossians and Philemon, The Pillar New Testament Commentary, page 311).

5. Turning to the Lord
Both Deuteronomy 29:18 (LXX) and Deuteronomy 30:17 (LXX) teach that turning away from the Lord involved rendering latreuō unto false gods. When one “turns” to the Lord Jesus from idols they are to render latreuō unto Him. This worship is properly due unto God alone.
a. Frederick Danker: in our literature only of the carrying out of religious duties, especially of a cultic nature, by human beings: λ. θεώ (A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, latreuō, page 587).
b. H. Strathmann: The ministry denoted by latreuein is always offered to God (or to heathen gods…R. 1:25…Ac. 7:42) (TDNT 4:62, latreuō).
c. James Hope Moulton and George Milligan: In Biblical Greek always refers to the service of the true God or of heathen deities (The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament, WM.B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan, copyright 1982, page 371).

6. Lord of all
See my comments in #3 concerning the Lord Jesus as the Supreme Judge. Many pagans viewed Zeus as the “Lord of all” since he was their Supreme God. The Christian views the Lord Jesus as the “Lord of all” since He is their Supreme God.

7. Acts 13:2
You wrote, “There is perhaps an analogy with the service of the priests before the Lord in the Old Testament…”.
H. Balz: In Acts 13:2 the vb. λειτουργέω is used in a way unique in the NT (also for the LXX), when it is used in a special sense in reference to worship. The five prophets and teachers of the Antiochan church mentioned in v. 1 perform this activity in the midst of fasting (cf. also 13:3; 14:23; Luke 2:37). Luke takes up the ceremoniously priestly terminology of the LXX (cf. 2 Chr 13:10; Ezek 40:46; Dan 7:10) in λειτουργούντων δὲ αὐτῶν τῷ κυρίῳ and refers - anticipating later Christian terminology - to the “worship” activity of individual officebearers in the church, who are deemed worthy of receiving the instruction of the Spirit. (EDNT 2:349, leitourgeō).
To be a priest to the Lord Jesus is to render unto Him supreme worship. In fact, Revelation 20:6 speaks of those who are “priests of God and of Christ” which further emphasizes that the Lord Jesus is God.
a. G. K. Beale: In 1:6 and 5:10 saints have been said only to be “priests to God,” but now it is said that they will be “priests of God and of Christ.” This suggests that Christ is on a par with God, which is underscored elsewhere in the Apocalypse (e.g., 5:13-14; 7:9-17) (The Book of Revelation, page 1003).

8. A slave of the Lord Jesus Christ
a. Murray Harris: The very existence of the phrase ‘slave of Christ’ alongside ‘slave of God’ in New Testament usage testifies to the early Christian belief in Christ’s deity. Knowing the expression ‘slave of the Lord’ from the Septuagint, several New Testament writers - John, Peter, Paul, James and Jude - quietly substitute ‘Christ’ for ‘the Lord’, a substitution that would have been unthinkable for a Jew unless Christ was seen as having parity of status with Yahweh (Slave of Christ: A New Testament Metaphor for Total Devotion to Christ, page 134).

9. The will of the Lord
In reference to the Father concerning prayer: “Your will be done” (Matthew 6:10).
In reference to the Lord Jesus concerning prayer: “The will of the Lord be done” (Acts 21:14).
There exists no higher will that can be appealed to besides the will of the Lord. To express the “will of the Lord” was an act of worship to the Lord Jesus in acknowledgment of their ever dependence upon His absolute sovereignty (cf. Acts 18:21).

10. Creator or creature?
Not only does this “lack of clarity” in differentiating the Creator and the creature (for those who deny the Lord Jesus is God) exist in Luke but so too with Paul, John, Peter and James.
The fact that such ambiguity exists (and quite often) is a testimony to the fact that the Lord Jesus is God. Failure to distinguish between the Creator and the creature leads to idolatry.

11. Praying to the Lord Jesus
Acts 1:24 is normative since there exists quite a few other prayers to the Lord Jesus within the same book. This demonstrates His Supreme Deity. Indeed, James Dunn notes that at the time of Jesus prayer indicated “the dependence of the inferior (creature) upon the all-powerful Creator, Saviour and Lord” (Did the First Christians Worship Jesus?, page 30). This agrees with the following:
a. William Mounce: The fact that people pray to both God (Mt. 6:9) and Jesus (Acts 1:24) is part of the proof of Jesus’ deity (Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words, Pray, page 531).
b. Samuel E. Balentine: In sum, both the OT and the NT portray prayer as a principal means by which Creator and creature are bound together in an ongoing, vital, and mutually important partnership (Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, Prayer, page 1079).
c. H. Schonweiss: In prayer we are never to forget whom we are addressing: the living God, the almighty one with whom nothing is impossible, and from whom therefore all things may be expected (NIDNTT 2:857, Prayer).

Marc, I appreciate the trouble taken over this, but simply throwing more proof-texting at the problem is no help if you do not also address the two basic criticisms of this style of argumentation: i) that it ignores the central kerygma about exaltation and lordship; and ii) that it gives insufficient attention to the context of the “proof texts” cited.

So the attribution of lordship and the characteristics of lordship are explicitly accounted for by a narrative of enthronement, not of identity; and context entirely explains, for example, the “absolute” reference to the “name” of Jesus in Acts 5:41. This deals with the statements on the basis of what is actually written in the book of Acts primarily, not on the basis of arbitrary inferences.

This suggests that Christ is on a par with God, which is underscored elsewhere in the Apocalypse…

It could perhaps be said that the apocalyptic narrative puts Jesus “on a par with God”. But being “on a par with” in the context of statements about authority does not mean that they have the same identity. In fact, to say that two things are equal assumes that they have distinct identities

The argument is that God exalted the man Christ Jesus to this exalted and exceptional position. And Paul makes it pretty clear that the rule of the Son at the right hand of God will come to an end once the last enemy has been defeated:

When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all. (1 Cor. 15:28)

This rather points to the provisionality of the “lordship” that was given to Jesus. I would also imagine that “seated at the right hand of God” implies something less than full equality. That is surely what is required by the reliance on Psalm 110:1:

The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”

Finally, context again is relevant for interpretation of the Revelation passages mentioned (Rev. 5:13-14; 7:9-17). In the background is Daniel 7: Jesus is the Son of Man who represents the suffering righteous who are vindicated and given kingdom. John tells us why the Lamb is worthy of worship. It is not because he is the same “person” as God. It is because he was slain and by his blood ransomed a people for God (5:9). Therefore, the praise, etc., that originally was due only to God has also been extended to the Lamb.

Hello Andrew,
The authors of the lexicons and Bible dictionaries would take the context into account when it comes to properly defining the words used in certain passages. I am sure this wouldn’t have escaped their attention.
The Lord Jesus is identical with the Father in that they both receive supreme worship but they are not the same Person. This is why all the passages of the Bible must be taken into account. For example, those who deny the Lord Jesus is God will so often cite passages where it teaches He is a man. This is all well and good but other passages affirm His Supreme Deity. One set does not negate the other. It is not an “either/or” but a “both/and”.
1 Corinthians 15:28 deals with Christ’s mediatorial role. That will one day cease. In fact, in Revelation 22:3 the Son receives latreuō after what 1 Corinthians 15:28 describes.
The fact that the Lord Jesus is seated at the right hand of God attests to His Supreme Deity.
a. TDNT: Jesus in the place of honour at the right hand of God has a share
in the glory and power and deity of God which He exercises by sending the Holy Spirit (2:39-40, dexios, Grundmann).
b. Murray Harris: The New Testament records two early and widespread confessions made about Jesus by the first Christians. One focused on his messiahship: ‘the Messiah is Jesus’ (ho Christos Iēsous, Acts 18:5, 28) or ‘Jesus is the Messiah’ (cf. Acts 9:22; 17:3); the other, on his lordship: ‘Jesus is Lord’ (Kyrios Iēsous, Rom. 10:9; 1 Cor. 12:3; cf. Phil. 2:11). When a New Testament writer gives Jesus his full name, ‘the Lord Jesus Christ’ (e.g., 1 Cor. 1:3, 7, 10), these two confessions are being combined, asserting his deity (‘Lord’), his humanity (‘Jesus’) and his messiahiship (‘Christ’). Such a conflation of confessions is also found in Acts 2:36, where, as the climax of his Pentecost speech, Peter announces: ‘So let all the house of Israel know without a shadow of doubt that God has made him both Lord and Messiah - this very Jesus whom you crucified’ (Slave of Christ: A New Testament Metaphor for Total Devotion to Christ, page 87).

Many of my points went unaddressed this time around which demonstrate the Supreme Deity of the Lord Jesus. In fact, Daniel 7 (in which you cited) also proves this fact. In Daniel 7:14 He is the proper recipient of pelach which again is due unto God alone. You assert that the fact that the Lord Jesus is worshiped doesn’t prove He is God but without any sources for such an assertion. I have provided ample evidence for my assertion that it does prove He is God. Why the resistance to how the words of the Bible are properly defined?

Marc, you’re still not getting the basic argument. At every point the exalted status of Jesus and the response of people to him (eg. in service, calling on his name, worship) is attributed to the fact that God did something for him. The fact that Jesus is seated at the right hand of God and receives worship attests to the action of God in putting him there. It is extraordinary that he receives worship, but God has done an extraordinary thing. The meaning of the text lies in what it says. I may not have commented directly on every detail of your argument, but that is mainly because they all come under this fundamental observation.

To say that Jesus is “Lord” is not an assertion of his deity. Kurios does not mean “God”. Remember, David said: “The LORD (YHWH) says to my lord (ʾdon): “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool” (Ps. 110:1). Given the centrality of this verse for the passages under discussion (and for the whole of Acts), we are bound to assume that the distinction between these two “lords” is determinative for this key apocalyptic motif.

Daniel 7 backs up the argument. Yes, the nations will serve (pelach) the one like a son of man, but this figure stands for persecuted Israel. And the nations will serve him not because he is the Ancient of Days (he clearly is not) but because “dominion and glory and a kingdom”, etc., will be given to him. I appreciate the fact that pelach has a cultic meaning, but the narrative does not allow us to infer from that that the Son of Man is the Supreme Deity.

1 Corinthians 15:28 deals with Christ’s mediatorial role.

Sorry, Marc, this is simply wrong. The whole passage is about kingdom and the defeat of enemies. It is controlled by Psalm 110:1. Jesus has been seated at the right hand of God for the purpose of overcoming his enemies. When the last enemy has been overcome, it is no longer necessary for Jesus to exercise that supreme lordship or kingship or dominion or rule, so he “delivers the kingdom to God the Father”. Mediation has nothing to do with it.

If the Lamb is worshipped by his servants subsequent to this (I have my doubts), it is for the reason given earlier (cf. Rev. 5:9)—that Jesus suffered in obedience to his father, parallel to the suffering of the people of the saints of the Most High represented by the “one like a son of man”. Faithful suffering leads to vindication, kingdom, and “worship”. That’s what’s actually said.

Andrew,
Concerning the worship of the Lord Jesus see my comments below on Revelation 15:4 (February 1, 2017 - 17:12). This without doubt proves the Lord Jesus is God.
a. William Mounce: God is the only entity in his class; he has no peers (cf. Jn. 5:44; 17:3; Rom. 16:27; 1 Tim. 6:15; Jude 4; Rev. 15:4) (Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, Only, page 487).

When the Jesus is referred to as “Lord” based on the LXX for YHWH it does mean that He is God. In fact, your appeal to Psalm 110:1 also gives support for this in that the Lord Jesus is the proper recipient of “pelach” in Daniel 7:14.
Psalm 110:1 - Sit at my right hand
Mark 14:62 - The Son of Man seated at the right hand…coming with the clouds of heaven
Daniel 7:14 - with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man
a. Karl Keil and Franz Delitzsch: pelach is used in biblical Chaldee only of the service and homage due to God; cf. Daniel 7:27; Daniel 3:12-13, Daniel 3:17., Ezra 7:19, Ezra 7:24 (See the last paragraph of “verse 13-14”)
http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/kdo/daniel-7.html
b. . Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon: Citing Daniel 7:14 reads, “to worship God”
https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H6399&t…
See also the excellent article by Keith Thompson:
http://www.answering-islam.org/authors/thompson/rebuttals/ibnanwar/dan7_…

1 Corinthians 15:28 does refer to Christ’s mediatorial role.
a. Robert Jamieson, Andrew Robert Fausset, and David Brown: Son also himself be subject - not as creatures are, but as a Son, voluntarily subordinate to, though co-equal with the Father. In the mediatorial economy the Son had been in a manner distinct from the Father; Now His kingdom shall merge in the Father’s, with whom He is one: not that there is any derogation from His honour; for the Father wills “that all should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father” (John 5:22-23; Hebrews 1:6).
http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/view.cgi?bk=1co&ch=15#1

Given
In Matthew 28:18 the Lord Jesus has been “given” all power/authority. This proves that the Lord Jesus is the Almighty.
All power = Almighty
Those who believe the Lord Jesus is God can account for the fact that He was “given” all power in that before His resurrection He simply refused to always employ His omnipotence but those who deny the Lord Jesus is God are unable to satisfactorily explain that the Lord Jesus possesses (right now) all power - He is omnipotent/Almighty.
a. B. Reicke: Elsewhere, however, it is said of the Redeemer during His earthly life that He has laid aside His power and appeared in lowliness and humility, Mt. 11:29; 12:18-21; 2 C. 8:9; Phil. 2:5-8…Thus, when the full power of Jesus is occasionally mentioned during the time of His humiliation, it is merely a proleptic fact.
A new situation is brought into being with the crucifixion and resurrection. The Chosen One seizes the full power which He had from the beginning of the world, Mt. 28:18 “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth”. Cf. the proclamations of the heavenly King in Rev., e.g., concerning Alpha and Omega (TDNT 5:895, All).

Thanks very much for your summary of and commentary on ‘Lord’ references in Acts. Marc’s response will take some time to go through. I appreciate that you are making the general point that Jesus is raised to “God’s right hand” in the context of an immediate narrative. Too little attention perhaps has been paid to this in the human/divine debate. A secondary question should also be whether too little attention is paid to Christ’s exaltation for subsequent times and contexts, and how this was grotesquely distorted in imperial Christianity (and authoritarian sects).

The obvious question that is raised, it seems to me, once the dust has settled over the frenetic pace of activity which characterises Acts, is who, exactly, was this person, Jesus, who should have such an exalted status? When this is pondered, it seems almost inevitable to come to the conclusion that he was in some way God, given that so much of what is attributed to YHWH is now also attributed to him. The detail of your argument for Jesus’s humanity seems in this way, paradoxically, to provide a credible basis for his divinity

I don’t really think that Paul and the apostles were so busy that it never occurred to them, or anyone else, that Jesus was, to quote Tom Wright, “on the same side of the equation as God”.

Does this matter? In the end, yes, if it is argued that what Israel was not able to do for herself, God did by himself, and that what humanity could not do for the world, God did by himself on their behalf, and that this matters for a true understanding of who Israel was and now who we are, and who God is, and how we co-operate with him and his purposes then as now.

Does a divine Jesus credibly fit with a NT (or even OT) historical narrative? If the entire sweep of the OT is taken into account, which must include the broader prophetic vision of prophets and psalms, as well as the early parts of Genesis which speak (perhaps allegorically) of global catastrophe and unfaithful humanity as much as, if not more than, an allegory of unfaithful Israel, then I think it does.

In the end, the “Who was Jesus?” question comes down to ever increasingly fine distinctions between the divine/non divine arguments, simply because so much of the biblical language and activity which is attributable to God becomes attributable to him, as your summary clearly shows. (I leave out philosophical ideas such as omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence, which turn out to have little meaning when examined carefully). So if Jesus, even on narrative historical terms, was not God, he was so much like God that the distinction becomes meaningless. Then and now, the meaninglessness of the distinction matters.

We could obviously debate the further theological/soteriological implications, but my point remains: Luke shows no interest in accounting for Jesus' exalted status in divine-identity terms. His only argument is that God did this: God raised him, God exalted him, God seated him at his right hand, God made him Lord and Christ, Leader and Saviour, God appointed him judge of the nations, and so on.

It may have been inevitable that the church would struggle with the metaphysics and reinterpret these statements in divine-identity terms, but there is nothing in the text to suggest that Luke himself saw things that way, and there is some risk, surely, of undermining the actual point that Luke was trying to get across when he (and other New Testament authors) framed the argument about Jesus' status as a matter of divine initiative.

Does this matter? In the end, yes, if it is argued that what Israel was not able to do for herself, God did by himself, and that what humanity could not do for the world, God did by himself on their behalf…

Paul addresses just this point in Romans:

For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Rom. 8:3–4)

The argument is that God sent his Son to Israel in the likeness of a sinner, for which he was crucified, in order to condemn the sinful flesh that made it impossible for the Jews to keep the Law. The identification of Jesus with God plays no part in the argument. God takes the initiative and sends Jesus—just as the owner of the vineyard sent his son, after he had sent his servants, to get the fruit of the vineyard—in order to achieve what Israel could not achieve for itself.

Paul does not think that God had to come himself in the form of Jesus and die on a cross in order to redeem Israel. The soteriological argument is always that the cross was effective as a means of redemption because Jesus was faithful and obedient, not because he was covertly God.

So if in context you

- pray to Jesus who “knows the hearts of all” (not just occasional individuals such as those he encountered in his earthly ministry)

- “call on his name”

- locate Jesus in a passage from Joel unambiguously referring to God, and from which it is equally strongly arguable that the reference was not reassigned to someone who was human alone

- refer to the “name” of Jesus as one would to the revered “name” of God

- “walk in the fear of the Lord (Jesus)” as one would walk in the fear of the Lord (YHWH)

- speak of “turning to the Lord” as one would turn to YHWH

- describe Jesus as “Lord of all”, even through his resurrection and ascension, where the context is all nations, not Israel alone

- provide at least an echo of a Levitical priesthood analogy in “serving the Lord (Jesus)”

- create “uncertainty regarding whether kurios refers to Jesus or to God in some passages”

then I think it’s worth revisiting the view that “Luke shows no interest in accounting for Jesus’ exalted status in divine-identity terms”, and that statements such as these may have been reinterpreted in “divine-identity terms” at a later time.

I think, rather, that it might be worth asking why Luke had no problems conflating the human messianic identity of Jesus with a divine identity in so many varied and striking ways, so soon after his resurrection and ascension.

If Jesus did not have the divine credentials, you make it look as if YHWH had abdicated, following Jesus’s ascension, and handed over power to one who is man alone. This would be an even more striking development. It’s simpler to accept that Luke gave Jesus many of the characteristics of God in his account, and that neither he nor any of the early Christians had any problems at all with this. Which may also suggest that as remembered history, the Jesus of the gospels laid the groundwork for Luke’s high Christology very effectively.

Your reference to Romans 8:3-4 only heightens rather than resolves the mystery. If Jesus is there described as “in the likeness of sinful flesh”, it is also the case that he he is elsewhere described as being “in the form of God”, and that by the obedience to be given to him from the entire universe, whether now dead or alive, and by confessing him as Kurios, God the Father would be glorified. In other words, in Jesus finally being the subject and recipient of attributes and actions that are so consonant with those due to God alone, God the Father would be glorified.

The identification with God is heightened in further well known NT passages. It would be more of a mystery if Jesus was the human messiah you insist on. It is less of a mystery if his deity was already de facto and probably de jure accepted as given by his followers. Rather than reinforcing the view that Jesus was a human but exalted messiah, effort might more productively be given to explaining how he came to be accepted as a divine being so soon and so readily after his resurrection and ascension.

Hello Peter,

You wrote, “- provide at least an echo of a Levitical priesthood analogy in “serving the Lord (Jesus)”.

Not only does this apply to Acts 13:2 but I think it is quite interesting Paul’s experience in the Temple (cf. Acts 22).
a. In reference to the Lord Jesus Paul called upon His name in worship (v.16).
b. Immediately afterwards Luke records that Paul saw Him (Jesus; cf. v.16) while He was praying in the Temple (v. 17-18).
c. Verses 18-21 describe the conversation Paul had with the Lord Jesus.

Not only is this another example of Paul praying (proseuchomai) to the Lord Jesus (v.17) but the fact that he does so and is commissioned by the Lord Jesus within the Temple is highly significant as it relates to the supreme worship afforded to the Lord Jesus as God.
David Peterson: Moreover, Paul’s vision implies that the risen Jesus is Lord of the temple, who reveals his will and commissions his servant in that context for his mission to the nations. The parallel with Isaiah’s call in Isaiah 6 becomes all the more stunning when it is realised that the risen Lord Jesus takes the roll of ‘the Lord God Almighty’ in directing Paul and warning him about the opposition he will receive (cf. the recollection of Is. 6:9-10 in Acts 28:24-28) (The Acts of the Apostles, Pillar New Testament Commentary, page 604-605).

This is another example of the failure to attend to the context of a proof-text:

Not only is this another example of Paul praying (proseuchomai) to the Lord Jesus (v.17) but the fact that he does so and is commissioned by the Lord Jesus within the Temple is highly significant as it relates to the supreme worship afforded to the Lord Jesus as God.

The passage says only that Paul was praying, not that he was praying to the Lord Jesus. This is part of Paul’s defence to the Jews, having been accused of defiling the temple (Acts 21:28; 22:1-2). He tells of his encounter with the risen Lord on the way to Damascus. Ananias tells him that YHWH has appointed him to see the Righteous One and to be a witness to him—no conflation of identities there. He then sees Jesus again in a vision while he is praying in the temple.

All this points firmly towards the conclusion that he was praying to God in the temple in accordance with normal Jewish practice. We can compare Paul’s practice with two other statements in Luke-Acts:

Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector (Lk. 18:10)

Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer. (Acts 3:1).

The interaction with Jesus comes not through prayer but in a trance—this is the medium by which he is able to communicate with the risen Lord.

It happens in the temple, but nothing in the passage touches on the question of “the supreme worship afforded to the Lord Jesus as God”. That is blatant eisegesis. If we are meant to hear an echo of Isaiah 6, it is explained by Ananias in the immediately preceding paragraph. YHWH has arranged for Paul to see the Righteous One (cf. Acts 3:14; 7:52), who has been given the authority to direct the mission to the nations.

But the echo is dubious in any case. There is none of the distinctive theophanic language of Isaiah 6. Jesus appears to Paul not primarily to commission him (this has already happened), but to save him from his enemies in Jerusalem.

Apart from Acts 1:24-25, which is probably an ante-Pentecost exception, there is no instance of prayer in Acts made explicitly to Jesus.

Andrew - I think your response to Marc is in danger of missing the wood for the trees. What is outstanding in Paul’s address to the crowds is that Jesus takes centre stage where YHWH alone might have been expected to be. Jesus, not YHWH, appears to Paul on the road to Damascus. Jesus, not YHWH appears to Paul in, of all places, the temple.

This is, of course, not to say that Jesus has replaced YHWH, since Ananias says YHWH has chosen Paul to “see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth”. But the fact is that Jesus has become centre stage, speaking from a post-mortem, post-resurrection heavenly dimension, giving instructions which might ordinarily have been thought to be the prerogative of God alone.

I also don’t think you can dismiss Peterson’s observation quite so easily, but it’s a matter of choice. The fact that Paul has his vision of Jesus in the temple is the startling occurrence which we should not lose sight of.

I agree that the passage does not say that Paul was praying to Jesus. But then to say that there is no association of Jesus with the divine because of this silence is to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Temples are places for visions of YHWH, without exception. What was Jesus doing where YHWH should have been?

With the accumulation of other evidence, the issue is not that Jesus was no more than a human messiah, or even a very extraordinary human messiah, but that Luke has no qualms whatsoever about putting Jesus where YHWH should be. The crowd at any rate are even further incensed rather than reassured by Paul’s ‘defence’. There is no suggestion that they came to the same conclusion as you.

If Luke has no qualms about the conflation of identity, Jesus with YHWH, then it suggests that the question of the divine identity of Jesus had been settled long before Acts was written.

It seems to me that your first three paragraphs simply repeat what I have been saying in the post and in the comments.

Your fourth paragraph begs the question. Is there a baby in the bath?

I agree, too, up to a point, that “Luke has no qualms whatsoever about putting Jesus where YHWH should be”. What’s remarkable for Luke is not so much who Jesus was or how extraordinary Jesus was but what God had done in exalting him to his right hand.

Then you slip in “conflation of identity” without any warrant. There is no conflation of identity. Jesus is put centre stage for the purpose of the mission of the apostles because it is all about him, but he remains at the right hand of God, and it is never forgotten that God has done this.

Thanks Andrew. I don’t know if you are being wilfully obtuse or just missing the point. The baby in the bathwater, my 4th para., was signalled in the last two sentences, but actually it is the substance of everything in the comment. (Clue: it wasn’t the baby Jesus).

In response to your third paragraph, I repeat that it’s remarkable that Luke should position Jesus where YHWH should be without any commentary or explanation - not even the qualification that he was at God’s right hand (it’s not mentioned anywhere in this discourse). The effect is that as Paul describes it, Jesus has eclipsed YHWH.

I notice in your previous response to Marc you borrowed my phrase ‘conflation of identity’ from an earlier post, and it’s worth repeating. That is exactly the effect of what Luke is doing. His high Christology places Jesus where one would expect to see God. Not least in the temple, where God is nowhere to be seen. Paul prays and Jesus appears, with no questions asked. As far as I’m aware, with the exception of Gabriel appearing to Zechariah, where Luke makes a clear distinction between the angel and God, God alone turns up in the temple in response to supplicants.

How did Luke come to such an astonishing position? It seems to be so unquestioningly settled, that it was probably some time before Acts was compiled and written. It also points to a high Christology of the gospels.

Anyway, Marc seems to be throwing the book(s) at you, so I’d better let you get on with answering him.

Andrew,
Paul prays to the Lord Jesus (Acts 22:16) and the Lord Jesus responds. Immediately afterwards we are told that Paul is “praying (proseuchomai) in the temple” in which He saw and communicated with “Him” (Jesus). Once again the Lord Jesus responds which strongly implies the Lord Jesus as the recipient of Paul’s prayers.
The fact that Paul has prayed to the Lord Jesus elsewhere (including in this very context; cf. 22:16) demonstrates that he believed the Lord Jesus is God.
Furthermore you are at a loss in being able to explain why when the “Lord” is mentioned that it can apply to either the Father or the Son in quite a few passages. Even the BDAG (3rd Edition), Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, the NIDNTT and the TDNT apply the same passage to both the Father and the Lord Jesus in several places where the “Lord” or other appellations are found.
For those who deny the Lord Jesus is God the Creator and the creature can not be distinguished. The Bible makes no such error.

You write that “apart from Acts 1:24-25 which is probably an ante-Pentecostal exception, there is no instance of prayer in Acts made explicitly to Jesus.”
Here’s some:
1. His name is called upon in 9:14, 21; 22:16. This means that the Lord Jesus is prayed to.
a. Richard Watson: In both the Old and New Testament, to call upon the name of the Lord, imports invoking the true God in prayer, with a confession that he is Jehovah, that is, with an acknowledgment of his essential and incommunicable attributes. In this view the phrase is applied to the worship of Christ (Watson’s Biblical and Theological Dictionary, Call).
http://www.studylight.org/dic/wtd/view.cgi?n=386
b. TDNT: epikaleomai, often used in combination with onama, serves to emphasise the element of confession in Christian prayer (Ac. 9:14; 22:16; 1 C. 1:2) (2:806, euchomai, Greeven).

- On Acts 7:59
a. Frederick Danker: As the stones came flying at Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” (Acts 7:59) (Creeds in the Bible, page 45, c. 1966).
b. W. E. Vine: Prayer is properly addressed to God the Father, Matt. 6:6; John 16:23; Eph. 1:17; 3:14, and the Son, Acts 7:59; 2 Cor. 12:8 (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, Prayer, page 872).

Many more sources can be cited if need be. The fact that the Lord Jesus is referred to as kardiognōstēs in Acts 1:24 proves He is omniscient (God).
1. T. Sorg: The fact that God sees, tests and searches the hidden depths of the human heart is commonly stated in both the OT and the NT…This belief in the omniscience of God is expressed succinctly by the adj. kardiognōstēs (NIDNTT 2:183, Heart).
2. J. Behm: The designation of God as ho kardiognōstēs , “the One who knows the heart,” expresses in a single term (Ac. 1:24; 15:8) something which is familiar to both the NT and OT piety…namely that the omniscient God knows the innermost being of every man where the decision is made either for Him or against Him (TDNT 3:613, kardiognōstēs).

Furthermore you are at a loss in being able to explain why when the “Lord” is mentioned that it can apply to either the Father or the Son in quite a few passages.

Well, no, because in the LXX of the key text Psalm 110:1 we have kurios both for YHWH and for the “lord” (ʾdon)—that is, the king—who is instructed to sit at YHWH’s right hand.

Εἶπεν ὁ κύριος τῷ κυρίῳ μου Κάθου ἐκ δεξιῶν μου…

In the first instance, kurios is not a name for God; it is a substitution for the name of God, so there is no problem with transferring it to the Messiah.

Leslie Allen’s comment on the metaphor of sitting at God’s right hand is apposite and adds weight to my basic argument:

The metaphor underlines the fact that God is the real king. David rules not in his own right but as vicegerent and representative, deriving authority from his divine counterpart. This assurance of prestige and power expresses a typically Israelite ideal of kingship as derivative and responsible rather than autocratic.

Hello Andrew,
What I meant is that when “Lord” is used in the N.T oftentimes it is not clear cut if it refers to the Father or to the Lord Jesus. Even those who deny the Lord Jesus is God aren’t always certain.
Take for example if two men who denied the Lord Jesus is God were talking and one of them began the conversation by saying to the other, “I want to do the Lord’s will” it would be necessary for the speaker to clarify if asked to do so if he was referring to the Creator or to the creature. For the Trinitarian however, no such confusion exists because the Lord could refer to the Father and/or to the Son for both are the Creator.

Hello Andrew,
Do you still maintain in spite of the evidence that I have presented that “apart from Acts 1:24-25 which is probably an ante-Pentecostal exception, there is no instance of prayer in Acts made explicitly to Jesus”?

That the Lord Jesus is ‘kardiognōstēs’ demonstrates that He is omniscient (God).

I realize it’s not in Acts, but it’s hard for me to believe Luke (and Matthew) didn’t at least view Jesus as a demigod in light of his miraculous birth. (And it seems certain the writer of the Gospel of John equated Jesus with OT Wisdom.) Surely, his birth must have made him a bit more than a normal human in Luke’s eyes.

Yeah, I think a misplaced piety – and maybe an academic traditionalism that’s stuck on forms of Jewish monotheism? – sometimes prevents people from seeing the Christology here in a more Greco-Roman guise.

Specifically in conjunction with the birth narrative itself, I think articles like Andrew Lincoln’s “Luke and Jesus’ Conception: A Case of Double Paternity?” do a lot to help situate things in this context. (Not to mention the recent work of M. David Litwa; maybe Michael Peppard’s monograph, etc.)

So it’s one thing to dispute that Luke-Acts offers a portrait of Jesus as proto-Trinitarian “God.” In that sense, it’s always good to rehearse the problems with that. But, recent research aside, I think the idea of “demi-god” or “lesser god” has been far neglected here – again, the type of divinity as conceptualized in a Greco-Roman context, and not the later Jewish יהוה הקטן, etc.

Stewart, you make an interesting point. Over the last hundred years, New Testament scholarship has been on an arduous journey from Hellenistic to Jewish interpretation—from history-of-religions to third quest for the historical Jesus and the new perspective on Paul.

That is good and proper. Belief in Jesus arose out of, and was shaped by, a thoroughly Jewish matrix—essentially a kingdom-historical matrix. It makes the whole story much more coherent and compelling.

It seems to me that the Synoptic Gospels and Acts—and perhaps even John by and large—interpret Jesus pretty much entirely on Jewish terms. The virgin conception story is perhaps an exception, but even then it is explained both in Matthew and Luke on the basis of Jewish prophetic antecedents.

The two areas where I assume Hellenistic ideas are relevant are John’s logos theology, which looks like a bridge between Jewish Wisdom thought and a more Platonic conceptuality (though it’s less certain that it was intended as such), and the deified ruler motif.

The latter is chiefly, and perhaps solely, apparent in Philippians 2:6-11. I think that Jesus is intentionally contrasted with biblical pagan rulers (king of Babylon, prince of Tyre, Antiochus Epiphanes) who arrogate for themselves divinity or equality with God. See “A hymn of praise to the anti-Caesar”. The pagan notion then becomes a significant antithetical factor in the development of a high christology.

Currently, that’s as far as I go in the direction of a demigod thesis. Do you want to add something to it?

I agree on the trajectory of NT scholarship, and that this has yielded innumerable insights on any number of issues.

But I think “pretty much entirely on Jewish terms” can be misleading – or best vague. It kinda strikes me as appealing to rabbinic or Pharisaic Judaism as some “purer” form of Judaism or whatever – when in fact we know that rabbinic thought could be just as Hellenized/Romanized as anything else. (At least in certain aspects.)

Of course, if by “Jewish terms” here we’re *including* Hellenistic Judaism, then that’s one thing. But I think forms of Hellenism could kind of “seep into” early Christian thought, kind of under the radar of traditional Jewish piety, and at best were only secondarily assimilated into some sort of Jewish framework. (Okay, maybe I run the same risk of oversimplifying in speaking of “traditional Jewish piety” here, but..)

Now, the following example comes from outside of Christology itself, but… okay, so we know that the portrait of the historical Jesus as basically akin to a Cynic sage is highly flawed. Everything we knows suggests that the historical Jesus was much more dynamic than a Cynic sage. But there are *aspects* of his life and teachings presented in NT that seem to come directly from Greco-Roman portrayals and even sayings of Cynics, and were probably totally alien to Judaism before this.

(On that note, however, think of how Josephus and Philo assimilate their portraits of the Essenes and Therapeutae to Hellenistic groups.)

A little bit closer to Christology: funny enough, Philippians 2 was precisely one of the things I was thinking here (I think that Christ at the beginning of the hymn here was conceived as a divine but not “fully-divine” figure, a la some of the distinctions in the Greek pantheon and elsewhere, and that he didn’t strive for divinization of his own accord, a la Roman imperial ambitions, etc.); but of course, in the detail of Christ being given the “name above all names,” we’ve now assimilated to more traditional Jewish thought/interpretation. (And of course there was plenty of material in the Hebrew Bible which conveniently happened to espouse a kind of henotheism or thinly veiled polytheism, and with which things like this could be connected. Naturally that’s where all the “angel/name of YHWH” stuff became convenient.)

As an almost shocking example of Hellenism, Philo of Alexandria basically ends up with straight-up Hellenistic polytheism in having God relinquish his judgmental/violent aspects and having Dike undertake them for him. (Though cf. similarly the Memra in the targumim, etc.)

And, again, I think those like M. David Litwa have done some fantastic work here, esp. with Philo and other things.

I feel like I’m rambling at this point, so… again, to be sure, I think there are any number of things – including things pertaining to a Lukan Christology and obviously messiology – that can be elucidated by reference to antecedents from the Hebrew Bible and elsewhere. But still, parallels and assimilations aside, I tend to see some of the birth narrative stuff as having a more “purely” Greco-Roman origin, and suggesting Christ as a quasi-divine being, or “a [little-g] god,” only after this overlaid on a Jewish substratum.

(Even considering, say, things like the divine miraculous pregnancies in the Hebrew Bible. I think God has much more direct agency here, perhaps closest to a Hellenistic model; again cf. Andrew Lincoln’s work, etc. I’m also thinking of things like Jesus’ precocious knowledge as a child, a la Alexander and others, or even perhaps the immortal/semi-divine Si-Osire from the Demotic tale of Setne II – or anyone else who had abilities so incredible that it was thought that they must have divine parentage, from Homer to Pythagoras. In terms of Jesus preternatural knowledge more generally, Bullard’s *Jesus and the Thoughts of Many Hearts: Implicit Christology and Jesus’ Knowledge in the Gospel of Luke* tends to be quite skeptical of Greco-Roman precedents here, despite their ascription to Apollonius, et al. In general, you know, some of the stuff formerly associated with the θεῖος ἀνήρ. Oh and in terms of post-biblical stuff, there’s the emergence of early Mariology, which clearly drew a lot from Greco-Roman precedents.)

Again, sorry for the semi-rambling thoughts here. In the end I suspect we’d probably agree on more than we’d disagree once we get past some of the semantic debates here.

Well, if it is hard for you to believe, then of course it can’t be true!
This is where all you can see is the propaganda we have been taught while Andrew is trying to understand the text in its context.

In ancient times, miraculous births did not equal divinity, nor did designations such as “Son of God.”

Revelation 15:4 teaches that God alone is holy. However, others besides God are referred to as “holy” - the same Greek word (hosios) is used in Titus 1:8 to what an overseer is to be but this doesn’t mean that they can be holy in “equality” to the supreme holiness of God - remember the text teaches that God “alone” is holy.

Revelation 15:4
Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed. (ESV)
Since God alone is supremely holy then what differentiates Him from everything and everyone else (no exceptions!) is that God alone is to be supremely worshiped - “For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you”
Jeremiah 10:6-7, 10 also refers to the nations worshiping God for He is in a class entirely of His own (cf. v. 6).
Once again, the fact that the Lord Jesus receives worship in “equality” with the Father demonstrates that He (the Lord Jesus) is absolutely holy (God). This worship can be seen throughout Revelation (1:6; 5:8-14; 7:10; 22:3, 20-21; etc.).

Thanks for an interesting post…it strikes me that we will have to develop a 2nd Temple worldview that may perhaps shed a little more light as to why Jesus was worshipped. But I can agree with article that the larger emphasis of Luke to portray Jesus as Lord may not be exactly what we think it means today -that Jesus is the second person in the Trinity.

We should remember that the Jewish people did their exegesis differently (they still do so today) and had had so many debates before Jesus’ birth (as well as after) as to who the Messiah would be, how many Messiah’s there would be etc. – but as to the fact he would be human, that was not a barrier to bearing the title. First and foremost (for our sakes ) they understood the Messiah would first have to be a Jew. Born, bred and taught well in Torah and all its intricacies. It occurred to me while listening to this talk on Beth Immanuel that Jewish legal requirements were highly stringent (then, and even now) and required that the Messiah had to be a descendant of David, through Solomon without any doubt. No adoptive child could take up the title of Son of David. It had to be a flesh and blood son. Jewish objections as to why Jesus cannot be the Messiah have to be seen from their own angle. Some of the objections are quite good and well thought out.

There is a whole series seen here addressing Jewish objections to Jesus. But the talk that got my head reeling was this one.

That the angel addressed Joseph, as “Joseph, son of David!” in order to command him to go and take Mary to be his wife is significant…because in other words, the child was linked to David, through Solomon – through Joseph’s physical seed. Herein lay the miracle – Joseph had never been near Mary. And yet, she was with child. Physically linked to David, just as God had promised long ago. This is very important to Luke – and to Matthew. The reality had arrived. The power of the Holy Spirit had made the impossible happen! Joseph got his courage, assuredness and righteousness back and rose to the task of raising a miracle child (who was definitely human – and his!) fulfilling all the requirements that were needed to make sure the child had an unquestionable Jewish upbringing fit for someone in the line of David.

It is intriguing to hear that Moses conception had the same precedent making his paternity subject to controversy from stories told in Jewish literature. You will have to dig around for this. But it is there. We cannot prove or disprove a virgin birth today, even if we had lived there in the past. But the fact that Paul did not talk much about this birth does not mean he may not have been unaware of this…but the divinity of Jesus (or his being called the Son of God) does not appear to have hinged solely on to this miracle birth.

Christology, in the second temple Jewish way, probably still evades us. It may already be in plain sight - but just hidden due to differences in thought patterns.

We still have a long way to go - or maybe something is still evading our minds even whilst it is already in plain sight.

Regarding the OP comment that “the Son does not know the day or hour when judgment will come upon Jerusalem”: Before his resurrection, Jesus did not know the date (as in the year, month, and day) of his second coming (Mark 13:32). But he did know that he will return “immediately after the tribulation” of Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21, and Revelation chapters 6 to 18 (Matthew 24:29-31; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-8, Revelation 19:2 to 20:6, cf. John 16:12). And he did know that this tribulation will include the antitypical fulfillment of the abomination of desolation (Matthew 24:15, Daniel 11:31, Daniel 12:11-12, Revelation 16:15).

The reason that Jesus did not know, before his resurrection, the date of his second coming (Mark 13:32), was because at his incarnation (John 1:1,14), he temporarily laid aside (Philippians 2:6-8) his divine omniscience with regard to his own conscious human knowledge (Mark 13:32), in order to completely share in our mortal human condition (Hebrews 2:17), and to be tempted in every way that we are tempted (Hebrews 4:15). Nonetheless, he still remained God (John 10:30, John 1:1,14; 1 Timothy 3:16). And after his physical resurrection into human immortality (Luke 24:39), he regained his divine omniscience (Colossians 2:2b-3), just as he regained his divine omnipotence (Matthew 28:18). So now he does know the date of his second coming.

God, including Jesus, is also omnipresent, by his Spirit (Psalms 139:7-10, Matthew 28:20b). But Jesus (God the Word, God the Son) is now also at the same time in a human, physical body (Luke 24:39). It is in this body that Jesus ascended into heaven (Acts 1:9, Acts 3:21) and now sits at God the Father’s right hand (Hebrews 10:12), and will return from heaven to set his feet on the Mount of Olives (Zechariah 14:3-4, Acts 1:11-12). Jesus will remain in his human, physical body forever, so that he can serve as saved humans’ high priest/mediator forever (Hebrews 7:24-25, Hebrews 2:16-18; 1 Timothy 2:5).

One thing that Jesus could not have put aside before his resurrection, and still have remained God, would have been his divine, Spiritual uncreatedness (John 1:1-3), his from-everlasting-to-everlasting, divine immortality (1 Timothy 6:16, Micah 5:2c). It was by this essential aspect of divinity (“I AM THAT I AM”: Exodus 3:14, John 8:58) that Jesus had the power to revive his human life into human immortality after his human death (John 10:17-18, Romans 1:4). Because he is God, even as a human it was not possible for Jesus to remain dead (Acts 2:24, John 10:17-18).

Regarding the OP comment that “it could be argued that Luke identifies Jesus with YHWH”, note that the Bible, in its entirety, makes quite plain that Jesus Christ is God (John 1:1,14, John 10:30, John 20:28, Titus 2:13, Philippians 2:6, Matthew 1:23). And he is uncreated God, just as God the Father is uncreated God. For everything created was created by Jesus (John 1:3, Colossians 1:16-17). Because Jesus is uncreated, there was never a time when he was not. He has always existed. He is YHWH the Holy One, from everlasting (Habakkuk 1:12a, Acts 3:14, Micah 5:2c). He is YHWH the only Savior (Isaiah 43:11, Titus 2:13), YHWH the good shepherd (Psalms 23:1, John 10:11, Mark 10:18), YHWH who will set his feet on the Mount of Olives at his return (Zechariah 14:3-4, Acts 1:11-12), YHWH the first and last (Isaiah 44:6, Revelation 2:8), YHWH the great I AM (Exodus 3:14, John 8:58), the great God (Titus 2:13), the mighty God (Isaiah 9:6), one God with God the Father (John 10:30, John 20:28), equal in divinity with God the Father (Philippians 2:6).

Just as the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19) is the three distinct, coexisting Persons (Mark 1:9-11) of God the Father (Galatians 1:3), God the Son (Hebrews 1:8), and God the Holy Spirit (cf. Mark 13:11 and Matthew 10:19-20; Acts 5:3-4), so the Trinity is YHWH the Father, YHWH the Son, and YHWH the Holy Spirit. For YHWH is the only God (Isaiah 45:5-6). He has always been and forever will be the only God (Isaiah 43:10b).