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Chapter 9. The Humanity of Jesus Christ

Chapter 9

The Humanity of Jesus Christ

In this chapter we reflect on the humanity or humanness of Jesus Christ who in Scripture is called the Son of Man, or the Son of God, or the man Christ Jesus, but never the trinitarian “God the Son”. Some of the mat­erial will overlap slightly with my earlier book, TOTG, but presented in a some­what different way, and often by way of spiritual reflect­ion, in order to appreciate the implications of Christ’s humanity for our lives.

For anyone who studies the Scriptures, and has had some real exper­ience of the living God, it shouldn’t be hard to see that God sim­ply can­not be­come a man. The gap between the divine and the human is simply unbridge­able in terms of nature. God is immortal, man is mor­tal. To become mortal, God would have to change His nature so as to cease to be God, which would be impos­sible. In the Scriptures, a funda­mental truth about God is that He is unchanging. He is “the eternal God” (Dt.33:27; Rom.16:26) and God from “ever­lasting to ever­lasting” (Ps.90:2). It is written of God that “you are the same, and your years have no end” (Ps.102:27; Heb.1:12), and “I, Yahweh, do not change” (Mal.3:6). “God is not man” (Num.23:19) that He should change His mind (1Sam.15:29), much less change His nature. Yet trinitar­ian­ism says that in the case of Jesus Christ, God became a man, which is impossible because that would involve the most funda­mental change of all, and God would cease to be what He is. Yet this is the kind of absurdity and unin­tentional blasphemy that we preached in our trinitarian days.

If we proclaim the biblical truth that Jesus is not God, then in the view of trinitarians, we are making him “mere man”. But in the Bible, Jesus is a true man, and like all human beings was “born of a woman” (Gal.4:4). Do trinitar­ians regard this as degrading? Trinitarians prefer a Jesus who is more than man; they want a divine being called “God the Son,” a term that is not found in the Bible. As trinitarians, we had little concern for Jesus’ human­ity, and the same could be said of most of the bishops at Nicaea.

By the time Jesus had been deified by the Gentiles, the gospel that once met strong resistance among them and was rejected by them as “foolish­ness” would soon become the state religion of Rome. Gone was the shame of preaching a crucified Jewish king as the Savior of the world; now you need only believe in an Almighty Creator who became incar­nate as Jesus Christ. Where in this is the “offense of the cross” (Gal.5:11) or the one “despised and rejected of men” (Isa.53:3; 1Pet.2:4)? What is there to despise about a divine man? The point is that the basic charact­er of the “gospel” had changed when the man Jesus was elevated to God.

Did the church leaders at Nicaea think that the divine “God the Son” could save mankind? On the contrary, it is the “man Christ Jesus” (1Tim. 2:5) who saves us to the “uttermost” (Heb.7:25). Do trinitarians think that in God’s plan of salvation, the sacrifice of a div­ine being would pro­vide mankind with a more secure salvation? And where is the script­ural support for their concept of a divine Son who is the emanation of God? Doesn’t it alarm them that no such being is found in the Scriptures? Yet they place their faith in a non-existent being as their savior!

In contrast to this absurdity, the psalmist rejoices in the wonderful priv­ilege of being God’s creature. Man was exquis­itely created by God, formed by God’s own fingers. Then God breathed into him the breath of life (Gen. 2:7). The psalmist praises God for having created him so won­derfully:

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me to­gether in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and won­derfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it ver­y well. My frame was not hid­den from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my un­formed substance; in your book were writ­ten, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! (Psalm 139:13-17, ESV)

The obedience of the one man

It is hard to overstate the crucial importance of Romans 5:19 for the so­terio­logy of Romans and the New Testament. As trinitar­ians we expended much time and effort try­ing to prove the deity of Jesus but did not realize that our search for the supporting proof texts in the New Testament was undermin­ing its doctrine of salvation.

Romans 5:19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.

Is Paul speaking of the obedience of God or of man? Since Paul is speaking explicitly of the obedience of the “one man” Jesus Christ—the counter­part of the “one man” Adam—why are we so keen to prove that this “one man” is God? What is behind our determined efforts? The obed­ience of God to God is not what matters for our salva­tion, nor the obedience of the second per­son to the first person of the Godhead who are coequal and share a common sub­stance.

The obedience of God to God bears no relevance to the most import­ant issue for man: his salvation. To get what Romans 5:19 is saying, let us look at it again: It was by one man’s dis­obedience (Adam’s) that “the many” (a me­taphor for all men) were made sinners. Hence it is necessary that “through the obedience of the one man (not the obedience of God or the obedience of a person of the Trinity) the many will be made right­eous.”

The usual trinitarian reply—that the second person of the Trinity be­came man by incarnation—is, first of all, an ad­mission that it is man’s obed­ience that matters for salvat­ion. It also does not solve the problem because to bring up incar­nation is to admit that Jesus was not origin­ally or essential­ly man; he had to become man, which he was not before. Trini­tarians say that God the Son acquired a “human nature” through incarnation. But a hu­man na­ture is not a whole hu­man being, which means that Jesus is not “fully man” as po­sited in trinitarianism. If we say that Jesus’ human nature with a human body is a whole person, another problem arises: God the Son would then be united to a whole human person, making Jesus two persons.

The early trinitarians were aware of these problems when they con­demned Nestorius as a heretic for promot­ing a teaching that the trinita­rians understood to mean an amal­gam of two distinct persons, an idea they rightly rejected.[1] But Nestorius was merely taking the trinitarian idea to its logi­cal conclu­sion of two persons in the God-man. The trinita­rians of the 4th and 5th centuries stepped back from that con­clusion, and condemned it.

But in refusing to take the God-man concept to its logical con­clus­ion (in order to avoid the untenable idea that Jesus is two persons), they went for the alternative: Jesus is God with a human nature. But how can this “God + human nature” construct be a true human being? The Jesus of trinitarianism is not a human being in any sense of the word “human”; he only possesses a human nature as if it is something that can exist independently of a whole human person. This exposes the utterly con­fused trin­ita­rian concept of the God-man, an idea that does not stand up to elementary analysis.

The concept of Jesus as God-man, which makes it impos­sible for him to be a true human being, will come at the unspeak­able cost of eternal salvat­ion. It was in the light of Romans 5:19 that I wrote in TOTG that we don’t need another God for salvation. What we need is a perfect man, one who is perfectly obedient to God.

To resolve the incongruity of the trinita­rian Jesus with the biblical Jesus, we must first grasp that the former is not a human being like any human being who has ever lived on the face of the earth since the creation of Adam. He is not like Adam at all, and there­fore not like any human being at all.

This is no trifling theological issue because our salvat­ion hangs on it, a fact that we failed to see as trinitarians. If Jesus is not a true hu­man being like Adam (or like us, Adam’s descendants) but is the God-man, then the crucial words of Romans 5:18-19 cannot apply to him. As death came into the world through the transgression of the first Adam (adam means “man”), so in God’s plan of redemp­tion, atone­ment was made through the blood of the last Adam.

The importance of the last Adam in New Testament teach­ing was not something that we in our trinitarian days cared to expound. I con­fess that in my several decades of ministry, I had never, as a trinita­rian, preached a message on the important place of the last Adam in the New Testament.

The three phases of Jesus’ ministry of salvation

The New Testament is fundamentally concerned with salva­tion, and places Jesus Christ in the frame­work of God’s plan for the salvation of human­kind (even Jesus’ God-given name means “Yahweh is salvation”). The plan is rolled out in three phases, corresponding to the three phases of sal­vation spoken of in the New Testa­ment: past, pre­sent, and future.

The first phase is from Jesus’ birth to his death, resur­rection, and as­cen­sion. With the completion of his earthly ministry, he “sat down at the right hand of God” (Mk.16:19; Heb.1:3; 10:12). His sitting down signifies the com­pletion of that ministry. The com­pletion is also signified by Jesus’ use of the word “remembrance” at the Last Supper. This word (Greek anamnēsis) occurs only four times in the NT, with three of the occur­rences pertaining to the Lord’s Supper (Lk.22:19; 1Cor.11:24,25) and explained by BDAG as “in re­mem­brance (or mem­ory) of me”. The word “remem­brance” points to a past event that car­ries signifi­cance for the present.

The first phase of salvation was completed with the declara­tion, “It is finished” (Jn.19:30), but also with, “I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do” (Jn.17:4).

What was achieved in the first phase of salvation was reconcilia­tion with God in Christ (2Cor.5:19). Through the aton­ing blood of Jesus the Lamb of God shed on the altar of the cross, humankind could now be recon­ciled with God. The barrier between God and man was torn down, as vividly expressed in the rending of the veil (recorded in all three synop­tics, Mt.27:51; Mk.15:38; Lk.23:45) that had closed off the holiest place in the temple from the rest of the temple. In the tem­ple services, the high priest as the people’s represent­ative would enter this holiest place, called the Holy of Holies, once a year (Heb.9:7) to come into God’s presence, but never with­out the blood of sacrifice.

In Matthew 27:51, the word schizō which is trans­lated “torn apart” with refer­ence to the temple curtain is also used in the same verse of the splitting of rocks. The barrier between God and man that was created by man’s sins and represented by the curtain, is as impen­etrable as rock in terms of spiritual reality, as any­one trying to reach God would soon dis­cover. It is not some­thing that could be pushed aside as easily as a physical curtain.

But to achieve reconciliation, God has to come to us in Christ before we can go to Him. In Christ, Yahweh answered the plea so poignantly ex­pressed in Isaiah 64:1, “Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down,” a verse that depicts the hea­vens as a veil or a garment that hides Yahweh from our sight. Here, too, the picture is that of a veil being torn apart and Yahweh coming down to us. It is also a pic­ture of the coming of the Spirit of God upon Jesus at his baptism (“immediately he saw the hea­vens being torn apart and the Spirit des­cending on him like a dove,” Mk.1:10), signi­fying God’s presence with Jesus and in him.

The second phase of salvation has to do with the present time in which Jesus is in heaven at the right hand of the Father: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet” (Heb.1:13). In this phase it is the Spirit of Yahweh, the Holy Spirit, who is working in “the church of God” (a term used in Acts 20:28; 1Cor.1:2; 10:32; 11:22; 15:9; 2Cor.1:1; Gal.1:13; 1Tim.3:5,15), drawing people to a saving faith in Christ. God does this work through His people and His church, the body of Christ.

The third phase of salvation has to do with Jesus’ return to earth as King and Messiah, regarding which the angels had told the disci­ples: “This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).

The three phases of salvation can be portrayed in another way, from Yahweh’s perspective:

First phase: Yahweh came to dwell in a man, Jesus Christ, such that God’s fullness dwelled in him bodily (Col.2:9). God was in Christ re­con­ciling the world to Himself (2Cor.5:19). In the New Testa­ment, this phase is recorded in the four gospels.

Second phase: Yahweh is now in the world dwelling in His church, the body of Christ and temple of God, and through the church is continuing His work of reconciliation. This phase is the main focus of the sect­ion from Acts to Jude. Since this section of Scripture has to do with the present time, it is important for us to understand it correctly, for any error here will have serious spiritual conse­quences. Yahweh now dwells in His church “bodily” in much the same way He dwelled in Christ (now the head of the church) when Christ was on earth. The church’s message to the world is, “Be re­conciled to God” (2Cor.5:20,18; Rom.5:10), just as Christ came in order to “bring us to God” (1Pet.3:18).

The body of Christ is now in the world in the way that the head, Jesus Christ, was in the world. In other words, the church is now as Christ in the world, not only as a commun­ity or a spiritual organism but also as individ­uals. The body of each individual believer who has received the Spirit of God is now the tem­ple of the Holy Spirit, that is, the temple of God, in basically the same way that Jesus was the temple of God, except for the crucial differ­ence that where­as Jesus attained absol­ute perfection through Yahweh’s indwelling, we have not (yet) attained to the “stature of Christ”. Even so, we can exper­ience Christ in ourselves and not just in some abstract intellectual way. Hence Paul is able to say, “For me to live is Christ”; it is for this reason that “to die is gain” (Phil.1:21).

Third phase: Yahweh will return to earth in Christ. Yahweh’s Christ (“the Christ of God,” Lk.9:20) and Yahweh’s church (“the church of God,” Acts 20:28) will rule the earth. All who had refused to be recon­ciled with God will be judged. This third phase, the final phase of the present age, is the focus of the book of Revelation, but also of a few chapters in the synoptic gospels and some passages in the NT letters, notably 2 Thess­alo­nians.

In this phase, Christ will “subject all things to himself” (Phil.3:21), fulfill­ing the purpose of the third phase of God’s plan of salvation in Christ. The transformation of the body mentioned in this verse is the defeat of death and mortality. In putting on immortality, the bodies of the redeemed will be trans­formed into glorious and incorruptible bodies like that of Christ. The sub­jection of all things to Christ will include the defeat of death and its elimin­ation from redeemed creat­ion.

There is also the subjection of spiritual powers hostile to God which are called “principalities and powers” (KJV) or “rulers and authorit­ies” (ESV): “He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him” (Col.2:15). We see some­thing similar in the following passage:

It has been testified somewhere (viz., Psa.8:4-6), “What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you care for him? You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, putting everything in sub­jection under his (man’s) feet.” Now in putting everything in subject­ion to him, he left nothing out­side his con­trol. At present, we do not yet see everything in subject­ion to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffer­ing of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. (Heb.2:6-9, ESV)

God’s eternal purposes for creation include putting all things in subject­ion to man’s feet. After Adam’s fall, Yahweh car­ried out His eter­nal plan through the redemption that is in the “man Christ Jesus,” the only mediator between God and men (1Tim.2:5). But if Christ is divine as he is in trinit­arian­ism, then God’s plan would not have been carried out, but would have been subverted, for it would be to the “second person of the Godhead” and not to man that all things will be subjected.

Job is puzzled by the value that Yahweh attaches to man and the atten­tion that He gives him (“What is man, that you make so much of him, and that you set your heart on him,” Job 7:17). God’s care for man is seen in His intent­ion “before the foundation of the world” to “put all things un­der his feet,” that is, all things in sub­jection to man. It is man—preemin­ently Jesus Christ, seated at the Father’s right hand—who will rule over God’s creation as His repres­enta­tive and plenipo­tentiary.

1 Corinthians 15:24-27 Then comes the end, when he deli­vers the king­dom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every au­thority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” (ESV)

Ephesians 1:18-23 having the eyes of your hearts en­lightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he (God, v.17) has called you, what are the riches of his glor­ious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immea­surable greatness of his power toward us who be­lieve, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heaven­ly places, far above all rule and authority and pow­er and do­minion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. (ESV)

God who is immortal cannot die

God is immortal, which means that God cannot die and does not die. But this truth is lost on many speak­ers of English because the word “immor­tal” does not, to most people, clearly or unambiguously convey the sense of “cannot die” or “does not die”. One reason is that the words “mor­tal” and “immor­tal” are less concrete to most people than “die” and “death”. An­other reason is that “immor­tal” is often used in the sense of “deser­v­ing to be remem­bered for­ever” (Oxford Dic­tionary) as in “the immor­tal Shake­speare”. Yet another reason is that “mortal” is some­times used generi­cally of peo­ple as in “the ambassador had to live in a style that was not expected of lesser mor­tals” (an example from Oxford).

But in Greek, the meaning “can­not die” comes out unmis­takably in the word athanasia (im­mort­ality), which is a com­bination of the alpha priva­tive “a” and thanatos (“death”)—basically “no death”.

The English mortal is related to the French mort and Latin mortuus, both of which mean “dead”. In fact some Bibles render 1Tim.6:16a to explicitly say that God cannot die: “He is the only One who never dies” (Expanded Bible); “God is the only one who can’t die” (NIRV); and “He alone can never die” (NLT). This is seen in Bibles of other languages. A French Bible has, “Il est le seul qui ne meurt pas” (“he is the only one who does not die,” La Bible: Parole de Vie). The Chinese Union Bible is equally explicit: 就是那独一不死 (“the only one who does not die”).

We trinitarians did not grasp that if Jesus is God, then by definition he would be immortal and could not have died. So either Jesus is not God and can die for the sins of man­kind, or he is God and cannot die. I know of no theolo­gian who has given a plausible solution to this conundrum. The German theologian Jürgen Molt­mann even flaunts this issue by giving one of his books the title “The Crucified God”.

The concept of a god who dies and rises again was famil­iar to the pagan world in which the Gentile church took root. Little wonder that some scho­lars have portrayed Christ­ianity as preach­ing a pagan Christ (e.g., Tom Harpur’s The Pagan Christ). Their criti­cism is not without basis because the God of the Bible is indisputably immortal. Pagan gods, by contrast, are said to die and rise again because they personify those aspects of nature that die in winter and rise in spring. There were many fertility gods in the ancient pagan cult­ures, a well-known example of which is Baal who was wor­shipped in the Canaan­ite nations and later by many in Israel. [2]

It can be said that the Gentile church has not raised Jesus to equality with the immortal God of the Bible, but to the level of the mortal pagan gods!

In contrast to the Canaanite concept of gods, Greek myth­ology presents an alternative pagan worldview: the immortal­ity of gods. In Greco-Roman culture there is a pantheon of “gods many and lords many” (1Cor.8:5) who are called gods because they are said to be immor­tal. Immortality is an in­alienable attribute of Greek deities.[3] Anyone who dies is not a god. By this criterion, Jesus is unquestionably human, un­less Christ­ians (unwit­tingly) classify him with the “dying and rising” agricult­ural gods whose existence is paralleled in the sea­sons (they die in autumn and rise in spring).[4] Unlike the dying and rising gods, the Greek gods are more like deified human beings. They behave like humans, and in some cases are more depraved than humans.

Ancient Greek culture, in contrast to the Hebrew Bible, has no over­arch­ing creation myth or narrative. In Greek mythology, some aspects of the natural world are emanations from, or domains of, the gods, e.g., Gaia is the goddess or the personi­fication of earth, and Eurynome is that of the oceans. There is no ultimate creator and no attempt to explain the ultimate origin of all things.

How could Jesus have died on the cross if he is God, and God is by nature immortal? There are no two ways about it. Scripture is clear that immortality is an intrinsic attribute of Yahweh, the Biblical God. A God who can be put to death by cruci­fixion is simply not the God of the Bible but is one of the pagan dying-and-rising gods familiar to the church fathers. But trinitarianism wants to have it both ways in the well-practiced art of double­speak. Little wonder that books with titles like The Pagan Christ have sold in quantity.

In the present age, a reality of human existence is man’s mortal­ity. “It is appointed for men to die once, and after that comes judg­ment” (Heb.9:27). Man is not innately im­mortal but will be made immort­al at the resurrection of the dead (1Cor.15:53-54). Our future immortal­ity is not an in­trinsic immortality but a con­ferred one. Man has to be given immortality because his life, just as Christ’s life, ultim­ately comes from God’s life. Jesus says, “I live because of the Father” (Jn.6:57); “For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself” (5:26).

And sure enough, when we are granted immortality, we will never die again, and death will be defeated (“death is swall­owed up in victory,” 1Cor. 15:54). God on the other hand is eternally immortal. He cannot die, has never died, and will never die.

Death is not the end of the story for us, for the next verse, Heb.9:28, has some good news: “Christ, having been offered (by God) once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (RSV).

As a man, Jesus Christ could die. But being without sin, he did not by law have to die. Yet he volun­tarily offered his life for our salvation: “No one takes my life from me, I lay it down of my own accord” (Jn.10:18). Death came into the world through Adam’s sin, and with it pain and suffer­ing, but Christ gave himself as a ransom for man’s redemption (Mt.20:28).

If Jesus Christ were God, he could not have died for us, and we would be left in our sins without the hope of salvat­ion. An inalien­able attribute of God is that He is eternal (“the eternal God,” Dt.33:27) and there­fore im­mortal (1Tim.1:17). God had to bring about our salvation through the only means poss­ible: the death of the perfect man, Jesus Christ. The sal­vation through Christ was not an afterthought, for Yahweh had worked out His marvel­ous plan of salvation “before the founda­tion of the world” (Eph.1:4; 1Pet.1:20).

An attempt to get around “immortality”

This section will be brief. Some trinitarians are aware that the word “immor­t­ality” is problem­atic to their doctrine, so they try to get around it by say­ing that immor­t­ality is to be under­stood as the immuta­bility of the soul rather than the inability to die. The end result is that a person who dies can still be said to be immor­tal. But this view of im­mor­tality is disso­nant with the bibli­cal view as put forth by Paul:

When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1Cor.15:54-55, ESV)

When mortal man puts on immortality, he is no longer per­ishable but imperishable, for death is swal­lowed up in vic­tory (cf. Isaiah 25:8, “He will swallow up death for­ever”). Hence when a person be­comes immortal, he will never die! Romans 2:7 links immortality to eter­nal life when it says that God will give eternal life to those who “seek for glory and honor and immortal­ity”. Our immor­tal­ity does not make us divine, for it is a gift that is con­ferred on us. Only God is intrinsi­cally immortal, as explained in Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (“Immortality”):

In the true sense of the word, only God is immortal (1Tim.6:16; 1:17; 2Tim.1:10), for only God is living in the true sense of the word. Hu­mans may be considered im­mortal only insofar as immor­tality is the gift of God. Paul points us in this direction. In Rom.2:7 Paul says, “To those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life” (NRSV). Paul also explained that the perish­able nature of hu­man life will put on the imperishable and that the mortal nature of human life will put on immortality. When that happens, the saying con­cerning victory over death will have been fulfilled (1Cor.15:53-55; Isa.25:8; Hos. 13:14).

Paul says, “None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1Cor.2:8). Here the word “crucified” points to Jesus’ death on the cross. As trinitarians we ignored the unjettison­able truth that God is immortal and cannot be killed by crucifix­ion. God’s immortality is an inalienable divine attri­bute, and is not open to negotia­tion or com­promise (e.g., by saying that God “died for a few minutes at the cross”). God who is “from ever­lasting to ever­lasting” is im­mortal, whereas mortality is a stark real­ity that confronts all human beings.

God is invisible, man is visible

It is scripturally natural to go from God’s immor­tality to God’s invisi­bility, in that order, because the two are linked in the following statement:

… he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immor­tality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen. (1 Timothy 6:15-16, ESV)

Paul makes two crucial points: Only God is im­mortal (“who alone has im­mortality”) and God is invisible (“whom no one has ever seen or can see”). God’s intrinsic invisibility rules out Jesus as God because Jesus is visi­ble. The additional fact that God “alone has immortality” rules out every­one else, including Jesus, as being immortal and there­fore divine. If we apply the words “alone has immortality” to Jesus, we would be ruling out God the Father as immortal on the basis of the word “alone”.

In an attempt to rescue Jesus’ deity from this passage, a popular com­mentary makes the bizarre statement that “Jesus is ascribed immort­ality, unap­proach­able light, and invisibility.” Invisibi­lity? Jesus is invisible? Here we see Paul’s wis­dom in inter­lock­ing the clause “who alone has immor­tality” with “whom no one has ever seen or can see” such that they cannot be separated, forcing us to choose be­tween a visible and mortal Jesus (the biblical Jesus) and an invi­s­ible and immortal Jesus (an impossible Jesus).

Jesus is eminently visible. Paul says that he has seen Jesus: “Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?” (1Cor.9:1). The answer is “yes” to all three rhetor­ical questions. Even if we take Paul’s state­ment as meta­phor, the visi­bi­lity of the risen Jesus was not in doubt when he appeared to Cephas, to the Twelve, and to over 500 brothers (1Cor.15:5-6).

How do we know that Jesus is a human being? Or that anyone is a hu­man being? Scripture describes mortal man as “flesh and blood” (Mt.16:17; 1Cor.15:50; Eph.6:12; Heb.2:14). It brings out man’s frailty and mortality, but also the fact that man, being a physical being, is visible to the human eye. But God is spirit (Jn.4:24) and inher­ently invisi­ble. Invisi­bility is one of Yahweh’s attributes (1Tim.1:17), though from the epiphanies of God recorded in the Old Testament, we know that He can, and sometimes does, make Himself visible in order to fulfill a specific purpose. He appeared to Adam and Eve in the Garden and talked with them. He ap­peared to people in human form, some­times mediated through the angel of the Lord (literally “angel of Yahweh”) such that some have mis­taken him for a man.

The point is that Yahweh is inherently invisible though He can be­come visible in order to fulfill a specific purpose. But man has no say re­garding his own visibility, and the closest he can get to invisibility is to hide himself as in the case of Adam and Eve who, after they had sinned, sought “invisibi­lity” by trying to hide from God. Sinners try to run from God, but unhap­pily for them, being human means that they cannot make them­selves invisi­ble, and certainly not to God.

Like all human beings, Jesus is visible to the physical eye. Like all hu­man beings, he can go to a place that is out of the range of our sight, as in the pre­sent age when he is in heaven at the right hand of the Father. But the whole world will see Jesus when he comes again.

It is because Jesus is visible that he can be “the image of the invisible God” (Col.1:15). If God were inherently visible, He wouldn’t need Jesus or anyone else to make Him visible, nor would He need to reveal His own glory “in the face of Jesus Christ” (2Cor.4:6). Conversely, if Jesus is God, he too would be inher­ently invisible, in which case it would be redundant for God the Son to make God the Father visible.

At the final resurrection of the dead, the perishable body will be raised an imperishable body; the body lacking honor will be raised in glory; the weak body will be raised in power; and the natural body will be raised a spiritual body (1Cor.15:42-44). Our “lowly body” will be transformed to be like the “glorious body” of Jesus Christ (Phil.3:21). When Jesus was raised from the dead, his body was trans­formed into a spiritual body while remain­ing a physical body. Now he can be visible or invisible as he chooses, as seen in the gospel ac­counts of his post-resur­rection appearances. The transforma­tion of the body for believers will take place at the resurrect­ion of the saints. “For the trum­pet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperish­able, and we shall be changed.” (1Cor.15:52)

“Ben Adam” (Son of Man) means a human being

When I was doing Divinity studies (theological studies) in England, I stayed in Jerusalem for a time to take a course on modern conversational Hebrew.

A few months into my studies there, I took a trip north to Galilee by bus. The bus was crowded and already full, yet people were still clamor­ing to get on board, with passen­gers stand­ing in whatever aisle space was available amid the suitcases. An elderly man got on the bus and had no­ place to sit. Some­one seeing that two children were occupy­ing two seats, asked one of them to move over and let the old man sit. But immed­iately one of their par­ents shouted, “Yeladim gam ben Adam,” which means, “Child­ren are also human beings.”

The term that the parent used, ben Adam (son of Adam, son of man), is precisely the term used in the Bible to refer to a man or a human being. The word “adam” means “man,” but so does the term “son of Adam” (“son of man”). That bus incident impressed itself on my mind: biblical language was being spoken in my hearing!

This incident shows that “son of man” is still used in modern Hebrew to mean “human being”. It doesn’t have to be trans­lated as “son of man” since it can be translated simply as “man”.

The equivalence of “man” and “son of man” is seen in the Hebrew parall­elism of Numbers 23:19: “God is not man that he should lie, or a son of man that he should change his mind”. Also Psalm 8:4: “What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?”

The equivalence is seen also in the NT, for example, by comparing the parallel passages Matthew 12:31 (tois anthrō­pois, “the men”) and Mark 3:28 (tois huiois tōn anthrōpōn, “the sons of men”).

The interchangeability between “man” and “son of man” in mod­ern Hebrew (ben Adam, son of Adam) is seen in Grammar of Modern Heb­rew (Lewis Glinert, Cambridge University Press, 1989, p.390) in the way it takes for granted that ben adam means “person” and can be treated syntact­ically as one compound term that means man. The following quotation from this book is technical and may be skipped:

Many constructions can become ‘compounds’, being felt to refer to a single concept, and thus become more rigid syn­tact­ically. For exam­ple, construct אדם-בני ~ אדם-בן ben-adam ~ (pl.) bney-adam ‘per­son(s)’ is a compound in casu­al usage in the way it becomes definite: אדם-הבן ha-ben-adam ‘the person’, rather than האדם-בן ben ha-adam.

The semantic equivalence of “son of man” and “human being” is seen in sources other than Hebrew grammars. The Google Translate facil­ity at http://translate.google.com (May 18, 2013) translates the English “human beings” into Israeli Hebrew בני אדם (“sons of adam”). If you en­ter “human being” (singular), Google Translate will return אדם (adam), accom­pan­ied by an alter­native translation בּן אדם (ben adam, son of Adam), de­fined by Google Translate as “person, man, human being, mor­tal”.

A different type of Jewish source is the Wikipedia article Mensch (Yid­dish for “human being”) which says: “In modern Israeli Hebrew, the phrase Ben Adam ‘Son of Adam’ (בן אדם) is used as an exact trans­lation of Mensch (human being)”.

The Common English Bible consistently translates “Son of Man” as “the Human One” (e.g., “Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Human One will be ashamed of that per­son,” Lk.9:26). We personally feel that it is unnecess­ary for CEB to discard the well-esta­blished Jewish idiom “son of man,” yet at the same time we are sympathetic to their concern that the true meaning of the idiom is lost on most Christ­ians today.

Jesus calls himself the Son of Man

In the synoptics (Matthew, Mark, Luke), the title that Jesus uses of him­self above all others, indeed almost to the exclu­sion of all others, is “the Son of Man”. Trinitarians place little emphasis on this title, even less on its funda­mental meaning that would ex­plain why Jesus chose it above all others for himself. In fact Jesus never calls him­self “Son of God” in the synoptics.

In Aramaic, which was the main language spoken by Jesus and was the com­mon language of Israel in his day, “son of man” simply means a man, as it does in Hebrew.

The fact that “son of man” is the predominant title that Jesus applies to him­self shows that he identifies himself expli­citly and un­equivo­cally as man. For this reason, Paul calls Jesus the “last Adam” and the “sec­ond man” (1Cor.15:45,47).

When Jesus was about to heal a paralyzed man in the presence of an agit­ated crowd that included hostile religious leaders, he declared to them that he was the Son of Man:

“But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” And he rose and went home. When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glori­fied God, who had given such authority to men. (Mt.9:6-8, ESV)

The people’s reaction to the healing tells us that they took the term “son of man”—which Jesus applied to himself in their pre­sence—to mean that Jesus represented mankind when he re­ceived from God the authority to heal (“they glorified God who had given such authority to men”). Unless Jesus the Son of Man and the Last Adam represented man­kind, the people would have no reason to glorify “God who had given such authority to men”. Their notion of God giving auth­ority to men aligns with what Jesus said to his dis­ciples: “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and what­ever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Mt.18:18).

“Son of Man” in the synoptic gospels

The following are excerpts of the article “Son of Man” in the revised ISBE (vol.4, pp.574-581). The article, right from its first sen­tence, says that “son of man” is often translated in English simply as “man,” and that Aram­aic was the “major spoken lan­guage of Palestine in the 1st cent A.D.”

These excerpts give useful data on the fre­quency of the term “the son of man” (ho huios tou anthrōpou) in the synoptic gos­pels. We quote them for the benefit of those who are inter­ested in the statistics and the categories of meaning, but some other readers may wish to skip them on a first reading.

The title “Son of man” occurs 82 times in the Gospels; 69 times (in 39 pericopes) in the Synoptics (14 times in Mark, 30 times in Matthew and 25 times in Luke), and 13 times (in 11 pericopes) in John. In the Gospels the designation is used only by Jesus Himself except in one text, where His words are quoted. In Jn.12:34 the crowd responds to Jesus by asking, “How can you say that the Son of man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of man?” In addition, “Son of man” occurs once in Acts, where it is attributed to the dying Stephen (Acts 7:56) …

No attempts are made in the Gospels to explain the mean­ing of the phrase. This absence of any definition or explan­ation may imply that the designation was so well known to Jesus’ contemporaries that any such ex­planation would be super­fluous. Alternately, the same pheno­m­enon may be explained by supposing that the title was so familiar to the Evan­gelists that they assumed that their readers would not require ex­planation or definition …

Mark In Mark the Son of man designation is used fourteen times, includ­ing two earthly sayings (2:10,28), nine suffer­ing sayings (8:31; 9:9,12,31; 10:33,45; 14:21 [twice], 41), and three future sayings (8:38; 13:26; 14:62). Twelve of these sayings are placed after the episode of the confession of Peter at Caesarea Philippi (8:27-30), when Jesus be­gins to predict His suffering and death …

Matthew The phrase “Son of man” occurs thirty times in Matthew, in­cluding seven earthly sayings (8:20; 9:6; 11:19; 12:8,32; 13:37; 16:13), ten suffering sayings (12:40; 17:9,12,22f; 20:18f,28; 26:2, 24 [twice], 45), and thirteen eschato­logical say­ings (10:23; 13:41; 16:27,28; 19:28; 24:27, 30 [twice],37,39,44; 25:31; 26:64). Two additional sayings are found in var­iant readings (18:11; 25:13). Six occur­rences of Son of man are unique to Matthew (10:23; 13:37,41; 24:30a; 25:31; 26:2). Matthew obviously under­stands the Hebrew idiom, for he changes the phrase “sons of men” in Mk.3:28 to “men” in Mt.12:31 …

Luke The Son of man designation occurs twenty-five times in Luke, including eight earthly sayings (5:24; 6:5,22; 7:34; 9:58; 12:10; 17:22; 19:10), seven suffering sayings (9:22,44; 11:30; 18:31; 22:22,48; 24:7), and ten eschatological sayings (9:26; 12:8,40; 17:24,26,30; 18:8; 21:27, 36; 22:69). Seven Son of man sayings are unique to Luke (17:22,30; 18:8; 19:10; 21:36; 22:48; 24:7; cf. Acts 7:56).

The second man and the last Adam

1 Corinthians 15:45-49 45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam be­came a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spirit­ual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the sec­ond man is from hea­ven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. (ESV)

The contrast between Adam and Christ is developed further not in Romans but in 1 Corinthians 15 where Paul discusses it from a different perspective: Adam the first man versus Jesus the second man. This is a remarkable way of expressing the contrast because speak­ing of Jesus as the second man rules out anyone from coming in between the two as being rele­vant for man’s salvat­ion. Mankind’s destiny therefore hangs on these two men and their act­ions. Whereas the first man brought death through disobed­ience, the second man brought life through obedience. The first man is called in Jud­aism “the firstborn of the world” [5] whereas the se­cond is called by Paul “the first­born of creation” (Col.1:15)—refer­ring to the new creation.

Jesus is not only the second man but also the last Adam who became “a life-giving spirit” (1Cor.15:45). Since “adam” means “man,” Jesus is both the second man and the last man. Paul’s description of Jesus as the last man rules out anyone coming after him as being relevant for man­kind’s salvation.

The man of heaven

As trinitarians, we took the term “man of heaven” in v.48 (bolded in the quotation above) to mean that the preexist­ent God the Son came down phy­sically from heaven. This is to misun­derstand Paul because in the same verse, he uses the same title—“those who are of heaven”—of God’s people, link­ing the two concepts with the connecting word “also”. If “man of heaven” is tak­en in the spatial sense as trinitar­ians have taken it, how would they ex­plain Paul’s state­ment that all believers “are of heaven” (present tense, not future tense)?

The term “of heaven” is not about the origin of one’s exist­ence but points to the contrast in v.48 between the earthly (“man of dust”) and the spirit­ual (“man of hea­ven”). This contrast is reaffirmed in verse 46: “It is not the spir­itual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual”.

This verse (v.46) offers no support for Christ’s preexist­ence because it says that the natural man comes “first” before the spiritual man. The preced­ence expressed in the word “first” makes sense only in terms of chronology (Adam came earlier in time than Jesus), not in terms of preemi­nence (which would make Adam greater than Jesus). Hence this verse offers no support for Jesus’ preexistence. The chronology also comes out in Paul’s con­trast between the “first man” and the “last man”.

Jesus says of his disciples that “they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world” (Jn.17:16). He also says, “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but be­cause you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (Jn.15:19, cf. 1Jn.3:13). But if the disciples are not of the world, what realm do they belong to? The answer is that they are “of heaven”. Just as Jesus is not of the world, so his disciples are not of the world but of heaven. This we saw in 1Cor.15:48 and is reinforced by verse 49 which says that believers will “also bear the image of the man of heaven”.

Heaven is a familiar metonym of God. When Jesus asked the religious leaders whether John’s baptism was “from heaven or from man” (Mt.21:25; Mk.11:30; Lk.20:4), he was really asking whether John’s baptism received its authority from God or from man. A man who is “from heaven” is a man who is “from God”.

Jesus, a real man in heaven

“See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” (Luke 24:39)

The risen Jesus says to his disciples that he is not a spirit for “a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have”. Underlying these strik­ing words is the presup­position that man is not a “spirit,” in contrast to God’s spirit nature: “God is spirit” (Jn.4:24). Just as striking, Jesus puts himself on the human side of the contrast (“flesh and bones”) rather than the divine side (“spirit”) even after his resurrection.

Right now in heaven, Jesus is sitting at the right hand of God not as a “spirit” but as a man with flesh and bones! The Bible gives no indication that Jesus was ever transformed into a “spirit” at some point prior to his as­cension into heaven. It is true that Jesus could in his glorif­ied body walk through walls and doors after he had been raised from the dead, yet at the same time he was still “flesh and bones”.[6] The fact is that the man Jesus, existing in a physical body, is sitting right next to the Father in heaven, and is in­ter­ceding for us. I previously had never thought of anything “physical” ex­ist­ing in hea­ven, but this is perhaps an­other case of truth being stranger than fiction.

In the New Testament, the more common similar term for a hu­man being is “flesh and blood”. Jesus uses it in Mt.16:17 when he says to Peter, “Flesh and blood has not re­vealed to you [that I am the Christ], but my Father who is in heaven.” In John 6:53-56, Jesus speaks of his own flesh and blood as vital spiritual realities that believers must feed on as food and drink, not in a material sense but as spiritual sus­ten­ance. This teaching proved to be too hard for some of his disciples to take, so they left him (Jn.6:66).

“Flesh and blood” is perishable and impermanent whereas the king­dom of God is imperishable and eternal, which is why flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God (1Cor.15:50). That being the case, how could Jesus have taken his place in heaven in a physical body? His being in heaven would indi­cate that his body has been “spiritual­ized” or “glorified” in some sense (Phil.3:21), but not in a way that the body has become “spirit” (Jesus denies he is “spirit” even after his resurrect­ion). He can still be touched, which would not be the case with a person who is “spirit”.

Luke 24:39 is the only place in the New Testament where the term “flesh and bones” occurs. In the story surrounding this verse, not only could Jesus be touched, he also ate fish (v.43) to prove to his disciples that he was funct­ional as a human being even after hav­ing been “raised from the dead by the glory of the Father” (Rom.6:4). His own humanity was evidently some­thing that Jesus considered import­ant to im­press upon his disciples before he ascended to heaven. So it is worthwhile to read this remarkable account:

As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. And he said to them, “Why are you trou­bled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marvel­ing, he said to them, “Have you any­thing here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them. (Luke 24:36-43, ESV)

This is the first half of the account. Interestingly, the second half continues without interruption to Jesus’ ascent into hea­ven, which means that Jesus entered heaven with the same body of flesh and bones! I have never heard anyone mention this astonish­ing fact. Therefore let us read the rest of this am­azing account. The following is the unin­terrupted narra­tive starting from the time Jesus ate broiled fish to the time he ascended into heaven:

They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them. Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be ful­filled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Script­ures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repent­ance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the pro­mise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. (Luke 24:42-51, ESV)

This is an uninterrupted train of events leading up to Jesus’ ascen­sion into heaven. The narrative continues into the book of Acts and is concluded in Acts 1:9 with the words, “as they were look­ing on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight”. His disciples were looking on while Jesus was as­cending to heaven, until they could see him no longer because of the cloud that was taking him up. But all along, Jesus remained visible to the hu­man eye. It is never said that the disciples were having some kind of spirit­ual vision, for they were looking at him with their physical eyes. Jesus clear­ly entered heaven not as a spirit but as the same Jesus whom the disciples were able to touch and who ate with them. Even if there was a change in quantum frequency (which in any case would remain in the realm of natural phenom­ena), his body remained a physi­cal body that could be touched. There is a “flesh and bones” man in heaven!

Most appropriately, Luke’s Gospel ends with the words, “they stayed continually at the temple, praising God” (Lk.24:53).

The conclusion is inescapable that the body of Jesus which could eat fish and which his disciples could touch was the same body that was ta­ken up into heaven where he is right now. There is a real man in hea­ven! The man who walked on earth is now among the multitudes of hea­venly beings above. This is undoubtedly the message that Luke wants to convey to us.

Christ is now seated in his “glorious body” (Phil.3:21) at the right hand of the Father. It is in this body that Jesus will return to earth in the same way he left earth (Acts 1:11).

“Flesh and blood” points to the impermanent elements of the human body. The term is some­times reduced to one word “flesh”: “All flesh is like grass” (Isa.40:6; 1Pet.1:24). Bone, on the other hand, is the most enduring compon­ent of the human body. Archaeologists often find bones dating back thousands of years. This may be the reason Jesus used the unusual term “flesh and bones” in referring to his body. Another reason could be that he had already poured out all his blood for the forgiveness of sins (Mt.26:28), so what re­mained in him after his blood had been poured out was “flesh and bones”.

The Bible proclaims Jesus the man. There is no biblical support for say­ing that he is God, contrary to the bold but baseless assert­ion of his deity by the Gentiles from about the middle of the second century, more than a hundred years after the time of Jesus.

A vivid portrayal of Jesus’ humanity came at a clim­ac­tic moment at his trial: “Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. The Roman governor Pilate said to them, ‘Behold the man!’” (John 19:5). Pilate’s words are better tran­slated, “Look! The man!” What­ever Pilate may have meant by these words, he had probably said more than he under­stood. In the New Testament, it is the man Jesus whom humanity must look to for salvation. “There is salva­tion in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given [by God] among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

The usual response to the assertion that Jesus is not God is: So Jesus is “just” a man? Or “What then would be special about him beyond his being the Messiah, a prophet, and a great teacher?” This way of think­ing shows what little value that we, even as Christ­ians, place on man, and how shallow is our understanding of how much a human being is worth to God.

We evaluate a person’s worth in various ways. Many evaluate a person’s worth by the level of friendship with him. If he is not our good friend, he is worth little in our eyes. Some evaluate people accord­ing to their income. And to some, a human life is not worth the price of a bullet.

Every Christian is familiar with the truth that “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son”. Doesn’t that already tell us something about man’s worth in God’s eyes? God values man in a way that we don’t under­stand. We do not see man the way God sees man. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares Yahweh (Isa.55:8).

“Just a man”? What is that supposed to mean? That he is nothing more than a real man? That he didn’t come from an otherworldly realm like outer space? What is wrong with his being a real human? Are we not all human beings? Is there a problem with his being one of us? In the New Testament, “the man Christ Jesus” (1Tim.2:5) is one of us, and he is not “ashamed” to call us his bro­thers even though we are far from being perfect like him.

This issue is problematic only to trinitarians because they don’t think of Jesus as wholly one of us, for according to their doc­trine, Jesus is composed of two natures, divine and human. It is clear that anyone who has a divine nature is not human as we are. None of us has two natures in us, or else we would be considered schizo­phrenic, to put it mildly!

A person’s nature is not equal to the person him­self, but is only an essen­tial element of the person. This is implicitly ac­knowledged by trini­ta­rians when they say that Jesus has two natures, divine and human, yet is one per­son, not two.

What kind of person is Jesus if he is a composite of the divine and the human? This is an inherently difficult and in­tract­able issue that raged on for years in what is known as the Christ­olog­ical con­trover­sies. In the end, all that trinitarian­ism could say about Jesus is that he is a God-man by virtue of the union of the two natures. But a God-man is obvious­ly not a per­son like any of us. Since the God-man constit­ution doesn’t make Jesus true man, wouldn’t it also prevent him from being true God?

God by definition possesses a divine nature, not a human nature. But trinitarians will argue that Jesus’ divine nature is that of the second person of the Trinity incarnate as Jesus. But why stop at his divine nature which only confuses the issue? If the entire sec­ond person of the Trinity is in Jesus, what do we make of Jesus’ human nature? Is Jesus still a whole human person? Are there two persons in Jesus? The idea of two per­sons is rightly abhorrent to trinitar­ians, so they say that Jesus is a divine person to whom is added a hu­man nature, not a human person. But how is this still-divine person a true man?

The biblical Jesus, on the other hand, is a true man like any of us. Most signifi­cantly, Yahweh, the only true God, has chosen to dwell in this man. God’s entire “fullness” lives in Jesus “bodily” (Col.2:9), with the two united in “one spirit” (1Cor.6:17). This is the correct New Testament picture of the union of true God and true man.

The trinitarian error has conditioned us to think that if Jesus is not God, then the New Testament has no message about him that is worth proclaim­ing. To the trinitarian, the value of Christ lies in his being God or God-man, not mere man. But the plain truth is that the glory of the biblical Christ far out­shines the glory we ascribed to the trinitarian God-man. We have been misled into believing that the New Testa­ment is cen­tered on Christ the God-man when in fact we could not demon­strate that such a person even exists in the New Testament. It is a plain fact, verifi­able by a computer search, that the central trinitarian term “God the Son” does not exist in the Bible.

“He who has seen me has seen the Father”

Paul speaks of “the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2Cor.4:6). God’s glory is revealed in Jesus; even Jesus’ words and deeds originate from the Father who lives in him. Jesus is like a transparent win­dow to God: “he who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).

But this statement would mean something different if Jesus is coequal with the Father in every respect and is of one sub­stance with Him. Since Jesus is God in trinitarian­ism, to see Jesus is to see God the Son, not God the Father. In trin­itarianism, it is not necessary for us to see the Father be­cause the equi­valent of God the Father is seen in God the Son. In this subtle way, the Father is eliminated in trinitar­ianism for all intents and pur­poses. For most trinit­a­rians, Jesus is the only God they worship and pray to, though Christians from charismatic groups put the Holy Spirit, the third person, at the cen­ter of their faith. God the Father is of no real interest to most trinita­rians. Apart from sending His Son into the world and raising him from the dead, what has He done? As a song sums it up, “Jesus did it all”!

Jesus did not say, “He who has seen me has seen God,” a statement that some might take as an equation of identity, Jesus = God. What Jesus actually said was, “He who has seen me has seen the Father.” We cannot take this as an equation of iden­tity (Son = Father) unless we are willing to understand it modalis­tically (which trinitarians would not do). Hence, when we see Jesus, we do not literally see the person of the Father in front of us (this would be modalism). What we do see is the Father’s fullness dwelling in Jesus bod­ily (Col.2:9); this is what makes Jesus the image of God. Jesus reveals the Father transparently because he is “the image of the invis­ible God” (Col.1:15).



[1] It is unclear from the history of dogma if this was what Nestorius, archbishop of Constantinople, really taught, for most of his writings have been lost, and most of what we know of his teach­ings have come to us from his enemies.

[2] The Greek world at the time of the Council of Nicaea was familiar with the deities who are said to have died and come back to life, e.g., Attis (of Greek origin), Dionysus (Greek), Adonis (Greek with Semitic ante­cedents), Osiris (Egyptian), Ra (Egyptian), Tammuz (Sumerian and Babylonian), and Zalmoxis (Greek). See the respective Wikipedia articles under these names.

[3] Wikipedia, Greek Mythology, citing H.W. Stoll’s Religion and Mytho­logy of the Greeks: “The Ancient Greek gods have many fantas­tic abilities; most signifi­cantly, the gods are not affected by dis­ease, and can be wounded only under highly unusual circum­stances. The Greeks considered immortality as the dis­tinct­ive char­acter­istic of their gods”.

[4] For a scholarly work on the dying and rising gods, see T.N.D. Mettin­ger’s The Riddle of Resurrection: Dying and Rising Gods in the Ancient Near East.

[5] The Last Adam: A Study in Pauline Anthropology, Robin Scroggs, page 38 (Fortress Press, 1966).

[6] A physicist friend of mine who completed his doctoral studies in England once explained to me that Jesus’ body could penet­rate walls and other obsta­cles in terms of quant­um pro­ba­bility and frequen­cy funct­ions, but this is going beyond my knowledge of phy­sics.

 

 

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