Showing posts with label #Christology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label #Christology. Show all posts

Word!

by K.W. Leslie, 14 December

John 1.1-5.

I wrote about when God became human; now let’s look at God before he became human. Beginning with the beginning of the gospel of John.

John 1.1-5 KWL
1 In the beginning is the word,
and the word’s with God,
and the word is God.
2 This word is in the beginning with God.
3 Everything comes to be through the word,
and not one thing, nothing, comes to be without him.
4 What came to be though the word, is life.
Life’s the light of humanity.
5 Light shines in darkness,
and darkness can’t get hold of it.

“The word” which the author of John wrote of, exists at the beginning of creation, is with God, is God, and is the means by which everything is created.

And round 7BC, this word became a human we know as Christ Jesus of Nazareth.

Why’d the author of John (and for convenience we’ll just figure he’s the apostle John; he probably was) use “word” to describe the pre-incarnation Jesus? You realize this passage is the reason so many Christians are hugely fascinated by the word “word,” and have written endless stuff about the Word of God—some of it extremely profound and useful, and some of it sour horsepiss. I grew up hearing a lot of both.

The John passage tends to get translated in past tense: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” as the KJV has it. Which is fine; the beginning of time and creation of the cosmos did happen in our past. But most of this passage was written in the aorist tense, a verb tense which is neither past, present, nor future. It has no time connected to it; you have to figure its time from other verbs in the passage, or from context. Well for me, the context is καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος/ke Theós in o lóyos, “and the word is God.” He was God at creation, and never stopped being God; he is God—present tense. So, present tense.

Okay, now to the concept of λόγος/lóyos (or as Americans regularly mangle it, “logos”) which literally means “word.” Why’d John use it?

For centuries, Christians assumed lóyos comes from ancient Greek philosophy. Blame ancient gentile Christians: As non-Jews, they had no idea what Pharisees taught about the lóyos of God—or as it’s called in Aramaic, מימרא/memrá. But they did know Greek philosophy, and insisted on interpreting bible through the lens of their own culture. Christians still do the very same thing today… but that’s a whole other rant. Let’s get back to criticizing ancient Christian gentiles.

Ancient Greek philosophers had written a whole bunch of navel-gazing gibberish about the word lóyos. ’Cause they were exploring the nature of truth: What is it, how do we find it, how do we prove it, how do we recognize logical fallacies, and what’s the deal with words which can mean more than one thing? For that matter, what’s a “word” anyway? Is it just a label for a thing, or a substantial thing on its own? Maybe that’s why God can create things by merely saying a word. Ge 1.3 And so on.

Follow the Greek philosophers’ intellectual rabbit trails, and you’ll go all sorts of weird, gnostic directions. Which is exactly what gentile Christians did.

Now let’s practice some actual logic. John wasn’t a gentile; he was a Galilean Jew who grew up attending, and getting educated by, Pharisee synagogues. So let’s look at that culture: What’d Pharisees teach about what a memrá is and means? And it turns out Pharisees had a lot of interesting ideas attached to it.

When God became human.

by K.W. Leslie, 13 December
INCARNATE 'ɪn.kɑrn.eɪt verb. Put an immaterial thing (i.e. an abstract concept or idea) into a concrete form.
2. Put a deity or spirit into a human form, i.e. Hindu gods.
3. ɪn'kɑr.nət adjective. Embodied in flesh, or concrete form.
[Incarnation ɪn.kɑr'neɪ.ʃən noun, reincarnation 're.ɪn.kɑr.neɪ.ʃən noun.]

Most of our christology lingo tends to come from Greek and Latin. This one too. Why? Because that’s what ancient Christians spoke… and over the centuries westerners got the idea Greek and Latin sound much more formal and sanctimonious than plain English. But they absolutely weren’t formal words in the original languages. When you literally translate ’em, they make people flinch. Incarnate is one of those words: In-carnátio is Latin for “put into meat.”

Yep, put into meat. Nope, this isn’t a mistranslation. And it’s an accurate description of what happened to Jesus. The word of God—meaning God—became flesh. Meat.

John 1.14 KJV
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

This isn’t a temporary change, solely for the few decades Jesus walked the earth. When Jesus was resurrected, he went right back to having a flesh-’n-bone body. When he got raptured up to heaven, he still had, and has, his flesh-’n-bone body; he didn’t shuck it like a molting crustacean. It’s who he is now. God is now meat. Flesh, blood, spit, mucus, cartilage, hair, teeth, bile, tears. MEAT.

God doesn’t merely look human. Nor did he take over an existing human, scoop out the spirit, and replace it with his Holy Spirit. These are some of the dozens of weird theories people coined about how Jesus isn’t really or entirely human. Mainly they were invented by people who can’t have God be human.

To such people, humanity makes God no longer God. It undoes his divinity. He’d have to be limited instead of unlimited. And these people, like most humans, define God by his power. Power’s what they really admire, really covet, about God: His raw, unlimited, sovereign might. Not his character, not his goodness, not his love and kindness and compassion. F--- those things. God has to be mighty, and they can’t respect a God who doesn’t respect power the way they do.

So that, they insist, is who Jesus really is. Beneath a millimeter of skin, Jesus was secretly, but not all that secretly, all that raw unlimited power. He only feigned humanity, for the sake of fearful masses who’d scream out in terror if they ever encountered an undisguised God. He pretended to be one of us. Peel off his human suit, and he’s really omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, omni-everything.

To such people incarnation dirties God. It defiles him. Meat is icky. Humanity, mortality, the realness of our everyday existence, is too nasty for God to demean himself to. Sweating. Aching. Pains and sickness. Peeing and pooping. Suffering from acne and bug bites and rashes. Belching and farting. Sometimes the trots from bad shawarma the night before. Waking up with a morning erection.

Have I outraged you yet? You’re hardly the first. But this, as we can all attest, is humanity. Not even sinful humanity; I haven’t touched upon that at all, and I needn’t, ’cause humans don’t have to sin, as Jesus demonstrates. I’m just talking regular, natural, physical humanity. When God became human, he became that. And people can’t abide it.

Yet it’s true. God did it intentionally. He wanted us to be with him. So he made the first move, and became one of us.

Christology: What we understand about Jesus.

by K.W. Leslie, 12 December

Christology is a branch of theology, and the christ- prefix should give you the hint it specifically has to do with Christ Jesus.

Historically, christology has been about who Jesus is. Because Jesus came to earth and said some profound things about himself, and it took us Christians a few centuries to hash out those ideas.

I know; plenty of Christians insist they’re pretty self-explanatory ideas. They read the bible, and it’s plain as day! But that’s because they, like most people, greatly lack self-awareness: It wasn’t plain as day when they first became Christian. (It certainly wasn’t plain as day before they became Christian—which is why they weren’t Christian!) It became plain as day after they were exposed to Christians who explained Jesus to them, and after they were exposed to the Holy Spirit who made ’em stop rejecting every little thing they heard, stop insisting they knew it all, shut up, and listen, dangit.

It’s still not plain as day to a lot of Christians. For all sorts of reasons. They lack the humility to listen to other people or the Spirit, try to figure out Jesus for themselves, invent some “clever” ideas which are really just old heresies that’ve been tried and rejected ages ago, and won’t listen to anyone who tries to correct ’em. Some of ’em simply never read their bibles—never read the gospels, never read the Sermon on the Mount, presume Jesus thinks exactly the way they do and shares all the same prejudices, and proclaim that instead of Jesus.

Yeah, much of the reason Christianity has a thousand denominations is because Christians don’t agree about Jesus, what he teaches, and what he emphasizes. They’re not seeking Jesus’s input; or as theologians are gonna put it, they have a weak christology. They don’t value who he is, and don’t care what he’s about. They have their own ideas.

So let’s look at christology. Which examines a few particular areas of Christian theology:

  • What Jesus teaches and does—both in the first century, back in time before he came to earth, in the future during the End Times and millennium and New Earth, and of course what he’s doing right now.
  • Sin, how it affects humanity, and precisely how Jesus conquers it.
  • God’s kingdom, ’cause Jesus is after all its king. Also how he’s its king.
  • Jesus’s family. Particularly his mom, who’s a person of huge interest within Roman Catholicism. Likewise what she did and is doing.

But most of our focus in christology is how Jesus is the primary lens through which we understand God himself. Humanity doesn’t understand him correctly without Jesus.

Jesus still appears to people, y’know.

by K.W. Leslie, 19 September

Several years after Jesus was raptured, Paul of Tarsus (sometimes referred to by his Hebrew name Saul) met him enroute to Damascus. Ac 9.1-9 He later retold that story to King Herod Agrippa 2.

Acts 26.13-16 NLT
13 “About noon, Your Majesty, as I was on the road, a light from heaven brighter than the sun shone down on me and my companions. 14 We all fell down, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is useless for you to fight against my will.’
15 “ ‘Who are you, lord?’ I asked.
“And the Lord replied, ‘I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting. 16 Now get to your feet! For I have appeared to you to appoint you as my servant and witness. Tell people that you have seen me, and tell them what I will show you in the future.”

Up to this point Paul was dead set on destroying Christianity—and he flipped hard. Preached Jesus with such fervor, his former backers wanted him dead. Went to his own death for Jesus.

That’s not the behavior of a man who merely changed his mind. Paul saw something—and for the rest of his life, claimed it was Christ Jesus.

Nearly all Christians accept Paul’s story without question. Not just ’cause Paul produced fruit of the Spirit from then on, and performed various miracles. Usually it’s because Paul wrote 13 books of the New Testament, particularly Romans, which spells out how the self-sacrifice of Jesus revealed God’s grace to the world.

But as far as further Jesus-sightings are concerned, they’re pretty certain Paul’s experience was a special circumstance. Only Paul got to have a special Jesus-appearance. Nobody else. Nobody since.

There I gotta disagree with them.

The second coming of Christ Jesus.

by K.W. Leslie, 15 February

After the tribes of Israel were dragged off into exile by the Assyrians and Babylonians, they really started digging into and holding onto the prophecies of a coming messiah. Messiah is what they called their kings; it means “anointed person,” ’cause at his coronation they poured a hornful of oil over him to represent the Holy Spirit coming to empower their king. (Presuming the Holy Spirit did empower their king. Some of those kings, not so much.) Anyway, they figured God would restore the kingdom of Israel and give ’em a really good messiah. The best messiah. Better than King David ben Jesse; he’d rule them righteously and victoriously, and defeat all their enemies easily. Maybe even conquer the whole world, just like the Assyrians, Babylonians, and Persians were kinda trying to do.

Jesus the Nazarene did not meet their expectations. But to be fair, the ancient Israelis overlaid a whole lot of their prejudices atop all the messianic prophecies: They wanted him to destroy their enemies with death and carnage. He wants to destroy his enemies by getting them to repent and become his friends. God is love; we humans most definitely aren’t.

The first step in Jesus’s conquest of the world was defeating sin and death, which he achieved in the year 33. The second step is what he’s currently doing now: His followers, us Christians, are meant to apply that salvation, be the light of the world, love our neighbors, and win ’em to Jesus’s side.

And the next step is when Jesus comes back to earth, personally, to continue that work in person.

Yes of course he’s coming back. He made that clear in the beginning of Acts:

Acts 1.1-11 NRSVue
1 In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and teach 2 until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. 4 While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 9 When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. 11 They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

Based on this and other scriptures, we Christians expect—once God decides the time is right—Jesus will return to earth. In person. As the head of an invading army of angels and at least 2 billion newly-resurrected Christians. To personally supervise God’s kingdom on earth, which he will rule himself as king.

We call this the second coming, or second advent, or in theologian-speak, parousia (Greek παρουσία/parusía, “coming”) of Christ. His first coming was when he was born, of course, and shared the good news of the kingdom with first-century Israel. We don’t count any of the many other times he visits people on earth, like he did with Paul, Ac 9.3-5 as formal “comings”—formal as they might feel to those people whose lives are significantly changed by seeing him.

Jesus’s second coming is an orthodox Christian doctrine: It’s something all true Christians are expected to believe. Various Christians insist it’s really not, but it’s in the creeds—so if you claim he’s not returning, you’ve gone heretic. Doesn’t mean Jesus can’t and won’t save you regardless; it only means you’ve rejected something the scriptures plainly teach, ’cause your doubts won you over. There’s nothing wrong with doubting, but there’s everything wrong with not trusting Jesus. He said he’s coming back for us, and he is.

John 14.1-3 NRSVue
1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.”
 
Revelation 22.12-13 NRSVue
12 “See, I am coming soon; my reward is with me, to repay according to everyone’s work. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”

Do you know what Christ Jesus really teaches?

by K.W. Leslie, 04 January

Ask anybody what Jesus of Nazareth did for a living, and nearly all of us will say, “Oh, he was a carpenter.”

More precisely Jesus was a τέκτων/tékton, a “craftsman, artisan”—someone who made stuff. Sometimes in wood… and sometimes in stone. Nowadays Israel has a lot of trees, but that’s because of a serious reforestation campaign the nation started decades ago. Thousands of years before that, the trees had been cleared to turn most of the land into farmland, so by Jesus’s day, not a lot of wood. Lots of stones though—good thing for archaeologists. So Jesus worked with wood, stone, whatever; in general he made stuff. Makes sense; he’s the Creator y’know. Jn 1.3

So he was what we’d nowadays call a contractor. Mk 6.3 Family business, apparently; he did it because his dad did it. Mt 13.55 But by the time we read his teachings in the gospels, that was Jesus’s previous job. He left that job and took up a new one: Jesus was a rabbi. A teacher. Jn 1.38

Yeah, most of you already knew Jesus was a rabbi. Even those of who who responded, “He’s a carpenter.”

So why is everyone’s first response typically, “Ooh! Ooh! Carpenter!” Because it’s kinda obvious he’s a teacher, but “carpenter” feels like more of a trivia question—“Okay, what was Jesus of Nazareth’s little-known vocation? What’d he do for a living? ’Cause the teaching didn’t pay.” Actually it did pay: Rabbis took donations. Usually of food; sometimes of money, sometimes free labor. Some of Jesus’s followers included the women who financially contributed to his teaching, Lk 8.2-3 and also did stuff for him… and got to stick around and listen to what he taught. They were functionally his students, same as his Twelve. (Or at least that’s how Jesus sees them. Lk 10.38-42 Sexists, not so much.)

But “Jesus was a carpenter” actually comes from the statement the folks of his hometown made to belittle him: “Hey, why’re we even listening to this guy? Isn’t he just the handyman?” It’s exactly the same as if the pastor of your church invites a guest speaker to preach, and instead of it being some famous bible scholar it’s the janitor… and the janitor presents you with a truth so challenging, so contrary to your beliefs (yet entirely biblical!), your knee-jerk response is to find any excuse at all to demean him, so you pick on his blue-collar job. “Who’s this guy? Who does he think he is?”

Subtly, a lot of antichrists still maintain this bad attitude about Jesus: He‘s “just” a carpenter. He wasn’t really Christ; that’s some hype his followers made up.

Regardless, “rabbi” is maybe the second thing we list on Jesus’s résumé. Sometimes we remember “king”—when we’ve not presumed that’s merely his future job, and doesn’t apply yet.

Well. I use this example of “Jesus was a carpenter” to point out how frequently we get Jesus wrong. Even on as something as simple as his job description. We think we know him. But we make lots of little slip-ups on very basic data, and repeat the common clichés instead of quoting bible. We trusted what other Christians told us, parrot it, and never bother to double-check it: “Wait, where does it say that in the bible?” Or “Is that what this verse means?”

Ironically this is exactly what a rabbi does for a living: Train students to ask such questions. And we, Jesus’s present-day students, need to ask these questions.

Arianism: One God—and Jesus isn’t quite him.

by K.W. Leslie, 21 December
ARIAN 'ɛr.i.ən adjective. Believes God is one being, one person, not three; and that both Jesus and the Holy Spirit are created beings and lesser gods.
[Arianism 'ɛr.i.ən.ɪz.əm noun.]

I’ve written on unitarian beliefs—namely how there’s one God, but contrary to how he’s been revealed in the New Testament, certain folks insist God’s not a trinity. Now, pagans and other monotheists don’t bother with the New Testament, so of course they don’t believe in trinity. But Christians do have the NT and claim to abide by it… and yet some of us still don’t believe in trinity. We call these folks heretics. (And of course they’d call us heretics, and round and round we go.)

One of the first major anti-trinitarian heresies Christians bumped into, is Arianism—a word pronounced the same, but is not the same, as the white-supremacist view Aryanism. It’s named for Áreios of Alexandria (c. 250-336), a Christian elder—or in Roman Catholic thinking, a priest. In Latin he’s Arius, and that’s usually what he’s called in history books. Arianism is based on Áreios’s insistence Jesus isn’t YHWH. He’s a second god, created by the Almighty, who does godlike things, but he’s not the God, but a lesser god. ’Cause God’s not a trinity.

You gotta understand where Áreios was coming from. When you read the gospels, Jesus is clearly a different person than his Father. His Father is God, Jn 8.54 and the usual, natural conclusion you’d come to is that God’s one person, and Jesus is another. Which is true! The hard part is the idea God is more than one person, and for Áreios and other Arians, that’s an impossible part.

Thing is, in the scriptures there are verses which bluntly state Jesus is God. Jn 1.1, Pp 2.5, What’d Áreios do with them? Simple: He allowed that Jesus must be a god. But not the God.

You gotta also understand where Áreios came from. Third-century Egypt was predominantly pagan and polytheist. They believed in Egyptian gods, Greek gods, Roman gods, and any other gods which sounded worth their time. Christianity, in contrast, is monotheistic: One God, and all the other gods are probably demons. The idea of trinity—of Jesus and the Holy Spirit being God exactly the same as the Father is God—rubbed Áreios the wrong way. To him it sounded way too much like weird gnostic polytheism. But two gods?—he could live with two gods.

Áreios was hardly the first to believe this. But he was the first to successfully spread the idea around. Largely through the use of catchy worship songs which taught his theology. Here’s a bit from his song “Thalia,” quoted by then-deacon (and Áreios’s chief critic) Athanásios of Alexandria. De Synodis 15. My translation:

The First One made the Son—the first thing he created.
He made the Son himself, giving birth to him.
Who doesn’t have any of God’s being nor uniqueness,
For he’s not the same. He’s not the same stuff as him.

The lyrics don’t sound all that catchy to me, but the music must’ve been way better.

Hence for a while there in the early 300s, Arianism was rapidly becoming the main form of Christianity in the Roman Empire. Even the emperor, Flavius Constantinus, had become Arian.

Okay. You might be going, “Why on earth are you writing about a 17-century-old heresy? Those people got condemned by the ancient Christians and died out.” And man alive would you be dead wrong. Arians are everywhere.

Ancient heretic theories about Jesus.

by K.W. Leslie, 14 December

Because the New Testament never bluntly spells out, “Here’s precisely what Christ Jesus did and how he works,” Christians have had to deduce a number of things about him, based on various things we gleaned from the bible.

Fr’instance most of us wanna know what he looked like. And while John, in Revelation, actually does say what he looks like, Rv 1.12-16 too many of us insist that passage isn’t meant to be taken literally. Mostly because Jesus has bronze skin and white hair, and too many of us expect a more conventional depiction of White Jesus.

In that, you can see the common problem among Christian theologians: We all have our biases. We come to the scriptures with an idea already in mind, and wanna find proof texts to back us up. Sometimes the scriptures won’t do that! And that’s okay; we’re wrong, and the scriptures are meant to correct us when we’re wrong. 2Ti 3.16 But too often we won’t admit we’re wrong; too often we’ve convinced ourselves our clever ideas are really God-ideas, so the scriptures have to prove us right. If being right is more important than being scrupulous (and for too many people, it absolutely is), we’ll subtly tweak the scriptures this way and that till they do “prove us right”—and that’s how we get heresies.

The ancient Christians ran up against a whole lot of heresies, ’cause the Roman Empire largely practiced freedom of religion. No really: As far as the Romans were concerned, you could worship any god you wished. True, they persecuted Jews and Christians—but that’s largely because we told people you couldn’t worship any god you wished. Wasn’t very liberal of us. But in any event, you could worship any god; you could even introduce new gods and build temples, and start synagogues and teach newbies about your god. A number of gnostics did exactly that, and taught all kinds of weirdness. Some of these gnostics claimed to be Christian, and had all sorts of weird heretic things to teach about Christ Jesus as well.

In our day we also have freedom of religion. And, yep, gnostics. Who teach all sorts of weird heretic things about Jesus, and start churches and sell books. They make some pretty good money at it; they get fans, which feed their pride and make ’em think they’re all the more clever and inspired. But they’re leading people away from God, his grace, and his kingdom. These aren’t little errors. They’ll interfere with people’s salvation, or trick ’em into rejecting God.

Of course these heretics already refer to us orthodox Christians as “heretics”—they’re entirely sure they’re right and we’re not. And to be fair, we’re all wrong. But these folks are so wrong as to be called heretic, where their beliefs stand a really good chance of leading people away from God. They prefer their ideas about what God is like, over what God actually revealed about himself. They figure either God’s revelations are wrong, or misinterpreted—whereas they got it right, and how clever of them to see what others don’t. How wise of them; how inspired; what special favorites of God’s they must be. And all the other delusions pride can trick us into.

Heretic theories tend to fall into one of five categories:

  1. JESUS IS ANOTHER GOD. Most heretics figure Jesus isn’t the God, but a god. Another god. The God created Jesus as another god under him, like his vice-God, or prince of all the angels, or demiurge who does all the work while he sits back and rules. Jesus is some powerful being who’s not the very same One True God.
  2. JESUS ISN’T REALLY GOD. Jesus gets called “the son of God,” but that’s just a title the Hebrews gave their messiahs, their ancient kings, to indicate how these guys weren’t gods, but only worked for God. And same as all we other humans are daughters and sons of God. Like us, Jesus is another one of God’s creations. He’s still Messiah, a great teacher and prophet; he’s gonna rule the world; he’s the best human God ever made. But not God.
  3. JESUS ISN’T REALLY HUMAN. Jesus is in fact God; he’s definitely God. But he couldn’t fully give up his divinity to become human (and why would he?) so his humanity was only pretense. He appeared to be human, lest he freak people out too much. But he’s fully divine, wearing what appeared to be a human form.
  4. JESUS IS A DEMIGOD. In pagan religions, gods and humans bred and made demigods, half-and-half hybrids who were either supermen or lesser gods, like Herakles and Perseus and Aeneas. Demigod heresies describe Jesus these ways—part-God instead of entirely God, part-human instead of fully human.
  5. JESUS IS GOD—AND YOU CAN BE GOD TOO! A number of pantheists have wormed this idea into Christianity: Every human being has a divine spark in us, and Jesus fanned his own spark into full-on divinity. Now he’s teaching us to do the same thing. Follow Jesus, and you can become God too.

Whereas, to answer these theories, orthodox Christians aver:

  1. Jesus is the same God, Pp 2.6 and God is One. Dt 6.4 There isn’t another God.
  2. Jesus is as God as God can be. Jn 1.1-2
  3. He’s human; Jn 1.14 more human than humans are, ’cause we sin, which dings us quite a lot.
  4. True, to become human, Jesus was depowered, Pp 2.7 and had to perform miracles through the Holy Spirit’s power. Ac 10.38 But godlike power doesn’t make you God; it’s like saying arms and legs make you human. Divine nature does, and Jesus absolutely has that. He 1.3
  5. There’s only one God, and we’re not him… and Jesus is.

“Jesus sightings” in the Old Testament.

by K.W. Leslie, 04 August

From time to time I hear Christians claim Jesus makes appearances in the Old Testament.

And he does. All the time, really—because Jesus is YHWH. When God created the universe, when the LORD singled out Abram ben Terah and renamed him Abraham and relocated him to Canaan, when the LORD had Moses lead the Hebrews out of Egypt and give ’em the Law and covenanted to be their God and they his people: This is Jesus. This isn’t just the God the Father person of the trinity doing stuff, while the Son and Holy Spirit hid in the background, and peeked out once or twice, and made minor appearances. This is the triune God. And Jesus is this God.

John spelled it out in his gospel: It wasn’t the Father, and the Father alone, who created the universe; it’s God. And Jesus is God.

John 1.1-3 KJV
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

Because in the beginning God created the heavens and earth, Ge 1.1 a verse all John’s readers knew quite well; and stating the Word of God created everything means Jesus created everything. But no, this doesn’t mean God the Son alone created everything, instead of God the Father: Again, this is the triune God. The LORD God created everything.

So yeah, when you read about the LORD in the Old Testament, that’s Jesus. And when you read things into the LORD’s character and motives, which are inconsistent with Jesus’s demonstrated character and motives in the gospels, you’re misinterpreting the LORD. Jesus came to earth to show us what God is really like. Jn 1.18 He’s our lens. Don’t use others.

Okay, but back to these Christians who claim they’ve sighted Jesus in the OT. Rarely, if ever, do they mean they recognize Jesus is the LORD, and recognize Jesus’s character and motives in the LORD’s actions. Nope; they’re claiming one odd figure or another in the Old Testament is Jesus.

Fr’instance that one time the LORD had lunch with Abraham. Ge 18 That’s gotta be Jesus, they figure, ’cause he appeared as a human, and Jesus is human. (Nevermind that he hadn’t become human yet.)

Or the story of Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah… but since we’re gonna insist on using their slave names, okay; Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

Daniel 3.23-25 KJV
23 And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. 24 Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonied, and rose up in haste, and spake, and said unto his counsellors, Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king. 25 He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.

Oooh, we Christians respond, it was the Son of God. It’s Jesus!

Thing is, would this truly be what the pagan Nebuchadnezzar meant by his statement? The original Aramaic, בַר אֱלָהִֽין/var Elohín, can either mean “son of God” or “son of the gods,” which is how the ESV, NASB, and NIV chose to put it. The NLT has “looks like a god.” Remember, Nebuchadnezzar didn’t yet know God, much less Jesus, and had no clue what he was seeing.

But we have a clue as to what he was seeing. And let’s be fair; maybe it was God. He hadn’t yet become human, but same as he appeared to Abraham as a human, he appeared to Nebuchadnezzar as a human, ’cause he can do that of he so chooses. If it was God in the fire beside them, it’s Jesus, ’cause Jesus is God.

But more reasonably it was an angel. Same as God later sent an angel to rescue Daniel, Da 6.22 or sent an angel to rescue Simon Peter Ac 12.7 instead of showing up to the prison personally. Yeah Jesus could have done it himself, but he seems to delegate this duty to angels—all of whom were probably really eager for the job anyway. Wouldn’t you be?

Jesus’s resurrection: If he wasn’t raised, we’re boned.

by K.W. Leslie, 06 April

Of Christianity’s two biggest holidays, Christmas is the easier one for pagans to swallow. ’Cause Jesus the Nazarene was born. That, they won’t debate. There are a few cranks who think Jesus’s life is entirely mythological, start to finish; but for the most part everyone agrees he was born. May not believe he was miraculously born, but certainly they agree he was born.

Easter’s way harder. ’Cause Jesus the Nazarene rose from the dead. And no, he didn’t just wake up in a tomb after a two-day coma following a brutal flogging and crucifixion. Wasn’t a spectral event either, where his ghost went visiting his loved ones to tell them everything’s all right; he’s on a higher plane now; in time they’ll join him. Nor was it a “spiritual” event, where people had visions or mass hallucinations of him, or missed him so hard they psyched themselves into believing they saw him.

Christians state Jesus is alive. In a body. A human body. An extraordinary body; apparently his new body can do things our current bodies can’t. But alive in a way people recognize as fully alive. Not some walking-dead zombie, nor some phantom. Jesus physically interacted with his students, family, and followers, for nearly a month and a half before physically going to heaven.

That, pagans struggle with. ’Cause they don’t believe in resurrection. Resuscitation, sure; CPR can keep a heart going till it can beat on its own, or doctors can revive frozen people. Returning from the dead happens all the time. But permanently? In a new body? Which he took with him to heaven? They’re not buying it. They’re more likely to believe in the Easter Bunny.

But that’s the deal we Christians proclaim on Easter: Christ is risen indeed.

It’s not the central belief of Christianity; God’s kingdom is. But if Jesus didn’t literally come back from the dead on the morning of 5 April 33, it means there’s no such kingdom, and Jesus is never coming back to set it up. And nobody’s coming back from death. There’s no eternal life; at best an eternal afterlife, which ain’t life. There’s no hope for the lost. The Sadducees were right. Christianity’s a sham. There’s no point in any of us being Christians.

No I’m not being hyperbolic. This is precisely what the apostles taught.

1 Corinthians 15.12-19 KWL
12 If it’s preached Christ is risen from the dead,
how can some of you say resurrection of the dead isn’t true?
13 If resurrection of the dead isn’t true, not even Christ is risen.
14 If Christ isn’t risen, our message is worthless. Your faith is worthless.
15 Turns out we’re bearing false witness about God: We testified about God that he raised Christ!
Whom, if it’s true the dead aren’t raised, he didn’t raise.
16 If the dead aren’t raised, Christ isn’t risen either.
17 If Christ isn’t risen, your faith has no foundation.
You’re still in your sins, 18 and those who “sleep in Christ” are gone.
19 If hope in Christ only exists in this life, we’re the most pathetic of all people.

No resurrection, no kingdom, no Christianity. Period.

Jesus is Yahweh. Yahweh is Jesus.

by K.W. Leslie, 30 June

That’s gonna be a startling title for a lot of people. Needs to be said, just as bluntly: Jesus is YHWH, the LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel.

Yeah he’s the son of God. Jn 8.54 Not saying he isn’t. But we also recognize Jesus is God incarnate, the word of God who’s with and is God, Jn 1.1 who didn’t figure his divinity meant he couldn’t also take on humanity.

Philippians 2.6-8 KWL
6 Existing in God’s form,
he figured being the same as God wasn’t something to clutch,
7 but poured himself into a slave’s form:
He took on a human likeness.
8 He was born; he was found human in every way.
Being obedient, he humbled himself to death: Death by crucifixion.

John continues:

John 1.14-18 KWL
14 The word was made flesh. He encamped with us.
We got a good look at his significance—
the significance of a father’s only son—filled with grace and truth.
15 John testifies about him, saying as he called out, “This is the one I spoke of!
‘The one coming after me has got in front of me’—because he’s first.”
16 All of us received things out of his fullness. Grace after grace:
17 The Law which Moses gave; the grace and truth which Christ Jesus became.
18 Nobody’s ever seen God.
The only Son, God who’s in the Father’s womb, he explains God.

(Yes, the KJV has for verse 18 “the only begotten Son.” That’s not what we find in the earliest copies of John; some later copier must’ve been weirded out by the idea of an only-begotten God, and changed it ’cause it sounds like God got created. But begotten doesn’t mean created. Anyway, I digress.)

Hence Jesus, who is God, knows precisely what God’s like. He was sent from God to explain God to us, as God’s revelation of himself. What we know about God must be filtered through Jesus. Like John said, only Jesus explains God. ’Cause he’s God.