Due to the length and complexity of this essay, I consider it best to begin with the conclusion. And the conclusion is this: Jesus is fully and completely God. He is the divine revelation or Logos of the Infinite, unseen God.
God the Father is the Infinite existing beyond time, space and matter. We finite beings cannot directly see or know the Father. In order to commune with us, the Infinite Father projects His Spirit, His Logos into finite, time-bound creation. In order to know us more closely, the Spirit of God projected Himself into the form of a man, Jesus of Nazareth.
Jesus of Nazareth was God existing inside a human body. He was God for His soul was the soul of God. But He was also man, for He lived in a human body, and used a human brain as His mode of thought. His use of a human body and brain meant that He put aside His omnipotence and omniscience for some 33 years. (cf. Phil. 23:6-8)
As such, Jesus of Nazareth represents the meeting point between God and man.
ESSAY: (See also, The Trinity in the Old Testament.)
The nature of Christ's divinity and His place in the Triune Godhead has been a matter of debate since the first century A.D. The Apostle Paul addressed the issue in his Epistle to the Colossians:
"Who [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist." (Colossians 1:15-17)
Thus, according to Paul, Jesus is the image of the invisible God (the Infinite). And as the first-born of creation, Christ came first, and then all things were created through Him.
In I Corinthians, Paul speaks of Jesus as the man of heaven. As the heavenly man, Jesus is not only the image of the invisible God, He is the image of what we shall be. For at the final Resurrection, those who were in the image of the man of dust, Adam, will be remade in the image of the heavenly man, Jesus Christ. (I Corinthians 15:47-49)
Paul's conception of Jesus has some similarity to the writings of Philo of Alexandria. Philo was a Jewish scholar, born about 13 B.C., who lived in Alexandria, Egypt. Philo spoke of the "heavenly man" or "Logos". And "Logos" can be defined as the divine reason, intelligence, revelation or creative principle of God. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica,
"Philo saw the cosmos as a great chain of being presided over by the Logos, a term going back to pre-Socratic philosophy, which is the mediator between God and the world.... In anticipation of Christian doctrine he called the Logos the first-begotten Son of God, the man of God, the image of God, and second to God."
When Paul speaks of Christ as the image of the invisible God, the first-born of creation, and the heavenly man, he is speaking of Christ existing in a less transcendent form than God the Father. In this lesser or more immanent form, Christ mediates the power of the Father to the finite universe, and stands between us and the unseen Father. Paul says in I Corinthians:
"Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all." (I Cor. 15:24-28)
This same line of reasoning is found in the Gospel of John, where the Apostle John also employs the term "Logos" or "Word". John wrote, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." (John 1:1) Here the Word/Logos is clearly divine. But, as in Paul, the Word still exists in a more immanent form than the Father. John quotes Jesus,
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth..." (John 5:19,20)
John saw the Logos as proceeding from God, as a timeless emanation. This sense of timelessness is captured in John 8:57-58, "Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am."
The unknown writer of the Letter to the Hebrews agrees with Paul and John. He says that the Son was appointed by God as the heir of all things. (Hebrews 1:2) The Son "Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power..." (v. 3) Further, "So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee." (Hebrews 5:5)
The theologian, Origen, born 185 A.D., carried on the New Testament Logos tradition. Like Philo, he lived in Alexandria, Egypt. He taught that the Logos has the same substance as the Father, from Whom the Logos is eternally generated. As reflected in the Gospel of John, this generation did not occur at a historical point in time. The Logos has always been with the Father, and has always proceeded from the Father. But being generated, the Logos is less transcendent than the Father. The Logos is the self-manifestation of the Father, and makes the Father known to the world.
But against Origen, the heretical Monarchists rejected the Logos and the concept of emanation. They claimed that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were simply different faces or manifestations of the same divine Person (or Monarch). Sabellius said that Father, Son and Holy Spirit were the same Person, acting in three different eras of history.
In the 4th century, a great controversy arose which brought the dispute to a point of crisis. A Christian priest named Arius, also from Alexandria, Egypt, created a heretical school of thought known as Arianism. According to this philosophy, which was very different from Monarchism, God alone, is self-existent and immutable. He is absolutely One. Therefore, the Son cannot also be God. The Son is finite, subject to change and can have no direct knowledge of the Infinite Father. Instead, the Son is a created being, a sort of demigod. He is a half-God, half-man creature similar to Hercules.
Arius believed that he was defending monotheism by supporting the absolute Oneness of God. His orthodox opponents accused him of supporting polytheism by treating Christ as a demigod. Both sides did battle and persecuted the other. Eventually, the Arians lost, and the Nicene creed was issued. The original version of the creed stated:
"We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of all things, both visible and invisible. And in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Only begotten of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made, both things in heaven and things on earth; who, for us men and for our salvation, came down and was made flesh, and was made man, suffered, and rose again on the third day, went up into the heavens, and is to come again to judge both the quick and dead; and in the Holy Ghost."
"And those who say that there was a time when He was not, or He was not before He was made, and He was made out of nothing, and out of another substance or thing, or the Son of God is created or changeable, or alterable, they are condemned by the Catholic Church."
Both Arianism and Monarchism were defeated, and the Biblically-based doctrine of the Trinity triumphed. Jesus was proclaimed as God, not as demigod. He, like the Holy Ghost, was a fully co-equal member of the Godhead, and a person in His own right. He was of the same substance as the Father, not made, and not created. Thus, the validity of the Trinity (three distinct Persons, but One God) was upheld.
Common conceptions of the Trinity, though, can devolve into a form of polytheism. In popular imagination, the Trinity becomes a triumvirate of beings sitting on thrones looking each other in the eye. Father, Son and Holy Ghost become akin to Zeus, Poseidon and Hades. Furthermore, a crude Trinity of divisible, finite beings does not account for the Ground of all Being, the Infinite. Thus, a quaternity consisting of the Infinite, Father, Son and Holy Ghost could thus develop.
In order to better understand the divinity of Christ, and to avoid the danger of polytheism, it is important to ground all theology in the Infinity of God. It is also important to retain the concept of the Logos as presented in the Gospel of John. As discussed in the 8th Observation from the Observations on God, Life and the Human Journey, God is the Infinite. He stands above time, space and matter. All that is, exists inside His infinite mind. All periods of history exist simultaneously inside Him. Only the Infinite is truly real because only He exists in and of Himself. We are His thought. If He did not think on us, we would not exist.
The Infinite (or the Father), however, projects the true essence of Himself into the finite universe so that He might communicate with us as Being to being, Person to person. His projection of Himself is the Logos of Philo, John the Apostle and Origen. The Logos is the divine representation of the invisible Infinite. The Logos/Son/Spirit is a timeless emanation of the Infinite Father, and is, thus, not a created being.
God uses our lives on earth to teach us and to test us. But in order to more fully relate to us, to participate in the pain of life, and to bear our sins on the Cross, He too became a man. The Logos projected His essence, His personality, His soul, into human form. And He was called Jesus of Nazareth. Thus, God the Son, is both the Heavenly Logos and the earthly Jesus.
The Holy Spirit is also part of the Logos for He too proceeds from the Infinite Father. Jesus said, "But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:" (John 15:26)
The Holy Spirit is the invisible presence of the Logos working throughout the universe and in our hearts. Jesus told us,
"And when he [the Holy Spirit] is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me; Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged." (John 16:8-11)
As such, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are not completely separate. The Holy Spirit is the invisible, but very real presence of the Logos in creation. Jesus Christ is the Logos become man.
But now, how would the Logos project Himself into human form? This too has been a matter of debate. Was Jesus simply God masquerading as a man? Or did He truly subject Himself to human limitations? And was there a human soul and a divine soul living side by side? Despite the debate over the centuries, it does not have to be too terribly difficult to grasp the basic concepts.
To help understand, think of this: Each of us is an immortal soul. God joins our souls with a human body at the time of conception. And the body is not the person, the soul living inside the body is the person. Thus, there is not a body person and a soul person living side by side. There is simply a soul with a physical jacket (the body) enclosing it. The soul, which is the seat of consciousness, enlivens the physical body, and uses the brain as its mode of thought.
Now, the Logos is a different form of soul than you or I. The Logos has the qualities of omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence, which our souls do not possess. However, He too accepted the limitations of a human body and the limitations of human intelligence. Therefore, Jesus was not omnipotent. He did not have unlimited intelligence. He did not heal with His own power. He healed with the power of God the Holy Spirit working through Him. He did not know everything. He had to rely on the teaching of the Holy Spirit to obtain the great wisdom that He possessed. He had to go through a process of discovery to learn whom He truly was. For when He was a baby, He had the knowledge of a baby. He had to grow and mature. His soul was truly the soul of God. But He fully partook of the human experience.
As Paul wrote in Philippians 2:5-11:
"Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
God became mortal man, and subjected Himself to all the trials and tribulations of life. Yet, He remained perfect and sinless. Christ Jesus had to do all these things to be our Savior. He had to become man to die for our sins, for as God, He could not die. It was essential that He subject Himself to our human limitations, yet remain sinless. Only One Who had borne the human experience could sympathize with us. Only One Who was sinless could offer Himself as a perfect substitionary sacrifice for the sins of mankind. And only One Who had remained consistently true to God's law in the face of all temptation would have the moral right to hold us accountable. The writer of Hebrews said:
"Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:14-16)
The Logos, God the Son, confined Himself to the form of a human man for some 33 years. And that human incarnation as Jesus has forever shaped and influenced the Logos. For the Logos is Jesus. And Jesus is the Logos.
The Old Testament is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Therefore, it is to be expected that Christ can be found within its pages. First, all the major and minor prophets of the Old Testament speak either of the Messiah or of the Messianic Age. Passages from Isaiah and Micah make it clear that the Messiah is not a man, but is God incarnate. Isaiah wrote:
"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end..." (Isaiah 9:6-7)
"But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting." (Micah 5:2)
Micah's phrase, "whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting." tells us that the Messiah is an eternal being Who has always been. He would be born in Bethlehem, but He has existed prior to His birth from the depths of eternity.
The Old Testament prophets were given a sweeping view of the future in which time was compressed. Therefore, we see prophecies of the First and Second Comings of the Lord Jesus Christ existing side by side. The Prophet Zechariah wrote:
"Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass. And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem, and the battle bow shall be cut off: and he shall speak peace unto the heathen: and his dominion shall be from sea even to sea, and from the river even to the ends of the earth." (Zechariah 9:9-10)
As can be easily seen, Zechariah's prophecy is of both comings. Jesus rode on a donkey during His First Coming (Matthew 21:1-11), but He will cut off the chariot and the battle bow meaning that He will destroy human armies at His Second Coming.
Secondly, in Zechariah, we see what are clearly Christophanies, or physical appearances by Christ prior to the First Coming. The prophet Zechariah's ministry began about 520 B.C. during the early post-exilic period. He was a contemporary of the prophet Haggai.
Zechariah received seven night visions from God. In the first, he saw horses and their riders among the myrtle trees. He also saw two angels. There was the Angel of the Lord standing among the myrtle trees. And there was an angel who spoke to Zechariah and gave him the interpretation of the vision. However, the two angels may be the same person appearing in two different forms.
Throughout the Old Testament, the Angel of the Lord is a theophany, or a physical manifestation of God. In Exodus 3:2 we are told that the Angel of the Lord appeared to Moses "in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush". Then, in Exodus 3:4, we are told that God called to Moses from the midst of the bush. Thus, the Angel of the Lord and God are one and the same. Genesis 22 also clearly identifies the Angel of the Lord as God.
Now, back to Zechariah: In the vision of the horses, the Angel of the Lord speaks to God. "Then the angel of the LORD answered and said, O LORD of hosts, how long wilt thou not have mercy on Jerusalem" (Zechariah 1:12). Here, the Angel of the Lord and the Lord of hosts are different persons. But does Zechariah also identify the Angel of the Lord as God?
In chapter 3, Zechariah sees another vision. This time, the high priest Joshua and Satan appear in court before the Angel of the Lord. The second verse tells us, "And the LORD said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan..." Zechariah clearly identifies the Angel of the Lord as Yahweh God.
The Angel of the Lord then goes on to prophecy the coming of the Messiah in Zechariah 3:6-10. In this prophecy, The Angel of the Lord quotes the Lord of hosts Who is clearly different from the Angel of the Lord. The Lord of hosts will send His Servant, the BRANCH, the Messiah. (Zechariah 3:8)
Here is what we are seeing. The Angel of the Lord is God. But He speaks to another Person, the Lord of hosts, Who is also God. In Psalms 110, we see the same thing when David wrote, "The LORD said unto my Lord..." Moreover, in Zechariah, the Angel of the Lord prophecies of the Messiah, Who is also God. It is clear then, that the Trinity exists in the Old Testament. The Angel of the Lord is the pre-existent Jesus Christ. The Lord of hosts is the Father. And the Angel of the Lord, Jesus, prophecies His own coming as the Messiah.
The book of Daniel speaks of both the Ancient of Days and the Son of man. Daniel describes the Ancient of Days as follows:
"I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened." (Daniel 7:9-10)
Daniel's phrase "Ancient of days" bespeaks of the eternity of God and is reminiscent of Micah 5:2, which says of the Messiah that His "goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting." Daniel's description of the Ancient of Days corresponds almost exactly to John's description of Jesus in Revelation 1:12-16. In the Revelations, Jesus Christ is portrayed in His glory as judge of all mankind. (Compare John 5:22 where Jesus said that "For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son.")
Daniel goes on the describe the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven and appearing before the Ancient of Days (Daniel 7:13). Some have interpreted the Ancient of Days to be God the Father, which in the context may be true. However, John 1:18 makes it clear that no one has seen the Father at any time. Instead, we see the Father in Jesus, Who is the revelation of the Godhead. As Paul said in Colossians 1:15, "Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:" So in effect, Daniel sees Christ as both God and man. Jesus as Ancient of Days, the divine Logos of the Father, accepts His incarnation and humanity as the Son of man. Revelation 1:12-16 combines the two entities (Ancient of Days and Son of man) into one, for it calls Jesus the Son of man, and describes Him in terms identical to the Ancient of Days.
A great wise man of the Old Testament, a non-jew named Agur, wrote,
"Who hath ascended up into heaven, or descended? who hath gathered the wind in his fists? who hath bound the waters in a garment? who hath established all the ends of the earth? what is his name, and what is his son's name, if thou canst tell?" (Proverbs 30:4)
Jesus answered Agur's question in John 3:13 when He told Nicodemus, "And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven."
The Holy Spirit also appears in the Old Testament. In Ezekiel 36:27, God tells the people of Israel, "I will put My Spirit within you..." In Joel 2:28, God says, "And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh;" Although the Old Testament does not clearly differentiate God's Spirit as a separate person, with the hindsight of the New Testament, we can clearly identify God the Holy Spirit in the pages of the Old Testament.