WHO IS Jesus Christ?
We have examined their articles from Page 3 to 9 and include our rebuttal of each major error in the section titled Orthodox Christian Reply: which follows each WBTS statement:Early Questions About Identity
Scripture references are from the KJV, ASV, NIV, or NASB - unless otherwise stated;
Frequently referred to WBTS materials are also highlighted - e.g. NWT and KIT;
Translations which utilise 'Jehovah' are used to emphasise theological points;
WBTS statement: According to reliable history, a man named Jesus was born over 2,000 years ago in Bethlehem, a small town in the land of Judea. Herod the Great was king in Jerusalem then, and Caesar Augustus was emperor in Rome. (Matthew 2:1; Luke 2:1-7) Roman historians of the first two centuries generally avoided mentioning Jesus, since Roman rulers at that time were trying to suppress Christianity.
On the other hand, The Historians' History of the World observes: "The historical result of [Jesus'] activities was more momentous, even from a strictly secular standpoint, than the deeds of any other character of history. A new era, recognised by the chief civilisations of the world, dates from [Jesus'] birth."
Time magazine reported that more books have been written about Jesus than any other person in history. Many of these books focus on the question of Jesus' identity, that is, who he really is. There has perhaps been more controversy about this matter than about any other subject in human history.
Who Jesus Said He Was
When Mary was told that she would have a child and that she was to name him Jesus, she asked: "How is this to be, since I am having no intercourse with a man?" God's angel Gabriel replied: "Power of the Most High will overshadow you. For that reason also what is born will be called holy, God's Son." - Luke 1:30-35.
Later, Jesus performed miracles that caused apostles to marvel. When a mighty windstorm threatened to sink their boat on the Sea of Galilee, Jesus calmed the waters with the rebuke "Hush! Be quiet!" In astonishment apostles exclaimed: "Who really is this?' - Mark 4:35-41; Matthew 8:23-27.
Questions about Jesus' real identity became common among people of his day, so Jesus asked his apostles who people were saying he was. "Some say John the Baptist," they replied, "others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets" - all of whom were then dead. Afterward Jesus asked: "'You, though, who do you say I am?' In answer Simon Peter said: 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."' Even the demons - wicked angels - said of Jesus: "You are the Son of God." - Matthew 16:13-16; Luke 4:41.
Similar to the First Man, Adam
Although Jesus rarely spoke of himself as God's Son, he did acknowledge that he was. (Mark 14:61,62; John 3:18; 5:25, 26; 11:4) Almost invariably, however he said that he was "the Son of man." By identifying himself this way, he highlighted his human birth - the fact that he was truly a man. Thus he also revealed himself to be that "son of man" whom Daniel had seen in vision appearing before Almighty God - "the Ancient of Days." - Matthew 20:28; Daniel 7:13.
Rather than proclaim himself to be God's Son, Jesus allowed others to reach that conclusion. And even people besides his apostles did so, including John the Baptist and Jesus' friend Martha. (John 1:29-34; 11:27) These believed that Jesus was the promised Messiah. They learned that he had lived in heaven as a mighty spirit person and that his life had been miraculously transferred by God to the womb of the virgin Mary. - Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:20-23.
[Orthodox Christian Reply: The Bible never states that Jesus 'lived in heaven as a mighty spirit person'- but makes it clear that He is fully Almighty God, equal to the Father, and had no beginning. We will examine these facts in the following pages.]
Page 4 continued - Awake! April 22, 2005
WBTS statement: In many respects, Jesus was similar to the first man, Adam. For example, both were perfect men who did not have a human father. (Genesis 2:7, 15) So the Bible calls Jesus "the last Adam" - a perfect man who could serve as "a corresponding ransom." Jesus' life corresponded to that of "the first man Adam," whom God created as a perfect human. - 1 Corinthians 15:45; 1 Timothy 2:5, 6.
The first Adam is called in the Bible "son of God." (Luke 3:38) However, that Adam lost his precious relationship as God's son by willfully disobeying God. On the other hand, Jesus was always faithful to his heavenly Father, and he remained God's approved Son. (Matthew 3:17; 17:5) The Bible says that all who exercise faith in Jesus, accepting him as their Savior, can receive everlasting life. - John 3:16,36; Acts 5:31; Romans 5:12, 17-19.
[Orthodox Christian Reply: The inability of the WBTS to recognise the two natures of Christ - fully God and fully man - or to recognise the reasons for His appearance on earth as the 'second Adam' (the 'second man') mean that they can never fully accept the Scriptural truth about Him as Saviour.
The biblical teaching about the person of Christ is as follows: Jesus Christ was fully God and fully man in one person, and will be so forever. The scriptural material supporting this definition is extensive. In order to try and clarify all the points raised in this Awake! magazine we will discuss first the humanity of Christ, then his deity, and then consider how Jesus' deity and humanity are united in the one person of Christ before discussing the atonement.
The Humanity of Christ
Virgin Birth: When we speak of the humanity of Christ it is appropriate to begin with a consideration of the virgin birth of Christ. Scripture clearly asserts that Jesus was conceived in the womb of his mother Mary by a miraculous work of the Holy Spirit and without a human father.
'Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit' (Matthew 1:18). Shortly after that an angel of the Lord said to Joseph, who was engaged to Mary, 'Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit' (Matthew 1:20). Then we read that Joseph 'did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took his wife, but knew her not until she had borne a son; and he called his name Jesus' (Matthew 1:24-25).
The same fact is affirmed in Luke's gospel, where we read about the appearance of the angel Gabriel to Mary. After the angel had told her that she would bear a son, Mary said, 'How shall this be, since I have no husband?' The angel answered,
'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy the Son of God.' (Luke 1:35; cf. 3:23)
The doctrinal importance of the virgin birth is seen in at least three areas:
1. It shows that salvation ultimately must come from the Lord. Just as God had promised that the 'seed' of the woman (Genesis. 3:15) would ultimately destroy the serpent, so God brought it about by his own power, not through mere human effort. The virgin birth of Christ is an unmistakable reminder that salvation can never come through human effort, but must be the work of God himself. Our salvation only comes about through the supernatural work of God, and that was evident at the very beginning of Jesus' life when 'God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons' (Galatians. 4:4-5).
2. The virgin birth made possible the uniting of full deity and full humanity in one person. This was the means God used to send his Son (John 3:16; Gal. 4:4) into the world as a man. God, in his wisdom, ordained a combination of human and divine influence in the birth of Christ, so that his full humanity would be evident to us from the fact of his ordinary human birth from a human mother, and his full deity would be evident from the fact of his conception in Mary's womb by the powerful work of the Holy Spirit. Whether any other means of bringing Christ into the world would have been 'possible' in some absolute sense of 'possible,' Scripture does not tell us.
3. The virgin birth also makes possible Christ's true humanity without inherited sin. All human beings have inherited legal guilt and a corrupt moral nature from their first father, Adam (this is sometimes called 'inherited sin' or 'original sin'). But the fact that Jesus did not have a human father means that the line of descent from Adam is partially interrupted. Jesus did not descend from Adam in exactly the same way in which every other human being has descended from Adam. And this helps us to understand why the legal guilt and moral corruption that belongs to all other human beings did not belong to Christ.
This idea seems to be indicated in the statement of the angel Gabriel to Mary, where he says to her,
'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy the Son of God.' (Luke 1:35)
Because the Spirit brought about the conception of Jesus in the womb of Mary, the child was to be called 'holy.' Such a conclusion should not be taken to mean that the transmission of sin comes only through the father, for Scripture nowhere makes such an assertion. It is enough for us merely to say that in this case the unbroken line of descent from Adam was interrupted, and Jesus was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit. Luke 1:35 connects this conception by the Holy Spirit with the holiness or moral purity of Christ, and reflection on that fact allows us to understand that through the absence of a human father, Jesus was not fully descended from Adam, and that this break in the line of descent was the method God used to bring it about that Jesus was fully human yet did not share inherited sin from Adam.
But why did Jesus not inherit a sinful nature from Mary? The Roman Catholic Church answers this question by saying that Mary herself was free from sin, but Scripture nowhere teaches this, and it would not really solve the problem anyway (for why then did Mary not inherit sin from her mother?). A better solution is to say that the work of the Holy Spirit in Mary must have prevented not only the transmission of sin from Joseph (for Jesus had no human father) but also, in a miraculous way, the transmission of sin from Mary: 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you ... therefore the child to be born will be called holy' (Luke 1:35).
Human Weaknesses and Limitations
Jesus Had a Human Body: The fact that Jesus had a human body just like our human bodies is seen in many passages of Scripture. He was born just as all human babies are born (Luke 2:7). He grew through childhood to adulthood just as other children grow: 'And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him' (Luke 2:40). Moreover, Luke tells us that 'Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man' (Luke 2:52).
Jesus became tired just as we do, for we read that 'Jesus, wearied as he was with his journey, sat down beside the well' in Samaria (John 4:6). He became thirsty, for when he was on the cross he said, 'I thirst' (John 19:28). After he had fasted for forty days in the wilderness, we read that 'he was hungry' (Matthew 4:2). He was at times physically weak, for during his temptation in the wilderness he fasted for forty days (the point at which a human being's physical strength is almost entirely gone and beyond which irreparable physical harm will occur if the fast continues). At that time 'angels came and ministered to him' (Matthew 4:11), apparently to care for him and provide nourishment until he regained enough strength to come out of the wilderness. We read that 'Jesus wept' on the way to the grave of Lazarus (John 11:35)? His tears express his compassion for men, subject as they are to death and all its woes. He did not "groan in spirit" (v33, 38 AV) because of the faithless and hopeless lamentation for the dead with which he found himself surrounded. He came to take upon himself man's suffering and distress, his abandonment and death, so becoming the conqueror of death. His saving, life-giving work puts an end to lamentation for the dead (Luke 7:13).
When Jesus was on his way to be crucified, the soldiers forced Simon of Cyrene to carry his cross (Luke 23:26), most likely because Jesus was so weak following the beating he had received that he did not have strength enough to carry it himself. The culmination of Jesus' limitations in terms of his human body is seen when he died on the cross (Luke 23:46 - attempts by the WBTS to prove that He died on a 'torture stake' are easily refuted). His human body ceased to have life in it and ceased to function, just as ours does when we die. But the cross and resurrection of Jesus manifest his victory over death. There is no place for hopeless lamentation in his presence; to indulge in it is nothing other than doubt and unbelief. Sorrow over death for the Christian does not mean being left to his own resources, but in his very natural grief he is sustained by the hope of the resurrection of the dead.
Jesus also rose from the dead in a physical, human body, though one that was made perfect and was no longer subject to weakness, disease, or death. He demonstrates repeatedly to his disciples that he does have a real physical body: he says, 'See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; handle me, and see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have' (Luke 24:39 - again, it is easy to refute the error of the WBTS who try to prove He 'manufactured' bodies to encourage the disciples belief in a literal bodily resurrection!). He is showing them and teaching them that he has 'flesh and bones' and is not merely a 'spirit' without a body. Another evidence of this fact is that 'they gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them' (Luke 24:42; cf. v. 30; John 20:17, 20, 27; 21:9, 13).
In this same human body (though a resurrection body that was made perfect), Jesus also ascended into heaven. He said before he left, 'I am leaving the world and going to the Father' (John 16:28; cf. 17:11). The way in which Jesus ascended up to heaven was calculated to demonstrate the continuity between his existence in a physical body here on earth and his continuing existence in that body in heaven. Just a few verses after Jesus had told them, 'A spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have' (Luke 24:39), we read in Luke's gospel that Jesus '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 24:50-51). Similarly, we read in Acts, 'As they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight' (Acts 1:9).
All of these verses taken together show that, as far as Jesus' human body is concerned, it was like ours in every respect before his resurrection, and after his resurrection it was still a human body with 'flesh and bones,' but made perfect, the kind of body that we will have when Christ returns and we are raised from the dead as well. Jesus continues to exist in that human body in heaven, as the ascension is designed to teach.
Jesus Had A Human Mind: The fact that Jesus 'increased in wisdom' (Luke 2:52) says that he went through a learning process just as all other children do - he learned how to eat, how to talk, how to read and write, and how to be obedient to his parents (see Hebrews 5:8). This ordinary learning process was part of the genuine humanity of Christ.
We also see that Jesus had a human mind like ours when he speaks of the day on which he will return to earth: 'But of that day or that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father' (Mark 13:32). Cults such as the WBTS try to say that this proves that Jesus wasn't God, but it simply proves that He restricted His knowledge of some things.
Jesus Had a Human Soul and Human Emotions: We see several indications that Jesus had a human soul (or spirit). Just before his crucifixion, Jesus said, 'Now is my soul troubled' (John 12:27). John writes just a little later, 'When Jesus had thus spoken, he was troubled in spirit' (John 13:21). In both verses the word troubled represents the Greek term tarasso - a word that is often used of people when they are anxious or suddenly very surprised by danger.
Moreover, before Jesus' crucifixion, as he realized the suffering he would face, he said, 'My soul is very sorrowful, even to death' (Matthew 26:38). So great was the sorrow he felt that it seemed as though, if it were to become any stronger, it would take his very life.
Jesus had a full range of human emotions. He 'marvelled' at the faith of the centurion (Matthew 8:10). He wept with sorrow at the death of Lazarus (John 11:35). And he prayed with a heart full of emotion, for 'in the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard for his godly fear' (Hebrews 5:7). As the Perfect Son of Man, He would experience 'godly fear' - and taught His followers to be like Him!
Moreover, the author tells us, 'Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and being made perfect he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him' (Hebrews 5:8-9). He was strengthened physically, mentally, and spiritually, by more and more difficult exercise, as He grew. Yet in all this he never once sinned. The complete absence of sin in the life of Jesus is all the more remarkable because of the severe temptations he faced, not only in the wilderness, but throughout his life. The author of Hebrews affirms that Jesus 'in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin' (Hebrews 4:15). The fact that he faced temptation means that he had a genuine human nature that could be tempted, for Scripture clearly tells us that 'God cannot be tempted with evil' (James 1:13). Inevitably the WBTS will try to claim that this proves He could not be God! However, Scripture shows clearly that He temporarily lowered Himself while on earth (Philippians 2:5-9) and did not use all His attributes of deity so that this temptation, without yielding to sin, was possible ['nothing is impossible for God' - Luke 1:37 etc.].
Was Jesus fully human? He was so fully human that even those who lived and worked with him for thirty years, even those brothers who grew up in his own household, did not realize that he was anything more than another very good human being (Matthew 13:55-56; Mark 6:3; John 7:5). They apparently had no idea that he was God come in the flesh.
(Continued on page 64)