What follows is an assortment of various articles by Kermit Zarley, proclaiming "Who Jesus is!"
Although I don't agree with Kermit Zarley on all his (other) views, nevertheless, his Christology and how he expresses it, is most excellent (I do also recommend his book!)
[Therefore in presenting these articles, some editing has been done; and inclusion of links to his blog does not necessarily imply my endorsement of Zarley's views as presented on his blog.]
Thomas Said to Christ, “My Lord and My God.”
He Meant “God’s in Christ,”
to which We Should Agree
When the risen Jesus appeared to his gathered disciples on the first [Passover] evening, the Apostle Thomas was not present (John 20.19-24). They later told him they had seen Jesus. Thomas then said he would not believe it unless he saw Jesus himself (v. 25).
One week later the risen Jesus appeared again to his gathered disciples, with Thomas present. Jesus spoke to him, and Thomas replied, “My Lord and my God” (John 20.28).
Most Christians have believed that Thomas then called Jesus “God.” And most New Testament (NT) scholars claim it is the strongest biblical evidence that Jesus is God.
On the contrary, no other NT character calls Jesus “God,” which would depart from Jewish monotheism. Plus, John records two occasions when Jesus’ antagonists accused him of making himself out to be God, which he then denied (John 5.18-47; 10.30-37).
Christians as well as historical-critical scholars have exceedingly misunderstood Thomas’ words “my God.” Their interpretation that Thomas here calls Jesus “my God” ignores this gospel’s context, which unlocks the meaning of Thomas’ confession.
For instance, John records that the risen Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene a week prior to this Thomas incident. He told her, “go to my brethren, and say to them, ‘I ascend to my Father and your Father, and my God and your God’” (John 20.17). So, the risen Jesus called the Father “My God.” But, how can Jesus be God if he has a God? Indeed, John would not have meant that Thomas called Jesus “my God” when this author had just recorded that Jesus called the Father “My God.”
Then, one verse after Thomas’ confession John concludes his gospel by writing, “Many other signs therefore Jesus also performed … but these have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” (John 20.30-31).
This statement would be anti-climactic following Thomas’ confession if he therein called Jesus “my God.” And calling Jesus “the Son of God” does not mean he is God.
The key to understanding Thomas’ confession “my God” is in the conversation John records that Jesus had with the apostles Thomas and Philip at the Last Supper, only ten days prior. Jesus told them he would soon go to “my Father’s house” (John 14.2), referring to his heavenly ascension which will soon follow his impending death and resurrection. Then John adds,
4 “And you know the way where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going, how do we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.” 8 Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own initiative; but the Father abiding in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father is in me.”
Jesus’ words, “the Father is in me,” must have left a strong impression on Thomas. Indeed, they are the key to correctly understand what doubting Thomas later meant when he said to Jesus, “my God.” That is, Thomas acknowledged what Jesus had taught ten days prior, that God the Father is in Jesus.
Jesus had taught the same thing many days earlier. He had said, “I and the Father are one” (John 10.30). His Jewish opponents misunderstood him and were about to stone him. They accused him of “blasphemy,” saying, “You, being a man, make yourself out to be God” (v. 33).
Jesus implicitly denied this and explained the oneness as “the Father is in Me, and I in the Father” (v. 38).
Scholars call this the Mutual Indwelling.
Some ill-taught Christians get confused about Jesus’ words in John 14.9—“He who has seen me has seen the Father.” They think he therein claimed to be the Father. In the third century, Sabellius taught that Jesus, the Father, and the Spirit were one person, and the Church rightly declared it heretical. Jesus and NT writers constantly distinguished the Father and Jesus as two separate individuals.
The Johannine Jesus taught similarly on other occasions. Once, when he attended a feast at Jerusalem, “Jesus cried out and said, ‘He who believes in me does not believe in me, but in Him who sent me. And he who beholds me beholds the One who sent me’” (John 12.44-45). Again, Jesus was talking about
God the Father. In fact, the Father sending the Son is the most prominent theme in the Gospel of John, occurring 40 times.
This indwelling of God in Christ, and God sending Christ, reflects the concept of agency.
In antiquity, especially in the business world and among Jews, a principal would select someone to represent him as his agent. It was common knowledge that a man’s son usually proved to be the best candidate as his agent. So, with the son as agent, dealing with a man’s son was akin to dealing with the man himself, as if the father was in his son.
The Johannine Jesus taught this concept of agency in various ways concerning himself and God his Father. Jesus often said the Father had given him his words and deeds (John 12.49; 14.10, 24; 17.8). And he said of the Father, “My teaching is not mine, but His who sent me. If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from myself” (7.16-17). Notice he distinguishes himself from God. Another time Jesus said, “I have come in my Father’s name,” and he then called the Father “the one and only God” (5.43-44). This is similar to what the Johannine Jesus later prayed to the Father, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (17.3).
To rightly understand Jesus in the Gospel of John, Agent Christology can hardly be over-emphasized. It is the corrective to misinterpreting several Johannine texts in which Jesus is wrongly identified as God, claiming to be God, or God becoming a man.
Moreover, in John’s gospel Agent Christology, also called Sending Christology, is the primary focus of saving faith for believers (John 16.27-30; 17.8). As God’s supreme agent, the Johannine Jesus functioned as God without actually being God.
In my book, The Restitution of Jesus Christ (2008), I devote 17 pages to explaining Thomas’ words
“my God” in John 20.28 and cite 38 scholars. In using John 14.9, 11 as key to understanding Thomas, I regard this as the pinnacle of my research in this book.
It is a God-in-Christ interpretation of Thomas’ words “my God” in contrast to the traditional Christ-is-God interpretation of them.
(Buy this book at servetustheevangelical.com. See our website christiansforonegod.com.)
The above article was taken from:Thomas Said to Christ, “My Lord and My God.” He Meant “God’s in Christ”
Is Jesus God Because He Is Lord?
During antiquity, calling a man “Lord” usually was intended as no more than a polite address. On the other hand, kings were often addressed as “Lord” to signify their vested authority. Among Jews, rabbis could be called “Lord” to indicate both.
The early Jewish Christians’ primary creedal statement was that “Jesus is Lord.” The Apostle Peter preached about it in his first sermon on the day of Pentecost following the Christ event. He proclaimed of Jesus, “let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2.36).
And the Apostle Paul wrote, “no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12.3).
Jesus had approved of his disciples calling him “Lord.” Right before partaking of the Last Supper, Peter called Jesus “Lord” (John 13.9). Jesus soon affirmed this designation by saying, “You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am” (v. 13). Jesus seems to have used these two titles interchangeably. Calling Jesus “Lord” therefore meant that he was the sole teacher of his disciples.
The synoptic gospels reveal that their writers viewed these and other similar terms interchangeably, and therefore synonymously, when applied to Jesus. For example, when Jesus and his disciples were crossing Lake Galilee in a boat and a storm threatened to swamp them, they awoke Jesus by crying out for help. Matthew says they addressed him as “Lord” (8.25); Mark records it was “Teacher” (4.38); Luke reports they said “Master” (8.24). And at Jesus’ transfiguration, Matthew says Peter addressed Jesus as “Lord” (17.4); Mark records it was “Rabbi” (9.5); Luke reports he said “Master” (9.33).
No writer of the New Testament (NT) reflects this brief confession that Jesus is Lord more than does Paul. In his ten epistles, he applies the word “Lord” to Jesus nearly 230 times, whereas he calls him “the Son (of God)” only 17 times.
The Lordship of Jesus Christ is without a doubt the dominant theme in Pauline Christology.
………………………………………For him, God is “the Father” and Jesus is “the Lord.” For example, Paul writes that
“there is but one God, the Father,… and one Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 8.6).
Paul, as with many other early Christians, sometimes proclaims Jesus’ Lordship in his evangelistic messages. For instance, when the fear-stricken Philippian jailer asked the imprisoned apostles Paul and Silas,
“‘Sirs , what must I do to be saved?’ They said, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved’” (Acts 16.31). And Paul wrote to the Christians at Rome, “if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10.9).
But what did Paul and these other early Jewish Christians mean by their proclamation that Jesus is Lord? They meant no more than that Jesus ought to be obeyed regarding his instruction in righteousness. Only if we obey to some extent Jesus’ teachings as a lifestyle can we truthfully say that he is the Lord of our lives.
Many traditionalists (those who believe Jesus is God) contend otherwise. They allege that the NT designation of Jesus as Lord goes farther. They say it indicates that he is God due to the practice of the Septuagint—the third century BCE Greek translation of the Old Testament which scholars designate as LXX. It uses the Greek word kurios to translate the Hebrew word “YHWH” (Yahweh), which is God’s name (see Exodus 3.13-16). YHWH occurs 6,519 times in the Hebrew Bible. ...
But authorities now agree that first century CE copies of the LXX did not substitute words for God’s name. In 1978, George Howard explained, “Recent discoveries in Egypt and the Judean desert show that in the pre-Christian Greek Bible the tetragrammaton was never represented by the surrogate kurios and in addition was usually left untranslated. It was reproduced in archaic-Hebrew or square Aramaic letters or in the transliterated form of IAW…. The practice of surrogating the divine name in writing with kurios, as we find it in the Christian copies of the Septuagint, is a Christian innovation that in no way reflects the appearance of the Bible which the NT writers used…. the early church was accustomed to seeing the Hebrew word יהוה written in their Greek OT, not the surrogate kurios.”
In fact, Jewish copies of the LXX consistently replace kurios with YHWH!
Moreover, Paul does not provide any evidence in his letters that his application of kurios to Jesus is a substitute for YHWH, as if declaring Jesus is Yahweh. James Dunn says of “Lord” in Paul’s letters, “kyrios is not so much a way of identifying Jesus with God, but if anything more a way of distinguishing Jesus from God.”
Paul, in one of his letters, quotes a hymn which some traditionalists have cited as major support for their belief that Jesus is God. It says of Jesus, “God highly exalted him, and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow,… and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2.9-11; cf. Isaiah 45.23). These traditionalists claim that the first occurrence of “name” refers to “Lord” (kurios) and that it therefore indirectly identifies Jesus as God due to the Septuagint practice mentioned above.
Citing a translation practice to prove a theological interpretation of the Bible is a dubious practice. Moreover, “Lord” is a title, not a name. Neither is “Lord” God’s name.
Rather, YHWH is God’s name. And Paul’s hymn likely means “the name” bestowed on Jesus is the name “Jesus.”
In sum, the NT accounts of the early Christians calling Jesus “Lord” indicate no more than their recognition of his God-given authority to rule and their voluntary submission to be ruled by him. And Paul, the premiere proponent of Lordship Christology in the NT, provides no evidence that he equates the words “Lord” and “God.”
The above article was taken from:
Is Jesus God Because He Is Lord?
 Incidentally, the word 'Sirs' in Acts 16:30 is the Greek word 'kurios' i.e. lord.
So the jailer analogously said, lords, what must I do to be saved? He referred to Paul and Silas as 'kurios' -- lord!
What Must Christians Believe?
Christians sometimes do not agree on what constitutes a genuine Christian. Yet most agree that a person must believe in Jesus. But what does it mean to believe in Jesus? On matters of faith, Christians should appeal to the Bible.
Jesus was a Jew. Jews believed that their God promised to send a king to deliver them from Gentile oppression, gather all Diaspora Jews to their ancestral land, and make Israel the chief of all nations in a worldwide government of peace. They identified this promised king as “the Messiah.”
Messiah translates mashiach in the Hebrew Scriptures, meaning “the anointed (one).” Thus, God would anoint this king with his (Holy) Spirit. Christians claim, and the New Testament (NT) affirms, that to be a Christian a person must believe that Jesus is Israel’s promised Messiah. “Christ” is the English word for Messiah. The early Jewish believers in Jesus called him “Jesus the Christ.” They soon dropped the definite article to form a new name for him—Jesus Christ or Christ Jesus. By calling him the Christ, they soon came to be called “Christians” (Acts 11.26). This label signifies, first and foremost, that these early believers in Jesus regarded him as the Christ.
Luke relates in his book of Acts about the evangelistic activities of these early Jewish Christians and the content of their message. He says as soon as the Apostle Paul was dramatically converted from being an enemy of Christians to becoming one of them, he traveled about “proving that this Jesus is the Christ” (Acts 9.22). It was his fundamental message. For, Luke later informs that Paul was “solemnly testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ” (Acts 18.5 NASB). Luke adds that Paul “powerfully refuted the Jews in public, demonstrating by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ” (v. 28).
Christians also insist that to be a Christian one must believe that Jesus is the Son of God. Indeed, the core message of the NT gospels is that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God
(Matthew 1.1, 16; Mark 1.1; Luke 1.32, 35; 2.11; John 20.31). Luke says Paul “began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying ‘He is the Son of God’” (Acts 9.20).
But what does it mean that Jesus is the Son of God? Most Christians have understood it to mean that Jesus is God. They have believed that he preexisted as the eternal Logos-Son and came down from heaven to earth to become a man, called “the incarnation.”
Christians have believed this because church fathers erred by interpreting the status of Jesus as the Son of God according to Greek metaphysics. They reasoned that just as a man procreates a son to become a man, so God generated a Son who must be God.
Consequently, the Nicene Creed of CE 325 declares that Jesus is “very God of very God,” also called “the deity of Christ.” And this creed pronounces anathemas (curses) on those who deny this declaration. Popular American Presbyterian Reformed theologian R.C. Sproul asserts, “A denial of Christ’s deity is the essence of unbelief.”
No way! Gabriel announced to the virgin Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy child shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1.35). So, Jesus is the Son of God because God supernaturally accomplished his conception, which does not make him a deity.
Christians rightly proclaim that a person must believe Jesus arose from the dead to be a Christian. The Apostle Peter made Jesus’ resurrection the centerpiece of his evangelistic preaching (Acts 2.24, 32; 3.15; 4.10). And the Apostle Paul says Jesus’ resurrection testifies to his being the Son of God (Romans 1.4). Paul defines the Christian gospel, saying that “Christ died for our sins,…was buried, and that he was raised on the third day” from the dead (1 Corinthians 15.3-4). Paul says these are of “first importance,” meaning it is necessary to believe this to be a genuine Christian. If believing Jesus is God is of first importance, why didn’t Paul include it?
Paul never says Jesus is God.
Most Christians also rightly claim that we must believe Jesus is Lord in order to be saved. Paul wrote, “if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you shall be saved” (Romans 10.9). Indeed, “Jesus is Lord” was the first Christian creed (1 Corinthians 12.3). It means people are real Christians if they let Jesus become Lord of their lives by living to some extent a lifestyle in obedience to him. He had said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7.21).
Christians also rightly claim that people must believe in Jesus as their Savior to be a true Christian. That is, we must believe, as Paul states above, that Jesus died on the cross bearing our sins as a sacrificial atonement. Then God will forgive us, cleanse us from all unrighteousness, and make us a member of his family. An angel announced this at Jesus’ birth, “today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2.11).
Jesus being the Savior is implied in his name. The Gospel of John says of him, “But as many as received him, to them he gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in his name” (John 1.12).
What does the name Jesus mean?
Jesus and Israeli Jews in his time spoke Aramaic as their native language. The name Jesus translates the Aramaic Yeshua or Yeshu. Ye is the shortened form of God’s name, which is YHWH, which can be rendered Yahweh or Yehvah. Shu(a) means “to save” or “salvation.” So, Yeshua means:
“Yahweh saves” or “Yahweh is salvation.” It means that Yahweh saves through Jesus.
An angel implied this when he said to Joseph in a dream that Mary, his soon-to-be wife, “will bear a son and you shall call his name Jesus, for it is he who will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1.21).
………………………………………In sum, the NT proclaims that to be saved, and thus be a real Christian, we must believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, that he is Savior by dying for our sins, that he arose from the dead, and we must allow him to be Lord of our lives. But the NT never says we must believe that Jesus is God in order to be a genuine Christian.
The above article was taken from:
What Must Christians Believe?
As a Sinless Man Christ Made Him a Name,
But God Become Man Detracts from his Fame
I believe the Christian story is far greater if Jesus was no more than a man and therefore not God. And I believe that is what the Bible teaches. Many of my Christian brethren (I know–most of them don’t think I’m their brother in Christ because that’s what they have been taught), besides objecting to my assertion that Jesus was and is not God, they are offended that I say Jesus was a ... man. I don’t mean by this to be disrespectful of my Lord and Savior, Jesus. Heaven forbid!
Jesus’ virgin birth and sinless are extremely important to my Christology. The Bible clearly teaches that Jesus had to be sinless in order for him to become the Passover lamb who died for his people on the cross as our Savior from sin. His being without sin thereby fulfilled God’s requirement that the sacrificial lamb be without spot and blemish. And I believe Jesus’ virgin birth is indicated in his favorite title he used for himself, which I believe he drew solely from “one like a son of man” depicted in Daniel 7.13-14.
(I think the “one like” [Aramaic ke] indicates his virgin birth.)
Apparently, it’s easy for God to be sinless. For the Bible says, “God cannot be tempted by evil” (James 1.13). Guess who wrote that? Jesus’ brother James. Yet, all three Synoptists tells us that right after John baptized Jesus, the holy spirit led Jesus into the wilderness where he fasted for forty days and the devil tempted him with three huge temptations (Matt. 4.1-11; Mark 1.12-13; Luke 4.1-13). And Jesus emerged victorious over them and all subsequent temptations. The author of Hebrews says Jesus was “without sin” because he “learned obedience through what he suffered,” thus “having been made perfect,” and he “was heard because of his reverent submission” to God (Hebrews 4.15; 5.7-9; 7.28 NRSV). Paul says he “knew no sin” (2 Corinthians 5.21). And Peter quotes Isaiah saying, “he committed no sin” (1 Peter 2.22; Isaiah 53.9 LXX). Does all of that sound like someone who is both fully man and fully God, which the Bible nowhere proclaims? I don’t think so. And how could Jesus have been made perfect if he was God, since God is always perfect?
Dutch theologian Ellen Flesseman-Van Leer writes in her little book, A Faith for Today (ET 1980), that Jesus’ “complete obedience was not superhuman” (p. 67). She adds, “He was not only fully man, but also man as God intended him.” She means God made man, intending him to be what Jesus became.
Some Christian scholars question that if Jesus was both man and God, he could not have been fully man. One reason is his temptations could not have been real since God cannot be tempted.
It wasn’t easy for Jesus to emerge victorious over all sin and become our Savior. That’s why God rewarded him mightily and will do so even more in the future. Furthermore, the Bible predicts that all those who cast their lot with Jesus–and thereby conquer sin in their own lives to some extent by making him Lord (cf. Revelation 2-3)–will participate in his great reward. Paul quotes a hymn that says since Jesus so “humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death … Therefore God also highly exalted him” (Philippians 2.8-9; cf. Isaiah 52.13). The writer of Hebrews exhorts us to be “looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12.2). And John ... quotes the risen Jesus as saying to the church of Laodicea, “To the one who overcomes I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on His throne” (Revelation 3.21 NIV).
Scripture is clear: God exalted Jesus because Jesus did God’s will by overcoming.
That is what makes the Christian story so absolutely fantastic! It’s because Jesus was a man like us, except for his virgin birth and sinlessness, and he overcame. But if he was God, how can he truly be rewarded? God can’t be rewarded! This story about Jesus overcoming temptation and sin, dying on the cross for us, and being rewarded so magnificently for it makes absolutely no sense to me if he was God! (Yet that is what I believed for 22 years, but mostly because my church taught it to me.)
So, I think the post-apostolic church dogma that Jesus is God to some extent ruins the Christian story. How so? It inhibits our appreciation for the awesome task Jesus accomplished for us in overcoming sin in order to become our Savior.
The above article was taken from:
As a Sinless Man Christ Made Him a Name, But God Become Man Detracts from his Fame
Some editing has been done on each of the above articles.
Therefore, Zarley concludes by saying “So, I think the post-apostolic church dogma that Jesus is God to some extent ruins the Christian story. How so? It inhibits our appreciation for the awesome task Jesus accomplished for us in overcoming sin in order to become our Savior.”
To which I say a hearty ... Amen!