How Do I know that Jesus
Is The Son of God?
Part 1:Unique Teachings and Charactor
This argument, divided into two parts, is actually one section of a much larger part argument:
I.Fulfillment of Messianic Claims
II.Trustworthiness of claims made about himself
IV. Existential encounter
The Resurrectoin and personal experince of redeemption serve as confirmation of the other two.
But as three of those are exlore elsewhere on this site (as linked above), this page will only be concerned with argument no. II
The basic thrust of the arguement comes in two parts:
(1) Jesus is highly trustwrothy.
(2) Jesus claimed to be the son of God and as he is highly trust worhty we should trust his claims.
There are several problems with this argument which I shall breifely spell out. C.S. Lewis made a similar argument, "the Trilema" in which he said Jesus is either Lord, Lunatic, or Liar. I wont go in for that as it's too pat. There are other options. I think the best we can do is to show a high degree of trust that is possible.
First, we can elimate the obvious, as does Lewis. If Jesus is trust worthy then he is not a lunatic or a liar. Moreover, if he is a great moral and ethical teacher, he is not likley to be either a lunatic or a liar. People do have romanticized notions of mental illness, but most delustionsal states are dibilitating and would not allow one to matian such a delution and actualy get anything done. So Jesus really couldn't be a great moral teacher and be suffering from extreme mental illness.
Secondly, there are other options Lewish didn't cover such as, he could have been wrong, mistaken, or not understood his own position. There is also the problem that he may not have said the things he is quoted as saying. We can argue for a high probablity that he did say these things ("I am the way the truth and the life"). We can show that he probalby wasn't confussed about who he was. To be a great moral teacher and make such claimed he would have to have a pretty tight self image and idea of waht he was about. So it all boils down to a probablity.
Definition of terms: Before reading this argument it must be understood that the term "Son of God" doesn't just mean a sort of Vice President God, or that there is a divine family with a mom someplace. This term actually comes form the Messiah and is a link to Messianic claims (see the Messianc page). But there is also an infurence from this term of Jesus' own Godhood. All of this will be dealt with below.
I. Greatness of Jesus' Teachings and Charactor
A. Ethical and Moral Techings
Jesus ethical and moral teachings may be the gratest ever recorded, of course that's a biased and culturally bound appraisal. But they are certainly among the greatest, and the leaders and theologians of other world religions laud him for his teachings and many of them try to claim him as their own; the Moslems, The Hindu, and the B'Hai. Yet is was not the originality of his moral thinking that makes him great; the Stoics and others said many of the same things. And yet there are certain factors which do make Jesus' teachings unique and worthy of particular attention above and beyond that of most if not all ethical teachers...
1) Value System
The "beatitueds" that Jesus speaks in the Sermon on the mount indicate the value system out of which he opporated. Blessed means "happy" but he is saying more than "happy are the peacemakers." In prouncing them blessed he is saying basically 'there are the goodguys' and indicates a natural Tao working through the divine economy to protect and vidicate those who live by such values. "Blessed are the poor in spirit for their is the kindgom of heaven; blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted;...meek will inherit the earth...those who hunger and thirst after righteousness for they will be filled...merciful showen mercy...pure in heart will see God...peacemakers called sons of God...those persecuted for rightousness for theirs is the kingdom of heave." (Matt.5:3-10)
This is the way, this is how to be, these are the values one should hold. This is basically what he is saying. Essentially these qualities are those of a righteous person, they are oriented around God as the primary value and love for the neighbor as the main manifestation of love for God. To mourn probably means repenting for the evil we have done, or at least being able to empathize with other, to care about the pain others. "poor in spirit" refurrs to real poor people made more explicit in Luke, but the poor in the Bible are the righteous poor who trust in God for their sustainance.
ÃÂ b) Seek Ye first the Kingdom of God...
"Do not be anxious saying 'what shall we eat?' 'what shall we drink?' 'what shall we wear?' The Gentiles seek all fo these things and your heavnly Father knows that you need them all, but seek first his kingdom and his riaghteousness, and all these will be added unto you..." (Matt. 5:28-33)
2) Golden Rule
"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." ..Other religions, probably all, have similar injunctions, but I have not found has this qualifyer making it a self-reflexive command.
a) Self-Reflexive nature
By placing the command in terms of one's own standard of well being, the command becomes an exhortation to "love the neighbor as you love yourself." No higher standard could be given, one does to himself only that which he/she most desires to be done. By placing the command in these terms one cannot refuse to come to the aid of anyone in need. We would all prefur that others come to our aid. If the command were stated negatively, "do not do unto others that which you would not have done to yourself" one could ignore the neighbor in need. If the command stopped at merely loving the enemy or the neighbor one could refuse to help. By placing it in these self reflexive terms it is made active. One must go out of his way to seek out the needy.
b) Categorical Imperative.
Kant's great ethical system the categorical imparative was based on the Golen Rule of Jesus.
3) Love for Enemies
If you love those who love and hate those who hate you even the Gentiles do that, but I say unto you love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you
4) Greatest commandment
. "and one of them, a lawgiver, ask him a question to test him, 'teacher what is the greatest commandent?' ...37 "and he said to him ye shall love the Lord you God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first command,and the second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commands depend the law and the prophets." (RSV).
Note: All lgegal regulations and striving of law keeping are summed up in love of God and love of neighbor. This shows that Jesus' ethics surpass the rulekeeping stage and ascend to the highest level of conceptual morality, that of the ideal stage where actions are motivated by internalized principles. Moreover, by basing the second command upon love for the neighbor, but relating to love for self, it forms it's own second version of the categorical imparative. Note also if we love our neighbor as ourselves we are commanded to love ourselves, to recify the self image in relation to recipricle nature with others. At the same time, we cannot get off the hook by loving enemies any less (since even enemies are neighbors). Thus the will for the good of the other is indexed by our own will for our own good.
5) Psychological Motivations
B. Great Compassion
The compassion of Jesus can be seen in many of the stories. The woman caught in the act of adultary is taken before him and the mob wants to stone her. She has broken the law, she is worthy of death (accordin to that culture and that time). Jesus stoops and writes in the sand. We don't know what he wrote, but perhaps it was the names of those in the mob who had slept with her (they weren't being accussed). He says "let he who is without sin cast the first stone..." There is the compassion he exhibited to the many people who implored him for healings, and he never refussed anyone.We forget anyone else would have been running from those lepars and demoniacs that he healed. The demoniacs were dangerous, and the leapers thought contageous. But the also demonstrates a total lack of hypocracy in being unafraid to associate with those who needed him most. When he was criticized for being in the company of drunckards and prostitutes; he merely made fun of the prudes and said, in affect "well, I didn't come to help those who are so well off (the self rightous people) but those who know they need help" There is no way to capture the greatness of Christ's compassion and moral teachings in one of these subpoints, but I urge you to get a Bible and read the Gospels over and over, and with an open heart and you will see no greater compassion than that of Jesus Christ, and that of course is culmenated in his sacrifice on the cross for our sins.
C. Greatest Sacrafice
He did lay down his life for the sins of the world. "Greater love hath no man than to give up his life for a freind," yet Jesus' died for everyone; and his own understanding of what he was doing was that he laid down his life as a "ransom for many." But it seems unlikely that his followers would enlarge upon his mission to this extent. Perhaps they could have enlarged upon his deatht o include the mission to Israel and it was Paul who expanded it to the rest of the world. But there is great likelyhood that he understood himself to be doing something benificial for all humanity. After all it was not Pauline Theology but the understanding of the Beloved Deciple of the fourth Gospel who puts into Jesus mouth the statement "for God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believes on him should not perish but have everlasting life."
D. Jesus Moral Authority recognized almost universally.
All over the world people recognize Jesus Chris as one of the greatest moral teachers in history, if not the greatest. Ghandi admired him, Hindus and Buddhists claim him as enlightened, Moslems claim him as prophet of God menitoned in the Koran, and even many prominant Jewish thinkers and Rabbis admire him as great techer and fine example of Judaism.
------------------------------------------------------------------------ Martin Buber
From my youth onwards I have found in Jesus my great brother. That Christianity has regarded and does regard him as God and Savior has always appeared to me a fact of the highest importance which, for his sake and my own, I must endeavor to understand...
I am more than ever certain that a great place belongs to him in Israel's history of faith and that this place cannot be described by any of the usual categories.
Two Types of Faith (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1961), pp. 12-13.
------------------------------------------------------------------------ J. Carmel
Israeli Teacher and Author
If the prophet Elijah has ridden in a fiery chariot into heaven, why should not Jesus rise and go to heaven?
Cited by Pinchas Lapide, p. 138 in The Resurrection of Jesus: A Jewish Perspective (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1983).
------------------------------------------------------------------------ John Cournos
Novelist and Essayist
Jesus was a Jew -- the best of Jews....
Jesus was not only a Jew. He was the apex and the acme of Jewish teaching, which began with Moses and ran the entire evolving gamut of kings, teachers, prophets, and rabbis -- David and Isaiah and Daniel and Hillel -- until their pith and essence was crystallized in this greatest of all Jews....
For a Jew, therefore, to forget that Jesus was a Jew, and to deny him, is to forget and to deny all the Jewish teaching that was before Jesus: it is to reject the Jewish heritage, to betray what was best in Israel....
I know a number of Jews who believe as I do, who believe it is time that the Jews reclaimed Jesus, and that it is desirable that they should do so...To take three examples among them, one is a novelist, whose books are about Jews and read by Jews; one is an educator, whose work is among Jews and who knows Jews exceptionally well; and one is a scholar interested in Jewish Sunday schools--if he were permitted by the elders he would include among his readings of "gems" of Jewish literature the Sermon on the Mount.
In An Open Letter to Jews and Christians (New York: Oxford University Press, 1938).
------------------------------------------------------------------------ Norman Cousins
Former Editor of the Saturday Review
There is every reason for Judaism to lose its reluctance toward Jesus. His own towering spiritual presence is a projection of Judaism, not a repudiation of it. Jesus is not to be taxed for the un-Christian ideas and acts of those who have spoken in his name. Jesus never repudiated Judaism. He was proud to be a Jew, yet he did not confine himself to Judaism. He did not believe in spiritual exclusivity for either Jew or Gentile. He asserted the Jewish heritage and sought to preserve an exalt its values, but he did it within a universal context. No other figure -- spiritual, philosophical, political or intellectual -- has had a greater impact on human history. To belong to a people that produced Jesus is to share in a distinction of vast dimension and meaning....
The modern synagogue can live fully and openly with Jesus.
"The Jewishness of Jesus," American Judaism 10:1 (1960), p. 36.
Physicist and Professor, Princeton University
As a child I received instruction both in the Bible and in the Talmud. I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene....No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life.
Jesus is too colossal for the pen of phrase-mongers, however artful. No man can dispose of Christianity with a bon mot.
George Sylvester Viereck, "What Life Means to Einstein," The Saturday Evening Post, October 26, 1929.
------------------------------------------------------------------------ Hyman G. Enelow
President of the Central Conference of American Rabbis
and Rabbi of Temple Emanu-El, New York City (Reform)
Jesus was not only born a Jew, but conscious of his Jewish descent.
Jesus realized the spiritual distinction of the Jewish people, and regarded himself as sent to teach and help his people.
Jesus, like other teachers, severely criticized his people for their spiritual short-comings, seeking to correct them, but at the same time he loved and pitied them. His whole ministry was saturated with love for his people, and loyalty to it.
Jesus, like all other of the noblest type of Jewish teachers, taught the essential lessons of spiritual religion -- love, justice, goodness, purity, holiness -- subordinating the material and the political to the spiritual and the eternal.
Who can compute all that Jesus has meant to humanity? The love he has inspired, the solace he has given, the good he has engendered, the hope and joy he has kindled -- all that is unequaled in human history.
"A Jewish View of Jesus", pp.441-442, 509 in Selected Works of Hyman G. Enelow, Volume III: Collected Writings (privately printed, 1935).
------------------------------------------------------------------------ Solomon B. Freehof
Author and Professor at Hebrew Union College
All this vast diversity of opinion has not lessened the vividness of the personality of Jesus. The opposite opinions have not balanced each other into immobility. All the opinions are still staunchly held and ardently defended. The years have not diminished the urgency of the question: "What do you think of Jesus?"
...The significant fact is that time has not faded the vividness of his [Jesus'] image. Poetry still sings his praise. He is still the living comrade of countless lives. No Moslem ever sings, "Mohammed, lover of my soul," nor does any Jew say of Moses, the teacher, "I need thee every hour."
In Stormers of Heaven (New York: Harper and Row, 1931).
British Zionist and Author
The charm of his personality has sent its rays all over the world, and infused countless human hearts with the spirit of love and self-sacrifice....Yet the roots of the life and thought of Jesus lie entirely in Jewish soil. In The Synagogue and the Church (1908), quoted in Jewish Views of Jesus: An Introduction and Appreciation by Thomas T. Walker (New York: Arno Press, 1973 [reprint of 1931 ed.]), p. 25.
Samuel Hirsch German and American Reform Rabbi and Chief Rabbi of Luxembourg 1815-1899 In order that Jesus' power of hope and greatness of soul should not end with his death, God has raised in the group of his disciples the idea that he rose from death and continues living. Indeed, He continues living in all those who want to be true Jews. Cited by Pinchas Lapide, p. 137 in The Resurrection of Jesus: A Jewish Perspective (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1983).
Moslems recognize Jesus moral authority and attribute to him status as messenger of the divine. Submission: Islamic Website:
http://www.submission.org/suras/app22.html "The Quran, informs us that Jesus was a human messenger of God whose sole mission was to deliver God's message; he never possessed any power, and is now dead (4:171, 5:75, 117). Those who consider Jesus to be God, or Son of God, or part of a trinity are "pagans" (5:17, 72, 73).
Outstanding Christian scholars have reached these same conclusions (THE MYTH OF GOD INCARNATE, John Hick, ed., The Westminster Press, Philadelphia, 1977 & THE MYTH MAKER, Hyam Maccoby,Harper & Row 1986). Christianity is the product of Nicene (AD 325). " [this argument dealt with below, but the point here is the Moslems recognize Jesus' greatness] Some Skeptical Philosophers. "The denial of that existence seems never to have occurred even to the bitterest gentile or Jewish opponents of nascent Christianity. That a few simple men should in one generation have invented so powerful and appealing a personality, so lofty an ethic and so inspiring a vision of human brotherhood, would be a miracle far more incredible than any recorded in the Gospels" (Ibid., p. 557). -
-Will Durant. (The Story of Civilization, vol. 3, p. 555).
Part 2 of argument: How do I know Jesus is Son of God?