The Proper Understanding of Jesus as God

This is a very helpful post that is given to us by the folks at Vox Veritatis

Many fallacious arguments have arisen over a misunderstanding of the statement “Jesus is God”.  In this post, I seek to explicate a common misunderstanding of the statement, and argue for a proper Biblical understanding of the statement.  In future posts, I intent to to give a number of arguments that rely upon the common misunderstanding of the statement, and show how they are invalid given the proper Biblical understanding.

The Phrase In Question

The statement in question comes straight from the Bible itself, in modified form.  John 1:1 says “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  The word “Word” (logos) refers to Christ, who became flesh and dwelt among us (Jn. 1:14).  If the Word was God in the beginning, then there is no reason why the Word is not God now.  Jesus was God, is God, and will always be God.  Indeed, the word “was” is the imperfect form of the Greek eimi, which in this context speaks to the Word’s eternal existence as God, being God even before there was a temporal universe.  As Robert L. Reymond writes in A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith,

…three times en, the imperfect of eimi, occurs, expressive in each case of continuous past existence.
In the first clause, the phrase “In the beginning,” as all commentators observe, is reminiscent of the same phrase in Genesis 1:1.  What John is saying is that “in the beginning,” at the time of the creating of the universe, the Word “[continuously] was” already – not “came to be.”  This is clear not only from the imperfect tense of the verb, but also from the fact that John declares that the Word was in the beginning with God and that “all things were made by him, and without him nothing was made which has been made” (John 1:3).  In short, the Word’s preexistence and continuous being is antecednetly set off over aginst the becoming of all created things.  (p. 299)

John 1:1 proclaims the eternal existence of the Word as God.  Thus, it is Biblical to say that Jesus is God.  This is a statement of the deity of Christ, and should be used as such.

Predication and Identity

Clauses which contain the copula “is” are often either functioning as a predication or a statement of identity.  A predication is an assertion that something is true of the subject, while a statement of identity is an assertion that the subject and the predicate are identical.  For example, the statement

That blog’s background is ugly

is a predication of the quality of ugliness to the background of “that blog” (whatever blog is being referred to in the context of the statement).  The statement

David is the father of Solomon

is a statement of identity: it is claiming that the individual denoted by the term “David” is identical to the individual denoted by the term “the father of Solomon”.
Predications and statements of identity work differently in English.  In general, for some individual “x” and some predicate “P”, one can express that

x is P,

but not that

P is x.

In terms of the example above, I can say that

That blog’s background is ugly

but I cannot say that

Ugly (or the property of being such) is that blog’s background.

The latter sentence is ungrammatical as a predication (if I am not being poetic), as it (grammatically) asserts that the quality of ugliness is the background of the blog in question (not a quality of the background, but the background itself).  But this is not a predication.
On the other hand, statements of identity work differently.  In general, for some individuals “x” and “y”, one can express that

x is y

as well as

y is x,

and both are true and equivalent expressions.  In terms of the example above, I can say that

David is the father of Solomon

just as easily as I can say that

The father of Solomon is David.

The two statements are both true, and mean the same thing.  Hence, the differences between predications and statements of identity.

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