Robert Bowman on “Why didn’t Jesus claim to be God?”

This is a great post by an expert on Trinitarianism. Thanks to The Religious Researcher for this one!

By Robert Bowman

Although the evidence from the New Testament for the deity of Christ is abundant, many people wonder why Jesus didn’t come out and say explicitly, “I am God.” Opponents of the doctrine of the Trinity often claim that Jesus’ failure to make such an explicit statement is proof that the Trinity is false. Some go further, insisting that the only statement that would satisfy them is if Jesus had said, “I am Almighty God, God the Son, second person of the Trinity.” Of course, since everyone knows there is no such statement by Jesus in the Bible, this objection is a simple way of dismissing the case for the Trinity.

There are several important responses we can make to this objection:

1. Anti-Trinitarians are unwilling to shoulder a similar burden of proof. There is no statement in the Bible, for example, in which Jesus asserts, “I am not God, but only his firstborn created son” (as Jehovah’s Witnesses maintain), or “I am only a human being whom God has appointed as his representative” (as Unitarians traditionally claim). For some reason, anti-Trinitarians impose a different set of rules on Trinitarians than they are willing to follow themselves.

2. Anti-Trinitarians usually have developed interpretive strategies that allow them to slough off even the most explicit assertions in the Bible of the identity of Jesus Christ as God. Thus, when the Bible says that the preincarnate Christ “in the beginning…was God” (John 1:1), or quotes Thomas referring to Jesus as “my Lord and my God” (John 20:28), many anti-Trinitarians will admit that Jesus is called “God” in these texts but offer some end-run interpretation around them. For example, they will often claim that Jesus is called “God” only in the sense that he acts as God’s agent or representative. This means that even if Jesus had said “I am God Almighty” these anti-Trinitarians would explain away such a statement as meaning only that Jesus represents God Almighty. Apparently, Jesus was supposed to anticipate and ward off modern anti-Trinitarian views and say, “I am not merely an agent of God Almighty, but am literally and truly God Almighty in the flesh, the second person of the Trinity incarnate.” Again, anti-Trinitarians are operating by a double standard at this point, since of course Jesus does not make such elaborate statements supporting their theology, either.

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