Did Jesus Claim Divinity?
According to popular author and NT scholar, Bart Ehrman, “no,” Jesus did not claim divinity. He writes: “The idea that Jesus was divine was a later Christian invention…” (See his book, Jesus, Interpreted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible, New York: HarperCollins, 2009, p. 249). The church, in other words, changed Jesus’ identity from a mere man into God. The church was responsible for inventing the long-standing belief in Jesus’ identity as God; Jesus Himself never held that view. Is Erhman correct?
Despite Ehrman’s claim, Luke argues otherwise. While not as explicit in his claims about Jesus’ person as John’s Gospel is, nonetheless, Luke constantly uses implicit subtlety to tease out Jesus’ true identity and fuse Israel’s God with Jesus. Take one example of many.
Observe carefully the words Luke uses to describe the Samaritan leper’s grateful response after Jesus healed him. “Then one of them, when he saw he was healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice. He fell facedown at His feet, thanking Him. (Luke 17:15-16). Observe how Luke uses subtlety and parallel to work out Jesus’ identity.
But there’s more to it. Observe Jesus’ own words addressed to us as readers. “Then Jesus said, "Were not ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to turn back and give praise to God except this foreigner?" (Luke 17:17-18). Luke’s use of parallel, connecting God and Jesus, is not accidental.
Luke skillfully composes the parallel in such a way as to quietly link the action of thanking Jesus with giving praise to God. Luke artfully writes the story so that Jesus the healer is identified with Israel’s God. To thank Jesus is to glorify God. The identity of Israel’s God and Jesus are subtlety joined together. To speak about Jesus is to refer to Israel’s God. Luke uses this subtle method all through his Gospel to work out Jesus’ true identity. His story of Jesus —unlike John's -- is an epic. We must read it slowly and patiently and allow the plot about Jesus to unfold one story at a time.
Luke disagrees with Bart Ehrman. The church did not invent Jesus’ divinity. The church didn’t need to. Jesus was and is the embodiment of Israel’s God, and that fact is embedded firmly in the Third Gospel.
Jesus was and is divine.