Challenge Response: The Disciples Didn’t Believe Jesus Is Divine

Here's my response to this week's challenge


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This week's challenge: The disciples didn’t believe that Jesus was divine. This comes from “Forty Problems with Christianity.” They say, “The disciples never agreed with Paul's concept of Jesus as being divine. Anything written in the Bible to suggest that they did is probably the result of later editing by some of Paul's followers. Such a belief would have been an exceptional departure from the Jewish faith.” 

How do we respond? First of all, the statement that the disciples didn't have any concept of Jesus being divine is just false. In fact, I would ask, “How'd you come to that conclusion?” Because when you read the New Testament, you see that the disciples actually thought Jesus was divine. John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” So John, at least, thought Jesus was divine. You could go to John 20:28 where Thomas says, “My Lord and my God.” You could even go to 1 Peter 1:1 where Peter calls Jesus. He says, “My God and Savior Jesus Christ.” Here are just examples from the text that show the disciples thought Jesus was divine.

In fact, even their actions show that. When they're out on the boat, and Jesus calms the storm, they actually bow down and worship Him. We read in Scripture that Jesus says, “No one should be worshipped but God alone.” The first statement is false.

Second, there is an assumption in the second statement that any indication from the text – the examples I just gave – must be later editing. Again, I would ask, “How'd you come to that conclusion?” Because there's nothing in the text, and there's no reason to believe that there has been later editing.

When we look at the manuscripts going back as early as we can, there's just no indication of this. So, this is just an assertion. An assertion is not an argument. It has to be backed up by arguments and evidence.

Finally, their argument that seems to undergird the reasons that they give for the belief that the disciples didn’t believe Jesus was divine is that this is an exceptional departure from the Jewish faith. It is a departure from the Jewish faith, but within their own argument and their own challenge, they seem to undermine their case because they cite Paul as someone who believes Jesus is divine. But remember, Paul was Jewish. We're told that he was a Pharisee and a Pharisee of Pharisees. He was blameless under the law - this is Philippians. 

So, here's an example of someone who left the Jewish faith and followed Christ. If there's an instance there of a Jew doing that, then why can't we say disciples did the very same thing? There seems to be a false assumption that a Jew would never convert to Christianity and to following Christ hidden within the argument. I think Paul is an example that completely undermines their case.

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Tim Barnett