‘The Gospel of Luke denies the Incarnation & pre-existence of Jesus Christ.’ – True or False?

Table of Contents

  • The Context for this Blog Post
  • Disclaimer
  • The Virgin Birth – What is its purpose?
  • Is Luke’s Jesus Divine &/or Preexistent?
  • A Titular Christological Approach
    • Does Luke call Jesus ‘God’ (theos)?
    • Son/Son of God
    • Son of Man
      • Sidepoint: Sitting at God’s Right Hand
      • Sidepoint: Heavenly Messenger
    •  Son of David
    • Saviour
    • Lord – Part 1
    • A Mathematical Detour
    • Lord – Part 2
    • Righteous One & Author of Life
    • Holy One
  • Narrative Christology
    • The Testimony of John the Baptist
    • Recipient of Prayer
    • ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind’ (Luke 10:27).
    • ‘There is power, in the name of Jesus’
    • Omniscient and Omnipresent
    • Further reading on narrative Christology
  • Objections
    • Other Holy Ones?
    • NT Use of ‘God’/theos
    • But Luke portrays Jesus as a man/prophet!
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography

The Context for this Blog Post

Excuse the length of this article – I thought it would be convenient, however, to gather all the below into one place. Accordingly I may edit this post later on with further information.

Paul Williams posted an article a while ago with the above quoted title, within which he appeals to the work of well-respected scholar R. E. Brown – https://bloggingtheology.net/2016/09/10/the-gospel-of-luke-denies-the-incarnation-pre-existence-of-jesus-christ/

Brown himself claims, in his The Birth of the Messiah (p. 432):

‘There’s no evidence that Luke had a theology of Incarnation & preexistence.’

I do not currently have a copy of this work, though I will try to read it the next time I am in an appropriate library. However, allow me to offer a brief response based upon my own interpretation of the Lukan birth narrative, and indeed the Gospel as a whole.

Disclaimer

I feel I should stress in this controversial article that I am not an expert in these matters, and I have not read up on them as nearly as much as I would like. There are of course responses to some of the arguments below (as with everything) – I don’t find them persuasive, but you should be aware that this article is rather one sided (due to time and space constraints), and you are encouraged to do your own reading. This article is not the final word, but just so express an evangelical perspective.

The Virgin Birth – What is its purpose?

The Virgin Birth is clearly taught in Luke’s Gospel:

‘Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’ The angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.’ (Luke 1:34-35. All scripture references are from the NRSV).

Why is there a virgin birth? Islam too teaches the virgin birth, where Jesus is only a human, non-divine prophet. Perhaps the virgin birth in Luke’s Gospel need only be a sign of God’s power. This is possible, however there are many ways for God to show his power – a virgin birth is not needed. Another reason for the virgin birth, a reason for which the virgin birth would be particularly fitting, would be for the divine to become human. Such a teaching can be found elsewhere in the NT, e.g. in John 1:14. The fact that Christianity elsewhere teaches thus, means we shouldn’t be surprised if such a doctrine (of incarnation) is also to be found in Luke’s Gospel. But is it?

Is Luke’s Jesus Divine &/Or Preexistent?

To answer this question, we ought to consider whether there is evidence in Luke’s Gospel more broadly for Jesus being divine. At this point I should clarify that because I am discussing a divine being becoming human, I am now speaking of an incarnation, and a pre-existent Son – contra R. E. Brown’s interpretation of the birth narrative.

A Titular Christological Approach

So what evidence is there that Luke considers Jesus to be divine? I will begin with a ‘titular Christological’ approach, considering the titles used to describe Jesus. I will then turn to a ‘narrative Christological approach’, considering how Jesus is portrayed through the narratives of Luke+Acts (both written by the same author). These categories will overlap to some point, when the latter sheds light on the meaning of particular titles.

Does Luke call Jesus ‘God’ (theos)?

In the NRSV, Acts 20:28 speaks of ‘the Church of God that he obtained with the blood of his own Son.’ At the very least, I would note the exclusiveness of the Son here – it is not just any Son, it is ‘his own‘ Son who died for us (see the section below on ‘Son of God’). The language evokes the idea of a Father giving up his unique Son, in a unique relationship with him (not shared with other OT ‘sons of God’), for the world. Very John 3:16 – ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.’

However I’m not even sure that’s what Acts 20:28 is saying. The NASB, a very literal translation, reads ‘the Church of God which He purchased with His own blood.’ Christ has not been mentioned – it is God’s own blood. This would clearly mean that Christ is God.

Indeed,  Bowman Jr, R. M. & Komoszewski, J. E. (2007, Kindle Location 1561) note that most English translations opt for the latter option in agreement with the NASB: ESV, NIV, NKJV, HCSB, etc.). Many scholars & commentators, however, have followed the NRSV. They claim:

‘There is no doubt as to the reason for this preference: those who dispute the conventional translation find the language, which expresses the idea of God’s having “blood,” difficult if not impossible to entertain.”

‘We are inclined to agree with Nigel Turner, a twentieth-century scholar of Greek grammar, who called the alternate translation of Acts 20:28 “a theological expedient, foisting imaginary distinctions into a spontaneous affirmation, and is not the natural way to take the Greek.” As Catholic scholar Charles DeVine commented sixty years ago, it is nothing more than an attempt “to avoid at all costs the full force of the expression ‘God’s own blood.'” (Kindle Location 1575).

Which translation is preferable? I am no expert in Greek (though I do read it), so I will quote the opinion of Bowman Jr, R. M. & Komoszewski, J. E (Kindle Location 1565):

‘The word idiou (“his own”) is an adjective, which normally we would understand as modifying the noun haimatos (“blood”). The word order here, with the adjective following the noun with a second article between them, is perfectly normal and common in Greek. … It was not until the latter half of the nineteenth century that anyone proposed that the words here in question did not mean “his own blood.”‘

Son/Son of God

Another interesting title that is given to Jesus is ‘Son’/’Son of God’. Burridge notes:

‘Jesus is ‘the Lord’, the Son of God [the citations he then provides refer to the latter], as the angel announces (1.32, 35) and the voice confirms (3.22; 9.35); demons recognize this also (4.34, 41; 8.28)’

Muslims will point out that there are sons of God in the Old Testament, whether angelic beings (Genesis 6:2) or Israelite kings (2 Samuel 7:14 – many Christians would say this passage finds fulfilment in Christ anyway). But to my knowledge, sonship is not stressed in the OT nearly as much as sonship is stressed in the Gospels concerning Jesus, nor is it spoken of as being unique in the way Jesus’ sonship is.

At times there is the definite article in Greek, thus suggesting ‘the Son’ rather than ‘a son’ – e.g. 4:41. But even where the definite article is not present, the use of ‘son’ is combined with features unique to Jesus, thus hinting at the uniqueness of Jesus’ son-ship. So for example, in 1:34-35 Jesus not only ‘will be called Son of God’, but he will be holy due to the virgin birth, caused by the power of God overshadowing Mary. In 3:21-22, Jesus is not only called God’s Son, but ‘the Beloved’, which whom God is ‘well pleased’. But additionally, many have seen in this passage a Trinitarian flavour (cf. also Matthew 28:19)- God in heaven (the Father) declares that he is well pleased with his Beloved Son, while the Holy Spirit descends upon him. While it is not explicit, it fits nicely with a Trinitarian theology which we find elsewhere.

An interesting passage suggesting the uniqueness of Jesus’ Sonship is the so-called ‘Johannine thunderbolt’ (because of the similarities to the portrayal of Jesus in the Gospel of John). It is worth quoting in full:

‘At that same hour Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.’ (Luke 10:21-22).

It is worth noting to begin with, that the Son rejoices in the Spirit before communicating with the Father. While not explicit, this could, as with the baptism scene, be an implicit hint of the Trinity.

Secondly, note that the Father is called ‘Lord of heaven and earth’ immediately before we are told that ‘All things have been handed over to me by my Father’. The authority over all things which belongs to God the Father, is handed over to the Son. An exalted statement indeed, and reminiscent of Daniel 7:13-14, discussed elsewhere in this blog post.

The main reason I quote this passage here, however, is to notice the uniqueness of the Son. He is the only one who knows the Father, unless he chooses to reveal the Father to others, which he alone can do. No other prophet truly reveals the Father – only the Son can. What man can say such things! The Son is also special enough that no-one knows the Son except the Father. This can’t simply refer to knowing Jesus as a human – it must suggest there is something more to him, that only God (or, I would say, another member of the Trinity) can know.

More examples could be given. Such descriptions of Sonship, I contend, go beyond what we find in the OT.

Son of Man

Another interesting title used to refer to Jesus is ‘Son of Man’. Off the bat, many evangelicals have noted the allusion to the Danielic (7:13-14) ‘Son of Man’ in 22:69. This is a heavenly figure, of great authority – ‘To him was given dominion and glory and kingship, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, and his kingship is one that shall never be destroyed.’ Not only is he highly exalted, but he is given ‘glory’. As has been pointed out (I think by James White), God (who is described immediately before in Daniel 7:9-10) says ‘my glory I give to no other’ (Isaiah 42:8).

It is often pointed out by Christian apologists that the term ‘serve’/’worship’ (‘latreuo’) in the Greek version of the OT (the Rahlfs LXX) has a religious connotation. Having just done my own concordance search (Bibleworks 9) of the LXX (inc. Apocrypha, though the vast majority of the uses are not from the Apocrypha), I would agree that this is the normal/possibly unanimous meaning. Out of 109 uses, I would say there are perhaps only 4 exceptions without this religious connotation, and I’m not even sure about those 4. The religious connotation certainly seems to be the primary meaning – and indeed, all uses I found in the book of Daniel had a religious connotation.

If we think that Luke/Mark made up this saying of Jesus, it is quite possible (though not certain) that they had the LXX in mind, including the word ‘latreuo’ – the NT often shows LXX influence. Even if the historical Jesus spoke 22:69, the likely-gentile-Greek-speaking-Luke may well have understood it in light of the OT scripture he used – probably the LXX.

Let us imagine, however, Luke tried to understand how Jesus (assuming he spoke Hebrew/Aramaic and not Greek, which is an assumption) would have interpreted Daniel 7:14. The Hebrew word for ‘serve’ is ‘palach’. I only found 10 uses of this verb in the Hebrew Bible – 9 of which are in Daniel. There is also a usage of the derivative noun in Ezra 7:19 (more on this later). In all of these cases it had the connotation of religious service. Yet I wish there were more uses, so that we could more confidently ascertain its meaning – perhaps there are non-Biblical uses of the word which could shed light. While ‘palach’ was only used with religious connotations, this could simply be because the only ‘serving’ done in the book of Daniel is religious serving (I exclude 1:4, which does not use a verb ‘to serve’, but literally says ‘to stand in the temple’). At least, I could find no ‘non-religious’ serving using my search tool (likewise for Ezra) – if I’ve missed any let me know. A stronger case could be made for the exclusively religious meaning of ‘palach’ if a non-religious serving was described in Daniel, and the author consciously chose to use a different word (not ‘palach’) to describe it.

The possibility that religious service is in mind in Daniel 7:14 is strengthened by the LXX rendering it latreuo. The authors may well have understood Aramaic better than we do today, and far better than the author of this blog. However, it is possible that they translated the word using latreuo due to the context, rather than the etymology of palach.

Either way, whatever the etymology, due to the context (i.e. the exalted way in which the Son of Man is described, receiving glory, kingship and everlasting dominion, and universal service) I would agree with the LXX in seeing the service of 7:14 as a religious service/worship.

Sidepoint: Sitting at God’s Right Hand

Not only does the context of Daniel 7:13-14 suggest the Son of Man receives worship, but this is strengthened by the exalted description of Jesus, in the same verse, as the one who sits at the right hand of God (Luke 22:69). The statement seems to be an allusion to Psalm 110:1 -‘The LORD says to my lord, ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.’

Sidepoint: Heavenly Messenger

Understanding the OT allusions in the ‘Son of Man’ of Luke 22:69 could possibly also help us to understand the ‘I have come’ sayings in Matthew, Mark and Luke (Bowman & Komoszewski, 2007, Kindle Location 853). Arguments have been put forward to suggest that this phrase refers to Jesus coming from heaven, to earth, for a particularly purpose. For example, Bowman & Komoszewski argue that when it says Jesus has come to ‘bring fire to the earth’ and bring division ‘to the earth’, it suggests Jesus has come from elsewhere. Also, Simon Gathercole in his The Pre-existent Son draws parallels between Jesus’ ‘I have come’ sayings and angelic ‘I have come statements’. As the latter came from heaven to earth to do their purpose, so too did the Son. The fact that at least a couple of these sayings in the synoptic Gospels (Matthew 20:28/Mark 10:45; Luke 19:10) are linked with the Son of Man title suggests the two factors may be mutually complementary in suggesting a heavenly, pre-existent origin. This, and other factors, distinguish the ‘I have come’ statements of Jesus from the statement concerning John the Baptist in, for example, Matthew 21:32.

Many have pointed to the parallel of John the Baptist having come, who wasn’t pre-existent, to disprove the claim that the ‘I have come’ sayings of Jesus imply preexistence.

Bowman & Komoszewski (2007, Kindle Location 861) are worth quoting at length (because I’m lazy):

‘It is often argued that such language is also used of John the Baptist, but it is never, in fact, used of him in a way comparable to the kinds of statements we find made about Jesus. In Matthew 21:32, when Jesus says, “John came to you,” the use of “came” here is dictated and explained by Jesus’ preceding parable able of the father who “came” to his two sons with instructions (21:28-30). In Mark 9:11-13, Jesus responds to the disciples’ question about why Elijah had to “come” by saying, rather enigmatically, that “Elijah” had already “come,” referring to John the Baptist. Neither the disciples nor Jesus even hinted that John preexisted as Elijah; the disciples were asking about Elijah’s “coming” in relation to the final resurrection of the dead (vv. 9-10). Jesus’ response amounts to saying that Malachi’s apocalyptic prophecy about God’s sending ing Elijah (Mal. 4:5-6) refers not to a literal resurrected Elijah but to John in his Elijah-like ministry (see also Luke 1:17). Thus, the language is applied to John in a very specific context that does not imply preexistence. Neither passage uses Jesus’ characteristic speech pattern of having “come” or being “sent” in order to accomplish a specific end (typically “I have come” followed by an infinitive of purpose, such as “to seek out and to save the lost”).’

Son of David

We discussed above the quotation of Psalm 110:1 in Luke 22:69. Interestingly, Jesus has referred to Psalm 110:1 earlier on in Luke’s Gospel. In 20:44, having quoted this verse, he asks ‘David thus calls him Lord; so how can he be his son?’. I will admit this is not the clearest verse in the Bible – but the interpretation I favour is that of the moderate scholar J. A. Fitzmeyer (1981-85, p. 1310, cited via Beale, G. K. & Carson, D. A. 2007, p. 327): ‘ the implication of the second question [‘David thus calls him Lord; so how can he be his son?’] answers the first [‘how can they say that the Messiah is David’s son?’]. It is not a matter of either/or, but of both/and: yes the Messiah is David’s son, but he is more: He is indeed David’s lord’. As D. W. Pao & E. J. Schnabel (in Beale, G. J. & Carson, D. A., 2007, p.372) say, ‘Jesus argues that the title “son of David”is neither the ultimate nor the only category for understanding the Messiah, since hs is David’s “lord” (see Bock 1987: 132).’

Saviour

In the opinion of Richard Burridge (1994, p. 109), Luke’s Gospel has ‘a rich christology.’ He points to 2:11, where Jesus is described as ‘a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord.’ He claims that Luke is ‘The only synoptic evangelist’ to call Jesus ‘Saviour’, and notes that the term is used of God in 1:47:

‘Mary said, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour’.

The theme of salvation is found elsewhere (p. 110) – Jesus tells people their faith has ‘saved’ them (7.50; 17.19; 18.32), and that ‘the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost’ (19.9-10).’

The salvific nature of Jesus’ name is discussed in the book of Acts. To provide just one example (cited via Bowman Jr, R. M. & Komoszewski, J. E, 2007, Kindle Location 1389), ‘There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.’

See ‘Lord – Part 2’, where we see that God alone is the saviour. It is therefore surprising that these things are said of Jesus.

Lord – Part 1

Though Burridge does not draw it out, there are interesting verbal parallels – both are not only called ‘Saviour’,but also ‘Lord’. Such similarity suggests there may be a conscious parallel being drawn – this, were it on its own, is speculative however.

‘Lord’ is a particularly Lukan word. Burridge  claims that while other Gospels refer to Jesus as kyrie, which can just mean ‘Sir’ or ‘Master’,  Luke is alone in using this term to refer to Jesus in the definite form, ho kyrios, ‘the Lord’. As with ‘Saviour’, Burridge notes that the term is used to refer to God. It is used to refer to God (fourteen times) (1.6, 9, 11, 58, 66; 2.9, 22, 23a-b, 24, 26, 39; 3.4; 5.17), and to Jesus (a further fourteen times) (7.13, 19; 10.1, 39, 41; 11.39; 12.42; 13.15; 17.5, 6; 18.6; 19.8; 22.61; 24.3).

A Mathematical Detour

In passing, if Burridge’s references are all correct (I’m afraid I haven’t had time to check them), it is fascinating that both sets of Lord are fourteen. If I were of the Shabir Ally/Rashad Khalifa school of numerology, I might argue that because the number is the same in both, this mean God intends us to focus on this term. Because it is the same number in both, which is unlikely to happen by chance, Jesus must be Lord in exactly that same way that YHWH is Lord. However, I do not wish to go down this road, because I believe when you have enough possible factors, and enough words, such coincidences happen.

Lord – Part 2

Similarity between an aspect or term for God, and that of a human, need not always imply the divinity of that human. God is loving, and Mother Teresa is loving, yet the latter is not the former. However, we are talking here about the matter of authority/lordship, and the role of being saviour, both of which seem to be jealously guarded by God in the Old Testament. For example:

‘I, I am the LORD, and besides me there is no saviour.’ (Isaiah 43:11) (I think I got this point from James White).

In addition, this ‘Lord’/’Saviour’ argument is part of a cumulative approach (fitting in with the rest of what I say in this article). But with implicit arguments like the above, the more there are, the greater impression they make upon the reader. The intention of Bowman & Komoszewski’s book is to overwhelm the reader with the amount of implicit (as well as explicit) parallels between Jesus and God, thus leading the reader to believe such parallels go beyond coincidence.

Holy One

It is also interesting to note that Jesus is described as ‘the Holy One of God’ in 4.34. It is interesting to note that Jesus is not ‘a holy one of God’, but ‘the holy one of God’ (the definite article is present in the Greek).

See the objections section at the end, wherein I pre-empt a possible rebuttal.

Righteous One & Author of Life

In Acts 3:14-15 (remember, written by the same author) the apostle Peter proclaims: ‘you rejected the Holy and Righteous One and asked to have a murderer given to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.’

See above for our discussion of ‘the Holy One’. In Luke 18:19, Jesus tells us that ‘no one is good but God alone’ – yet in Acts 13:14 Jesus is called ‘the Righteous One’.

But in addition, Jesus is ‘the Author of life’. According to F. F. Bruce (p. 88), ‘Here and in Heb. 2:10 [archegos, translated in the NRSV as ‘Author’] denotes him [Christ] as the source of life or salvation (since “life” and “salvation” are both represented by one Aramaic word”). If Jesus is the source of life, that is a rather exalted statement. If he is the source of salvation, within a holistic biblical framework, this too is perhaps an exalted statement given Isaiah 43:11 (discussed above), that God alone is a saviour.

Some might object that Jesus cannot be God, for this verse distinguishes between Jesus and the God who raises him. See my response at the end of this article.

Narrative Christology

So far I have been focusing on the titles applied to Christ – what is called a ‘titular Christology’. This should be complemented by a ‘narrative christology’, as per below.

The Testimony of John the Baptist

John the Baptist (henceforth JBap – I think I may have actually got this terminology from R. E. Brown)  is said to ‘go before the Lord to prepare his ways’ (1:76), and that he:

‘went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah.

“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.'”‘ (3:3-4)

This describes the ministry of JBap, who immediately precedes Jesus entering his public ministry. In 3:16-17, JBap says of Jesus: ‘I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worty to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing-fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing-floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.’

There are a number of interesting features here. First of all, as has been pointed out by many evangelical apologists, we see in the first couple of texts that JBap is said to be the one who prepares the way of the Lord, and then we immediately see in practice that he prepares the way for Jesus.

Secondly, it is interesting to note how JBap speaks of Jesus – he is more powerful than JBap, he is too elevated over JBap for JBap to even be worthy to untie his sandals, and he has some kind of power to use (even authority over?) the Holy Spirit (henceforth HS), so as to baptise with it. At the risk of pressing the details too far (though this may be warranted in light of all the high-authority texts already considered), note that it is ‘his threshing-floor…his granary’. If the threshing floor/granary is the kingdom into which he gathers receptive people, and it is his, that suggests he is the king. It is also interesting that Jesus is the one with the authority to punish – he is the one who will burn the chaff ‘with unquenchable fire.’

Recipient of Prayer

I don’t have time to go into it here – but Bowman Jr, R. M. & Komoszewski, J. E. (2007) argue that Jesus receives prayer in the book of Acts (written by Luke) (Kindle Locations 404ff.). For example, not only does Stephen pray to Jesus, he prays that Jesus receives Stephen’s spirit (Acts 7:59), which is what the Father does for Jesus (Luke 23:46; cf. Ps. 31:5).

‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind’ (Luke 10:27).

Jesus demands utter devotion to him, in a way it is surprising for mere humans to say – ‘Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.’ (Luke 14:26) (this point is from Bowman & Komoszewski, 2007, Kindle location 669). ‘Hate’ here is used hyperbolically, not to teach us to hate others, but to say we should love Jesus to such an extent that our love for others is hate by comparison. This devotion reminds me of the scriptural injunction quoted in the subtitle above.

‘There is power, in the name of Jesus’

That’s not a quote from Luke’s Gospel, instead from a popular modern Christian song. But it accurately captures a theme in Luke-Acts. We read:

‘The seventy returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!’ He said to them, ‘I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. See, I have given you authority…’ (Luke 10:17-18, Cited via Bowman Jr, R. M. & Komoszewski, J. E, Kindle Location 1369).

I wont quote them all, but Bowman and Komoszewski point us to Acts 3:6, 16; 4:7, 10, 30; 16:18. Note that it is not in the name of the Father that these miracles are done, but in Jesus’ own name.

The power of Jesus’ name brings him glory in Acts 19:13-18, where even Jewish exorcists are using Jesus’ name to cast out evil spirits. On one occasion the man with the evil spirits overpowered the Jewish exorcists, because the Spirits did not know who they were, but they acknowledged the name of Jesus (v. 15). Because of this, ‘When this became known to all residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks, everyone was awestruck; and the name of the Lord Jesus was praised.’ Bowman and Komoszewski (Kindle Location 1369) note the verbal similarities between this verse, and the LXX of Psalm 20:7: ‘We will glory in the name of the Lord our God.’ Glory/praised are the same Greek verb, and the name of the Lord is praised in both.

The above themes of doing great deeds in Jesus name, and Jesus being glorified by the power of his name, bears resemblance to John 14:13-14: ‘I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.’

Omniscient and Omnipresent?

I’ll admit that these on their own are comparatively inconclusive. But they supplement and fit nicely into the cumulative case I am making.

Jesus’ omniscience can arguably be seen, in Luke’s Gospel (evidence can be provided from the other Gospels), in that he knew what other people were thinking (Luke 6:8), and what ancient peoples would have done under different circumstances (Luke 10:13-15) (Bowman Jr, R. M. & Komoszewski, J. E, 2007, Kindle Location 1250).

His omnipresence can arguably be seen, in Luke’s Gospel (evidence can be provided from the other Gospels), when he is able to heal a man even though the man was far away (Luke 7:1-10) (Bowman Jr, R. M. & Komoszewski, J. E, Kindle Location 1214).

Further reading on narrative Christology

I’m feeling impatient to get this published, so I’m going to leave it there. There are further ‘narrative Christological’ arguments that could be made based on other parts of the Gospel.

For more information on a narrative Christological approach, cf. not only Bowman & Komoszewski (2007), but also Hays, R. B. (2015) Reading Backwards. London: SPCK. I gave up providing examples from the former, because I got tired (there were too many), and who knows, if I carried on I might commit some kind of copyright violation.

Objections

Other Holy Ones?

One might object that Christians too in the New Testament are said to be ‘holy ones’ (saints) and ‘beloved’ of God. This is true – but Christians becomes holy ones, and live as beloved children of God, because of the unique blessings brought to us by the unique one, Christ.

NT Use of ‘God’/theos

One might object that if one is ‘of God’ (4.34), one cannot be God. In short, my response would be that throughout the NT ‘God’ (theos) is often reserved for God the Father (understandably, as this allows for a distinction between the God-man on earth, who appropriately prayed and was submissive to God in heaven, the Father). E.g. Paul frequently uses ‘theos’ (God) to refer to the Father, while still believing in the divinity of the Son (e.g. 1 Cor. 8:6, Phillippians 2:5-11). This is not to say Christ is never called ‘theos’ – Romans 9:5 is a possible example, as with 2 Peter 1:1 (cf. Dan Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basic, where he discusses the Granville Sharp Rule, or check out this article – https://bible.org/article/sharp-redivivus-reexamination-granville-sharp-rule). Indeed, see my discussion above on Acts 20:28 (‘Did God shed his own blood?’), where Christ may be called theos by Luke.

But Luke portrays Jesus as a man/prophet!

Yes, yes he does. E.g. Acts 2:22, ‘a man attested to you by God with deeds of power’ etc. In Acts 3:22, Jesus (not Muhammad) is the prophet of Deuteronomy 18:18. Neither mean Jesus is not God, for Luke. Christians traditionally have believed that Jesus is both human and divine – the former does not preclude the latter. We see this attitude elsewhere in the NT – for example, the same John who speaks of Jesus’ divinity (e.g. John 1:1; 8:58, 20:28), also speaks of Jesus’ humanity (throughout the Gospel implicitly, and more explicitly in 1:14) and perhaps also a prophet (John 4:19, though the woman’s declaration is not explicitly condoned). To give a clearer example, Jesus calls himself a prophet in Mark 6:4, yet attributes to himself exalted status (see above) in Mark 14:62-3.

Conclusion

Is Luke’s Jesus divine &/or pre-existent? I believe so. It provides a stronger, deeper purpose for the Virgin birth. A strong case can be made that Jesus is called theos/God directly in Acts 20:28. Christ is the Son of God in a unique way, unparalleled in the OT. He is the heavenly Son of Man who receives worship from all the nations, who sits at the very right hand of God the Father on his heavenly throne. In the light of the fact that the Son of Man is a heavenly figure, we can make better sense of the ‘I have come’ sayings in Luke’s Gospel. Christ is both the Son of David, but still his Lord, yea he is the Lord of all. He takes upon himself the role of saviour, a role belonging solely to God. Christ is the Holy and Righteous One, even though only God is good. He is arguably the source of life, though this could simply be source of salvation.

The above is based on the titles attributed to Jesus. But there is much we can implicitly learn from the narrative too. John the Baptist is to Jesus as the messenger of YHWH is to YHWH. Jesus is far exalted above John the Baptist, and is able to use (command?) the Holy Spirit (God’s Spirit, not the angel gabriel) in changing men’s hearts. Those who will not change, it is Christ who has the authority to judge them. Jesus receives prayer, and demands an exclusive degree of devotion. Christ’s name is powerful, and mighty deeds are performed in it, to Christ’s glory. Christ is arguably portrayed as omnipresent and omniscient, though this is comparatively unclear.

I then provided a number of rebuttals. More rebuttals could be raised, and I don’t expect the above to convince many, if any Muslims. I may well be swayed on some of the above points – though because it is a cumulative approach, I would need many of the above to be disproved before this argument loses weight for me. Even if I persuade no-one, I hope Muslims can see why an appeal to Luke’s ‘low Christology’ without addressing the above points will not be persuasive to me.

Bibliography

Beale, G. K. & Carson, D. A. (2007) Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI/Nottingham, UK: Baker Academic/Apollos.

Bowman Jr, R. M. & Komoszewski, J. E. (2007) Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Jesus. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel.

Bruce, F. F. (1988) (Rev.) The Book of the ACTS. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

Burridge, R. A. (1994) Four Gospels, One Jesus? London: SPCK.

Wallace, D. Sharp Redivivus? – A Reexamination of the Granville Sharp Rule. https://bible.org/article/sharp-redivivus-reexamination-granville-sharp-rule



Categories: Bible, Biblical scholarship

4 replies

  1. Do you have credible historical proof that Jesus was a Trinitarian? Give a straight No Bullshit answer.

    Like

  2. I believe there were numerous comments made in rebuttal to this post by Zetter. But it seems that they have been deleted or lost. That’s a shame because there were some good responses, including my own.

    Like

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