In the New Testament there is at least one passage in which I believe Jesus explicitly claims not to be God, that is of course Mark 10:18:
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone.” (NIV)
Of course, our Christian brethren have interpreted this to mean that Jesus is saying that he is God, that it’s not a denial but an affirmation. What most of them miss however is that this is a riposte from the Cynic philosophical school in the form of a chreia statement, I don’t believe that anyone at Jesus’ time would have interpreted a popular saying from a popular philosophical school to mean the opposite of what was the general understanding of such a statement. It would be like someone 100+ years from now saying that the Nike trademark slogan, “Just do it!” really means “don’t do it”.
That however isn’t the point of this post, a question that we should consider however is how would the Christian apologists of today respond to a quote of Jesus saying, “I am not God”. I think that they would interpret such a statement to mean that Jesus is claiming deity and would find a way to re-interpret it. I think the main argument they would use is the same as the one responding to Jesus not knowing the hour, or when cursing the fig tree.
The Son’s glory was veiled and so in that moment as God-incarnate, he was speaking as a human to fellow humans.
Alternatively, in light of Jesus on the cross, another explanation could be:
Jesus was speaking in reference to his human and not his divine nature.
As I discussed in my recent dialogue with Dr. Robert Price, it doesn’t seem to matter what Jesus said, as Christians will generally interpret it to fit the popular view that he was a God. So here’s a question I think that needs to be asked.
What statement would Jesus have to make in the New Testament for Christians to believe he’s not God? Furthermore can our Christian brothers and sisters provide a consistent set of criteria that can be used for both determining when Christ is claiming divinity and when he is not?