Aut Deus aut Mendax – Either the Lord God, or a Liar. A Consideration of the Divinity of Jesus as the "Make or Break" Dogma
I just viewed the First Episode of Catholicism with my Bible Study Students. The series, as many of you already know, is fabulous and I cannot recommend it enough. In the First 20 minutes Fr. Barron goes right to the heart of the faith and makes it clear that Jesus is God, He is the Lord.
And this truth about him is not only the most stunning aspect of our faith, it is also the most uncompromising. Jesus is Lord. While there are some today who want to find some middle ground by calling Jesus merely “a good man” or a “fine ethical teacher,”…. sorry, no can do. His divine claims cannot be set aside as if they weren’t there, so we can accept his “less controversial” call to love. The whole Jesus, the real Jesus, can be very disconcerting and he compels a choice. We are free to choose, but we are not free NOT to choose: either he is Lord, or he is a liar. Decide.
Indeed, an old Latin phrase expresses that there is no middle ground between “Jesus is Lord” and any lesser declaration. The Latin phrase is Aut Deus, aut mendax. Another version goes: Aut Deus, aut homo malus In other words, either Jesus is the Lord God, or he is a liar, Either he is God, or a very evil man. Either he is who he claims to be, or he is seriously deluded, dangerous, and a blasphemer, one to whom we should not listen. And if He is who He claims, then we must worship and obey him as Lord. But you can’t have it both ways.
Many years ago in seminary I was quite surprised to listen to some of my professors try an do just that. Want to have Jesus be more palatable to the modern setting, they would often declare what I considered to be heretical things about Jesus Christ. Some of them said, he did not claim to be God, or he did not know he was God. When I might meekly suggest a certain text that more than suggested he darn well knew he was Divine they would simply declare that Jesus never really said what I was quoting from the Scripture. They said the early Church “simply put those words in his mouth.” They would especially put their nose in the air and sniff if I quoted from John’s Gospel which they regarded as a later and non-historical reflection on Christ.
Thankfully I had some other professors who were able to reassure me that the Divinity of Christ was not in question and that the Scriptures accurately what reported what Jesus himself actually said and did. It still shocked me that teachers who denied or questioned the divinity of Christ could openly teach in a Catholic seminary and am happy to report that those problems have long since been cleared up at the seminary I attended. Yet, I must say, I am still bothered to hear that some college students still have to endure this sort of heresy, it is especially grievous to me that some of this still goes on at Catholic Colleges.
Never one to simply collapse under pressure or discouragement I took up the challenge to assemble the Biblical evidence as to Jesus’ Divinity. It is remarkably rich and consistent throughout all the New Testament Books as you shall see. In this article I give the scripture citations for the most part but cannot include most of the texts in the article since they are so numerous that they would eclipse the article itself. Perhaps at some point in the future I will publish a version with all the citations spelled out. For now, let these suffice to show forth a glorious Scriptural affirmation of the Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ. He is Lord.
1. Clearly this is a dogma of the Faith (de Fide). The divinity and divine Sonship of Jesus is expressed in all the creeds. This is perhaps most clearly stated in the Athanasian Creed (Quicumque):”…we believe and confess that Our Lord Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He is God and man. He is God begotten of the substance of the Father before all ages and man born in time of the substance of His Mother. He is Perfect God and perfect man.”
2. There are many passages in the Old Testament that express the qualities of the coming Messiah, among them are some very exalted titles:
a prophet – (Dt. 18:15,18)
a priest – (Psalm 109:4)
a shepherd – (Ez 34:23ff)
King and Lord – (Ps 2; Ps 44; Ps 109; Zach 9:9)
a suffering servant – (Is. 53)
the Son of God – (Ps 2:7; 109:3)
God with us (Emmanuel) – (Is 7:14; Is 8:8)
Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Father of the world to come, Prince of Peace – (Is 9:6)
Eternal King – (Dan 7:14)
3. In the New Testament the Father attests to the Divine Sonship of Jesus – (Mt 3:17; 17:5; Mk 9:7; Lk 3:22; 9:35; Jn 1:34; II Pt 1:17)
4. In the Gospels the Lord Jesus gives Testimony to His own divinity and self knowledge. He is of noble stature and knows of his own dignity and power expressing it often in the following ways
- Jesus indicates that he transcends the prophets and Kings of the Old Covenant
- Jonah and Solomon – (Mt 12:41ff; Lk 11:31ff)
- Moses and Elijah – Matt 17:3; Mk 9:4; Lk 9:30
- King David – (Mt 22:43ff Mk 12:36; Lk 20:42ff)
- He says that the least born into His Kingdom will be greater than John the Baptist who, till that time was considered the greatest man born of woman – (Mt 11:11; Lk 7:28)
- Jesus teaches that he is superior to the angels:
- That they are his servants who minister to Him – (Mt 4:11 Mk 1:13; Lk 4:13)
- That they are his army – (Mt 26:53)
- That they will accompany him at his second coming and do his will -Mt 16:27; 25:31; Mk 8:38; Lk 9:26)
- Jesus appropriates Divine actions unto himself and thus sets forth an assimilation unto the Lord God:
- He declares it was He who sent the prophets and doctors of the Law (Mt 23:34; Lk 11:49)
- He gives the promise of his assistance and Grace (Lk 21:15)
- He forgives sins which power belongs to God alone (e.g. Mt 9:2)
- He, by His own authority completes and changes some precepts of the Law. (Mt 5:21ff)
- He declares Himself to be Lord of the Sabbath (Mt 12:8; Mk 2:28; Lk 6:5; Jn 5:17)
- Like the Heavenly Father he makes a Covenant with His followers (Mt 26:28; Mk 14:24; Lk 22:20)
- Jesus makes Divine demands upon his followers
- He rebukes some for lack of faith in him (Mt 8:10-12; 15:28)
- He rewards faith in him (Mt 8:13; 9:2; 22:29; 15:28; Mk 10:52; Lk 7:50; 17:19)
- He demands faith in his own person (Jn 14:1; 5:24; 6:40,47; 8:51; 11:25ff)
- He teaches that rejection of him and his teachings will be the standard of final judgement (Lk 9:26; Mt 11:6)
- Jesus demands supreme Love for him which surpasses all earthly loves (Mt 10:37,39; Lk 17:33).
- He accepts religious veneration by allowing the veneration of falling to the feet: this is due to God alone (Mt 15:25; 8:2; 9:18; 14:33; 28:9,17)
- Jesus is well conscious of His own power – Mt 28:18
- His many miracles which he works in his own Name.
- He transfers this power to his disciples
- Jesus knows and teaches that his own death will be an adequate atonement for the forgiveness of the sins of the whole human race. (Mt 20:28; 26:28)
- Jesus appropriates to himself the office of Judge of the world which according to the OT (eg Ps 49:1-6) God would exercise (eg Mt 16:27) . And His judgement extends to every idle word (Mt 12:36), will be final and executed immediately – (Mt 25:46)
- Jesus is Conscious of being the Son of God.
- Jesus clearly distinguishes his claim in this regard from his disciples relationship to the Father. When he speaks of his own relationship he says, “My Father” To the disciples he calls God, “Your Father” but, He never unites himself with them in the formula “Our Father” Thus a distinction is maintained. (Jn 20:17)
- Jesus revealed himself to be Son of God first in the temple when he remarked to Mary and Joseph that He must be about his Father’s business (Lk 2:49)
- Jesus claims to be both messiah and Son of God in the presence of the Sanhedrin (Mk 14:62). The Sanhedrin perceive this as a blasphemy.
- Jesus tells a story of himself in the Parable of the Evil Husbandmen thus confessing himself to be the only Son of God.
- He is aware of being one with the Father (“The Father and I are one.” (Jn 10:30,38) They Jews respond by accusing Him of blasphemy
- Jesus indicates in John’s Gospel that
- He is eternal “Before Abraham was I am” (Jn 8:58)
- That He has full knowledge of the Father (Jn 7:29; 8:55;10:14ff)
- He has equal power and efficacy with the Father (Jn 5:17)
- He can forgive sins (Jn 8:11 et sicut supra)
- He is Judge of the World (Jn 5:22,27 & sicut supra)
- He is rightly to be adored (Jn 5:23)
- He is the light of the world (Jn 8:12)
- He is the way, the truth and the light (Jn 14:6)
- His disciples may and ought to pray to the Father in His name, additionally they may to Him (Jesus) (Jn 14:13ff 16:23ff)
- The solemn confession of the Apostle Thomas “My Lord and my God.” is acceptable and in fact, an act of Faith (Jn 20:28)
- Other Scripture Passages on the Divinity of Christ
- I John 5:20 – “And we know that the Son of God is Come and has given us Understanding that we may know the true God and may be in His True Son; this is the True God and Life Eternal.”
- John 1:1-14 “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God…..”
- Phil 2:5-11 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped…and every tongue must confess to the Glory of God the Father that Jesus Chirst is Lord.
- Rom 9:5 – “to them, (the Israelites) belong the patriarchs and of their race, according to the flesh is the Christ, who is God over all blessed for ever.”
- Titus 2:13 “Looking for the blessed hope and coming of the glory of the great God and our Savior, Jesus Christ.”
- Heb 1:8 – “But to the Son (God says): Your Throne, O God is for ever and ever.”
- In addition Scripture attributes Divine qualities to Jesus
- Omnipotence manifest in the creation and the conservation of the World – Col 1:15-17; I Cor 8:6; Heb 1:2ff
- Omniscience – Col 2:3 – In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge….
- Eternity – Col 1:17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together
- Immutability – Heb 1:12; 13:8
- Adorability – Phil 2:10; Heb 1:6
Well I hope you get the point. Those who claim that Jesus didn’t know he was God or never made divine claims just haven’t read the Scriptures. And those who would want to “tame” Jesus, by removing his “controversial” (to say the least) claim that He is Lord, have to realize that they must set aside enormous numbers of things said by Jesus about himself to do that. Calling him a “good man” who “taught us to love” is to evade the compelling question: Is He the Lord or is He a liar and a blasphemer? This question must be unambiguously answered by every Christian, He is Lord, He is God. All things came to be through him and he holds all creation together in himself. And those who have denied his divinity will one day fall to their faces before his glory (Rev. 1:17).
Elijah once rebuked the people saying, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word. (1 Kings 18:21). But we must answer. Is Jesus the Lord, or a lair? And if Jesus is Lord, follow him and realize that you will one day stand before him to render an account. But we cannot trivialize or tame Jesus. Neither can we evade our decision about him. Our whole destiny rests on this choice, this answer. Choose the Lord.
Please take time to view the Catholicism series, by Fr. Robert Barron. He, by God’s grace has done a marvelous thing. You won’t be disappointed.
Here is a scene from the Movie “The Gospel of John” where Jesus, in effect, calls the question.
Here is the Catholicism trailer: