Vol. 23 New Series February, 1961 No. 1
THE DESIGNATION OF JESUS AS "GOD"
Professor Cullmann says the Christological use of Kurios, Logos, and Son of God shews that on the basis of the Christological views connected with these titles, the New Testament could designate Jesus as 'God.' Thus Kurios is the present divine Ruler who since His exaltation rules the Church, the world, and the life of each individual. The Logos is the eternal revealer, who communicates Himself since the very beginning. The Son of God is the one who wills and works in complete oneness with the Father, from whom He goes forth and to whom He returns. Indeed, even the concept Son of Man ultimately leads to the 'deity' of Jesus, as it shews Jesus as the only true 'image of God.'

But Prof. Cullmann adds that we must not connect the concept with later Greek speculations about substance and natures.

Those passages which confer upon Jesus the title Kurios, the name of God, are as least as important as those where He is directly addressed as 'God' and in some cases the former are even more important. On the basis of the designation Kurios early Christianity does not hesitate to transfer to Jesus everything the Old Testament says about God. It is surprising that scholars do not give more consideration to such an important fact. Without being contradicted Jesus' opponents understood 'Son of God' to mean identification with God. See John 10:33, 36; 8:53.

The Synoptic Gospels do not help us here. Just as Jesus did not call Himself Kurios (Lord), neither did He call Himself Theos (God). This was due to His humility. We get the best evidence of the attribution of Theos to Jesus in John's Gospel and the Hebrews Epistle. In John 1:1 we find that the Logos or Word was God. In John 20:28 we find the wonderful confession of Thomas, "my Lord and my God." This incident closes the Gospel of John (as ch. 21 is a supplement). It is remarkable that such proofs should be found in these two places, the beginning and the end of John's Gospel. John's witness to the life of Jesus is intended to lead all to this confession, "My Lord and my God." The Logos Jesus Christ therefore cannot be a second God beside God, nor an emanation of God, but God only in His self-revelation. This is the only sense which expresses the intention of the statement in John 14:28 that the Father, to whom Jesus returns after He completes His life's work, is 'greater' than He.

In John 1:18 Prof. Cullmann says the reading "only-begotten God" is unquestionably better attested than "the only-begotten Son." He renders this verse in the common way, but I think it ought to be translated thus, "GOD no one has ever seen: only begotten God who being (gone) into the bosom of the Father, HE unfolds (Him)." Rotherham is perhaps better: "God—no one has seen, at any time: an Only-begotten God—The One existing within the bosom of the Father—HE described (Him)." Young reads, "who is on the bosom of the Father," while Penn reads "who is at the bosom. . .." Paley reads "God (himself) no one has ever yet seen. . . . ," while Godet reads "As to God, no man hath ever seen Him at any time." It is quite wrong to translate the Greek preposition eis as "in," when it means "into."

No one has ever seen God (the Father), but that God as the only-begotten reveals Him (Himself) in the life of Jesus.

As John's witness is quite clear, it is reasonable to agree that I. John 5:20 also refers to Christ: "And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, to know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This (one) is the true God and life eonian." Assuredly this must mean that the Lord Jesus Christ IS God.

Apart from John's writings, only the Hebrews Epistle unequivocally applies the title' God' to the Lord, since Hebrews actually belongs to the Johannine environment. The designation occurs twice in consecutive verses (Heb. 1:8-9) only in a quotation from Psalm 45:6-7: "Thy throne, O God, is for the age and beyond" (v. 8) and ". . . . therefore Thy God, O God, has anointed Thee. . . ." (v. 9). Here Prof. Cullmann has taken the vocative case, "O God," where others read differently. But in Psalm 45, it is clearly the vocative that is meant.

Here, in Hebrews 1, as in John's Gospel, Jesus can be addressed as God just because of the unique sonship which implies His deity. In Hebrews 1:9 the word "God" as the subject refers to the Father; as the object (in the vocative) to the Son: "Thy God (the Father) has anointed Thee, O God (the Son)." Behind this statement lies a royal Psalm in which God addresses the King by the title 'God.' Also, in Isaiah 9:6 the title 'Son of God' for the King leads to His being addressed as 'God.' With this twofold use of the word 'God' Hebrews, like John's Gospel, thus bears witness to the paradox of all Christology, at the beginning of the prologue of John.

Hebrews 1:10 quotes Psalm 102:25-27, having the address of 'Lord' (Kurie) instead of 'God.' However, this title is used to prove exactly the same thing as Psalm 45. The Son of God is above the angels because He is addressed as GOD. There is no essential difference between Kurios and 'God' as a form of address. The Kurios, identified in Psalm 102 as the Son Jesus Christ, is addressed as the Creator of heaven and earth (verse 25). "THOU, Lord, by way of beginning, the earth didst found; and works of Thy hands are the heavens." As John's prologue says, "all things through Him came into being" (John 1:3). Thus Hebrews also does not distinguish between the Creator and the Redeemer. The distinction between the Father and the Son does not mean a distinction between Creation and Redemption, but between God in so far as one can theoretically speak of Him also apart from His revelation, and God in so far as the New Testament does speak of Him only as the one who reveals Himself. This is just what Hebrews means also.

WHAT SAYS PAUL?
The direct designation of Jesus as 'God' is less clearly attested in Paul's writings than in John's Gospel and in Hebrews. Yet Paul's predilection for the title Kurios (Lord) leaves no room to doubt that on the basis of this concept and only in the sense thus determined, Paul could call Jesus 'God.' Of the many relevant passages, I. Cor. 8:6 could be mentioned. Or Phil. 2:6-7; "in God's form existing-all-along, in the hymn here to Christ (as Prof. Cullmann calls it); for the designation 'image of God' (Co1. 1:15) which is connected therewith, implies Jesus' deity as clearly as does the title Logos in John 1:1. Paul also says unambiguously in Co1. 2:9 that "in Him is dwelling all the fullness of the Deity bodily."

Then there is II. Cor. 12:8, where Paul entreated the Lord thrice, which is the same as calling Him God.

Next we come to Romans 9:5. Out of the Race of Israel is "the Christ according to flesh, who is over all, God, bless able (or, to be blessed) for the ages." (This verse destroys the belief that "Christ is neither Jew nor Gentile"). Prof. Cullmann concludes that it is quite probable, if not certain, that Paul designates Jesus Christ as 'God' in Rom. 9:5. There is another reading in this verse, but he prefers what he has said.

As to Co1. 2:2 he is uncertain. Yet Ellicott in 1857 shewed clearly that the reading should be "the mystery of God, even Christ." Rotherham uses the same words, so does Dewes. J. B. Phillips: "God's great secret, Christ Himself!" New World: "the sacred secret of God, namely, Christ." Hayman: "Christ, the mystery of God." A. S. Way: "God's mystic secret—which is Messiah." Weymouth: "the full knowledge of God's truth, which is Christ." Goodspeed: "to know Christ—that divine mystery." Revised Standard: "God's mystery, of Christ."

But it is unfortunate the Concordant Versions should read, "the secret of the God and Father of Christ."

Prof. Cullmann is not too sure about Titus 2:13, though he says it is probable that Christ is called 'God' here. The verse reads: "anticipating the happy expectation and advent of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ." But we might ask, will God the Father have an advent or epiphany? In Luke 1:46-47 Miriam's soul was magnifying the Lord (Kurios) and her spirit was exulting in "God my Saviour." In I. Timothy we find "God our Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ" (ch. 1:1); "before our Saviour God" (ch. 2:3); and "we rely on a God Living, who is Saviour of all mankind"(ch. 4:10). In Titus we read of "our Saviour God" three times, ch. 1:3; 2:10; 3:4. These expressions suggest that 'God' is not to be distinguished from "Saviour Jesus Christ."

In II. Peter we find "our God and Saviour Jesus Christ" (ch. 1:1); "our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" (ch. 1:11; 2:20; 3:18); and "the Lord and Saviour" (ch. 3:2). Prof. Cullmann says "these indicate that Theos (God) belongs with SOtEr (Saviour) as an attribute of Jesus Christ."

Then he suggests that in Revelation 19:12 the Horseman called "Faithful and True" has names which only He knows, which might allude to the Divine Name.

In the few N.T. passages where Jesus has the title 'God,' this occurs in connection with His exaltation to lordship (Paul's: letters and II. Peter), otherwise in connection with the idea that He is Himself the Divine Revelation (John's writings and Hebrews).

A.T. Last updated 6.7.2009