The human Jesus VS the god-man Jesus

Jesus was a human being

By Ibn Anwar, BHsc (Hons), MCollT

It is an axiomatic truth that Jesus was a human being. Despite believing in the divinity of Jesus, Trinitarian dogma dictates that Jesus was indeed one hundred percent human being and in that it corroborates Islam’s insistence on Jesus’ humanity. One does not need to go out of one’s way to search for evidence of Jesus’ manhood. The New Testament does a perfect job in showing that Jesus was a veritable historical human being with a real human anatomy (Luke 2:21) who walked the earth with the rest of mankind in flesh and blood and had to intellectually grow through learning and experience like any other human being (Luke 2:40). He experienced emotion, such as crying, like any other normal human person (John 11:35). He felt fear when faced with something frightening (Matthew 26:39) and had to eat when feeling hungry (Luke 24:42).

If there is still doubt that Jesus was a human being, then, the New Testament puts it to rest by pointing to the fact that Jesus’ supporters (Matthew 9:8), his top disciple, Peter (Acts 2:22), Paul’s sympathiser (1 Timothy 2:5) and even Paul himself (Roman’s 5:15) all insisted that Jesus was ‘anthropos’ which is the Greek word for ‘real human being.’ Such frequent recurrence of identifying Jesus as ‘anthropos’ throughout the New Testament is as if the writers had to make sure that nobody would misidentify him as other than a human creature.

The New Testament is evidently heavily preoccupied with showing that Jesus was absolutely, definitely and totally a human being. It does so in the most emphatic and unequivocal way. Former Archbishop of Canterbury, the pillar of the Anglican Church, the conservative Trinitarian Dr. Michael Ramsey agrees with our observation:

“…we notice that there was a concern about the human Jesus of Nazareth in the early Church. The Church’s preaching reflects this. So do references to the life and words of Jesus within the Pauline letters in spite of their intense concentration upon the risen Lord. So too the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews who has as his theme the heavenly priesthood of Jesus bids his readers contemplate the man Jesus in his temptations, his prayers, his strong crying and tears, his godly fear, his endurance and his faith. The Petrine Epistle also urges its readers to imitate the humility, patience and endurance of Jesus in his approach to the Passion.” [1]

Writing on the canonical gospels’ portrayal of Jesus as a true human being, Luke Timothy Johnson, who is the Robert W. Woodruff Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins at Candler School of Theology and a Senior Fellow at the Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory University, says:

“…the canonical Gospels, despite their many differences concerning the forms of Jesus’ words or his precise actions, agree in their portrayal of Jesus as a human sent from God for the sake of other humans, and who speaks and acts as God’s representative, even as he is also radically obedient to God. The nuances of this portrayal are, to be sure, what most distinguish each individual Gospel, so this level of agreement is broad and non-specific. Certainly, John’s Gospel elevates the perception of Jesus as the very revelation of God. But at the same time, John places no less stress on Jesus doing and speaking only what he receives from the father. Likewise, Luke’s Gospel portrays Jesus in perhaps the most ‘life-like’ terms, crafting his story in terms most like Hellenistic biographies. Yet Luke also regards Jesus as God’s ‘son’ in a manner distinct from other characters. Another common feature of the canonical Gospels as realistic narratives is that their Jesus has a real human character (ethos), which is recognizable in each of the four portrayals despite the distinct rendering of Jesus by the respective evangelists. In all four Gospels, Jesus is first someone totally defined by radical obedience to God. He is motivated not by human ambition or human respect. He seeks to please only God. But equally, Jesus in all four Gospels is he one who shows that obedience to God by giving of himself in service to others. His lack of self-seeking is expressed in his seeking the good of those around him. His obedience to God is articulated by his self-donative pattern of life.” [2]

The Trinity doctrine concedes entirely with the above but adds the caveat that besides being truly human, Jesus was also truly God. This is, of course, known as the doctrine of the hypostatic union, i.e., Jesus was fully God and fully man. The problem with this belief is that while the New Testament is emphatically eager to portray Jesus as a real human being, it does not seem so interested in lauding his alleged divinity. The texts and passages that are typically used to indicate his divinity by Trinitarians often prove controversial among Christian commentators and experts tend to disagree as to their meaning and implication. While clearly showing Jesus’ non-debatable human nature, the New Testament is not very clear as to his divinity. Ramsey writes:

“The reluctance of the apostolic writers to say precisely that Jesus is God is understandable against a deeply monotheistic background…” [3]

While the New Testament preoccupies itself with vivid statements, descriptions and illustrations of Jesus’ status as a human creature, it is clearly hesitant in making equally emphatic claims concerning his alleged divine status. This dichotomy in the documentary evidence weakens the Trinitarian doctrine of hypostasis because if the belief had actual support in the New Testament, then, the intensity in the portrayal of his dual natures as God and man should be proportional in both quantity and quality.

In short, the historical evidence strongly backs the Islamic view of Jesus and in the foregoing discussion, we have demonstrated that the Trinitarian belief in the hypostasis is at odds with the document(i.e., the New Testament) that it uses as the basis of that doctrine.

Notes:

[1] Ramsey, M. (1980). Jesus and the Living Past. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. p. 45

[2] Johnson, L. T. (2006). Does a Theology of the Canonical Gospels Make Sense?. In Christopher Rowland & Christopher Tuckett (eds), The Nature of the New Testament Theology: Essays in Honour of Robert Morgan. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing. p. 101

[2] Ibid.

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