Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Jesus Is indeed God Incarnate

Which Is Why He Is Able To Forgive Sins! Pt. 2 

Sam Shamoun 

This is the second part of our rebuttal.

Jesus said and did other things in Matthew which shows that he is God, such as announcing that he would personally send out prophets: 

“Therefore I SEND YOU PROPHETS and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechari'ah the son of Barachi’ah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly, I say to you, all this will come upon this generation. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I HAVE GATHERED your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! Behold, your house is forsaken and desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” Matthew 23:34-39

What makes these assertions of Christ so remarkable is that the Hebrew Bible emphatically testifies that prophets are sent by Yahweh to his people and are to prophesy only in his name!

“The LORD, the God of their fathers, sent persistently to them by his messengers, because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place; but they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words, and scoffing at his prophets, till the wrath of the LORD rose against his people, till there was no remedy.” 2 Chronicles 36:15-16 

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD. From the house of the LORD we bless you.” Psalm 118:26

“From the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt to this day, I have persistently sent all my servants the prophets to them, day after day;” Jeremiah 7:25; cf. 25:4; 26:5; 29:19; 35:15; 44:4

Even the very metaphor that Jesus uses where he compares himself to a hen that tries to gather her chicks under her wings is one that the OT and extra-canonical Jewish sources apply to Yahweh’s protection of his people!

“For the LORD’s portion is his people, Jacob his allotted heritage. He found him in a desert land, and in the howling waste of the wilderness; he encircled him, he cared for him, he kept him as the apple of his eye. Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that flutters over its young, spreading out its wings, catching them, bearing them on its pinions, the LORD alone did lead him, and there was no foreign god with him.” Deuteronomy 32:9-12 

“The LORD recompense you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!” Ruth 2:12 

“How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of men take refuge in the shadow of your wings.” Psalm 36:7 

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, who abides in the shadow of the Almighty, will say to the LORD, ‘My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust.’ For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence; he will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.” Psalm 91:1-4; cf. 17:8; 57:1; 61:4; 63:7

Now compare what the following Jewish pseudepigraphal writing states:

Thus says the Lord Almighty: Have I not entreated you as a father entreats his sons or a mother her daughters or a nurse her children, that you should be my people and I should be your God, and that you should be my sons and I should be your father?  I gathered you as a hen gathers her brood under her wings. But now, what shall I do to you? I will cast you out from my presence. 2 Esdras 1:28-30

The above source is clear that it is the Lord God Almighty who gathers his rebellious people as a hen gathers her brood or young chicks under her wings. And yet Jesus applied the very same language to himself! 

Christ even went so far as to claim that false prophets would come prophesying and doing miracles in his very own name!

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. Not everyone who says TO ME, ‘Lord, Lord (Kyrie kyrie),’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord (Kyrie kyrie), did we not prophesy IN YOUR NAME, and IN YOUR NAME drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” Matthew 7:15-23

Jesus is once again equating himself with Yahweh God, just as the following OT texts prove!

“Do not listen to the words of the prophets who are saying to you, ‘You shall not serve the king of Babylon,’ for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you. I have not sent them, declares the LORD, but they are prophesying falsely IN MY NAME, with the result that I will drive you out and you will perish, you and the prophets who are prophesying to you.” Jeremiah 27:14-15 

“For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you IN MY NAME; I did not send them, declares the LORD.” Jeremiah 29:8-9 

“And if anyone again prophesies, his father and mother who bore him will say to him, ‘You shall not live, for you speak lies IN THE NAME OF THE LORD.’ And his father and mother who bore him shall pierce him through when he prophesies.” Zechariah 13:3

The Hebrew Bible even provides a criterion to distinguish a true prophet from a false one:

“The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him. For this is what you asked of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, ‘Let us not hear the voice of the LORD our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die.’ The LORD said to me: ‘What they say is good. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him. If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks IN MY NAME, I myself will call him to account. But a prophet who presumes to speak IN MY NAME anything I have not commanded him to say, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, must be put to death.’ You may say to yourselves, ‘How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the LORD?’ If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him.” Deuteronomy 18:15-22

Thus, it is quite obvious in light of the foregoing that Jesus was making himself out to be God:

“Toward the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warns of and condemns false disciples who profess his lordship but whose deeds belie that profession (Matt. 7:21-23). They perform three kinds of miraculous deeds in the name of Jesus, only one of which concerns us here–prophecy. Viewed against its background in the law, the words ‘prophesy in your name’ in Matthew 7:22 identify Jesus with the God of the Old Testament. ‘Since prophecy in Deuteronomy here should be speaking “in the name of Yahweh,” the move made in Matt. 7:22 is unmistakable.’ The name of Jesus is used in the place of the name of Yahweh.” (Robert A. Peterson, The Deity of Christ, Christopher W. Morgan & Robert A. Peterson eds. [Crossway, Wheaton, IL. 2011], 8. Towards A Systematic Theology of the Deity of Christ, pp. 196-197)

Another point to be noted is that Jesus’ use of “Lord, Lord” (Kyrie kyrie) in Matthew 7:21-22 as a self-reference is further evidence that he was claiming to be God. Here is another place where Jesus used this form of address:

“Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ (Kyrie kyrie) they said, ‘open the door for us!’ But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’ Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” Matthew 25:11-13 – cf. Luke 6:46-49

What makes Jesus’ usage so astonishing is that this expression actually appears in the Greek version of the Hebrew Bible as a translation of the words Lord YHWH!

Lord God (kyrie kyrie), thou hast begun to shew to thy servant thy strength, and thy power, and thy mighty hand, and thy high arm: for what God is there in heaven or on the earth, who will do as thou hast done, and according to thy might?" Deuteronomy 3:24 

“And I prayed to God, and said, O Lord (kyrie kyrie), King of gods, destroy not thy people and thine inheritance, whom thou didst redeem, whom thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt with thy great power, and with thy strong hand, and with thy high arm." Deuteronomy 9:26; cf. 1 Kings 8:53; Psalm 69:6; Ezekiel 20:49; Amos 7:2, 5

It is also used to translate YHWH Lord:

“But thou, O Lord, Lord (kyrie kyrie), deal mercifully with me, for thy name’s sake: for thy mercy is good." Psalm 108[Eng. 109]:21 

O Lord God (kyrie kyrie), the strength of my salvation; thou hast screened my head in the day of battle." Psalm 139:8 [Eng. 140:7] 

“"For mine eyes are to thee, O Lord God (kyrie kyrie): I have hoped in thee; take not away my life.” Psalm 140[Eng. 141]:8

It must be pointed out that this coupling of kyrios is never used for anyone besides Yahweh, and yet Jesus clearly applies it to himself! As the following Evangelical scholars explain:

“Early in his ministry, Jesus warned that even those who said to him, ‘Lord, Lord’ (kuriekurie) and claimed to do miracles in his name were condemned if they disobeyed him (Matt. 7:21-22; Luke 6:46; see also Matt. 25:11). This doubled form of address occurs repeatedly in the Septuagint in place of the Hebrew ‘Lord YHWH’ (Deut. 3:24; 9:26; 1 Kings 8:53; Ps. 69:6; Ezek. 20:49; Amos 7:2, 5) or ‘YHWH Lord’ (Pss. 109:21; 140:7; 141:8), but never in reference to anyone but YHWH.” (Bowman & Komoszewski, Part 3, Chapter 13, p. 160)  

Can it get any clearer than this that Jesus was claiming to be Yahweh God Almighty (yet not the Father or the Holy Spirit)? To those who have been given eyes to see and ears to hear by the grace of the risen Lord Jesus the answer is obvious. 

We are not done examining Matthew just yet. In the following reference, Jesus speaks of his relationship to God in a way which is truly astounding: 

“All things have been entrusted to Me by My Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son desires to reveal Him. Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:27-30 – cf. Luke 10:22

Christ not only says that he is known by the Father alone, a statement which in itself is remarkable enough, he even goes so far as to claim that only he knows the Father and therefore is the only one qualified to make him known!  

In saying that only the Father knows the Son, Jesus is essentially claiming to be an incomprehensible being who can only exhaustively be known by another omniscient mind.  

Jesus’ statement that he knows the Father in the same way that the Father knows him confirms this point. Such reciprocity presupposes that Jesus is omniscient since the Holy Bible emphatically testifies that it is impossible for any creature to know God exhaustively since God’s understanding is beyond measure and therefore unsearchable:   

“Can you find out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limit of the Almighty? It is higher than heaven—what can you do? Deeper than Sheol—what can you know? Its measure is longer than the earth and broader than the sea.” Job 11:7-9

“Behold, God is great, and we know him not; the number of his years is unsearchable.” Job 36:26 – 5:9; 9:10; 37:4-5; 37:16

“O LORD, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.” Psalm 139:1-6

“He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names. Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.” Psalm 147:4-5 – cf. 145:3 

“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?’” Romans 11:33-34 – cf. Philippians 4:7

This next Evangelical author states it best:

“Here we discover how Jesus understands his relation to the Father–a relation that can only be understand as a claim of deity. It is presented in the most unique of ways and is unpacked in terms of two affirmations.

“First, the Father-Son relationship is spoken of in terms of an exclusive, mutual knowledge that each has of the other. Initially, it is not surprising that Jesus says, ‘No one knows the Son except the Father,’ for the Father is omniscient. But when he states, ‘No one knows the Father except the Son,’ this is a staggering claim. As Robert Reymond contends, this statement ‘lifts Jesus above the sphere of the ordinary mortal and places him in a position, not of equality merely, but of absolute reciprocity and interpenetration of knowledge of the Father.’

“Furthermore, the only way one can make sense of this reciprocal/mutual knowledge of the Son is in categories that are antecedent to Jesus becoming Messiah. Why? Because it is nigh impossible to think of Jesus’ knowledge as merely a consequence of his messianic mission; it has to be tied to pre-temporal, even eternal relations. That is why ‘sonship’ cannot merely be reduced to functional categories. Rather, as George Ladd has argued, ‘sonship precedes messiahship and is in fact the ground for the messianic mission.’ Second, the Father-Son relation is further developed in terms of a mutual sovereignty whereby both the Father and the Son must take the initiative to reveal each other in order for anyone to come to a saving knowledge.

“When these two affirmations are united, it is fair to say that no higher expression of parity between the Father and the Son can be given. Jesus' self-identity as the Son has to be understood in divine terms. B. B. Warfield, many years ago, said it correctly:  

Not merely is the Son the exclusive revealer of God, but the mutual knowledge of the Father and Son is put on what seems very much a par. The Son can be known only by the Father in all that He is, as if His being were infinite and as such inscrutable to the finite intelligence; and His knowledge alone – again as if He were infinite in His attributes–is competent to compass the depths of the Father's infinite being. He who holds this relation to the Father cannot conceivably be a creature.” (Stephen J. Wellum, The Deity of Christ, 3. The Deity of Christ in the Synoptic Gospels, pp. 82-83; bold emphasis ours)

Another interesting point about Matthew 11:27-30 is that, in inviting people to come to him for rest, Jesus is again ascribing to himself the roles which the OT Scriptures assign to Yahweh:

“Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.” Psalm 107:8-9

“Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: ‘Once more they shall use these words in the land of Judah and in its cities, when I restore their fortunes: “The LORD bless you, O habitation of righteousness, O holy hill!” And Judah and all its cities shall dwell there together, and the farmers and those who wander with their flocks. For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish.’” Jeremiah 31:23-25

Once again, the only way that Jesus could give every single individual who comes to him perfect rest is if he were omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent. He would have to be omniscient in order to know who exactly is coming to him. He would have to be both omnipresent and omnipotent in order to be able to give all the individuals who turn to him in faith perfect rest and satisfaction no matter how many they are and no matter where they happen to be.

Therefore, it is evident from our examination of Matthew that the crowds were mistaken since Jesus wasn’t merely a man whom God gave authority to pronounce the forgiveness of sins. Rather, the reason why Jesus could forgive sins is because according to Matthew Christ is God incarnate!    

This ends the second part of our rebuttal. We still have a lot more to say in the third part.