Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Jesus Is Lord Indeed! Pt. 1

Sam Shamoun

Paul Bilal Williams cites NT scholar James D. G. Dunn who states “that over the FIRST FEW DECADES of Christianity the confession of Jesus as ‘Lord’ moved in overt significance from the lower end of the ‘spectrum of dignity’ towards the upper end steadily gathering to itself increasing overtones of deity.”  

Astonishingly, Williams fails to realize the negative impact Dunn’s assertion has on his beliefs as a Muslim, as we shall see shortly. Williams also missed Dunn’s admission that the belief in Jesus’ Deity occurred within the first few decades of Christianity. Again, more on this later.

Williams also quoted the following from Dunn:

Whether ‘Lord’ already had a higher significance for Jesus himself during his ministry depends on how we evaluate Mark 12:35-37:

‘While Jesus was teaching in the temple courts, he asked, ‘Why do the teachers of the law say that the Messiah is the son of David? David himself, speaking by the Holy Spirit, declared:

‘ “The Lord said to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand Until I put your enemies Under your feet.”‘

David himself calls him “Lord”. How then can he be his son?’

Even if it contains an authentic word of the historical Jesus (as is quite possible) it need only mean that he understood Messiah to be a figure superior [sic] to David in significance and specially favoured by Yahweh. It does not necessarily [sic] imply that he thought the Messiah was a divine figure (Psalm 110 after all probably referred to the king).

From: Unity and Diversity in the New Testament: An Inquiry into the Character of Earliest Christianity (emphasis in the original) pp.53-54.

Make sure to keep in mind Dunn’s statements concerning Mark 12:35-37 since we will have a lot more to say about this text a little later.

Williams understands Dunn to be saying that the title ‘lord’ initially referred to a human being and it was only later on in the context of the mission to the Gentiles that this term began to take on divine overtones.

Williams then concludes his piece by arguing that the blessed Apostle Paul was Christianity’s true founder.

What makes Williams’ claims rather troubling is the fact that he failed to quote the rest of what Dunn says since this scholar actually believes that it was the first Christians, not Paul, who took the title Lord to mean that Jesus was divine. Dunn further claims that the earliest Christians started to interpret the term Lord in terms of the Son of Man of Daniel 7:

I2.3 As a confession ‘Jesus is Lord’ stems PRIMARILY from the post-resurrection faith OF THE FIRST CHRISTIANS. It was evidently the belief that Jesus had been raise from the dead which gave ‘lord’ the DECISIVE NUDGE along the ‘spectrum of dignity’ TOWARDS A CONNOTATION OF DIVINITY. According to both Acts 2.36 and the hymn cited by Paul in Phil. 2.9-II, kyrios was the title given to Jesus at his resurrection/exaltation and by virtue of it. A striking confirmation of the resurrection’s significance at this point is Luke’s own use of the title. In his Gospel, when he is narrating some episode, he quite naturally refers to Jesus as ‘the Lord’. But never do the characters in these episodes speak in this way. The first time Jesus is called ‘the Lord’ by one of his contemporaries is immediately after his resurrection (Luke 24.34). Similarly in the Fourth Gospel. Despite the high Christology of John’s presentation of the incarnate Logos (including the roll-call of titles in John I and Jesus’ consciousness of pre-existence) kyrios is not used by Jesus’ contemporaries until John 20.28, and the Evangelist himself, unlike even Luke, shows a marked reserve in his own use of the title for Jesus prior to the resurrection. In other words, what we have preserved here, as explicitly elsewhere, is the conviction that Jesus became Lord as a consequence of his resurrection and exaltation.

It is not wholly clear what status was affirmed of Jesus as risen Lord at this earliest stage. If I Cor. I6.22, James 5.7f., Rev. 22.20, and I and II Thessalonians (the earliest Pauline epistles, where kyrios is used frequently) are any judge, the dignity and authority of Jesus’ Lordship was that of soon returning judge. Here ‘Lord’ had begun to absorb THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE DANIELIC ‘SON OF MAN,’ quite possibly THROUGH THE COMBINATION OF PS. II0.I and DAN. 7.I3 IN EARLY CHRISTIAN APOLOGETIC. We cannot say how far ‘Lord’ had thereby moved along the ‘spectrum of dignity’ or whether overtones of divinity were yet present to those who thus confessed Jesus (cf. after all Matt. I9.28/Luke 22.29f.). On the other hand, the sense of ‘Lord’ used of Jesus by his contemporaries had already been left far behind (though it could be argued that the resurrection of Jesus was regarded in part as the divine seal of approval on the authority he exercised as teacher and miracle worker; see further 50.3). What we can say with more confidence is that the mara confession was probably not the most important confession of the earliest churches. In particular it does not seem to have provided a medium of evangelism in the Jewish mission, as did the Messiah confession and the Son of God confession (with Hellenistic Jews) – though Mark I2.35-37 and Barn. I2.I0f. may well imply that it featured within Christian Jewish apologetic FROM QUITE AN EARLY PERIOD. I Corinthians I6.22, Rev. 22.20 and Didache I0.6 suggest however that the mara confession of the FIRST CHRISTIANS belonged primarily to their own worship where it has left its most enduring mark. Only within Hellenistic Christianity did the confession ‘Jesus is Lord’ come fully into its own. (Dunn, Unity and Diversity In The New Testament: An Inquiry into the Character of Earliest Christianity [SCM Press, Third Edition 2006], III Primitive Confessional Formulae, 12. Jesus is Lord, pp. 54-55; capital emphasis ours)       

Dunn writes elsewhere that the first Christians, who would naturally include the disciples of Christ, preached that Jesus died on the cross to make expiation for sins and that God raised him back to life. He even says that from the earliest days of Christianity the first believers understood from Psalm 110:1 that Jesus was David’s Lord who ascended into heaven in order to share in God’s sovereign rule over all creation:

“The affirmation of Jesus’ lordship is one which we trace back at least to THE EARLIEST DAYS of Christian reflection on Christ’s resurrection. One of the scriptures which quickly became luminous FOR THE FIRST BELIEVERS was evidently Ps. 110.1: ‘The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at my right until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”’ THE FIRST CHRISTIANS now knew who ‘my Lord’ was who was addressed by the Lord God. It could only be Messiah Jesus. He was now ‘God’s vice-regent.’ The text was clearly in mind in several Pauline passages…” (Dunn, The Theology of Paul The Apostle [William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids MI/Cambridge U.K., Paperback Edition 2006], Chapter 4. The Gospel of Jesus Christ, 10 The Risen Lord, p. 246; capital emphasis ours)


“Whatever we can or should say about Jesus and his mission there can be little or no question that what the FIRST CHRISTIANS believed had happened to Jesus after his death transformed their appreciation of him completely. FOR THEY WERE CONVINCED THAT GOD HAD RAISED HIM FROM THE DEAD. This is the core affirmation of Christian faith, and it can be traced back FIRMLY TO THE EARLIEST DAYS OF THE MOVEMENT THAT STEMMED FROM JESUS, and in particular to the visionary experiences that the FIRST CHRISTIANS had of Jesus as risen from the dead and exalted to heaven. Such belief was already a confession by the time Paul was himself converted, WHICH WAS PROBABLY LESS THAN TWO YEARS AFTER JESUS’ CRUCIFIXION (1 Cor. 15.3-7). And Paul was probably converted to beliefs that he had persecuted, BELIEFS ALREADY WELL ESTABLISHED AMONG THE FIRST MEMBERS OF THE SECT OF THE NAZARENES. THEIRS WAS AN ASTONISHING BELIEF IN ITSELF. Many Jews believed that there would be a resurrection at the end of time and before the day of last judgment; that is, a general resurrection of the dead. But the thought of one person being resurrected (not simply revived to his previous life) WAS UNHEARD OF. SOMETHING OF MIND-BLOWING SIGNIFICANCE HAD HAPPENED, AND JESUS WAS AT THE CENTRE.

“More to the immediate point, these EARLIEST BELIEVERS were also convinced that Jesus had been taken or exalted to heaven. What had happened to Jesus was not simply a translation like that of Enoch or Elijah, nor simply a vindication such as Wisdom 5 assures the righteous they could anticipate. What then? We can safely assume that the first disciples would have searched the Scriptures to help explain and make sense of what had happened to Jesus. A key verse that shed much light for them and that evidently informed and shaped THE EARLIEST CHRISTIAN reflection on the subject was Psalm 110.1

“This verse runs like a gold thread through much of the New Testament, and is so interwoven into the language of the New Testament writers that it evidently was a primary starting point or stimulus for the strong strand of New Testament christology summed up in the confession, ‘Jesus is Lord’. The title (‘lord’) in itself did not necessarily signify any more than the status of a (human) master to his servant or slave; but in the context of the times, use of the title for Jesus in a cultic setting affirmed that he was being ranked alongside the gods of other cults (Asclepius, Isis, etc.), or alongside the Emperor in some degree of competition with the divine claims made for Caesar. And in the context given to the title ‘Lord’ (kyrios) by Psalm 110.1, its reference to Christ immediately indicates that in EARLIEST CHRISTIAN FAITH Jesus was now to be reckoned in terms similar to those used for heavenly beings of earlier Jewish reflection, or, more precisely, to be reckoned AS SHARING THE ONE GOD’S RULE. With this title Jesus is seen to be MORE ON THE SIDE OF GOD reaching out to humankind, than of humankind coming to God. (Dunn, Did the First Christians Worship Jesus?, 4. The Lord Jesus Christ, pp. 101-103; bold and capital emphasis ours)


“In a passage of great importance, Paul recalls that the gospel faith that he inherited affirmed ‘that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures’ (1 Cor. 15.3). He received this confession presumably immediately after his conversion, WHICH WAS PROBABLY WITHIN TWO YEARS OF JESUS’ CRUCIFIXION. SO THIS WAS ONE OF THE EARLIEST CHRISTIAN STATEMENTS OF FAITH. That Jesus’ death was being thus regarded in terms of a sin offering, or as the equivalent of the scapegoat on the Day of Atonement, is confirmed by other Pauline passages. From this it can be inferred that (many or most of) THE FIRST CHRISTIANS REGARDED JESUS’ DEATH AS SACRIFICAL, A SACRIFICE THAT REMOVED, EXPIATED, CLEANSED FROM SIN. The inference can be extended: to refer to Jesus’ death as a sacrifice for sin was to imply that no other sacrifices for sin were thereafter necessary for those who believed in Jesus…” (Ibid., 2. The practice of worship, p. 55; bold and capital emphasis ours)

He then summarizes his discussion by saying that,

“The results of this survey are ASTONISHING. Here was the man Jesus of Nazareth, who had been executed within the lifetime of most of those who wrote the New Testament writings. He had made such a huge impact as a prophet and exceptional teacher during his mission. He was regarded by his followers as the Messiah that Israel had longed for. But they were also convinced that in him the resurrection expected at the end of the age had already happened. They were convinced that God had exalted him to his right hand. They saw him as their Lord and did not hesitate to ascribe to him as Lord what various scriptures had ascribed ONLY to the Lord God. They called upon his name in invocation and prayer. The roles that Israel’s sages and theologians had ascribed to Wisdom and God’s Word, they ascribed to him, even the latter’s role as the divine agents of creation; in Christ the personification BECAME THE PERSON. They ascribed to him the outpouring of the Spirit and the Spirit’s life-giving power. The seer of Revelation saw visions of universal worship being given to the Lamb. The title or status of G/god was used for him… For the dominant impression that comes through is that Jesus was understood to embody the outreach of God himself, that Jesus was in a real sense God reaching out to humankind; that, as Lord, Jesus SHARED FULLY in the ONE LORDSHIP of God; that, like Wisdom/Word and as Wisdom/Word, he was seen as God making himself known to his own; that the Spirit of God was now to be recognized as the Spirit of Christ. As in the first two chapters we began to see that, for the FIRST CHRISTIANS, Christ was the means by and the way by which God has come most effectively to humankind. Jesus as mediator mediated in both directions, not only to God but also from God. Jesus summed up and EMBODIED for them the divine presence.” (Ibid, 4. The Lord Jesus Christ, pp. 145-146; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Another scholar states that this belief in Jesus as the risen and ascended Lord started among Christ’s Jewish followers, NOT the Apostle Paul:

“The New Testament evidence shows how early the use of the title ho kyrios arose, and how deeply it is connected with the worship of the PRIMITIVE CHRISTIAN CHURCH. In the earliest letters of St. Paul the terminology, and the ideas associated with it, are freely used AND WITH NO SUGGESTION OF BEING AN INNOVATION. As Bousset shows, the conception of Jesus as Lord WAS NOT THE SPECIAL WORK OF ST. PAUL BUT, ON THE CONTRARY, ONE WHICH ALREADY EXISTED IN CHRISTIAN COMMUNITIES AT ANTIOCH, DAMASCUS, AND TARSUS… Naturally this evidence comes from the life and practice of Gentile communities, but there is NO GROUND, as we shall see, for connecting the worship of Jesus as Lord exclusively with the life of Hellenistic communities, as distinct from those that were Jewish-Christian. Indeed, the use of the invocation Marana tha ‘Our Lord, come’ (I Cor. xvi. 22), which corresponds to the Greek phrase, ’Amen, erchou kyrie ’Iesou, ‘Amen, come Lord Jesus’, in Apoc. xxii. 20, shows unmistakably that the title ‘Our Lord’ was in familiar use in Aramaic speaking communities.

“The fact that the title is so freely used in the Thessalonian Epistles, written in A.D. 51, IMPLIES THAT IT HAD LONG BEEN IN USE IN EARLY CHRISTIANITY, AT LEAST IN THE DECADE A.D. 40-50, AND PROBABLY MUCH EARLIER. Liturgical usages, do not grow up in a night, and we may JUSTLY infer that in Jewish-Christian circles THEY POINT BACK TO THE DECADE A.D. 30-40. The cry, ‘The Lord is risen’, contains at the most a negligible anachronism, and it is by no means excluded that historically IT IS THE EARLIEST USE OF THE NAME.” (Vincent Taylor, The Names of Jesus [St Martin’s Press Inc, 1954], Part 1: The Principal Names And Titles Of Jesus, pp. 45-47; capital emphasis ours)


“… More probably, however, as already suggested, the fact that Jesus had commented on the use of the term ‘Lord’ in Psa. cx. I. proved influential, for here He had suggested that the Messiah was more than David’s Son, and may have implied, or have been held to imply, that He Himself was the divine Lord. It is not probable that the origin of the title is to be traced to the use of ho kyrios in the Septuagint for God, and it may be conceded to Bultmann that the designation of Jesus as Lord made it possible to carry over to Him passages in which ‘the Lord’ is mentioned. Yet, even so, it is improbable that the movement of Christian thought was in one direction only. The FIRST Christians read the Old Testament with new eyes, and as soon as Jesus was confessed as ‘the Lord’, many ancient passages which spoke of the Lord must have been applied to Him. Septuagint usage is not, therefore, a factor which can be ignored in stimulating the usage of the title. The fact that in many cases in the Acts it is arguable whether the reference is to Jesus or to God, and, as some have thought, even in Mk v. I9 (‘how great things the Lord hath done for you’) reminds us of the possibility of a transitional and formative stage in the history of the title. Most of all the invocation of Jesus in public worship, exorcism in His name, confession at baptism, and communion in the body of Christ in the Eucharist fully account for the use of the title, and of these there is no obligation upon us to restrict even the last, if we accept the view that the narrative of the Last Supper in Mk xiv. 22-5 is derived from an early Palestinian liturgy. Without feeling it necessary to deny that the atmosphere of the Hellenistic world may have fostered the use of the title, as an alternative to the designation, meaningless to the Greek, ‘Son of Man’, WE DO NOT NEED TO TAKE A STEP OUTSIDE PALESTINE TO ACCOUNT FOR THE CONFESSION OF ‘JESUS IS LORD’.

“The immense importance of this fact cannot be measured. Invocation is next door to prayer and confession to worship. Implicit in the recognition of the lordship of Jesus is the acknowledgement of His essential divinity. We must agree with Rawlinson that ‘the cult of the Lord Jesus was inherent in Christianity FROM THE BEGINNING’; and must not refuse to face the challenge that ‘the eventual formulation of an explicit doctrine of our Lord’s deity as the incarnate Son of God was NECESSITATED by the fact that it provided the ONLY ULTIMATE JUSTIFICATION of such a cultus which was compatible with monotheism’.” (Ibid, pp. 50-51; bold and capital emphasis ours)     

As these scholars claim, Jesus’ first followers believed and preached that Christ had been raised from the dead and was taken into God’s very own heavenly presence to reign as the Lord of creation. 

These scholars also agree that they got this from Christ himself, specifically his use and explanation of Psalm 110:1. In fact, the Synoptic Gospels all affirm that it was Jesus who claimed be the divine Son of Man who rules from God’s throne over the entire creation:

“The high priest stood up and came forward and questioned Jesus, saying, “Do You not answer? What is it that these men are testifying against You?’ But He kept silent and did not answer. Again the high priest was questioning Him, and saying to Him, ‘Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?’ And Jesus said, ‘I am; and you shall see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, and COMING WITH THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN.’ Tearing his clothes, the high priest said, ‘What further need do we have of witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy; how does it seem to you?’ And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death.” Mark 14:60-64 – cf. 12:35-37; Matthew 22:41-46; 26:62-66; Luke 20:41-44, 22:66-71

In this pericope, Jesus applies Psalm 110:1 and Daniel 7:13-14 to himself, passages which are quite significant in affirming his Deity:

“A Psalm of David. The LORD (YHWH) says to my Lord (Adoni): ‘Sit at My right hand Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.’” Psalm 110:1

As we shall shortly see, according to this Psalm the Messiah, who is David’s Lord, sits enthroned alongside God in order to share in his sovereign rule over all things. And:

“I kept looking Until THRONES were set up, And the Ancient of Days took His SEAT; His vesture was like white snow And the hair of His head like pure wool. His THRONE was ablaze with flames, ITS wheels were a burning fire. A river of fire was flowing And coming out from before Him; Thousands upon thousands were attending Him, And myriads upon myriads were standing before Him; The court sat, And the books were opened… I kept looking in the night visions, And behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, And He came up to the Ancient of Days And was presented before Him. And to Him was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom, That all the peoples, nations and men of every language Might SERVE HIM (yipalachun). His dominion is an everlasting dominion Which will not pass away; And His kingdom is one Which will not be destroyed.” Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14

Daniel has a vision in which he sees two majestic and glorious figures, namely the Ancient of Days and the Son of Man. He also sees thrones set in place, which obviously belong to both of these exalted characters.

Daniel’s Son of Man is undeniably a divine being appearing as a man since he is said to come with the clouds, which is something that God does according to both the Hebrew Scriptures and the Quran:

“The oracle concerning Egypt. Behold, the LORD is riding on a swift cloud and is about to come to Egypt; The idols of Egypt will tremble at His presence, And the heart of the Egyptians will melt within them.” Isaiah 19:1

“The LORD is slow to anger and great in power, And the LORD will by no means leave the guilty unpunished. In whirlwind and storm is His way, And clouds are the dust beneath His feet.” Nahum 1:3 – cf. Exodus 13:21-22; 14:19-20, 24; 33:7-11; 40:34-38; Numbers 10:34; Deuteronomy 33:26; Psalm 68:4, 33-34; 104:3

Are these people waiting, perchance, for God to reveal Himself unto them in the shadows of the clouds, together with the angels - although [by then] all will have been decided, and unto God all things will have been brought back? S. 2:210 Muhammad Asad

He is also said to receive the same worship that God receives:  

“Then the sovereignty, the dominion and the greatness of all the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be given to the people of the saints of the Highest One; His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all the dominions will SERVE (yipalachun) and obey Him.” Daniel 7:27 – cf. 3:12, 16-18, 28; 6:16, 20, 26; Psalm 22:27-30; 66:1-4; 86:8-10; 145:13; Isaiah 66:23; Zechariah 14:9, 16-17

According to noted liberal OT scholar John J. Collins, anyone familiar with the OT and the mythologies of the Ancient Near East (ANE) would have understood from Daniel’s imagery that the Ancient of Days and the Son of Man were clearly two distinct divine figures:

“In Dan 7:9 thrones are set up and a white-haired ‘Ancient of Days’ appears, surrounded by thousands of servants. This figure is evidently God. It is surprising, then, when another figure appears ‘with the clouds of heaven.’ In the Hebrew Bible, the figure who rides on the clouds is always YHWH, the God of Israel (cf. Pss. 68:5; 104:3). Yet in Daniel 7 this figure is clearly subordinate to the Ancient of Days. The juxtaposition of TWO DIVINE FIGURES can be understood against the background of the Canaanite myth. There the high god was El, a venerable figure with a white beard. The young fertility god was Baal, who is called the ‘rider of clouds’ in the Ugaritic texts. In the Hebrew Bible, YHWH usually combines the roles of El and Baal. In Daniel 7, however, they are separated. The influence of the Canaanite mythic tradition is clearly evident in the pattern of relationships between the Ancient of Days, the rider of the clouds, and the beasts from the sea. We do not know in what form the author of Daniel knew this tradition. Some of it is reflected in biblical poetry, but the author probably had sources that are no longer available to us. Of course, he adapted the tradition. The rider of the clouds does not attack the Sea as Baal had attacked Yamm. The conflict is resolved by divine judgment. And of course the Jewish author would not have identified the Ancient One and the rider of the clouds as El and Baal.” (Collins, Introduction to the Hebrew Bible [Fortress Press, Minneapolis, MN 2004], Part Four: The Writings, 27. Daniel, 1-2 Maccabees, p. 565; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Hence, in saying that he was the Son of Man who reigns from God’s right hand in heaven Jesus was basically claiming to be God in human flesh and the sovereign Lord who possesses supreme authority over all creation:

“And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “ALL authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.’” Matthew 28:18

In fact, Jesus taught that as the Son of Man he is the One who comes with his angels to sit on his glorious throne in order to determine the eternal fate of every single person:

“But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of MY Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘LORD, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’ Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ Then they themselves also will answer, ‘LORD, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Matthew 25:31-46

Thus, as far as the evidence from the Synoptics is concerned there is no doubt that Jesus himself taught that he is the divine Lord of all creation.

Interestingly, even a radical skeptic like Bart Ehrman agrees that if one can show that Jesus and his followers taught that Christ is the Son of Man then this would establish that he is a divine being:

Another path to seeing Jesus’ divinity starts not with the idea of Jesus as the Son of God but with Jesus as the Son of Man. Jesus himself spoke of the coming of the Son of Man, a cosmic judge of the earth who would bring judgment in his wake, based on his understanding of Daniel 7:13-14. Once his followers came to believe that Jesus was raised from the dead, however, they thought that he himself would be the one who would come from heaven to sit in judgment on the earth. This is Paul’s view, expressed in 1 Thessalonians 4-5. Paul was writing to gentiles, not to Jews, and so he does not use the title Son of Man. But that is how he understood Jesus: as the future judge to come from heaven. If the Son of Man was a kind of divine figure, and Jesus was the Son of Man, that makes him a divine figure who lives with God.” (Ehrman, Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (and Why We don’t Know About Them) [HarperOne, A Division of HarperCollins Publishers, 2009], Seven. Who Invented Christianity?, p. 253; bold emphasis ours)

Ehrman takes this a step further and admits that Mark himself believed that Jesus was that very Son of Man!

“How will the kingdom arrive? For Mark it will be brought about by ‘the Son of Man,’ a cosmic judge of the earth who will judge people according to whether they accept the teachings of Jesus: ‘For whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of that one will the Son of Man also be ashamed, when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels’ (Mark 8:38). And who is this Son of Man? For Mark it is Jesus himself, who must be rejected by his people and their leaders, executed, and then raised from the dead (Mark 8:31). Jesus will die, he will be raised, and then hell return in judgment, bringing with him the kingdom of God.” (Ibid., Three. A Mass of Variant Views, p. 78; bold emphasis ours)

Hence, Ehrman’s statements basically confirm that even the earliest Gospel portrays Jesus as fully divine, contrary to the assertions of right wing Muslim fundamentalists and skeptics like Williams (and even Ehrman himself!).

The NT writings also testify that Jesus’ enthronement at God’s right hand means that he is highly exalted above all creation and that everything is subject to his control:

“and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” Ephesians 1:19-23

He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high (en hypselois), having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. For to which of the angels did God ever say, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you’? Or again, ‘I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son’? And again, when he brings the Firstborn into the world, he says, ‘Let all God's angels worship him.’ Of the angels he says, ‘He makes his angels winds, and his ministers a flame of fire.’ But of the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.’ … And to which of the angels has he ever said, ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet’? Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?” Hebrews 1:3-9, 13-14

“Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him.” 1 Peter 3:21-22

In light of this proclamation, does it come as any surprise that these same Christians preached that Jesus is the Lord of all and the Judge of the living and the dead?

“The word which He sent to the sons of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ (HE IS LORD OF ALL)—you yourselves know the thing which took place throughout all Judea, starting from Galilee, after the baptism which John proclaimed. You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. We are witnesses of all the things He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They also put Him to death by hanging Him on a cross. God raised Him up on the third day and granted that He become visible, not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God, that is, to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead. Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.” Acts 10:36-43

To say that these affirmations are astonishing would be a wild understatement, especially when we examine them in light of their OT and Jewish backgrounds which is what we intend to do in the next part of our rebuttal.