Where do we find Jesus in the Old Testament?

Jesus has always existed.  In fact, God created all things through Him.  Therefore, the question arises: Where do we find Jesus in the Old Testament? God is invisible, but was seen in the Old Testament.  To solve this apparent contradiction, this article finds evidence in the Old Testament of two distinct divine beings.

Purpose

Before AbrahamJesus was “before Abraham” (John 8:58).  He existed “before all things” (Col. 1:17).  He is “from the days of eternity” (Micah 5:2).  “He was “in the beginning with God” (John 1:2).  God created all things through Him (John 1:3).  Before He became a human being, Jesus existed in the form of God and had equality with God (Phil. 2:6).  (See Jesus existed prior to His birth in the form of God.)

The question in this series of articles is therefore: Where do we find Jesus in the Old Testament?

Jesus was accurately predicted in the Old Testament.  He was also represented by many symbols and types.  He said that the books of the Old Testament “testify about Me” (John 5:39), and that Moses “wrote about Me” (John 5:46).  After His resurrection, He met two disciples on their way to Emmaus.  ”Beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures” (Luke 24:27; cf. v45; 1 Peter 1:10-12).  But the purpose of this article is not to discuss the predictions or types.  The purpose is to search for His visible appearances in the Old Testament.

Theophany

A visible or audible manifestation of God is called a theophany.  This is a combination of two Greek words; theos (god) and epiphaneia (an appearance).  An appearance of Christ in Old Testament times is similarly called a Christophany.

This article examines some of the appearances God in the Old Testament to discern which ones are actually appearances of Christ.  Dr. John Walvoord, in his book Jesus Christ Our Lord, says, “It is safe to assume that every visible manifestation of God in bodily form in the Old Testament is to be identified with the Lord Jesus Christ” (Walvoord, 54).  God sometimes only speaks.  Other times He appears in visions and dreams, or He appears as a blinding light on in the form of fire.  Walvoord used the words “visible” and “bodily” to exclude visions, dreams and non-bodily appearances.  But that does not mean that Jesus did not appear in visions, dreams, or in other non-bodily forms, such as a pillar of fire.  In Daniel 7 the Son of Man (Jesus), was seen in a vision.

Is the God of the Old Testament severe?

The FloodMany think of the God of the Old Testament is harsh.  He, for example, expelled Adam from the Garden of Eden for eating the forbidden fruit, destroyed the earth with a flood, sent plagues on ancient Egypt, instructed Israel to kill all inhabitants in Canaan and punished Israel through captivity by foreign nations.

Jesus, on the other hand, is merciful.  He taught love towards enemies.  He healed multitudes, held children in His arms and voluntary gave His life to save us.

But if it can be shown that Jesus is the God of the Old Testament, who destroyed almost the entire human population through the flood, then we must reconsider our views of the God of the Old Testament.

YHVH and Elohim

In this study the words YHVH and Elohim are important.

God’s Name is YHVH.

YHVH (pronounced Yahweh or Jehovah or Yhovah) is the most common transliteration of the Hebrew name of God.  It is the proper name of the God of Israel, similar to the names Peter, John and James.

The name YHVH appears 6,668 times in the Hebrew Scriptures.  Most English translations render YHVH as “the LORD” — all capital letters.  But “lord,” in normal English, is not a name; it is a title.  To translate God’s name as “LORD” distorts its meaning.  For instance, consider the following statement:

 “I am the LORD; and I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name, LORD, I did not make Myself known to them” (Ex. 6:2-3).

This statement says that the LORD revealed His name to Moses. But it is not clear what His name is.  However, if we replace “the LORD” with “YHVH,” then it reads,

I am the YHVH; and I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name, YHVH, I did not make Myself known to them” (Ex. 6:2-3).

Now it is clear what God’s name is: It is YHVH.  As standard practice, this article uses the NASB, but all instances of “the LORD” have been replaced with “YHVH.”  For instance:

Thus says God YHVH, Who created the heavens … Who spread out the earth … Who gives breath to the people on it … ‘I am YHVH … I will also hold You by the hand and watch over You, …  I am YHVH, that is My name‘”(Is. 42:5-8).

God’s name YHVH never appears in the New Testament.

God’s Title

Elohim (gods) is the plural form of el (god).  False gods are also described as el or elohim, but false gods are never called YHVH.  Although Elohim is plural, when referring to the true God, it is commonly translated as “God” (singular).

God is invisible.

John revealed something which must have been a surprise to the first Jewish believers:

No one has seen God at any time” (John 1:18; 1 John 4:12).

Not that anyone has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father” (John 6:46).

 image of the invisible GodNote that the title “God” is used here for the Father only, and excludes Jesus.  Paul confirmed that the only God is invisible:

The King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God” (1 Tim. 1:17)

who alone possesses immortality and dwells in inapproachable light whom no man has seen or can see” (1 Timothy 6:16).

Jesus “is the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15).

God not only has never been seen; He is “invisible” (Col. 1:15).  He cannot be seen (1 Tim. 6:16).  He exists outside space, time and matter.

These statements draw a distinction between God, who is invisible, and Jesus, who is visible.  For a discussion of this challenge to the divinity of Christ, see Jesus is not the same Person as God.

Face to face

But then, how are we to explain the numerous Old Testament Scriptures that God spoke face-to-face with humans?

YHVH used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend” (Ex. 33:11).  But still Moses found it necessary to ask God, “I pray You, show me Your glory!” (v18).  To which YHVH responded, “You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live” (v20).

Moses said to Israel, “YHVH spoke to you face to face at the mountain from the midst of the fire” (Deut. 5:4).  But he also said “YHVH spoke to you from the midst of the fire; you heard the sound of words, but you saw no form—only a voice” (Deut. 4:12).  “Moses went up with Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and they saw the God of Israel … they saw God … at a distance” (Ex. 24:9-11).

Face to face” therefore does not mean literally face to face. It must rather be understood in a sense of a direct interaction.

Similarly, in Numbers 14:14, we read, “You, YHVH, are seen eye to eye, while Your cloud stands over them; and You go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night”.  In this verse the expression “eye to eye” means that Israel saw the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night.  There was no literal “eye to eye” interaction with God.

But God was seen.

The claim of the apostles, that God is invisible, would have been a surprise to the first Jewish Christians because they knew that God was seen.

Adam and Eve

They heard the sound of YHVH God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of YHVH God among the trees” (Gen. 3:8).

It does not explicitly say that they saw Him, but that is a fair assumption.

Abraham in Genesis 18

In Genesis 18 YHVH appeared to Abraham.  Verse 1 serves as introduction, and simply says that “Now YHVH appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, while he was sitting at the tent door in the heat of the day.

Abraham's three visitorsVerses 2 to 8 elaborates to tell the story of how three men appeared to Abraham.  He welcomed them and served them food, and “they ate” (v8).  These verses do not specifically mention YHVH, but verses 13 to 22 identify one of the three men as YHVH (vv 13, 17, 19, 20, 22).  This means that YHVH looked like and ate like a human being.

YHVH promised Abraham that Sarah will have a son (vv9-15 ).   He also said, referring to Abraham, “I have chosen him” (v19).  This confirms that this is God speaking.

In verse 22 “the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, while Abraham was still standing before YHVH.”  Since “two angels came to Sodom in the evening” (19:1), “the men” in 18:22 were “two angels.

In verses 23 to 33 Abraham negotiates with YHVH about “Sodom and Gomorrah” (v20).  In this section the writer of Genesis twice refers to the One speaking with Abraham as YHVH (vv 26, 33).  Once Abraham refers to Him as the “Judge of all the earth” (v25).

Jacob

Jacob wrestled all night with “a man” (Genesis 32:24-25), but the following indicate that this “man” was actually God, appearing in the form of a man:

(A)  Just before daybreak the “Man” finally disabled Jacob.  He told Jacob “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed” (verse 28).  The next morning Jacob understood that it was God Himself whom he had wrestled: “So Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said, ‘I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved’” (v30).

(B)  While still wrestling, Jacob asked the “Man,” “Please tell me your name.”  The “Man” said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” (v29).  Many years later YHVH said to Moses, “I am YHVH; and I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name, YHVH, I did not make Myself known to them” (Ex. 6:2-3).

(C)  Hosea 12 reflected on to this incident as follows: “In his maturity he contended with God. Yes, he wrestled with the angel and prevailed”.  (“The angel” probably refers to the angel of YHVH, discussed below.”

Moses

If there is a prophet among you, I, YHVH, shall make Myself known to him in a vision. I shall speak with him in a dream. Not so, with My servant Moses … he beholds the form of YHVH.”  (Numbers 12:6)

To explain this statement, it is proposed that the appearances of God be divided into at least three categories:

Daniel the prophet
Daniel the prophet

Visions: Sometimes God is seen in visions and dreams.  Isaiahsaw the Lord sitting on a throne” (Is. 6:1), but only in vision (Is. 1:1).  Ezekiel saw “something resembling a throne … and on that which resembled a throne, high up, was a figure with the appearance of a man” (1:26), but only in “visions” (1:1).  Daniel saw “the Ancient of Days” (7:9), but only in a dream (7:1).  John saw “One sitting on the throne” (Rev. 4:2), but only “in the Spirit” (1:10).  In these cases God gave images directly to the brains of the individuals; by-passing their physical eyes.

Human form: Sometimes YHVH appears in human form, visible to physical eyes, for instance to Adam, to Abraham and to Isaac.

Form of YHVH: Sometimes God appears in the form of God, but visible to physical eyes.  However, according to Numbers 12:6, Moses was the only one who ever saw YHVH with His physical eyes.  YHVH made it a specific point of not letting other people see any form of Him.  But even Moses, “cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live” (Ex. 33:20).  Moses only saw a form.

Conclusion

Adam and Eve saw YHVH God.  YHVH appeared to Abraham in the form of a man.  Jacob wrestled all night with God, appearing in the form of a man.  Moses saw YHVH, appearing in the form of God.  But the NT tells us that “No one has seen God at any time” (John 1:18).  Even Moses did not see God, because God cannot be seen.  Who then appeared to Adam, Abraham, Isaac and Moses?  Was Jesus the YHVH of the Old Testament?  Jesus existed in the form of God (Phil. 2:6).  Was that the form which Moses saw?

Two divine beings

To solve this apparent contradiction, that God is invisible, but was seen, we note that the Old Testament implies two distinct divine beings.

Let Us make man.

Let Us make ManThe Book of Genesis contains three passages in which “Us” and “Our” are used in reference to God, implying more than one divine being:

And God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness’” (Gen. 1:26).

And YHVH God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to decide good and evil’” (Gen. 3:22).

And YHVH said … ‘Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language…’” (Gen. 11:6-7).

The title “God” in these verses translates Elohim, which literally means “gods” (plural).

Angels

Some explain the plural pronouns (Us and Our) as the Deity conferring with his angels; a single God and His angelic host.  However, angels do not have the power to create, took no part in man’s creation, and were therefore not part of the “Us” of Genesis 1:26.

Figure of speech

Others claim that such plural pronouns for God are only a figure of speech.  But what justification do we have for taking the text as symbolic?  In Genesis 11:4 the men of Babel said, “let us build us a city … let us establish a name.”  If that was literal, why would YHVH’s invitation, just three verses later, “let Us go down,” be symbolic?  As a general rule of interpretation, when a word or term is used more than once by the same writer in the same context, it should be interpreted in a parallel manner.

Plural of majesty

A third theory is that the “Us” passages of Genesis, and the use of the plural Elohim for God, are examples of the plural of majesty; a royal style of speech.  It is argued that the plural is used for the singular to show honor to God.  However, one of the keys to Bible interpretation is that we must allow the New Testament to interpret the Older Testament:

Jesus Created: John and Paul made it clear that God created all things through Jesus Christ (Col. 1:16; John 1:3; Heb. 1:2; 1 Cor. 8:6).  This is strong evidence that the Father and the Son were the “Us” who created Genesis 1:26.

Jesus spoke of God and Himself as “Us”:  In John 17 Jesus seems to explain the “Us” of Genesis.  Here Christ prays the Father to bless His disciples; “that they also may be in Us” (John 17:20-21).  If Jesus was not who He said He was, this would have been a most arrogant statement; to talk about the Father and Himself as “Us”.

Conclusion: When God said, Let Us make man in Our image” (Gen 1:26), He included the One who later became the man Jesus.

Zechariah

ZechariahThis conclusion is supported by Zechariah’s visions.  In these visions we find two distinct Beings, namely:

YHVH of hosts: To simplify the narrative below, He is referred to as YHVH.

The Angel of YHVH: The word “angel” translates the Hebrew word malak, which means “messenger.”  To simplify the narrative below, He is referred to as “the Messenger”.

In Zechariah’s visions the Messenger is called YHVH, and He acts as Judge, but He is subordinate to YHVH:

Zechariah “saw at night, and behold, a man was riding on a red horse, and he was standing among the myrtle trees which were in the ravine, with red, sorrel and white horses behind him” (Zech. 1:8).

This “man” is identified as the Messenger (the Angel of YHVH) in verse 11.  The patrol reports back to the Messenger, saying, “we have patrolled the earth, and behold, all the earth is peaceful and quiet” (1:11).  The Messenger is therefore the captain of this supernatural patrol.

The Messenger then asks YHVH, “how long will You have no compassion for Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, with which You have been indignant these seventy years” (v12)?  This implies that the Messenger is subordinate to YHVH.  YHVH is the One that makes the decisions.

In another vision Zechariah saw “Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of YHVH, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him” (3:1).  Now it becomes clear that this Messenger is no normal angel, for He is called “YHVH” (3:2).  He acts as Judge, rebukes Satan and forgives Joshua his sins (3:2-3).

The Messenger then conveys a message from YHVH (3:6-7).  This confirms the distinction between the Messenger and YHVH.  It also confirms that, although the Messenger is called YHVH, He is subordinate to YHVH.  This is also indicated by His title; Messenger of YHVH.

Conclusion:  These visions confirm that there are two distinct divine beings.  What Zechariah adds are the following:

(1) To identify them as the angel of YHVH (the Messenger) and YHVH of hosts (YHVH);
(2) That the angel of YHVH is subordinate to YHVH of hosts.

It will later be argued, when we address the question, Where do we find Jesus in the Old Testament in more detail,  that the Messenger of YHVH is the One who John called “the Word” (John 1:1) or “the Word of God” (Rev. 19:13).

Psalm 110

Psalm 110:1 reads:

YHVH says to my Lord (Adonay): ‘Sit at My right hand Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.’

Verse 5 of Psalm 110 continues,

The Lord (Adonay) is at Your right hand; He will shatter kings in the day of His wrath.

However, verse 5, as originally written, did not read Adonay.  The monotheistic scribes anciently altered the word from YHVH to Adonay.  Appendix 32 of the Companion Bible lists the 134 passages where the scribes altered YHVH to Adonay.  This includes Psalm 110:5.  They probably did this probably for the following reasons:

(1) It does not seem right that there are two called YHVH.
(2) The relevant individual was called Adonay (Lord) in verse 1.

Strangely enough, even although modern translators know that the text was changed, they still keep to the revised text.

Conclusion: Psalm 110:5 originally had YHVH at the right hand of YHVH, implying two that are called YHVH.  The YHVH sitting “at My right hand” is subordinate to the other.

Malachi 3

In Malachi 3:1 YHVH of hosts says, “the Lord (Adon), whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming.

This “Lord” is also YHVH, for the following reasons:

(1) The title “Lord” occurs eight times in the Old Testament with the definite article, but always, except here, with YHVH following it (Ex. 23:17; 34:23; Is. 1:24; 3:1; 10:16; 10:33; 19:4.

(2) He comes “to his temple.”  But the temple is God’s.

(3) In the previous verse the people asked, “Where is the God of justice?” (2:17)  As also indicated by the first word “behold,” 3:1 responds to this question by saying “the Lord whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple.

Conclusions:
(A)
There are two divine beings, namely YHVH of hosts and the Adon who “will suddenly come to His temple.
(C)Messenger” is the same word malak that is translated “angel” in the phrase “angel of YHVH.”  It is therefore proposed that “the messenger of the covenant” (Mal. 3:1) is the angel of YHVH.
(B) Since He is called a “messenger,” He is not the source of the message, but subordinate to YHVH of hosts.

Summary of the article

Jesus always existed.  In fact, God created all things through Him.  Therefore, the question arises: Where do we find Jesus in the Old Testament?

God is invisible, but was seen in the Old Testament.  To respond to this apparent contradiction, this article finds evidence in the Old Testament of two distinct divine beings.  For instance:

God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness” (Gen. 1:26).

In Zechariah’s visionthe angel of YHVH” is called YHVH, which is the personal name of God.  He also does God’s work, for He acts as Judge, rebukes Satan and forgives Joshua his sins.  But He is subordinate to “YHVH of hosts,” for He puts a question to “YHVH of hosts” and brings a message from “YHVH of hosts.

Psalm 110, in the original text, had one YHVH sitting at the right hand of another YHVH.  But the YHVH sitting “at My right hand” is logically subordinate to the other.

Malachi 3:1 promises that “the Lord” “will suddenly come to His temple.”  He is therefore God, but it is “YHVH of hosts” who makes this promise.  This implies two who are called YHVH.  But the promised Lord is called the “messenger of the covenant,” which means He is subordinate to YHVH of hosts.

Zechariah identified the two divine beings as “the angel of YHVH” and “YHVH of hosts.”  The next article discusses “the angel of YHVH,” and provides further evidence that He is God.

In the Bible Jesus is sometimes called God. Does that mean that Jesus is God?

This is an article in the series, “Is Jesus God?”  Previous articles have shown:

That Jesus has always existed,
That God created all things through Jesus,
That Jesus has equality with God,
That Jesus is God’s only true family and
That we must worship Jesus to the glory of God.

But it was also found that, in the New Testament, “God” is a name for the Father exclusively.  If “God” is used for the Father only, then Jesus is not God.  On the other hand, in the NASB translation of the New Testament, Jesus is called God seven times.  The purpose of the current article is to determine what the New Testament writers meant when they wrote that Jesus is God.  This topic is very sensitive and emotional.  People are polarized on the two sides of this argument; but often due to a lack of knowledge.  This article seeks a solution which will reconcile the seemingly contradictory statements.

God’s name is YHVH.

To understand the meaning of the term “God,” first consider the Old Testament.  In the Hebrew Old Testament, the God of Israel has a unique name that is not used for any other being.  That name is YHVH, pronounced as Jehovah or Yahweh.  This name is used all over the Old Testament.  It is used more than 6800 times.  Some Bible translations translate YHVH as Yahweh or Jehovah, for instance:

That men may know that thou, whose name alone is JEHOVAH, art the most high over all the earth” (Psalms 83:18, KJV).

But it is most often translated as “the LORD” (capital letters).  The same verse in the NASB reads as follows:

“That they may know that You alone, whose name is the LORD, Are the Most High over all the earth.”

Note that YHVH is here called “Most High.”  “Most High” is one of the well-known names for YHVH.  The angel said to Mary, that Jesus “will be called the Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:32).

God said to Moses:

I am the LORD; and I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name, LORD, I did not make Myself known to them” (Ex. 6:2).

This is actually a bit confusing, because “Lord” is a title; not a name.  It is easier to understand this verse when “the LORD” is replaced with the name “YHVH:”

I am YHVH; and I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name, YHVH, I did not make Myself known to them.”

Therefore, the first time that God made His name (YHVH) known, was to Moses.  This name appears in Genesis only because Moses also wrote the first five books of the Bible.

God” is a general title.

God” (generally El or Elohim in Hebrew), in contrast to YHVH, is used both for the true God and for false gods.  “God” is even used for angels and exalted people.  The NASB therefore translates Elohim 45 times as “god” and 204 times as “gods,” and occasionally also as divine, divine being, exceedingly, God’s, goddess, godly, great, judges, mighty, rulers and shrine.  For example:

The True God – “A jealous and avenging God is the LORD” (Nahum 1:2).

False gods – “For My people have forgotten Me, They burn incense to worthless gods” (Jer. 18:15).  (The word translated “gods” here is Elohim; exactly the same word elsewhere translated “God.”)
This people has committed a great sin, and they have made a god of gold for themselves” (Ex. 32:31)
You shall have no other gods before Me” (Ex. 20:3).

The princes of Egypt “For I will pass through the land of Egypt … and on all the gods [elohim] of Egypt [the princes] I will execute judgments: I am the Lord” (Ex. 12:12).

Judges – The judges appointed by Moses were called gods: “Then his master shall bring him unto the judges [elohim]” (Ex. 21:6, KJV; also see Ex. 22:8-9, 28).

Abraham – The Hittites called Abraham a “mighty [elohim] prince” (Gen. 23:6).

Techniques to make the title “God” specific

Since the title “god” is non-specific, the Old Testament uses various techniques to be specific when the true God is intended.

Combine with YHVH

Often the title “God” is combined with YHVH:

The LORD God” (YHVH Elohim) is found more than 200 times in the NASB, for instance, “the day that the LORD God made earth and heaven” (Gen. 2:4).

The LORD, the God” – about 50 times;

The LORD your God” – about 200 times; For instance, “Then the LORD spoke again to Ahaz, saying ’Ask a sign for yourself from the LORD your God’” (Is. 7:10)

The LORD his God,” for instance, “When a leader sins and unintentionally does any one of all the things which the LORD his God …” (Lev. 4:22)

The LORD my God,” for instance, “I (Daniel) prayed to the LORD my God” (Dan. 9:4)

The LORD our God,” for instance “We have sinned against the LORD our God” (Jer. 3:25) (54 times)

The LORD their God,” for instance, “I am the LORD their God” (Ex 29:46). (12 times)

YHVH in the immediately context

When “God” is not combined with YHVH, YHVH is often used in the immediately context, so that it is still clear that “God” refers to YHVH, for instance:

So the LORD changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people. Then Moses turned and went down from the mountain with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand, tablets which were written on both sides; they were written on one side and the other. The tablets were God’s work, and the writing was God’s writing engraved on the tablets.” (Ex. 32:14-16)

Jonah 4:6 “The LORD God appointed a plant and it grew up over Jonah … 7 But God appointed a worm when dawn came the next day and it attacked the plant and it withered. 8 When the sun came up God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on Jonah’s head so that he became faint and begged with all his soul to die, saying, “Death is better to me than life.” 9 Then God said to Jonah …” (Jonah 4:6-9)

Other techniques

The Old Testament also uses other techniques to ensure that the reader understands that the true God is intended, include:

The phrase “God of Israel” is found more than 60 times, for instance, “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel” (Jer. 19:15).  The phrase “God of Israel” makes a distinction between YHVH and the false gods of the surrounding nations, for instance, “Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going to inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron?” (2 King 1:3-4).

The phrase “God Almighty” is found 5 times, for example, Jacob said to Joseph, “God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan” (Gen 48:3).

Many times God is identified as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (e.g. Gen 32:9).

“God” is not a name.

It is difficult to find a place in the Old Testament where the term “God” is used for YHVH without further identification.  The name YHVH seems to be always somewhere in the context.

In other words, the term “God” is not used in the Old Testament as a unique identifier or as a name for the God of the Bible.  What is interesting is that the translators of the Old Testament inserted the term “God” as a unique identifier for the God of the Bible.  For instance:

They gave Psalm 12 the title “God, a Helper against the Treacherous,” but the psalm does not mention “God,” but rather the name YHVH (LORD); nearly in every verse.

They gave Habakkuk 2 a title “God Answers the Prophet,” but verse 2 reads “the LORD answered me and said.”

In other words, in modern English “God” has become a unique identifier for the true God, but this was not how the term was used in the Old Testament.

Conclusion: To ask, in Old Testament times, whether Jesus is God, would have been an anachronism, for it uses the term God” in the modern sense.  This question would have made no sense, for the term “God,” by itself, at that time, did not identify any specific being uniquely.  One would have had to be more specific, such as to ask whether Jesus is YHVH, or whether Jesus is the God of Israel.

The New Testament uses “God” as a name.

The discussion above focused on the Old Testament.  We now shift our attention to the New Testament.  The Hebrew name YHVH, which is found all over the Old Testament, does not appear at all in the New, which has been written in Greek.  Instead, the NT uses the term “God” (theos) as a name for the One True God, with no further identification.  To mention a few examples from the first chapters of the NT:

God warned the magi in a dream not to return to Herod” (Mt. 2:11).
God warned Joseph to leave for the regions of Galilee” (Mt. 2:22).
From these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham” (Mt. 3:9).
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Mt. 5:8)

It is this understanding of the term “God,” namely as a name for the true God, which the translators took to the Old Testament.  Of the 1314 times that theos appears in the New Testament, the NASB translates it 1267 times as “God,” but the following examples confirm that, similar to elohim, theos is a common noun that is also applied to false gods and to created beings:

Satan – Satan is called: “the god [theos] of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4).

Herod – When Herod took his seat upon the throne, the crowd shouted, “The voice of a god and not of a man!” (Acts 12:21-22) “And immediately an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and died” (v23).

Believers – After Jesus told the Jews who He is, the Jews became very angry and wanted to stone Him, “because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God” (John 10:33).  In defense Jesus said: “In your own Law (quoting from Psalms 82:6) it says that men are gods (theos)” (v34).  In the next verse He explains that “to whom the word of God came”, are called “gods” (theos – v35).

Strong’s concordance similarly defines theos as (a) God, (b) a god, generally.  The NASB translates theos 6 times as “god” and 8 times as “gods.”

Conclusion: The term “God,” in the New Testament, has a double meaning.  In the vast majority of instances it is used as a name for the true God, with no further identification.  But occasionally it is also used as a common noun for false gods and even people.

Jesus is called God.

Of the 1314 times that the title “God” appears in the New Testament, seven refers explicitly to Jesus.  Jesus is called “God” three times in John (1:1, 18; 20:27), twice in Paul’s letters (Romans 9:5; Titus 2:13), once by Peter and once in Hebrews (1:8).  This, by itself, does not prove that Jesus is the same as or equal to the Only True and invisible God (John 17:3; Col. 1:15), because “god” is also used for false gods and for exalted created beings, and because Jesus is referred to as “God” in only seven instances.  Furthermore:

 The NT reserves “God” as a name for the Father exclusively.

In a separate article it was shown, from the occurrences of “God” in the New Testament that do provide further identification, that the New Testament consistently and clearly draws a distinction between God and Jesus.  For example:

Paul refers to “God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 1:7). 

Revelation states. “I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple” (Rev. 21:22). 

John wrote of “the only true God, and Jesus Christ” (John 17:3). 

That article therefore concludes that the New Testament reserves the title “God” for the Father exclusively.  With that use of the term “God,” Jesus is not God.

Another article confirms that Jesus is not God by showing that Jesus is subordinate to God.  For instance, God is the Head of Christ (1 Cor. 11:3) and Christ sits at God’s right hand.  Everything that His Son has, He has received from His Father.  This includes:

His ability to raise the dead: ”Just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself” (John 5:26)

His authority to judge: “The Father … gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man” (John 5:27).

His teachings: “My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me” (John 7:16).

The Fullness of Deity: “It was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in him” (Colossians 1:19; cf. 2:9).

His glory: “My glory which You have given Me” (John 17:24)

We must use the title “God” in the same way that the Bible does.  If we define the title “God” as referring to the Father exclusively, then Jesus is not God.

God in Romans

To confirm this conclusion, the references to “God” in the letter to the Romans, which provides further identification, were analyzed.  Fourteen occurrences were found.  The following distinguish between God and Jesus:

God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 1:7) /
The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 15:6)

We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:1) /
We shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him (Rom. 5:9) /
We were reconciled to God through the death of His Son (Rom. 5:10).

I thank my God through Jesus Christ (Rom 1:8) /
Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Rom. 7:25) /
To the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever (Rom. 16:27).

God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus (Rom 2:16)

The life that He (Christ now) lives, He lives to God (Rom. 6:10) /
Christ Jesus … who is at the right hand of God (Rom. 8:34)

God sent His Son and God publicly displayed Jesus:

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith (Rom. 3:23-25) /
For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh (Rom. 8:3)

One verse was found which might refer to Jesus as God, but it might also mean that God blessed Jesus:

Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever (Rom. 9:5)

Verses that refer to Jesus as God are discussed in more detail below.

Conclusions from Romans

Firstly, of the fourteen verses in Romans that provide further identification, thirteen make a distinction between God and Jesus.  One verse possibly refers to Jesus as God (9:5).  It is proposed that this is true of the entire New Testament, namely that for every reference to Jesus as “God,” we find more than ten that make a distinction between Jesus and God.  Therefore, generally, the title “God” refers to God the Father exclusively.

Secondly, in Romans Paul only twice uses the title “Father”; right in the beginning and at the end of the letter (1:7; 15:6).  His habit was to use “God” to refer to the Father.

Thirdly, the word “through” is found in 8 of the 14 verses.  This is a surprisingly high number and it helps to explain the relationship between God and Jesus, namely that everything which God did or does, He did or does through Jesus, including creation of all things.  We even worship God through Jesus.

We will now discuss the instances, where Jesus is called God, in more detail:

Paul

Paul referred to Jesus as God twice in his writings:

The Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever” (Rom. 9:5);
Our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession” (Titus 2:13).

But Paul also maintained a clear and consistent distinction between God and Jesus, for instance:

There is but one God, the Father … and one Lord, Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 8:6)
I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 6:13).

Peter

Peter described Jesus as “our God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:1).  But in the very next verse Peter makes a distinction between God and Jesus:

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord” (2 Peter 1:2).

We see the same distinction between God and Jesus in Peter’s statement a few verses later, “Lord Jesus Christ … received honor and glory from God the Father” (2 Peter 1:16-17).

Hebrews

God says of “the Son”: “Your throneO God, is forever and ever” (Heb. 1:8).  But the very next verse reads, “God, your God, has anointed you”.  In other words, God is the God also of “the Son”.

This entire passage is a quote from Psalm 82, where the king is called “God” (v6), saying “God, Your God, has anointed You” (v7). This shows again that people are sometimes called “god”.  Hebrews, under inspiration, applies this to Jesus.  But the point remains; although Jesus is called God, God is also His God.  This statement does not make Him the same as or equal to God.

Thomas

When Jesus showed him His wounds, the doubting Thomas realized that the One standing in front of him is the risen Lord, and he exclaimed:

My Lord and my God” (John 20:28).

However, just a minute before Thomas did not even believe that Jesus was resurrected.  He had no idea of the profound concepts that God would later reveal to John, which we read of in His gospel.  It is unthinkable that Thomas, at that moment, thought of Jesus as the same as or equal to the Only True and invisible God (John 17:3; Col. 1:15).

The Word was God (John 1)

John 1:1 is the best known “proof” that Jesus is God.  John 1:18 is similar to John 1:1.  These two verses are therefore discussed together:

Jesus is distinct from God.

Both verses start by making a distinction between God and Jesus:

John 1:1 refers to Jesus as the Word (see verse 14).  It starts by saying, “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God.”  Since Jesus was “with God,” He is distinct from God.

John 1:18 starts by saying that “No one has seen God at any time.”  Colossians 1:15 also describes God as invisible.  Since God is invisible, while Jesus was seen, Jesus is distinct from God.

But both God and Jesus existed in the infinite “beginning” (1:1) and both therefore are eternal.  This is confirmed by 1:3 which says “All things came into being through Him (the Word), and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being”.  There was no time that “the Word” did not exist, for God created all things through Him; even time itself.

Jesus is God.

Both verses then continue to refer to Jesus as God:

John 1:1 continues to say “and the Word was God.

John 1:18 similarly continues, “the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.”

Conclusions from John 1

Firstly, note that 1:18 identifies the unseen God as the Father.  One of the many similar statements is “I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God” (John 20:17).  This confirms the previous conclusion that the New Testament, in the vast majority of instances, reserves the title “God” for the Father.

Secondly, these phrases refer to Jesus as God, but the same verses also make a distinction between God and Jesus.  These are two different uses of the title “God:”

WHO: In the vast majority of instances the Bible uses “God” as a name for the Father, similar to the name YHVH.  It uniquely identifies the Father.  In this use of the term “God,” Jesus is not God.

WHAT: In the seven instances where Jesus is called “God,” the term “God” is used in a different sense.  It is not used as an identification, but as a description, namely that Jesus is our God.

Note the “our” and “my:”  Both Paul and Peter wrote, “Our great God … Christ Jesus” (Titus 2:13; 2 Peter 1:1).  Thomas said “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28).  In other words, although Jesus is not the God, but He is our God.

When the New Testament refers to Jesus as God, then the NT reverts back to the common meaning of the word “god.” Other people have other gods, but Jesus is our God.  This does not mean that He is God, for the title “God” is reserved for the Father, “who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see” (1 Tim. 6:16).

Why is He our God?

To discover why the writers of the New Testament declared Jesus to be our God, we must read the seven verses where He is called God.  Then we find that Jesus is our God because:

He was in the beginning with God and that God created all things through Jesus (1:1-3; Heb. 1:10).  Although everything may perish, Jesus will always remain and will always remain the same (1:11-12).  He is the only One who is able to explain God, who cannot be seen (John 1:18).  He rose from the dead (John 20:28) and He is “over all” (Rom. 9:5).  He is “Savior” who “gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession” (Titus 2:13; 2 Peter 1:1).

Is Jesus God?

This is a bad question, unless we define what we mean by “God.”  The New Testament reserves the title “God” for the uncaused Cause of all things, who cannot be seen.  Jesus referred to Him as “Father.”  Gabriel referred to Him as the “Most High.”  If we use this meaning for the title “God,” then Jesus is not God.

But in a small number of instances the New Testament refers to Jesus as “God.” These verses use a different meaning of the term “God.” These verses use the common meaning of theos, in which beings other than the uncaused Cause of all things may be called theos.  Other people have other gods, but Jesus is the One that we worship and obey.

This does not mean that Jesus is equal to the uncaused Cause of all things.  Here we depart from mainstream Christianity.

As discussed above, Jesus received everything from the Father.

Jesus is not the Creator of all things, but God created all things through Him.

If we ask whether Jesus always existed, then the answer is yes and no, for we need to understand what the questioner means.  The term “always” assumes time, and time did not always exist.  Time started when this universe was created.  Before time there was no such thing as time.  But we cannot even talk about “before” the creation of the universe.  There is just no such thing.  To talk about what exists outside time is to ask about the One “who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see” (1 Tim. 6:16).  These things are simply beyond human understanding.  But Jesus existed in the “Beginning” (John 1:1).  We can therefore safely assume that Jesus existed from the beginning of time.

Jesus is not co-equal to the Father, but He is our God, for He created us, redeemed us, sustains us, is preparing homes for us, and one day He will return to take us where He is.  Then:

All will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him” (John 5:23).

God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW … to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9:11).