Only God may be worshiped, but in the New Testament Jesus is worshiped.  Does that mean that He is God?

Only God may be worshiped.

God commands us to worship only Him (Ex. 34:14; Deut. 8:19). There has always been one sin which God did not and will not tolerate, and that is worshiping any god other than the Creator.   This is confirmed by the New Testament.  Peter (Acts 10:25–26) and Paul (Acts 14:14–15) both corrected others for trying to worship them.  In the book of Revelation John twice attempted to worship an angel, and each time the angel’s response was:

Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus; worship God” (Revelation 19:10; compare 22:9).

Earlier in Revelation we are told to “worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters” (14:7).  Jesus similarly said to the devil, “You shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only” (Luke 4:8).

Yet, Jesus was worshiped.

Magi from the eastWhen the magi from the east “saw the Child with Mary His mother; … they fell to the ground and worshiped Him (Mt. 2:11).

After He walked on water “those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, ‘You are certainly God’s Son!’” (Mat. 14:28-33).

After His resurrection “His disciples … came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him” (28:8-9).  “The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped Him” (Matthew 28:16-17).

In the KJV there are 13 verses saying that Jesus was worshiped.  (See Worship verses in the New Testament.)

Worship Defined

Cambridge dictionary
Cambridge

The Cambridge dictionary defines worship as “to have or show a strong feeling of respect and admiration for God or a god.”  Merriam-Webster similarly defines it as “reverence offered a divine being or supernatural power.”  In other words, “worship” implies that either God or a false god is the object of worship.  Therefore, if Jesus is worshiped, then these definitions would imply that He is God.

Proskuneó

The Greek word, translated “worship” in the New Testament, is proskuneó.  It occurs in 43 passages.  (See Worship verses in the New Testament.)

In 14 of these passages people and heavenly beings worship God.  In 10 passages people worship idols, the beast or the image of the beast.  These define the legal and illegal forms of worship, as per the Ten Commandments:

Exodus 20:2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 3 “You shall have no other gods before Me.  4 “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. 5 “You shall not worship them or serve them

We also find 13 passages where Jesus receives proskuneó.  The question in this article is whether that means that Jesus is God.

Bow Down

The KJV always translates proskuneó as “worship.”  The NASB, in contrast, translates 6 of the 13 instances, where Jesus receives proskuneó, not as “worship,” but as “bow down.”  The reason is that in these 6 instances it is clear that Jesus was not worshiped, as per the meaning of the English word “worship.”  The following are those six instances:

The leper and Jesus1.There came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean” (Mat 8:2; KJV).

2.There came a certain ruler, and worshipped him, saying, My daughter is even now dead: but come and lay thy hand upon her, and she shall live” (Matt 19:18-19; KJV).

3. A ”Canaanite woman” who had a daughter who was “cruelly demon-possessed.”  She came to Jesus, “and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me” (Mt. 15:25; KJV).

4.Then came to him the mother of Zebedee’s children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him” (Mt. 20:20; KJV).  She asked Jesus that, in His kingdom, her two sons may sit one on His right and one on His left.

5. When a man from the tombs with an unclean spirit “saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him” (Mark 5:1-5; KJV).  When Jesus asked the man his name, he answered, “My name is Legion; for we are many” (Mark 5:1-9; KJV).

6. While taking Him to be crucified, the soldiers spit on Jesus, and mockingly were “bowing their knees worshipped him” (Mark 15:16-19; KJV).

In these six instances, “worship” is clearly not an appropriate translation.  The people merely showed respect to Jesus by bowing down.  The demon-possessed man certainly did not worship Jesus.  For this reason the NASB replaced “worship” in these passages by “bow down.”  Matthew 8:1-2 in the NASB, for instance, reads:

When Jesus came down from the mountain, …
a leper came to Him and
bowed down before Him

Conclusion: The fact that Jesus received proskuneó (worship) does not mean that He is God.

People receive proskuneó.

The word for worship (proskuneó) can therefore merely mean to show respect by bowing down.  We find the same in the following passages where people receive proskuneó.

1. The debtor worships the king.

Matthew 18:26In the first example proskuneó is translated as “prostrated:”

In one of Jesus’ parable a debtor “fell to the ground and prostrated himself” before the king saying, “Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.” (Matt 18:26; NASB).

2. Jews will worship the church.

In the following verse the word proskuneó is translated as “bow down:”

Jesus promised the church in Philadelphia, “I will cause those of the synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—I will make them come and bow down at your feet” (Rev. 3:7-9; NASB).

3. Cornelius worships Jesus.

Cornelius worships PeterIn a vision “an angel of God” told Cornelius to invite Peter to his house (Acts 10:3-5).  When Peter arrived, “Cornelius met him, and fell at his feet and worshiped him” (v25).

This does not mean that Cornelius thought that Peter is God, for Cornelius said, “Now then, we are all here present before God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord” (Acts 10:33).  Worship, again, is not the right translation.  Bow down to show respect would have been more appropriate.

Conclusion

The Greek word proskuneó is therefore not entirely equivalent the English word “worship.”  “Worship” implies God or a god, while proskuneó means to show extreme respect, but it may also be shown to superior human beings.  That Jesus received proskuneó does not prove that He is God.

Jesus is worshiped.

Consider some of the instances where Jesus receives proskuneó, and where the NASB translates proskuneó as “worship:

1. The magi from the east

They “fell to the ground and worshiped” Jesus as a baby (Mt. 2:11).

The magi were looking for “He who has been born King of the Jews” (Mt. 2:2); not for God.  They did think that of Jesus as God.  They gave him honor as the King of the Jews.

2. The disciples, after Jesus walked on water.

Jesus walks on waterThose who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, “You are certainly God’s Son!”” (Mt. 14:32-33)

They did not offer Jesus proskuneó because they thought that He is God.  They said He is God’s Son. The title “the Son of God” is reserved in the New Testament for a specific being.  At His trial the chief priests asked Jesus, “I adjure You by the living God, that You tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of God” (Mt. 26:63).  And the devil said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread” (Mt. 4:3, 6).  Nathanael said, “You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel” (John 1:49).  John called Him, “the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18).  The Father gave the Son of God to have life in Himself (John 5:25-26).  John concluded “these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” (John 20:31).  Believers are sons of God, but the title “the Son of God” refers to a specific being, namely the Christ; Israel’s expected Messiah.  That His disciples confessed Him as “God’s Son” does not mean that they thought He is God; they gave proskuneó because He is the Messiah.

3. Mary Magdalene, after His resurrection.

Matt 28:8 And they (Mary Magdalene and the other Mary) left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and ran to report it to His disciples. 9 And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him.

They “came to look at the grave” (Mt. 28:1).  They did not think of Jesus as God.

4. The man born blind

In John 9 Jesus heals a man that was born blind.  Jesus later made Himself known to the man, and asked him, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”  The man responded, “Lord, I believe.”  Then the man “worshiped Him” with the Pharisees looking on (John 9:35-42).

Probably all the man did was to bow down to Jesus, with the Pharisees looking on.  He did not for a moment think that this was God standing before Him.

5. The angels worship Jesus.

In Hebrews 1:6 we read, “let all the angels of God worship him.

But who gave this instruction?  The first word of the letter to the Hebrews is “God.”  Verse 2 shifts the focus to “the Son.”  Verse 6 starts with the words, “when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says.”  It is therefore God who said, “let all the angels of God worship him.”  That means that Jesus is not God.

Conclusion

The thesis which we want to test is that Jesus is God because He received proskuneó from people and angels:

Firstly, above 6 instances were listed where Jesus received proskuneó, but the NASB translates proskuneó as to bow down.

Secondly, 3 instances were listed where people receive proskuneó, and it was argued that it only means to show respect.

Thirdly, in the current section four instances are discussed where Jesus received proskuneó, and the NASB translates proskuneó as “worship,” but in these instances Jesus was not worshiped as God.

It is therefore concluded that the fact that Jesus received proskuneó does not mean that He is God.  The reverse is probably true, namely that the translators translate proskuneó as “worship” because they believe that Jesus is God.

Dictionary definition of proskuneó

The conclusion above is based on how proskuneó is used in the New Testament, but it is confirmed by the dictionary definition of the Greek word proskuneó (Strong 4352).  Proskuneó is defined as follows:

Strong's concordanceStrong’s: “To do reverence to” (Synonyms for reverence is to show respect, admiration or to worship.)

HELPS Word-studies: to kiss the ground when prostrating before a superior; to worship, ready “to fall down/prostrate oneself to adore on one’s knees” (DNTT); to “do obeisance” (BAGD).

“The basic meaning of 4352 (proskynéō), in the opinion of most scholars, is to kiss …. On Egyptian reliefs worshipers are represented with outstretched hand throwing a kiss to (pros-) the deity” (DNTT, 2, 875,876).

NAS Exhaustive Concordance: to do reverence to

Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance: From pros and a probable derivative of kuon (meaning to kiss, like a dog licking his master’s hand); to fawn or crouch to, i.e. (literally or figuratively) prostrate oneself in homage (do reverence to, adore) — worship.

Conclusion

There is a marked difference between the meaning of the English word “worship” and the Greek word proskuneó.  “Worship” implies that God or a god is revered, but any superior person can be given proskuneó.  To say that Jesus received proskuneó therefore does not prove that He is God.

Furthermore, above 11 of the 13 passages, in which Jesus receives proskuneó, are discussed, and we have found good evidence that the fact that Jesus received proskuneó does not mean that Jesus in God.  It is therefore proposed that the same applies to the remaining two brief passages:

After His resurrection “the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful” (Mt. 28:16-17).

At His ascension “He parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they, after worshiping Him, returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple praising God” (Luke 24:51-52):

Based on the findings above it is proposed that, in these two passages, proskuneó must be understood simply as that Jesus is shown the highest honor possible, without implying that He is God.

Eyes to the ground

Another difference between “worship” and proskuneó is that the Cambridge dictionary defines worship as “a strong feeling,” while proskuneó is an external physical activity, as indicated by the following:

Firstly, as discussed, many times the NASB translates proskuneó as “bow down” (Mt. 8:1-2; 9:18-19; 15:25; 20:20).

Secondly, in the Bible, God was worshiped at a certain place.  Paul “went up to Jerusalem to worship” (Acts 24:11).  The Ethiopian eunuch had come to Jerusalem to worship (Acts 8:27).  John was to “measure the temple of God and the altar, and those who worship in it” (Rev. 11:1).  This perhaps implies that worship was a ceremonial activity.

Thirdly, proskuneó is often used together with falling to the ground

Fell to the ground and worshiped Him” (Mt. 2:11)
Fell to the ground and prostrated himself” (Mt. 18:26);
Fall down and worship” (Mt. 4:9; 4:10; 5:14; Rev 19:4; 22:8).
Took hold of His feet and worshiped Him” (Mt. 28:8-9).
Kneeling and bowing before Him” (Mark 15:16-19).
Fell at his feet and worshiped” (Acts 10:25; Rev. 19:10).
Fall on his face and worship” (1 Cor. 14: 26; Rev. 7:11; 11:16)

proskuneóThe strong connection between proskuneó and falling down implies that proskuneó is a physical act of showing respect.  It is proposed here that proskuneó means to cast the eyes down to the ground.  This can be done while bowing the upper body, or by kneeling or by prostrating on the ground.

It is proposed above that proskuneó means to cast your eyes down to the ground before a superior person as a sign of respect.  It can be done by bowing .

Even as they honor the Father

Philippians 2:9-11 reads:

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, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

The phrase “every knee will bow” does not contain the word proskuneó, but is similar in meaning.

It is God Who gave Jesus “the name which is above every name.”  This confirms that Jesus is not God and that Jesus is subordinate to God.  As usual in the New Testament, the title God is used in these verses exclusively for the “Most High,” who Jesus referred to as His “Father.”

Furthermore, every knee will bow to Jesus “to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9-11).   To worship Jesus is to worship God.  This is discussed in the article Jesus in Philippians, where it was concluded that Jesus is the link between God and the universe.  Through Jesus all creative and sustaining power flows from God to the creation, and through Jesus the worship of the universe flows to the invisible God.  By giving honor to Jesus, we give honor to “God the Father.”  Conversely, if we do not honor Jesus, we do not honor God:

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).

Although He is not God, that we must honor Him equal to God.  In our admiration and worship we must not distinguish between God and His Son.

Heavenly beings worship Jesus.

We see how the Son is honored in Revelation.  Revelation 5 describes events in heaven when Jesus arrived in heaven at His ascension (see Introduction to the Seven Seals).  In that chapter heavenly beings worship Jesus:

The “four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb (Jesus see John 1:29), each one holding … golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints” (Rev. 5:8-9).

The word “worship” (proskuneó) does not appear in this quote, but, as discussed, “fell down” is often associated with proskuneó.  The Lamb (Jesus) therefore here receives proskuneó (reverence) from the 4 living creatures and the 24 elders.

Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.’” (5:11-12)

God commanded all angels to worship His Son (Hebrews 1:6).  Here they do it.  In these verses Jesus receives honor, but in the next quote God and the Lamb receive honor together:

Then John heard “every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them … saying, ‘To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever’.  And the four living creatures kept saying, “Amen.” And the elders fell down and worshiped” (5:13-14).

Note the words, “every created thing.”  This confirms that Jesus was not created.

Jesus said that the Father and Son will receive equal honor (John 5:23).  Here “every created thing” bring equal honor to Him who sits on the throne (the Most High) and to the Lamb.

Summary

The Bible teaches that only God may be worshiped: “You shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only” (Luke 4:8). But in the King James translation there are 13 verses in which Jesus is worshiped.  The question in this article is whether this means that Jesus is God.

Most Christians will argue that Jesus is worshiped because He is co-equal with the Father, but the Bible maintains a clear distinction between God and Jesus (see Jesus is not God).  The Bible also teaches that Jesus is subordinate to God (see God is the Head of Christ.

Gabriel said to Mary that Jesus will be called the Son of the Most High.  When the New Testament uses the title God, 99% of the time it refers to the Most High.  In this usage of the title “God,” Jesus is not God.

But then the question remains, why is Jesus worshiped?

Worship versus Proskuneó

The conclusion in this article is that “worship” is not a good translation for the underlying Greek word proskuneó: “Worship” implies a relationship with God or a god, while proskuneó often simply means to show respect to another created being.

1. In the New Testament (NASB) proskuneó is therefore often translated as “bow down.”  In these instances it is clear that Jesus was not worshiped, as per the meaning of the English word “worship:” People merely showed respect to Jesus by bowing down.

2. In other instances the NASB translates proskuneó as “worship,” but there often are clear indications in the text that the people or angels who gave Jesus proskuneó did not think of Him as God.

3. There are also instances in the New Testament where people receive proskuneó.

Proskuneó is therefore not equivalent the English word “worship.”  This conclusion is confirmed by the dictionary definition of the Greek word proskuneó, for instance, “to kiss the ground when prostrating before a superior.”

Therefore, the fact that people and angels proskuneó Jesus does not prove that He is God.

Worship the Lord your God only.

On the other hand, Jesus quoted the Ten Commandments, “you shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only” (Mt. 4:9). And when John proskuneó (worshiped) the angels, the angel prevented him from doing so, instructing him to “worship (proskuneó) God” (Rev. 19:10).

It was the Jewish culture to show respect to other people.  When Abraham saw “three men were standing opposite him; … he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth” (Gen 18:2).  It is good to show appropriate respect to other created beings.  Jesus said, “one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant” (Luke 22:26).  Paul wrote, “with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves” (Phil. 2:3).

But there is a point where showing respect to another creating being becomes a sin.  It is proposed here that that point is when showing respect to another being replaces the worship of God; as if that being is God.  Our highest adoration and reverence must be reserved for God, through Jesus Christ.

We must worship Jesus.

Finally, as discussed in the article Jesus in Philippians, Jesus must be worshiped; not because He is God, but because to worship Jesus is to worship God.  Our worship flows through Jesus to God.

Articles in the Christology series: Is Jesus God?

1.     The three views of the Son
2.    Jesus existed prior to His birth in the form of God.
3.    Jesus in Colossians
4.    Jesus in Philippians: Did He empty Himself of equality with God?
5.    Who is the Word in John 1:1?
6.    Jesus is not God.
7.    God is the Head of Christ.
8.    Jesus is called God.
9.    He is the Only Begotten Son of God.
10.  God created all things through His Son.
11.  Jesus is worshiped.  Does that mean that He is God?  Current article
Support article: Worship verses in the New Testament
12.  Jesus has equality with God.
13. 
Who is Jesus? – Summary of the series of articles

14.  Where do we find Jesus in the Old Testament?

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?”  The previous articles are:

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

On the other hand, in the New Testament, the title “God” is used for the Father exclusively.  That implies that Jesus is not God, in the way that the New Testament uses that title.  This is true of the 1300 instances where we find the word theos (god) in the New Testament.  There are, however, seven instances where Jesus is called theos.  The purpose of this article is to determine what the New Testament writers meant when they wrote that Jesus is God.

God’s name is YHVH.

To appreciate 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; 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 YHVH 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.”

YHVH is here called “Most High.”  This 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 translation actually distorts the meaning, because “Lord” is generally 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.”

Now it is easier to understand the verse.  It says that God made His name (YHVH) for the first time known to Moses.  This name does appear in Genesis, but that is because Moses also wrote Genesis.

El and Elohim are general titles.

The word for “god” in Hebrew (generally El or Elohim), in contrast to YHVH, is used both for the true God and for false gods.  El and Elohim are 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; cf. Ex. 20:3; 32:31).  (The word translated “gods” here is Elohim; exactly the same word elsewhere translated “God.”)

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 Elohim is non-specific, the Old Testament uses various techniques to be specific when the true God is intended.

Combine with YHVH

Often Elohim 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 Elohim is not directly combined with YHVH, YHVH is often used in the immediately context, so that it is still clear that Elohim 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).

Elohim is not a name.

It is difficult to find a place in the Old Testament where the term Elohim is used for YHVH without further identification.  The name YHVH seems to be always somewhere in the context.  In other words, Elohim is not used in the Old Testament as a unique identifier or as a name for the God of the Bible.

In modern English “God” is used as a unique name for the Most High, but this was not how Elohim was used in the Old Testament.

Conclusion: To ask, in Old Testament times, whether Jesus is Elohim, would not make sense, for Elohim, 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 Elohim of Israel.

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.

Is Jesus called God in Romans 9:5?

This is discussed in a separate article, Is Jesus called “God” in Paul’s letter to the Romans?.  In summary: One of the seven NT verses that possibly refers to Jesus as God is Romans 9:5. All references to “God” in the letter to the Romans were analysed and it was found that Romans everywhere makes a distinction between God and Jesus.  The only possible exception is Romans 9:5. The 28 translations of this verse, as provided by BibleHub, were compared.  14 translations may be read as supporting the view that Jesus is God and 12 oppose it.  It is all a matter of punctuation, and all punctuation in the Bible is interpretation; a reflection of the understanding of the meaning of the passage when the punctuation was added; hundreds of years later.

Furthermore, Romans 9:5 contains the phrase “who is over all” and ascribe blessing. To read Romans 9:5 as describing Jesus as God, He must be the One who is “who is over all” and ascribe blessing.  But in all other places in Paul’s writings “who is over all” refer not to Christ, but to God.  Similarly, everywhere else in Paul’s writings our thanks go to God; not to Jesus.

Given these facts, and since Paul nowhere else applied the title “God” to our Lord, Romans 9:5 should not be used to argue that Jesus is God.

Titus 2:13

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 conclusion that the New Testament, in the vast majority of instances, reserves the title “God” for the Father.

Secondly, although John 1:1 and 1:18  refer to Jesus as God, these 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).