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Deity of Christ in the Gospel of John
In John's Gospel, the term Son of God is used very frequently but people do not derive the spirituality of Jesus from this title, in fact they refer this title to the messianic position of Jesus. Such a belief has put forward a number of interesting questions, because according to John (20:30-31), in order to obtain an eternal life one needs to have a firm believe on the fact that Christ is the son of God. The question here arises, that what should be believed by the people about Christ if they want a gift of life? Or should the people consider Jesus as their God to get a gift of eternal life? The answers to all these questions are obvious implications of one's eternal fate (Wilson, 2006).
None of the other Gospels talk about the divinity of Jesus. According to the other Gospels there is no sign of Jesus being in existence before the humans. Many authors along with Erickson (2000) believe that the purpose behind all the Gospels has always remained the same, but Erickson (2000) further adds by acknowledging that only John's Gospel contains facts regarding the divinity of Jesus (Erickson, 2000).
Only in John's Gospel, the signs are used for remorseful purposes, i.e. For the eternal life of Jesus (Harrison, 1962). This purpose has not been claimed by any other Synoptic Gospels. Theophilus was a believer who needed most accurate knowledge about the life of Jesus and he even believed Christ as God's personified (Luke 1:3-4; Acts 1:1) (Robinson, 1916). Luke-Acts was a book which was written for this believer. On the other hand, the purpose of John for writing Gospel was to make people believe that Jesus is the son of God, he is the Christ and if these two facts are believed by someone, then he may get a life in the name of Jesus 20:31. It has been believed by Witherington (1995) and Robertson (1916) that John's Gospel has been written for unbelievers.
What is the reason behind John's Gospel having immense focus pertaining to the deity of Jesus? Is John's statement of purpose complete enough to explain well the logic behind one's belief on the eternal life of Jesus? (Wilson, 2006)
The belief in the mere human Messiah anticipated by ancient Jews justifies the concept of eternal life, if "Son of God" does not bear any meaning of divinity. The faith in Christ's divinity does not serve to be a core requirement for eternal life if "Son of God" is considered purely messianic. However, considering "Son of God" from the perspective of divinity in John's Gospel makes it essential to belief in the deity of Christ's eternal life. Eternal destinies are determined by focussing on the answer to these questions (Wilson, 2006).
Richardson (1962), Messianic Barrett (1955), Bruce (1983), Hobbs (1968), Beasley-Murray (1987) and other hold a messianic view regarding the term "Son of God." Fuller (1965) is of the view that Son of God holds a Messianic title in pre-Christian Judaism similar to son of David. Marshall (1990) opines that church emerged as an inescapable corollary of Jesus's position despite the fact that it was not concerned about the divinity of Jesus in the beginning. A more extreme and firm point-of-view is presented by Collins (1976) where he believed that Thomas has subsequently confessed the sole expression of Jesus's divinity in the entire Fourth Gospel and has clearly expressed it in 20:28.
Several authors had been exemplified by Kasper (1976) who have excluded the possibility of divinity associated with the term. He opines that the term "Son of God belongs to the Creeds of the Church as the synoptic Gospels Jesus never considered himself as the Son of God. Moreover, his viewpoint is that dogmatic statements presenting the metaphysical sense of Jesus as the Son of God are absolutely outside the conceptual possibilities of Jesus or the New Testament as described by Hellenistic ideas or in the Old Testament Judaism (Wilson, 2006).
On the other side, some authors are of the view that variations in the meanings are due to context in which the term is used. Ellis (1986) declared in the International Bible Commentary that "Son of God" bears a more in depth meaning than 'Mesiah' (cf. Psalm 2:7) on Nathanael' lips. It means even more to Evangelist. Another important distinction was made by Reith, which supported this messianic concept. The distinction claimed Jesus to have two titles only; one the prehistoric "Only begotten of the Father" and the other the historic "Christ." Both titles considered Messiah as certain and considered them equivalent on the lips of a Jew in the Lord's day. However, the concept understood by Nathanael regarding the designation of "Son of God" needs to be distinguished from the one which involved the concept of Son's pre-existence and necessary relation to the Father, afterwards (Reith, 1889).
The understanding of the term "Son of God" in the remainder of the Gospel as perceived by John is depicted when Gospel first confessed "Son of God" by Nathanael. The connection existing between the two dates back to centuries. According to John Chrysostom, Peter confessed Him as the 'The Son of God' and Nathanael as the mere man. The evidence of this fact becomes clear when he declared Him as the Son of God after these words and yet again declared him as the King of Israel, who is meant for the entire world and not for Israel only (Chrysostom, 2004).
Contrary to the concept of Chrysostom, several authors of the earlier era consider "Son of God" to denote the divinity of Jesus (Wilson, 2006).
The View of "Son of God" as Divine
If Chrysostom had read the work of Tertullian, he would have definitely identified his mistake. According to Tertullian (1919), Jesus was the king of Israeli nation and he was very committed to his people and their welfare.
It is firmly believed that as he is the Son of God - the Almighty's Son, he himself is the Almighty and God to. There were many authors that agreed to this. John 1:49 was paraphrased by Nonnos of Panoplis (1998) by stating that You truly are the King of the kingdom of Israel, Son of GOD, Jesus. He was proclaimed as God-King of Israel as well as the son of God! (Nonnos of Panopolis, 1998)
Many lectures on John's Gospel were related to this by Augustine by stating that something incredible Nathaniel acknowledged in the words. When you were under the fig tree, I saw you, before Philip called you; because his words were showing that He was the Son of God - also Israel's King. This thought is not much different to the words of Peter when he was told by the Lord that he was not blessed, because flesh as well as blood was not meant to be revealed to him (Augustine of Hippo, 2004), but to Jesus' Father who is present in heavens.
Christ's deity was also expressed as "God's Son" by John Calvin:
Nathanel acknowledged that Christ was different from other men, in the way that he reflected a divine look, as well as the way he spoke which no mortal human being could do. The proof is derived from simple things, as it is not in the domain of man to see things beyond his reach and power, and is only possible for God to judge the exact cleanliness and purity of our hearts. Thou are God's Son (Wilson, 2006).
It is uncertain why Christ is being called the King of the people of Israel, even though he is being acknowledged to be the Son of God and possessing divine power. These 2 things do not seem to co-relate with one another. Nathaniel's view was a much loftier one. It was well-known by him that indeed the Messiah is Christ, and to this belief is being added another confirmation. One of his other principles reflects how Christ, being God's son, would not come to the people without having the authority of the King as he is Son of the Almighty. He believes that God's Son is Israel's King, and faith should not be fixed on Christ only, but upon his power and divine right to the (Calvin, 1949).
Christ's deity was also acknowledged by many recent and modern authors. According to Ellis (1999), "Son of God" can be interpreted as reflecting the Synoptic, either the kingship of Jesus, or his divine nature. The latter represents being equal to God, which the Jewish Churchmen claim to be blasphemy which does not differ from the Synoptic (Ellis, 1999)." C.F. Moule (1977) further differentiates the Synoptics and the Gospel of John, by stating that Jesus' divinity was at the heights in Gospel Four. One portion of the New Testament that was edited by late Sir Edwyn and the late Davey, stated that no matter what one perceives or believes regarding this topic, gospel tradition could not…[continue]
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