SR. LOUISE ZDUNICH, NDC
March 4, 2013
Is it right for Christians to consider Jesus simply a Jewish prophet and teacher?
There is so much to say on this question that I will only barely touch upon some aspects.
In the early Church, Jesus was referred to frequently by titles that signify he was much more than a prophet. It was inevitable that Jews who saw his works would see him as a prophet.
When Jesus raised the widow's son (Luke 7.16),the onlookers proclaimed Jesus as a great prophet. The women at the well (John 4.19) did the same; a similar response for Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem (Matthew 21.11).
However, Jesus did not fit a prophet's profile. The prophets never proclaimed the imminent coming of the kingdom nor took disciples nor healed. The prophets began their proclamations with: "Thus says Yahweh," but Jesus spoke with authority, teaching with parables and short aphorisms.
However, we see many references to Jesus by many titles which show early Christian belief in Jesus' divinity. The preaching (kerygma) in Acts by Peter (2.14-36), Paul and Stephen verify the first Christians' view of Jesus as Lord, Messiah, Servant of God, Holy and Righteous, Author of Life, Son of Man, Son of God and many others.
Christians believe that Jesus is the only Son of God.
"Lord" was one of the earliest and most common ways of ascribing divinity to the glorified Christ. "Kyrios" (lord) was used for Greek gods. Jews did not pronounce the name of God (YHWH) so used "Lord" (Adonai) for God.
At Pentecost, Peter preached: "God has made Jesus both Lord and Messiah" (Acts 2.36). Stephen prayed: "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit" (Acts 7.59).
Kyrios or Lord appears over 700 times in the New Testament: 80 times in Matthew, 52 times in Luke, 18 times in Mark, 120 times in John and 274 times in Acts. It was also commonly used in prayer: "Come Lord Jesus," and phrases such as the "Lord's Supper" or the "Lord's Day."
RIGHT HAND OF GOD
"Messiah" or the "Anointed One" shows Jesus as the answer to Jewish Messianic hopes. Peter told his listeners: "Jesus . . . is exalted at the right hand of God" (Acts 2.32, 33). Paul also preached: "This is the Messiah, Jesus that I am preaching" (Acts 17.3).
The word "Christ" for Jesus was evidently so well accepted that Paul could use it without explanation such as "in Christ, for Christ and with Christ."
Peter also used "Author of life" (Acts 3.13-14) and "Servant of God" referring to Christ's death for sinful humanity, as well as the presence of the Spirit in the Christian community. "Righteous One" was used by both Paul and Stephen (Acts 7.52).
The "Son of Man" title was used frequently by Jesus of himself but not by anyone else except by Stephen while being stoned: "The heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God" (Acts 7.56).
Jesus as "Son of God" is affirmed by the Father's voice "my beloved son" at his baptism and Transfiguration. This title is used frequently of Jesus, referring to his divinity right from the Annunciation as "Son of the Most High" (Luke 1.32) to the crucifixion when he is mocked by the soldiers and by a Roman commander after the earthquake.
Although Jesus does not directly use this title of himself, he uses "my Father" as a clear indication of his unique relationship with the Father.
Although "Son of God" does not seem to have been used in Peter's early preaching, Paul proclaimed Jesus as "the Son of God" (Acts 9.20), right after his conversion. He continued to use it frequently in his letters when writing of Christ sent as Incarnate Son, Christ effecting human redemption and Christ as the centre of the Christian life.
The evangelists used the same divine titles for Jesus as the early kerygma. Matthew used Messiah and Son of David to present Jesus as fulfilling Jewish Messianic expectation. Peter's affirmation in Matthew "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (16.16) became a proclamation of faith for first century Christians.
Luke's favourites were "the Lord" and "Saviour." John's Gospel identified Jesus as God in its first words. John shows Jesus identifying himself with the same name "I AM" as God used when speaking to Moses: I am the Good Shepherd, the Bread of Life, etc.
In summary, Muslims believe Jesus was a prophet and nothing more, but it is wrong for Christians to believe that. There is no basis for this view in Scripture.
Christians believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Lord of heaven and earth sent by the Father to redeem the world.
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