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CHAPTER THIRTEEN

 

THE MYSTERY OF INCARNATION

JESUS, IMMANUEL

 

 

 Jesus is never recorded in the Bible as saying the precise words, “I am God.” That does not mean, however, that He did not proclaim that He is God. Did Jesus really say He was God?

"Matthew, Mark, and Luke, authors of the first three Gospels, believed that Jesus was not God (see Mark 10:18 and Matthew 19:17).  They believed that he was the son of God in the sense of a righteous person.  Many others too, are similarly called sons of God (see Matthew 23:1-9).

Paul, believed to be the author of some thirteen or fourteen letters in the Bible, also believed that Jesus is not God.  For Paul, God first created Jesus, then used Jesus as the agent by which to create the rest of creation (see Colossians 1:15 and 1 Corinthians 8:6)."

It appears that here we have a confusion of who God is.  This brings us to the concept of Trinity.  I have dealt with this in detail in my book on "Christian Understanding of Trinity".  So I will not deal with the subject in detail here.  The gist of the concept of God can be summarised.  A monadic concept God is not tenable simply because, the monad has no purpose, person or even existence.  In the Hebrew mystery as well as in Indian Upanishads we distinguish between two aspects of God.    In the beginning God alone existed - if we can define the time element in "In the beginning" and can think of existence before existence for the term "exist" does not make sense when there is no perceiver and a perceived.  God so transcends human understanding as to be practically non-existent. In Hebrew mysticism this is defined as darkness beyond nothing beyond Ein - nothing who is defined only in negative terms.  That is ultimately the ideal Godhead.  But this God has no purpose, do not exist in time, hence do not create, do not have a personality since personality is defined only in relationship.   This is the 'God of no Property'. In India we call this God - Nirguna Brahman. In Jewish theology this is Ein which simply means nothing. the true essence of God is so transcendent that it cannot be described, except with reference to what it is not. This true pre-existant essence of God is what became Ein (Father).  Ein sof   literally means "without end," which encompasses the idea of His lack of boundaries in both time and space in all dimensions. Ein sof ohr is the all embracing light - the energy.  This is where the Trinity of God appears as "God of Properties" with unity of purpose and essence. This God we call in India - Saguna Brahman - God of properties.  In Christianity, God is defined as Love.  This is possible only when there are more than one person in the Godhead - Ein, Ein sof and Ein sof ohr which form the Elohim.   In Christian theology these become the Father, Son and the Spirit - the Holy Trinity which are one in essence - cosubstantial.

 

 

AUM
That supreme Brahman is infinite, and this conditioned Brahman is infinite.
The infinite proceeds from infinite.
Then through knowledge, realizing the infinitude of the infinite, it remains as infinite alone.

— Mundaka Upanishad

 

Three persons in the Godhead are one in substance, one in purpose and are in love relationship with one another.  God is Love.  We can now talk about persons. With this in mind we will understand what Jesus meant and how the Jews understood the claims of Jesus.

Matthew 1:23 - “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”

 

The child is God with us.

 
Isaiah 9:6 - For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.

The Son is also Mighty God and Everlasting Father.


 
2 Peter 1:1 (Jesus is the Redeemer) - “To those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ”

 
Isaiah 44:24 - (God created the world by His self alone)
John 1:3; Colossians 1:16 - (Jesus made all things)

 
John 1:1 - In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God... 1:14 - And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,

 
John 5:17,18 - “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.” Therefore the Jews sought to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.

Why should the Jews seek to kill Jesus if Jesus did not mean that he was equal to God?


 
John 5:23 - that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.

 
John 8:24 - “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I AM He, you will die in your sins.”

 

John 8:56 -59 Your father Abraham rejoiced that he was to see the time of my coming; he saw it and was glad."

They said to him, "You are not even fifty years old---and you have seen Abraham?"

 "I am telling you the truth," Jesus replied. "Before Abraham was born, 'I Am'."

l        Then they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and left the Temple.

 
John 10:24-33  They met Him in the portico of Solomon and said:

 "How long dost thou hold our souls in suspense? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly".

The answer of Jesus is typical. He puts them off for a while; and in the end tells them the tremendous truth:

 Jesus answered them, “I and My Father are one.”

Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him.

Jesus answered them, “Many good works I have shown you from My Father. For which of those works do you stone Me?”

The Jews answered Him, saying, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God.”

 
John 14:6-7 - Jesus said to him, “I AM the way, the truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

 
John 14:9-11 - Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, 'Show us the Father'?”

 

Jesus readily accepted worship which in Hebrew tradition is only due to God.  Not once did he tell them not to.

 

Mat_8:2  And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.

 

Mat_9:18  While he spake these things unto them, behold, 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.

 

Mat_14:33  Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God.

 

Mat_15:25  Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me.

 

 Mat_28:9  And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.

 

Mat_28:17  And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted.

 

Mar_5:6  But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him,

 

 Luk_24:52  And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy:

 

 Joh_9:38  And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him.

 

Declaration before the Sanhedren

Twice Jesus appeared before the Sanhedren, the highest authority of the Jewish religion.

 

The first times the high priest, Caiphas, stood up and demanded:
(Matthew 26:63)"I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us if thou be the Christ the Son of God" .

Now it was impossible not to reply even though his very life depended on it.

Jesus replied

(Matthew 26:64)"Thou hast said it"  in semitic fashion.  
St. Mark's report of the very same answer as every gentile will understand simply and clearly:

(Mark 14:62)"I am" .

The Jesus went on to explain 
(Matthew 26:64) 'Nevertheless I say to you, hereafter you shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of the power of God, and coming in the clouds of heaven" .

 Caiphas rent his garments and accused Jesus of blasphemy.

 

The second time Jesus was asked:

 (Luke 22:70, 71). "Art thou then the Son of God?"

Jesus replied: "You say that I am."

This was again the typical semitic reply of assent and the Sanhedren understood it as such and says;
"What need we any further testimony? for we ourselves have heard it from his own mouth"

 

It was these that sealed the decree of death by the  Jews.  Before Pilot the High Priest says:

 

 (John 19:7).  "We have a law; and according to that law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God "

This is the law that the High Priest was referring to:

 

(Leviticus 24:17) "He that blasphemeth the name of the Lord, dying let him die: all the multitude shall stone him, whether he be a native or a stranger. He that blasphemeth the name of the Lord dying let him die" .  

 

 

Thomas called Jesus God

 
John 20:28 - And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”

 



Certainly the Apostles and the early church taught that Jesus was indeed God.

  

Philippians 2:5-7 - Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bond-servant, and coming in the likeness of men.

 
1 Timothy 3:16 - And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Preached among the Gentiles, Believed on in the world, Received up in glory.

 
Titus 2:13 - looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ

 
Hebrews 1:8,9 - But to the Son He (God) says: “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness more than Your companions.”

 
2 John 1:7 - For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.

 
Revelation 1:8 - “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

 
Revelation 22:13 - “I AM the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.”... 22:16 - “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches.”

Jesus said he was not of This World
John 8:23 He said to them, "You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins."

 What is the proof?

True, Jesus laid down his glory to take the human form.  But he showed his power as signs so that his claims may be confirmed.  They included signs and miracles that he performed.

 He healed the sick, raised the dead

 He controled the winds and the sea - ability to control nature  "Who is this? Even the wind and waves obey him!"

The Resurrection was the supreme evidence of his Divinity

 

Jesus' supreme evidence of deity was his own resurrection from the dead something that no one in history can claim. 

Five times in the course of his life, Jesus clearly predicted in what specific way he would be killed and affirmed that three days later he would rise from the dead.

"The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise."

 

Mat 12:38-40  Then some teachers of the Law and some Pharisees spoke up. "Teacher," they said, "we want to see you perform a miracle."

"How evil and godless are the people of this day!" Jesus exclaimed. "You ask me for a miracle? No! The only miracle you will be given is the miracle of the prophet Jonah.

In the same way that Jonah spent three days and nights in the big fish, so will the Son of Man spend three days and nights in the depths of the earth.

 

John 10:17 "I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord...and I have authority to take it up again."

During his arrest, Jesus' friend Peter tried to defend him.

Mat. 26:53  But Jesus said to Peter, "Put your sword back into its place...Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?"

 

 

Thus we see Jesus - fully Man and at the same time fully God who lived among us. 

 

 

Christ Pantocrator, God incarnate shown in a mosaic from Daphni, Greece, ca. 1080-1100.

http://lukebray.wordpress.com/

People had lot of problem understanding the incarnation.  Two important forms included the Cyril's Hypostatic Union of two forms where divine nature (ousia) of Christ and the human nature (ousia) of Christ coalesced into one person (hypostasis). and Nestorius' prosperon Union - to refer to the concrete person or substantive existence.where the incarnation is only a dimensional projection of divine into the human.  Trying to interpret this mystery in human terms had in fact divided the church.  The Church of the East remained Nestorian and the Churches of the West remained Alexandrian.

The Theology of the Church of the East has been stated briefly and clearly in the following “Hymn of Praise (TESHBOKHTA)?; Composed by Mar Babai the Great in the sixth century A.D., a noted theologian of the Church

One is Christ the Son of God,
Worshiped by all in two natures;
In His Godhead begotten of the Father,
Without beginning before all time;
In His humanity born of Mary,
In the fullness of time, in a body united;
Neither His Godhead is of the nature of the mother,
Nor His humanity of the nature of the Father;
The natures are preserved in their Qnumas*,
In one person of one Sonship.
And as the Godhead is three substances in one nature,
Likewise the Sonship of the Son is in two natures, one person.
So the Holy Church has taught.

The human and divine natures resonate with each other as particle and wave resonate with each other in the “new” physics. This is also true in our understanding of the Trinity as Mar Babai poem tries to state.    

 Both the documentations - both Christian and Secular - as well as the  archaelogical findings seems to point to the fact   Jesus was worshipped as God no later than the early second century (113 A.D.).

   Early Christian sources

l         The earliest Aramaic-speaking Christians refer to Jesus as "Lord" in the earliest extra-canonical Christian book, the Didache, which scholars agree was written no later than the late 100s. The word "Lord" (Greek Kyrios) was used by the Greeks to designate divinity.

l         Justin Martyr, a second-century church father, baptized new believers in the name of the triune God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, acknowledging the equality of the three distinct persons of the Trinity.

Secular sources

l         Pliny the Younger as governor of Pontus/Bithynia from 111-113 A.D. wrote (in his Letters 10.96-97) 

"They asserted, however, that the sum and substance of their fault or error had been that they were accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god, and to bind themselves by oath, not to some crime, but not to commit fraud, theft, or adultery, not falsify their trust, nor to refuse to return a trust when called upon to do so."

 

Archeology 

 

l        The discovery of a 3rd century Christian church at Megiddo, Israel, along with an inscription to the "god Jesus Christ" confirms that Christians worshipped Jesus Christ  as God at least a century  before the council of Nicaea.

 

The excavators date this church to the first half of the third century, around 230 A.D. and as one of the very few churches from this early period anywhere in the world.

 

The southwest corner of this building served a religious function for the Christians who served in the army, as well as for the local Christian community. In the extreme southwest corner of the building is what the excavators call a Christian prayer hall measuring about 16 by 32 feet (5 x 10 meters).

 

Monolithic pilasters protruding from the walls were probably the bases for an arch rising above. Just under the center of the supposed arch were two rectangular stones pressed into the pavement of the hall. These were almost surely supports for a kind of table for the Eucharist (trapeza)—the symbolic imbibing of the blood and body of Christ in the wine and bread. Several liturgical tables from North Africa may give us an idea of what the altar/table at the Megiddo prayer hall looked like.

The most spectacular find in the excavation, however, was a beautifully preserved mosaic floor that clearly indicates the function of the room. On each of the four sides of the remains of the Eucharist table (the base of which the excavators call the podium) are individual mosaic panels outlined by straight rows of black tesserae. On the two side panels, the mosaic consists only of geometric panels.

On the front and back (north and south) are more elaborate panels. The one on the southern side contains two inscriptions facing one another. The one on the northern side contains not only an informative inscription, but also an elaborate rectangle enclosing eight smaller rectangles and rhombuses to form an internal octagon. Within the octagon, decorative tesserae transform the octagon into a circle or medallion. In the center of the medallion are two fish facing in opposite directions—a distinct Christian symbol for Christ.

 

 

Megiddo prison from the top of Tel Megiddo. The church is located on the prison grounds.

.

                         

The Prayer Hall with the central Eucharistic Table reconstructed model
The table at the center.

From the Acts of Apostles and from the Epistles we can see that the Early Christians met in house groups meeting from house to house, breaking bread and singing praises to God.   However, at the end of the second century when the Christian communities increased in number a more permanent place of worship came into existence.  If previously Christian worship had been based on prayers, sermons and communal dinners, by the third century, rituals officiated by ordained clergy were introduced. As a result we see baptisteries, vestries, confessionals, teaching rooms etc. 

 

 

During the third century, the church fathers referred to these house churches by different names, such as ecclesi,  dominicum and domus Dei (House of God). The church father Minucius Felix (c. 200 A.D.) called them sacraria (shrines). He says they are found “all over the world” (per universum orbem).Origen (185—254) says these house churches are “the permanent place for the worship of God.”

 (Inscribed 'To God Jesus Christ' Early Christian Prayer Hall Found in Megiddo Prison, by Vassilios Tzaferis, published in Biblical Archaeology Review, http://www.bib-arch.org/online-exclusives/oldest-church-02.asp)


Photo of the mosaic found in the Megiddo Prison Church

PROSHNIKEN
AKEPTOUS-
H  FILOQEOS
THN  TRAPE

ZAN  QW  IU  CW

MNHMOSUNON

 

 

 PROSeeNIKEN

 AKEPTOUS

Hee PHILOTHEOS

 TeeN TRAPE

ZAN TH(E)oo(I) * I(EESO)U * KH(RIST)oo(I)

MNeeMOSUNON.
Akeptous (a woman), the God-loving, offered this table [altar] for (the) god J.C.,

as a remembrance.

 

Evidently soon after the resurrection the Early Christian Church worshipped Jesus as God.