Continued from Part 7
God: undivided and without equal
How did John’s Jesus view the possibility of a division in the divine essence? Chapter 17 of the Gospel of John records a prayer, which its author attributes to Jesus. In verse 2 of this prayer, Jesus views himself as being sent by God, his Father, who “gave him authority over all mankind.” But of his “Father” he is quoted, in verse 3, as saying that he is “the only true God.” Jesus does not say, “We are the only true God,” or even, “You Father and the Holy Spirit are the only true God,” but refers his remarks solely to the God whom he depicts as “Father.”
Even assuming Jesus to have been God manifested in a human form, he still would be God, and as such, he could not possibly have made this statement. Thus, by calling his Father not just the “true God” but “the only true God,” he avows that he himself cannot be part of God. Jesus may claim to be united in oneness with God in doing only what the Almighty wishes, but he never asserts that he is part of the essence of God. If Jesus is of one substance with the Father, he could not say that the “Father” (verse 1), as differentiated from “Jesus Christ” (verse 3), is “the only true God.” By definition, “only” must imply the singularity of God to the exclusion of all, including Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Thus, it is clear that Jesus himself confirms that the Father, not the Son or the Holy Spirit, is “the only true God.”
According to the author of Acts, Stephen claims to see a vision of God and Jesus just before his own death. While “full of holy spirit” he is said to see “the son of man standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:56). Thus, God and Jesus are portrayed as two separate beings. That which is a separate entity from God cannot be God.
Luke’s Jesus spoke to a “certain ruler” who had called him “good,” asking him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone” (Luke 18:18-19). If Jesus thought he was God, he would have complimented the man on his insight, just as he complimented Peter when Peter said he was “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:15-16). Instead, Jesus gives the man a mild admonishment containing no recognition that there is any connection between calling him “good” and God alone being good.
Paul claims that “Christ” is the “image of God” (Colossians 1:15; 2 Corinthians 4:4). If Jesus is the image of God, then he cannot be God, because one cannot be an image of someone and the real person at the same time. If we see a photograph or a painting of a person, we see the individual’s image, but the image is not the real person. If “Christ” is the image of God, as Paul alleges, then as God’s image he could not be God.