By Joel Settecase / 7-minute read
Is Jesus merely a man, a created, divine being, or God? What did Jesus claim about himself and are those claims true?
The Most Important Question In the World
There is perhaps no historical personage whose identity and significance is debated more than Jesus Christ. Of course, this is appropriate given of what is at stake in answering the question.
Christians teach that Jesus is the Messiah (or “Christ,” the “Anointed One”) who has been given all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18). If this is true, then correct belief about him (and in him) is a matter of eternal life and death. In that case, every human being on earth owes him complete allegiance and submission.
Because we humans are none too willing to surrender our autonomy to just anyone, and because (due to our broken and sinful human nature) we naturally rebel against God, it is to be expected that the identity of Jesus would be highly controversial. The unbeliever has literally everything to lose (and, the believer would add, everything to gain!) by believing in the biblical identity of Jesus. Below, we will briefly look at a few of the ways that adherents of different worldviews answer this question, before we examine the biblical data.
The Most Interesting Man In the World
At this point, you might be thinking, Wait, I thought we were talking about seven questions that every worldview must answer! Belief in Jesus is a Christian thing. Why should other worldviews need to answer this? This is a valid question. So then, is the identity of Jesus really a vital one for all worldviews?
The answer is yes, for two reasons. First, Jesus really is who the Bible teaches he is, and therefore his identity is of the utmost, cosmic importance. Secondly, as it turns out, all the major worldviews really do have an answer to the question of Jesus’s identity. This First-Century carpenter-turned-rabbi from Judea has been so influential that, when it comes to thinking about life’s biggest issues, he turns out to be unavoidable.
In a 2015 article for Relevant Magazine, apologist J. Warner Wallace said, “Every religion makes some effort to account for His existence and teaching… This ought to give seekers a reason to pause and consider the life of Jesus seriously.” It is amazing to see how nearly so many adherents of different worldviews try to explain Jesus and even roll him into their own system.
So how have other worldviews explained who Jesus is? Let us now consider five alternative versions of Jesus, from Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Rabbinical Judaism, and Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The Bible’s Answer
We could continue and list the versions of Jesus from other worldviews, such as Atheism, Postmodernism/Intersectionality, Mormonism, and more. Such a list would be fascinating. However, it suffices to say that every worldview other than biblical Christianity views Jesus as less (far less!) than what he truly is, according to Scripture. Now, what does the Bible really teach about Jesus?
Whole libraries could be, and have been, written about the biblical Jesus. In fact the Bible itself is a library of 66 volumes, all testifying to his future coming (Old Testament) and his life, work, and ongoing presence with his people through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (New Testament).
Remember that the Bible’s presentation of the Godhead (the divine nature) is that he is triune (three-in-one), and that the three divine Persons are the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Jesus is the Son, the second Person of the Trinity. He is also called the “word” in John 1:1, who is said to have existed at the beginning of creation, and through whom all things were created (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16-17). In all, there are at least 102 different names or titles for Jesus in Scripture, including Alpha and Omega (Revelation 1:8), Bread of Life (John 6:32), and Captain of Salvation (Hebrews 2:10).
For Christians, Jesus is the ultimate revelation of God in the world (Colossians 1:15), and the only way to God (John 14:6). He is God in the flesh (John 1:14), and during his earthly ministry he presented himself as a sinless sacrifice to God on behalf of all his people (2 Corinthians 5:21). All who repent of their sins, confessing Jesus as Lord and believe that God raised him from the dead (validating his claims about himself, about which more below) will be saved from God’s wrath (Acts 2:38; Romans 10:9-10; 1 Thessalonians 1:10).
To believers, Jesus is king, defender and best friend. And he will be the judge of the world. These are just a few of his roles, and we could discuss many more. Yet there are three roles (or “offices”) in particular, which Jesus carries out in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies, in which all the other roles are bound up. These are the roles of Prophet, King, and Priest. Jesus fulfills all three roles simultaneously (it is not like he is a Prophet on Monday, a King on Tuesday, and a Priest every third Sunday). Each of the three roles is perfectly summed up and unified in him.
Each one also gives meaning to, and provides a basis for, certain elements of the biblical worldview we have been discussing. In other words, the whole system we have been studying together all orbits around Jesus. He is the rock upon which our whole worldview is built. In fact, Scripture tells us as much:
“Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock” (Matthew 7:24).
“...God’s household… with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:19b, 20b).
“The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone” (Luke 20:17, citing Psalm 118:22).
“For no one can lay any other foundation than what has been laid down. That foundation is Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:11).
Each of the three roles also corresponds to the three “Lordship Attributes” we discussed earlier. Let’s look at these three roles of Prophet, King and Priest.
Do you see how Jesus gives meaning to the whole biblical worldview? In this course we have truly been saving the best for last. Jesus is the best; he has the final word on the previous six questions we have been examining.
To know Jesus is to know the unifying principle of the biblical worldview. Think about that. If a worldview is the “network of presuppositions… through which one interprets all human experience,” and the biblical worldview is the true worldview, then the person, work and story of Jesus is the fundamental proposition by which we must filter all reality--and truly, all reality is all about him!
This means that our investigation of the Christian perspective ought to lead us closer to Jesus, the “source and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2).\
For comparative views on Jesus in world religions see, J. Warner Wallace, “What Other World Religions Think About Jesus,” RelevantMagazine.com, March 12, 2015, accessed June 26, 2019, https://relevantmagazine.com/god/what-other-world-religions-think-about-jesus/.
Rabbinic Judaism is based on a combination of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and the Talmud, the tradition of the Rabbis written in the early decades after the temple at Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70. and is distinguished from biblical Judaism, which was based on the Tanakh alone. Cf. “Question: What is the difference between Messianic Judaism and Rabbinic Judaism?” Bethadonai.com, accessed June 26, 2019, http://bethadonai.com/?page_id=511. See also, “Extra-Biblical Historical Evidence for the LIFE, DEATH, and RESURRECTION of JESUS,” WestarkchurchofChrist.org, accessed June 26, 2019.
Official Jehovah’s Witness teaching on Jesus drawn from, “Lesson 4: Who Is Jesus Christ?” JW.org, accessed June 26, 2019.
For the names of Jesus see, Betty Miller, “All the Names of Jesus,” BibleResources.org, October 10, 2005, accessed June 27, 2019.