The purpose of this post is to see what the Bible teaches on whether Jesus is God or not. In a recent survey, 78% of evangelicals agreed that “Jesus was the first and greatest being created by God the Father.”  Is this true? Is Jesus the greatest created being or is Jesus the Creator? What does the Bible teach?
Orthodox Trinitarian doctrine teaches that there is one God eternally existing as three distinct Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Here we will show that this affirmation is true with respect to the Son. We will do that by looking at a few key biblical texts in favor of Jesus being God. We will then look at some texts commonly used to claim that Jesus is not God. We will end with a text not typically used in these discussions but that is nonetheless suggestive.
Jesus is God
John 1:1 with v. 18
The important part of John 1:1 is the last clause.  The first two clauses state, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God…” An important point here is that the word “God” has the Greek “τὸν θεόν” or, transliterated, “ton theon.” That is, the second clause uses the word theos with the definite article. Now, the Greek for the last clause is, “καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος” or, transliterated, “kai theos en ho logos.” It is also important to note that the Logos is identified as Jesus in John 1:14 and on. Nonetheless, to form this sort of sentence, there are various constructions. Let’s list them and then go through them in Greek and English (I will use “the” if the definite article is used).
- καὶ ὁ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος.
- and the God was the Word.
- καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν ὁ θεὸς.
- and the Word was the God.
- καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος.
- This is what John actually used so I will leave it untranslated.
- This clause subsumes any clause which has θεὸς precede ἦν.
- καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν θεὸς.
- This is the same as above except it does not emphasize θεὸς since it is moved to the back.
- καὶ θεὶὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος.
- Here θεὸς is replaced with θεὶὸς.
- And divine (in the sense of not being God) was the Word.
- καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν θεὶὸς.
- This is the same construction as (5) except ὁ λόγος and θεὶὸς are switched.
- And the Word was divine (in the sense of not being God).
Now, if John used (1) or (2), then he would be saying that “ὁ λόγος” and “ὁ θεὸς” are identical which would contradict the preceding clause. Thus, (1) and (2) are not even options for John. Further, if he wanted to explicitly say that the Word was divine but not God, then he could have used (5) or (6). Thus, John does not want to say that “the Word” and “the God” are identical (by using (1) and (2)), nor does he apparently want to say that the Word is divine but not God (by using (5) or (6)). Thus, we are left with (3) and (4).
In Greek, words can be switched around to emphasize one word without changing the meaning of the sentence (this is shown by that simple maneuver between (1) and (2), (3) and (4), and (5) and (6)). Further, when a definite article (“the”) is not used, then the word can express a quality or trait. Thus, if John wanted to say that the Word was divine, but not God, then he could use (4) to do so. However, John instead uses (3) to form his sentence which gives emphasis to θεὸς. Therefore, (3) is the only way possible that John can say that the Word is actually God and this is the exact construction he uses. Thus, (3), the way John actually constructs his sentence, should be translated something like, “and the Word had the same nature as God [the Father].”
Hence, if John wanted to identify “the Word” with “the God” or say that the Word was divine but not God, then he had many ways to do so. Instead, he does not take either of those paths and actually declares that the Word has the same nature as God.
Let’s make one last note on John 1:1. Jehovah’s Witnesses sometimes claim that translating “theos” without the article as “god” instead of “God” is a rule. However, theos without the article is found in Luke 20:38, John 1:1, John 8:54, and Philippians 2:13. In all of them except for John 1:1, they translate theos without the article as “God” instead of “god,” contrary to what this claim demands. Thus, they break their rule more than they hold to it. That’s not much of a rule! In fact, the only time this so-called “rule” is followed is when theos is obviously used in reference to Jesus.
Here it is worthwhile to briefly mention John 1:18. Notice that we have something like “the only one, himself God,…” (NET), “the only begotten God” (NASB), or “the only-begotten god” (NWT). The thing I want to focus on here is the use of the non-capitalized “g” in the New World Translation, the translation of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, which I will use throughout. Here, it will be said that since theos does not have an article then the word should be translated as “god” instead of “God”. They make this same argument for John 1:1, but we have seen that if John wanted to say it that way, he could have. He chose not to do so. So, if that is the rule, then the beginning of verse 18 should also be translated “god” instead of “God.” In fact, both uses of theos in verse 18 do not have the article. Thus, consistency demands one to translate both the same. However, the NWT is not consistent so it translates the first theos as “God” since they know it is referring to the Father, but the second as “god” because they know it is referring to the Word (Jesus). Doing so displays a prior commitment instead of letting the text speak for itself.
So, both John 1:1 and 1:18 show that Jesus is God. He is not simply the highest created being.
Here I am going to quote John 20:27-29 so we have a bit of context,
The important point is obviously verse 28 when Thomas says “my Lord and my God.” It is interesting to note that both Lord and God have the definite article so that is not a question in this verse. Now, there are three possible explanations for the phrase: (1) Thomas was referring to two beings/people, (2) it was an exclamation and hence not accurate, or (3) the whole phrase is talking about Jesus. Let’s go through these in that order.
Option (1) is that “my Lord” refers to Jesus and “my God” refers to the Father. However, this is wholly inadequate. First, there is no indication that there are two people spoken about anywhere in the text. Second, the incident obviously is between only Jesus and Thomas as is shown by verse 27. Third, verse 28 tells us that “Thomas said to him [Jesus]…” Thus, the phrase is said to Jesus and not to two different people. So, option (1) is not an adequate explanation.
Option (2) is that Thomas blasphemed in saying “my God.” However, this is weighed against by a number of reasons. First, again, verse 28 tells us that the response is to Jesus which doesn’t make much sense if Thomas is blaspheming. Second, Thomas was a pious Jew so this is a last resort when it comes to interpretation. Third, notice that Jesus does not rebuke Thomas for blaspheming, which is what Jesus would have done if Thomas had blasphemed. Moreover, Jesus actually commends Thomas for his faith in verse 29. That makes absolutely no sense if Thomas had just blasphemed. Thus, option (2) is not viable either.
The last option is (3). (3) fits beautifully with the context. Again, the beginning of verse 28 shows us that Thomas is talking to Jesus, which is exactly what option (3) says. Moreover, option (3) says that Thomas was accurate in what he was saying, which is demonstrated by Jesus commending Thomas for his faith. Thus, we have a text that uses theos with the definite article and thus is translated as “God” even by the NWT and is unambiguously about Jesus. Therefore, this text definitively shows that Jesus is God.
Sadly, a full discussion of this passage goes beyond the scope of this post. Here I would commend N. T. Wright’s discussion, a text I draw on here. 
Beginning in verse six, the “who” is talking about Jesus Christ as the preceding verse makes clear. The phrase “God’s form” or “the form of God” is important. Dunn points out that the word for form and image can overlap. Thus, he reads the phrase as being equivalent to “image of God” and therefore in terms of an Adam Christology. However, this is not the case for the phrase. There is no such semantic overlap between “image of God” and “form of God.”  The phrase is therefore significant. It is parallel to the phrase “form of a slave” in verse 7. Therefore, just as “form of a slave” in verse 7 means that Jesus was actually a slave in the sense that He was actually a man, so “form of God” means that Jesus was actually God.
Another important part of verse six is the second half which says, “gave no consideration to a seizure, namely, that he should be equal to God.” Although something along those lines is a popular translation, it is not the best. In fact, Roy W. Hoover (a liberal Christian, part of the Jesus seminar) wrote an article entitled “The Harpagmos Enigma: A Philological Solution” for the Harvard Theological Review in 1971. He demonstrated that the phrase should be translated “…did not count equality with God as a thing to be exploited…” Thus, Jesus would have equality with God, which means Jesus is God (not the same Person, the same Being). N. T. Wright reinforced this view in “Harpagmos and the Meaning of Phil. 2.5-11.” In fact, Wright’s article on the topic is considered a classic for its breadth and depth. (See .)
A response to Hoover’s article was made by J. C. O’Neill.  Entitled “Hoover on Harpagmos Reviewed, with a Modest Proposal Concerning Philippians 2.6,” O’Neill tried to dispute Hoover’s reading of certain texts that supported Hoover’s translation. O’Neill’s alternative readings ended up being a distinction without a difference. O’Neill’s ultimate suggestion is to insert a word into the verse that is found in no Greek manuscript anywhere. Thus, the alternative proposal is based upon trying to claim differences where there are none and changing the biblical text with absolutely no textual critical grounds to do so. Hence, Philippians 2:6 should be translated as “…did not count equality with God as a thing to be exploited…” However, no other being has equality with God, so that means that Jesus is God!
Philippians 2:10-11 is also important here. It is obviously a reference back to Isa. 45:23. Interestingly enough, that grouping of Isaiah is part of the most monotheistic passages in all of the Old Testament. That specific text is talking about YHWH. Thus, Paul is applying a YHWH text to Jesus and thus indicating His deity. The fact that it is to the glory of God the Father does not in any way change this point. In fact, if Paul had not put that then he would have seemingly been playing Jesus and the Father off against one another. Therefore, by putting that clause Paul shows that a YHWH text can be applied to Jesus and that Jesus and the Father aren’t separate gods. It therefore follows that Phil. 2:10-11 shows that Jesus is God also.
This discussion shows that Philippians 2:6-11 teaches that Jesus is God. He is the God who took on human flesh, died on a Roman cross, and was raised and exalted. In context, we are called to have the same humility Jesus embodied.
This subtitle is a bit misleading. It is better to discuss Psalm 102:25-26 here:
If we look back to verse 24 we see that the “you” is referring back to the Psalmist’s God. Further, that is used with reference to the divine name YHWH, which is used in verse 22. Thus, the Psalm is talking about YHWH God. Further, who besides God laid the foundations of the earth and the heavens is the work of their hands? Who besides YHWH does not perish? Who besides YHWH God will replace the heavens and the earth? No one. Only He can do those things. Only God can accomplish all of those tasks. The Psalmist rightfully knows all of that, which is why the Psalm is talking about YHWH God.
And now let’s quote Hebrews 1:10-12,
These verses are quoting Psalm 102:25-26. Clearly they must be talking about God because we already saw that only God can do those things. No other being, neither archangel nor human can have such things ascribed to them without the person saying those things about them committing blasphemy. Thus, the “you” at the beginning of the verse must be talking about God. We notice that verse 10 starts with an “and” which is referring backwards. And when we go back to find the subject we stumble upon verse 8, “But with reference to the Son:…” (NWT) The “you” is referring back to the Son. The Son must then be God. And the Son is Jesus of Nazareth.
Hence, this verse also shows us that Jesus is God.
We have surveyed only a few texts that teach that Jesus is God. Here we noted John 1:1 (with v. 18), John 20:28, Philippians 2:6-11, and Hebrews 1:10-12. All of these teach that the Son is God. Jesus is not a created being. He is not even the greatest created being. Instead, Jesus is God Himself, shares the divine nature, did not count equality with God a thing to be exploited, laid the foundations of the earth, and His hands made the heavens. Jesus is God.
Texts Used Against Jesus Being God
A large part of this section will group various texts together. This is important to cover various objections without having to look at each individual text. I will not list what text follows under each category, so this will be left to the reader.
Texts that Show that Jesus is not the Father
Certain biblical texts show that Jesus is not the Father. After all, Jesus is on earth after being baptized and the voice comes from heaven speaking. This voice is clearly God speaking while Jesus is here on earth, so this is seen as a problem.
Now you might know where this objection errs already. The only reason this objection is highlighted is because it is very common amongst Jehovah’s Witnesses. The point is not to strawman or mock, but to respond briefly.
Simply put, Trinitarian doctrine denies that the Son is the Father. Therefore, it is no objection to say that the Father is not the same Person as the Son. In fact, it would be a problem if Scripture taught that. So this objection is no problem.
Texts that Speak of Jesus being Begotten
Here one thinks of John 1:14, “…a glory such as belongs to an only-begotten son from a father;…” (NWT) The objection here is based upon the fact that the Son is the “only-begotten.” It is said that if the Son is begotten then He had a beginning and thus cannot be God. Here only-begotten is thought to signify that the Father specially created the Son and no other thing. Let’s dive into investigating the verse.
First, there is controversy as to the meaning of the word behind “only-begotten.” The Greek word here is μονογενὴς (transliterated, monogenes). The word can either mean only-begotten (as the New World and other translations renders it) or unique/one of a kind. Which way should the word be translated?
Some point to Hebrews 11:17. Here the writer of Hebrews is talking about Abraham offering up his son (which is a reference back to Genesis 22). The writer uses the same word with regard to Isaac. However, is Isaac the only-begotten of Abraham? Of course not! Abraham also had Ishmael. Instead, unique or one of a kind fits better. Clearly Isaac fits that translation since Isaac was Abraham’s unique or one of a kind son since the promise was to go through Isaac. Thus, monogenes should be understood as unique or one of a kind.
Nonetheless, that argument is disputed too. Maybe the author of Hebrews is playing up the special nature of Isaac, playing up the seriousness of what happened, or thinking of Isaac as the only-begotten between Abraham and Sarah. Luckily, the exact translation does not matter. Jesus being only-begotten serves no problem for Jesus being God. In fact, the early church thought the relations between the Persons of the Godhead is what made them distinct Persons.  So the real objection comes from reading a modern understanding of begetting into the phrase. Once we attend to the word in context and the particular discourse at hand, the so-called problem resolves.
Therefore, these texts are no problem for Jesus being God. In fact, they were commonly seen as showing that Jesus is God. They were key texts by Trinitarian proponents in hammering out Trinitarian distinctions between the Persons by pointing to the relations of origin.
The important part of this verse is the last clause, “because the Father is greater than I [Jesus] am.” Many interpret this as showing that Jesus cannot be God because if Jesus were God then the Father could not be greater than Him. However, clearly the Father is greater than Jesus according to this verse, so that means Jesus isn’t God.
However, the fundamental problem with this is that it also misunderstands Trinitarian thought. A key distinction is important here. There are two ways to talk about the Trinity: ontologically and economically. If we talk about the Trinity ontologically, this is to say that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all equal with one another because they share the same essence of God. However, if we talk about the Trinity economically, then all three Persons have different roles. For instance, only the Son takes on flesh while the Father and the Holy Spirit do not. Thus, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all equal in nature, but have different roles.
With all of that in mind, the proponent of this argument needs to show that Jesus is talking about the Father’s essence being greater than Jesus’ essence. However, that is found nowhere in the verse. Thus, this verse cannot distinguish if Jesus is talking about the Father’s essence or His role being greater than Jesus’ role. Therefore, it follows that this verse fits perfectly with Trinitarian thought if we interpret it as talking about function. Further, the fact that we have the preponderance of evidence that Jesus is God listed above entails that we should interpret this verse as saying that the Father has a superior role to Jesus. That interpretation in no way weighs against the fact that Jesus is God.
Therefore, this text naturally fits with Trinitarian doctrine when understood as referring to the Messianic Son in his earthly ministry. The person who argues that this text shows that Jesus is not God has not proved his case. In fact, it is a case that does not look provable. The historical context of Jesus’ ministry, the literary context of John’s gospel, and parallel canonical texts like 1 Corinthians 11:3 all support the verse speaking of the earthly ministry of the incarnated Son.
Texts that Speak of Jesus being Created
Here we will highlight two texts, Colossians 1:15 and Revelation 3:14.
Colossians 1:15 reads,
The “He” here is talking about Jesus which is shown if we refer back to verse 13. Thus, it is typically said that this verse shows that Jesus is the firstborn of created things, which entails that He was created. However, God isn’t created thus Jesus cannot be God.
There are two main issues at play here. First, is the Greek word πρωτότοκος (transliterated as prototokos). Now, the word can either signify priority in time or preeminence. Priority in time can be seen in usages about the firstborn of an animal, like in Abel’s sacrifice. Preeminence can be seen in Israel’s king being the firstborn, “the highest of the kings of the earth.” (Ps. 89:27) The second issue has to due with how “firstborn” relates to “all creation.” “All creation” is a genitive (often rendered by “of …”). As Moises Silva says, a genitive simply tells you that these two nouns are related in some way. However, the way the two nouns can be related are myriad. 
So the proponent that argues that this text teaches that Jesus is created and therefore not God has to answer both of these issues in a particular way. First, they must show that the meaning of prototokos is meant to signify priority in time. They must combine that with a particular construal of the genitive known as the partitive genitive so that Jesus is included in the category of created things.  Let’s look at these in turn.
First, how should we understand prototokos? Köstenberger, Kellum, and Quarles understand it as a title of authority, as is common in the literature.  Based on the usage in Psalm 89, an understanding of primogeniture and inheritance, and the literary context, seeing prototokos as a title of authority makes good sense. Often this is a supremacy of rank because of a priority in time.
However, they go on to argue that when a genitive is used in relation to a title of authority, the noun in the genitive is a genitive of subordination that shows what the authority figure rules over. Thus, “all creation” would be a genitive of subordination thereby meaning that Jesus rules over all of creation. This would rule out the interpretation that sees Jesus as created.
On top of this, reading “all creation” as a partitive genitive has three problems worth noting. First, the next verse goes on to explain what it means for Jesus to be the firstborn of all creation by saying that all things were created through and for him. Notice how the New World Translation renders it,
Notice that the word “other” is inserted multiple times here. The word does not appear in the Greek text and so the insertion is, at best, an interpretation. The “other” is inserted here to include Jesus in the class of created things. But if we read the verse naturally, then the explanatory verse 16 shows that Jesus is not included in the class of created things.
Second, the literary context weighs against seeing Jesus in the class of created things. The point is to show Jesus’ supremacy over all created things. Notice that Paul heaps up phrases here: created in the heavens and upon the earth, visible and invisible, thrones, dominions, etc.
Third, and a clincher at this point, is the fact that Paul uses prototokos. As Michael Bird says,
Simply put, if Paul wanted to convey what the created thesis says Paul wanted to say, then he could have done so easily. The fact that he does not do so weighs heavily against the created interpretation.
Overall, discerning the precise meaning of prototokos and the exact use of the gentitive is not terribly important. The created interpretation must take a strong stand on both of these issues in order to arrive at that interpretation. Since that interpretation has multiple factors weighing against it, Colossians 1:15 is no challenge to Jesus being God.
The best sense of Colossians 1:15 is probably that Jesus is ruler over all creation because he precedes all creation (note v. 17). Thus, because Jesus existed before creation, he is Ruler over it all.
Now we come to Revelation 3:14,
This verse has Jesus as the speaker. Thus, it is argued that Jesus is speaking and He calls Himself “the beginning of the creation by God.” However, if He is the beginning of the creation by God then that means He is created which means He is not God. So goes their exegesis.
However, this is a contentious interpretation. The Greek word for beginning is ἀρχὴ (transliterated, arche). However, what does arche mean? David Aune points out that word can mean “(1) beginning (temporal or aspectual), (2) ruler, authority or office, [or] (3) cause.  Even the first sense of beginning does not entail being created. After all, God is called “the beginning and the end” in Revelation 21:6. Therefore, construing this verse as showing that Jesus is created is slim at best.
In line with usage in Revelation and the wider New Testament literature (the gospel of John and Colossians), David Aune takes the term as meaning that Jesus is prior to all creation. He therefore translates the relevant portion as “the Origin of the creation of God.” Under Aune’s view, then, this verse actually supports Jesus being God since he exists before all of creation.
Interestingly, G. K. Beale thinks that this verse is not referring to the original creation at all. It is worth quoting in full,
Therefore, this verse would pose no problem.
Simply put, the vast majority of views that one can take on this verse do not entail that Jesus is created. In order to arrive at that result, one must construe the verse in a very specific way. Since that construal has no support without begging the question, this verse cannot be used to teach that Jesus is created. No matter what interpretation one favors on this verse, minimally it poses no problem for Jesus being God.
A Final Text
Here I want to look at one last text. It is one that I had never thought about along these lines until I had read Richard Hays’ famous Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels. The point is to highlight that this post is only a cursory glance of the relevant texts.
Hays turns his attention to Jesus walking on the water in Mark 6:45-52,
Here Hays points us to Job 9. In Greek, here is how Mark writes about Jesus walking on the sea, “περιπατῶν ἐπὶ τῆς θαλάσσης.” (Mar 6:48 BGT) Now here is the Greek translation of Job 9:8, ” περιπατῶν *ὡς ἐπ᾽ ἐδάφους* ἐπὶ θαλάσσης.” (Job 9:8 BGT) The starred portion is rendered “as on firm ground.” So once we omit that, we see that there is a clear linguistic link. All well and good, but there is something more interesting going on that Hays observes.
At the end of verse 48, Mark writes something odd: “He [Jesus] meant to pass by them [the disciples].” Did you notice it? What is going on here exactly? Hays notes another link to Job 9 at this point. Here is Job 9:11, “If ever he should go beyond me, I shall not see him: if he should pass by me, neither thus have I known it.” (Job 9:11 LXE)
Hays’ comments are worth quoting in full,
Hays goes on to make connections to God passing by Moses in Exodus 33-34, Jesus’ words to the disciples linking to Exodus 3 (and other texts), and so on. But the point for this passage is clear enough as is. With Job 9 in the background of Jesus walking on the water, Mark is telling us that Jesus is God in the flesh.
We have seen a number of texts that show that Jesus is God. The texts highlighted here include John 1:1 (with verse 18), John 20:28, Philippians 2:6-11, and Hebrews 1:10-12. We also responded to common texts used against this view like texts that speak of Jesus not being the Father, texts that speak of Jesus being begotten, John 14:28, and texts that speak of Jesus being created. All of these were found lacking. Finally, we ended with a suggestive text from Mark 6. Following Richard Hays, we saw links to Job 9 where Job is speaking of God. Mark is therefore telling us of Jesus’ identity as God by means of Scripture.
It is at the intersection of Mark and Richard Hays that I wish to conclude. This post has been concerned with showing that the Bible teaches that Jesus is God. But saying it that way can rob the statement of its significance. It can become rather ho-hum, something we get cognitively but nothing more.
In contrast to this, here is how Richard Hays ends his chapter on the gospel of Mark,
So, if we seek to read Scripture through Mark’s eyes, what will we find? We will find ourselves drawn into the contemplation of a paradoxical revelation that shatters our categories and exceeds our understanding. We will learn to stand before the mystery in silence, to acknowledge the limitation of our understanding, and to wonder. The ‘meaning’ of Mark’s portrayal of the identity of Jesus cannot be rightly stated in flat propositional language; instead, it can be disclosed only gradually in the form of narrative, through hints and allusions that project the story of Jesus onto the background of Israel’s story. As Mark superimposes the two stories on one another, remarkable new patterns emerge, patterns that lead us into a truth too overwhelming to be approached in any other way.
This reading of Mark as scriptural interpreter corresponds closely to an important stream of interpretation of Mark’s Gospel in the Orthodox tradition. On the annual feast day of St. Mark the Evangelist, there is a prayer in the Greek Orthodox liturgy that invites the congregation to give honor to Mark for his distinctive, mysterious way of bearing witness: ‘Come, let us praise Mark, the herald of the heavenly mystagogy…, and the proclaimer of the gospel.’ Herald of the heavenly mystagogy—that is, one who proclaims a message that leads us into the mystery. 
- Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels (Hays)
- Lord Jesus Christ (Hurtado)
- Jesus and the God of Israel (Bauckham)