Study Five – Was Jesus who He claimed to be?
The evidence is clear: Jesus did make claims to be divine; His followers did not create or misunderstand His claims. So now we have the natural question: Was Jesus who He claimed to be? 
To think about: Do you think that it is possible for God to take on human form? Why, or why not?
The PossibilityIs it possible that God take on a human form (incarnation)? Two points are worth noting here about this possibility.
Who was Jesus?
We now examine an argument for actuality of Christ’s divinity. It is based on this simple question, “If Jesus is not God, as Christians say he is, then who was he?” [1 p. 158]
To think about: As we have already shown the New Testament documents to be historically reliable, could we now conclude that Jesus was who he claimed to be? Do we need to look at additional arguments?
There are really only four possible answers to the question. The outline for the argument for Jesus Christ’s divinity is that: [1 p. 158]
To think about: If Jesus was not who he claimed to be, then he was either a liar, lunatic or he did not mean for his claims to be taken literally (i.e. he was a guru). Are there any other options? What evidence exists for each of these options?
Note that the argument depends on previously established premises, namely
To think about: Have these assumptions been adequately covered in previous sections? If not, what do you think still needs to be discussed and examined?
With regards to Jesus’ claims to divinity,
1. He meant it literally 1.1. It is true.........................................Divine (God) 1.2. It is false 1.2.1. He knew it was false......................Liar, Noble liar 1.2.2. He didn’t know it was false...............Lunatic, Honestly mistaken 2. He meant it non-literally, mystically....................Guru
To think about: If a person states that Jesus never claimed to be God, then the issue of the reliability of the New Testament (e.g. that it does not contain lies or myths) would have to be dealt with before this argument can be used.
Let us examine these possibilities.
1. He meant it literally
This option is examined at the end of this section.
1.2. It is false
If Jesus meant his claims literally and he knew that his claims were false, then must have been a liar or perhaps a liar with good intentions i.e. a noble liar.
Discussion: If Jesus meant his claims literally and he knew that his claims were false, who could he have been apart from a liar or a noble liar?
Was Jesus a Liar?The following are reasons why we can conclude that Jesus was not a liar.
He was unselfish, loving, caring, compassionate and passionate about teaching truth and helping others to truth. Liars lie for selfish reasons, like money, fame, pleasure or power. Jesus, on the other hand, gave up all worldly goods, and life itself.
It brought him hatred, rejection, misunderstanding, persecution, torture and death. [1 p. 160] Who in history has gone to their death for the sake of something like this that they knew was a lie? 
The Jews were the least likely people in the world to have worshipped a man, and Jesus, as a Jew, would have known that. Why did he go to the Jewish nation? Why go as a Nazarene carpenter to a country so small in size and population and so thoroughly adhering the undivided unity of God? Why didn’t he go to Egypt or, even more, to Greece, where they believed in various gods and various manifestations of them?
How could a deceitful man have invented, and maintained from the beginning to the end, the purest and noblest character known in history with the most perfect air of truth and reality.
Did He think that the God of the Old Testament would not judge him?
"I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols," (Isaiah 42.8)
To have lied about being God, Jesus would have had to have had no fear of God whatsoever. He must have had some assurance that God wasn't going to incinerate Him for claiming to be divine and accepting the worship of others. To not fear God, Jesus would have had to have been an atheist! 
If Jesus was a liar, how did he somehow manage to pass on such high standards of truth?
"... we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God." 2 Corinthians 4.2
The disciples were so convinced that Jesus had risen from the dead that they were prepared to be ostracized, criticized, rejected, persecuted, and in many cases martyred. They were hated, scorned, persecuted, excommunicated, imprisoned, tortured, exiled, crucified, boiled alive, roasted, beheaded, disemboweled and fed to lions. [1 p.186] How does a crucified liar manage to bring about such a change?
If we say that Jesus was lying, we also have to accept some extreme logical conclusions!
If Jesus was a liar then he was also a hypocrite because He told others to be honest, whatever the cost, while He himself taught and lived a colossal lie.
“If you want to enter life, obey the commandments … Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony…” Jesus (Matthew 19:18)
If he was a liar then he was also evil, for He told others to trust Him for their eternal destiny. If He couldn’t back up His claims and knew it, then He was unspeakably evil.
John 8.24: "I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins."
If he was a liar then he was also a fool because it was His claims to deity that led to His crucifixion.
Matthew 26.63: The high priest said to him, "I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God." "Yes, it is as you say," Jesus replied … Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, "He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?" "He is worthy of death," they answered.
Are you prepared to call Jesus a hypocrite, evil and a fool in the light of his life, teachings and death?
To think about: If Jesus was a liar, was he necessarily evil, a hypocrite, and a fool? Why, or why not?
Quite simply, someone who lived as Jesus lived, taught as Jesus taught and died as Jesus died could not have been a liar. [5 p. 106]
List five reasons that oppose the assumption that Jesus lied about being God.
List three questions that a person needs to answer if they are to claim that Jesus lied about being God.
Was Jesus a noble Liar?
Could Jesus have felt that his teachings were so important as to have falsely claimed special authority from God in order to persuade people to follow him? Could he have believed in all sincerity that following his teachings would lead people into the kingdom of God and/or eternal life, and that he said what he thought was necessary to get people to follow him? In the cases where his lying actually contradicted his own teachings, could he have been forfeiting his own eternal security, for the sake of others? 
The following are reasons why Jesus could not have been a noble liar.
To think about: Which of the previous arguments against Jesus being a liar are also valid when refuting the noble liar hypothesis?
In summary, the whole idea of Jesus as a noble liar is intuitively suspect, highly speculative and groundless. 
What do you think are the three best reasons opposing the assumption that Jesus was a noble liar?
1.2.2. He didn’t know it was false (Lunatic, Honestly Mistaken)
Perhaps Jesus did not know that his claims were false. Could he simply have made a mistake?
Was Jesus honestly mistaken?
Was Jesus simply honestly mistaken about him being God? The following are arguments against this possibility.
If one takes oneself to be messiah, and/or divine, then eventually one must act like a messiah: righting wrongs, coming to the rescue, healing disease, raising the dead, trampling the military opposition, etc.
If one fails to act like the messiah, and if they are only honestly / sincerely mistaken, then they would have to face facts and realize their mistake!
If Jesus went about doing the things that He did, He would have been very lucky to be ‘successful’ and get as far as the Crucifixion. Then we still have the Resurrection appearances and the work and lives of the Apostles (writers of the New Testament) to explain! 
No group in history was less likely to confuse the Creator with a creature than the Jews. They were the only people who had an absolute, and absolutely clear, distinction between the divine and the human.
Data indicates that a normal, healthy human psyche cannot sincerely hold the sincere conviction of its own Godhood.
To think about: How could someone sane mistakenly think that they were God?
What do you think is the strongest reason or argument against the assumption that "Jesus was honestly mistaken about being God"? Why?
In conclusion: to make the claims of Christ you would have to be a lunatic, not someone ‘honestly mistaken’. To claim literally that you are God, especially in a fiercely monotheistic culture, and then to tell others that their eternal destiny depends on believing in you, is not the thinking of someone making an honest mistake. Especially when, considering the nature of the claims of Jesus, proof of being mistaken would be all too evident! To think that you are God, when you are not, is not an honest mistake it is the thinking of a lunatic. [5 p. 106]
Was Jesus a lunatic?
What if Jesus was mentally deranged and had a mistaken view of himself? Could Jesus have been a lunatic? The following are arguments against the possibility of Jesus being a lunatic.
There are lunatics in asylums who sincerely believe that they are God. The “divinity complex” is a recognized mental disorder and its character traits are well known: egotism, narcissism, inflexibility, dullness, predictability, inability to understand and love others as they really are and, the inability to creatively relate to others. In other words, this is the polar opposite of the personality of Jesus! [1 p. 159]
Subjects of the complex generally demand attention and are very egotistical. While they may also exhibit generosity and kindness, subjects of a divinity delusion will try to make themselves the center of attention and display extreme selfishness and self-promotion. 
Jesus, however, behaved consistently under pressure, as one in complete possession of his faculties.  He showed none of the symptoms of the 'divinity complex'. His teachings were not the ravings of a lunatic. He never exhibited signs of paranoia or schizophrenia. He was never rash or impulsive. Under all circumstances, even when suffering the anguish of the crucifixion, Jesus appeared self-assured and in complete possession of His senses.
In Jesus we don’t observe any of the abnormalities and imbalance that usually go along with being deranged. Lunatics lack practical wisdom, tough love, and unpredictable creativity. Jesus possessed all these things. [1 p. 159]
To think about: Can you think of any situations where Jesus displayed practical wisdom, tough love and unpredictable creativity?
The teachings of someone with a divinity complex may include sound morality, but that morality is obviously parroted from other sources, showing almost no creativity. It is also includes obscure, or even nonsensical ideas. 
Regardless on what subject He spoke, His advice was always profound, insightful, intelligible, and reliable. His instructions in all areas of human relationships (religious, moral, political, psychological, social) were so reliable that they have molded and shaped Western civilization for nearly twenty centuries!
List some of Jesus' teachings that have influenced Western civilization.
Jesus simply does not exhibit the type of behaviour that is associated with the divinity complex. He behaved consistently under pressure, as one in complete possession of his faculties. 
When we meet a lunatic, we are uncomfortable because we feel superior to him; when his enemies met Jesus they were uncomfortable for the opposite reason. A lunatic does not make you feel personally challenged, only embarrassed and eventually, bored. However, Jesus made everyone feel challenged and uncomfortable, never bored. [1 p. 160]
While many delusions do not keep their sufferers from leading an otherwise normal life, the delusion that one is divine represents another level of mental illness entirely. 
The complex is consistent, it does not lend itself to periods where one is sane and rational, and it does not develop slowly over time. It is accompanied by serious behavioral problems; none of which Jesus ever exhibited. 
A person suffering from the divinity complex is not likely to fool many people, and not for very long.  Jesus was not only able to convince people that He was God - He convinced them to such a degree that they were prepared to die for Him!
It is also important to note that Christianity grew up among people who had seen and heard Jesus in person. It began in Jerusalem and flourished in Judea, places where Jesus spent a great deal of time and was known by many people.  A person suffering from the divinity complex, literally claiming to be God, would be never have had the success and have received the reaction that Jesus received. People attentively listened to, respected, loyally followed, and treated Jesus with awe and wonder. Sceptics wondered who he could be, and how he could possibly have the right to make the claims that he did! How would a person, who would have been an obviously lunatic, receive such a response?
To think about: Why is it significant that Jesus' early followers were eyewitnesses to his life?
Even sceptics agree that Jesus was a good moral teacher. However, being a good moral teacher implies you know something about personal psychology as well. The irony, pointed out by many authors including C. S. Lewis, is that with this "lunatic" option, Jesus knew enough about reality (human nature) and psychology to prescribe morality to others so they could live the best possible life but somehow was mistaken about his own psychology/nature. 
In other words, the expert of human nature who knew how to live the proper life did not understand himself properly! 
The portrait of Jesus in the Gospels does not fit with the lunacy theory, except by argument from silence i.e. there is simply no evidence for this lunacy option! 
Describe the characteristics of a lunatic who thinks that they are God. Describe how these characteristics differ to those of Jesus.
2. He meant it non-literally, mystically (Guru)
Did Jesus claim to be God in a non-literal, mystical sense?
Perhaps Jesus never meant for us to understand him literally, but rather in a mystical way. Yes, Jesus was God, and knew it, and claimed it - but we are all God. Jesus was an enlightened mystic, a guru, who realized his own inner divinity. There are thousands of people today, as in the past, who claim to be God but are neither liars nor lunatics. Why couldn’t Jesus fit into this well-established and well-populated class? [1 p. 165]
Firstly, the arguments against Jesus being misunderstood (in the study on "Did Jesus claim to be God") are also relevant here. Jesus made a point of explaining what he meant to His disciples, and his claims are simply to numerous and clear-cut to be misunderstood. His claims and teachings do not lend themselves to the mystical, guru interpretation.
To think about: Which of Jesus' claims are too clear-cut to fit with a mystical interpretation.
Another important argument against Jesus meaning that he was God in a non-literal, mystical (Guru) way is because Jesus was a Jew. [1 p. 165]
The contradictions between the religious Judaism of Jesus and the teaching of gurus (and their eastern equivalents) are simply too many and too great. There can hardly be a more impossible synthesis than one between Judaism and Hinduism (guru). Jesus clearly taught the way of Judaism and cannot be seen as a guru. [1 p. 170]
To see Jesus as a guru is to uproot his Jewishness. It would be a complete uprooting of his identity. If Jesus was some type of guru then he utterly failed to get any one of the guru’s teachings across to anybody, ever for almost two thousand years. He misled his followers on every one of the following essential points where Judaism and Eastern mysticism conflict. [1 p. 166]
Here are several contradictions between Jesus' Judaism and the universal teaching of all gurus [1 p. 166]
On all of the previously mentioned points he was understood to teach the distinctively Jewish, not mystical (guru) doctrine. An "enlightened master" who can't teach is a contradiction. If he was an enlightened master, then Jesus was the worst teacher in history! [1 p. 169]
He never told anyone to convert from Judaism. He claimed to have come to fulfill the law the prophets, not destroy them. He did not found a new religion, he fulfilled the old one. Despite the arguments between Jews and Christians, there is not the slightest suggestion that these are two alternative religions or that the Old Testament teachings are false. [1 p. 169]
Jesus also had no way of learning eastern religions! He never travelled from his native land. The stories that he did are myths that were started centuries later. No documents of any kind suggest this for the first few centuries A.D. He would not have learned Oriental mysticism in Israel; the Jews were not open, tolerant or pluralistic. Even in the cases of Jewish mysticism (e.g. the Essenes), they were far more Western than Eastern on all of the previously mentioned points. [1 p. 170]
To think about: How reliable is supposed 'information' about Jesus, when it is 'revealed' centuries after his life?
There is hardly a more impossible synthesis as the one between Judaism and eastern mysticism– the very synthesis proposed by suggesting that “Jesus claimed to be God in a non-literal, mystical sense".
We determined that there are really only four possible answers to the question “Who is Jesus?” We then saw that he could not possibly be a liar, lunatic or a guru, thus leaving us with one last option – He was who He claimed to be. Jesus was God!
However intuitively difficult this may seem, it is the only explanation for the data
To think about: What implications does the conclusion that "Jesus was God" have?
We have examined an incredible amount of evidence supporting the fact that Jesus was who he claimed to be.
Why then are many (apart from those who still have intellectual reservations) not convinced?
Why are many not convinced?
NONE of these eight causes of unbelief is a reason, only a MOTIVE; that is they are subjective and psychological, not objective and logical. [1 p. 172]
If you do not / did not believe that Jesus was who he claimed to be, what is / was your reason? Is it an intellectual difficulty with this conclusion, or is it more like one of the above mentioned motives?
If everything that has been said so far is true, then a surprising consequence necessarily follows. It is that there are only two things that are needed for anyone to worship Jesus Christ as God, that is intellectual honesty and the moral honesty that goes with it. This is exactly the attitude most unbelievers praise and claim to have: tough-minded, sceptical, scientific, logical honesty. However, if one really has that attitude, then it will lead them to belief in Jesus Christ. [1 p. 173]
To think about: Many Christians are accused of wishful thinking. However, in the light of all the evidence presented, which position looks more like myth, fairy tale, wishful thinking, subjective projection, and human invention? And which looks like the cold, hard, objective truth? [1 p. 173]
Discussion questions and exercises
Discussion Group - Additional Note
(c) 1999 - KnowWhatYouBelieve.com