“Those Who Are Called ‘Gods’”
WHEN the apostle Paul healed a lame man in Lystra, the people shouted: “The gods have become like humans and have come down to us!” Paul they called Hermes, and his companion Barnabas, Zeus. (Acts 14:8-14) In Ephesus the silversmith Demetrius warned that if Paul was allowed to continue to preach, ‘the temple of the great goddess Artemis would be esteemed as nothing.’—Acts 19:24-28.
People in the first century—like many today—worshiped “those who are called ‘gods,’ whether in heaven or on earth.” Paul, in fact, said: “There are many ‘gods’ and many ‘lords’.” However, he also explained: “There is actually to us one God the Father,” and “there is one Lord, Jesus Christ.”—1 Corinthians 8:5, 6.
Was Jesus Also Called God?
Although Jesus never claimed to be God, as Jehovah’s appointed ruler he is identified in Isaiah’s prophecy by the terms “Mighty God” and “Prince of Peace.” Isaiah’s prophecy adds: “To the abundance of the princely rule and to peace there will be no end.” (Isaiah 9:6, 7) So, as the “Prince”—the son of the Great King, Jehovah—Jesus will serve as Ruler of the heavenly government of “God Almighty.”—Exodus 6:3.
Yet, a person may ask, ‘In what sense is Jesus a “Mighty God,” and didn’t the apostle John say that Jesus is himself God?’ In the King James version of the Bible, John 1:1 reads: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Some argue that this means that “the Word,” who was born on earth as the baby Jesus, is Almighty God himself. Is this true?
If this verse were interpreted to mean Jesus was himself God Almighty, it would contradict the preceding statement, “the Word was with God.” Someone who is “with” another person cannot be the same as that other person. Many Bible translations thus draw a distinction, making clear that the Word was not God Almighty. For example, a sampling of Bible translations say the following: “The Word was a God,” “a god was the Word,” and “the Word was divine.”*
Bible verses that in the Greek language have a construction similar to that of John 1:1 use the expression “a god.” For example, when referring to Herod Agrippa I, the crowds shouted: ‘It is a god speaking.’ And when Paul survived a bite by a poisonous snake, the people said: “He is a god.” (Acts 12:22; 28:3-6) It is in harmony with both Greek grammar and Bible teaching to speak of the Word as, not God, but “a god.”—John 1:1.
Consider how John identified “the Word” in the first chapter of his Gospel. “The Word became flesh and resided among us,” he wrote, “and we had a view of his glory, a glory such as belongs [not to God but] to an only-begotten son from a father.” So “the Word,” who became flesh, lived on the earth as the man Jesus and was seen by people. Therefore, he could not have been Almighty God, regarding whom John says: “No man has seen God at any time.”—John 1:14, 18.
‘Why, then,’ one may ask, ‘did Thomas exclaim when seeing the resurrected Jesus, “My Lord and my God!”?’ As already noted, Jesus is a god in the sense of being divine, but he is not the Father. Jesus had just told Mary Magdalene: “I am ascending to my Father and your Father and to my God and your God.” Remember, too, why John wrote his Gospel. Three verses after the account about Thomas, John explained that he wrote so that people “may believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God”—not that he is God.—John 20:17, 28, 31.
Who Is “the God of This World”?
Clearly, there are many gods. Some, as we have seen, are named in the Bible. Yet, people who saw Jehovah’s power long ago exclaimed: “Jehovah is the true God! Jehovah is the true God!” (1 Kings 18:39) Another god, however, also has power. The Bible says: “The god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not.”—2 Corinthians 4:4, King James Version.
The night before his death, Jesus three times warned his disciples about this god, calling him “the ruler of this world.” Jesus said this powerful ruler, or god, “will be cast out.” (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11) Who is this god, and what is the world over which he is the ruler?
He is none other than the rebel angel, Satan the Devil. How do we know? The Bible explains that when Satan tempted Jesus, Satan showed him “all the kingdoms of the world and their glory, and he said to him: ‘All these things I will give you if you fall down and do an act of worship to me.’” (Matthew 4:8, 9) This offer would not have been a temptation at all if Satan had been offering Jesus what Satan did not possess. Indeed, the apostle John declared: “The whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.”—1 John 5:19.
Recall that Jesus promised: “The ruler of this world will be cast out.” (John 12:31) In fact, this world, or system of things, along with its ruler, will be removed, as foretold by the apostle John when he stated: “The world is passing away.” However, John added: “He that does the will of God remains forever.” (1 John 2:17) Let us examine now the glorious purposes of the only true God and how we can benefit from them.
See The New Testament, by James L. Tomanek; The Emphatic Diaglott, interlinear reading, by Benjamin Wilson; The Bible—An American Translation, by J.M.P. Smith and E. J. Goodspeed.
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The people of Lystra were inclined to call Paul and Barnabas gods
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Jesus told Mary Magdalene: ‘I am ascending to my God and your God’