Definition: The only-begotten Son of God, the only Son produced by Jehovah alone. This Son is the firstborn of all creation. By means of him all other things in heaven and on earth were created. He is the second-greatest personage in the universe. It is this Son whom Jehovah sent to the earth to give his life as a ransom for mankind, thus opening the way to eternal life for those of Adam’s offspring who would exercise faith. This same Son, restored to heavenly glory, now rules as King, with authority to destroy all the wicked and to carry out his Father’s original purpose for the earth. The Hebrew form of the name Jesus means “Jehovah Is Salvation”; Christ is the equivalent of the Hebrew Ma·shiʹach (Messiah), meaning “Anointed One.”
Was Jesus Christ a real, historical person?
The Bible itself is the principal evidence that Jesus Christ is a historical person. The record in the Gospels is not a vague narrative of events at some unspecified time and in an unnamed location. It clearly states time and place in great detail. For an example, see Luke 3:1, 2, 21-23.
The first-century Jewish historian Josephus referred to the stoning of “James, the brother of Jesus who was called the Christ.” (The Jewish Antiquities, Josephus, Book XX, sec. 200) A direct and very favorable reference to Jesus, found in Book XVIII, sections 63, 64, has been challenged by some who claim that it must have been either added later or embellished by Christians; but it is acknowledged that the vocabulary and the style are basically those of Josephus, and the passage is found in all available manuscripts.
Tacitus, a Roman historian who lived during the latter part of the first century C.E., wrote: “Christus [Latin for “Christ”], from whom the name [Christian] had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus.”—The Complete Works of Tacitus (New York, 1942), “The Annals,” Book 15, par. 44.
With reference to early non-Christian historical references to Jesus, The New Encyclopædia Britannica states: “These independent accounts prove that in ancient times even the opponents of Christianity never doubted the historicity of Jesus, which was disputed for the first time and on inadequate grounds by several authors at the end of the 18th, during the 19th, and at the beginning of the 20th centuries.”—(1976), Macropædia, Vol. 10, p. 145.
Was Jesus Christ simply a good man?
Interestingly, Jesus rebuked a man who addressed him with the title “Good Teacher,” because Jesus recognized not himself but his Father to be the standard of goodness. (Mark 10:17, 18) However, to measure up to what people generally mean when they say that someone is good, Jesus surely must have been truthful. Indeed, even his enemies acknowledged that he was. (Mark 12:14) He himself said that he had a prehuman existence, that he was the unique Son of God, that he was the Messiah, the one whose coming was foretold throughout the Hebrew Scriptures. Either he was what he said or he was a gross impostor, but neither option allows for the view that he was simply a good man.—John 3:13; 10:36; 4:25, 26; Luke 24:44-48.
Was Jesus merely a prophet whose authority was similar to that of Moses, Buddha, Muhammad, and other religious leaders?
Jesus himself taught that he was the unique Son of God (John 10:36; Matt. 16:15-17), the foretold Messiah (Mark 14:61, 62), that he had a prehuman existence in heaven (John 6:38; 8:23, 58), that he would be put to death and then would be raised to life on the third day and would thereafter return to the heavens. (Matt. 16:21; John 14:2, 3) Were these claims true, and was he thus really different from all other true prophets of God and in sharp contrast to all self-styled religious leaders? The truth of the matter would be evident on the third day from his death. Did God then resurrect him from the dead, thus confirming that Jesus Christ had spoken the truth and was indeed God’s unique Son? (Rom. 1:3, 4) Over 500 witnesses actually saw Jesus alive following his resurrection, and his faithful apostles were eyewitnesses as he began his ascent back to heaven and then disappeared from their view in a cloud. (1 Cor. 15:3-8; Acts 1:2, 3, 9) So thoroughly were they convinced that he had been raised from the dead that many of them risked their lives to tell others about it.—Acts 4:18-33.
Why did the Jews in general not accept Jesus as the Messiah?
The Encyclopaedia Judaica says: “The Jews of the Roman period believed [the Messiah] would be raised up by God to break the yoke of the heathen and to reign over a restored kingdom of Israel.” (Jerusalem, 1971, Vol. 11, col. 1407) They wanted liberation from the yoke of Rome. Jewish history testifies that on the basis of the Messianic prophecy recorded at Daniel 9:24-27 there were Jews who expected the Messiah during the first century C.E. (Luke 3:15) But that prophecy also connected his coming with ‘making an end of sin,’ and Isaiah chapter 53 indicated that Messiah himself would die in order to make this possible. However, the Jews in general felt no need for anyone to die for their sins. They believed that they had a righteous standing with God on the basis of their descent from Abraham. Says A Rabbinic Anthology, “So great is the [merit] of Abraham that he can atone for all the vanities committed and lies uttered by Israel in this world.” (London, 1938, C. Montefiore and H. Loewe, p. 676) By their rejection of Jesus as Messiah, the Jews fulfilled the prophecy that had foretold regarding him: “He was despised, and we esteemed him not.”—Isaiah 53:3, JP.
Before his death, Moses foretold that the nation would turn aside from true worship and that, as a result, calamity would befall them. (Read Deuteronomy 31:27-29.) The book of Judges testifies that this occurred repeatedly. In the days of the prophet Jeremiah, national unfaithfulness led to the nation’s being taken into exile in Babylon. Why did God also allow the Romans to destroy Jerusalem and its temple in 70 C.E.? Of what unfaithfulness had the nation been guilty so that God did not protect them as he had done when they had put their trust in him? It was shortly before this that they had rejected Jesus as the Messiah.
Is Jesus Christ actually God?
John 17:3, RS: “[Jesus prayed to his Father:] This is eternal life, that they know thee the only true God [“who alone art truly God,” NE], and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” (Notice that Jesus referred not to himself but to his Father in heaven as “the only true God.”)
John 20:17, RS: “Jesus said to her [Mary Magdalene], ‘Do not hold me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” (So to the resurrected Jesus, the Father was God, just as the Father was God to Mary Magdalene. Interestingly, not once in Scripture do we find the Father addressing the Son as “my God.”)
Does John 1:1 prove that Jesus is God?
John 1:1, RS: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God [also KJ, JB, Dy, Kx, NAB].” NE reads “what God was, the Word was.” Mo says “the Logos was divine.” AT and Sd tell us “the Word was divine.” The interlinear rendering of ED is “a god was the Word.” NW reads “the Word was a god”; NTIV uses the same wording.
What is it that these translators are seeing in the Greek text that moves some of them to refrain from saying “the Word was God”? The definite article (the) appears before the first occurrence of the·osʹ (God) but not before the second. The articular (when the article appears) construction of the noun points to an identity, a personality, whereas a singular anarthrous (without the article) predicate noun before the verb (as the sentence is constructed in Greek) points to a quality about someone. So the text is not saying that the Word (Jesus) was the same as the God with whom he was but, rather, that the Word was godlike, divine, a god. (See 1984 Reference edition of NW, p. 1579.)
What did the apostle John mean when he wrote John 1:1? Did he mean that Jesus is himself God or perhaps that Jesus is one God with the Father? In the same chapter, verse 18, John wrote: “No one [“no man,” KJ, Dy] has ever seen God; the only Son [“the only-begotten god,” NW], who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known.” (RS) Had any human seen Jesus Christ, the Son? Of course! So, then, was John saying that Jesus was God? Obviously not. Toward the end of his Gospel, John summarized matters, saying: “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, [not God, but] the Son of God.”—John 20:31, RS.
Does Thomas’ exclamation at John 20:28 prove that Jesus is truly God?
John 20:28 (RS) reads: “Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’”
There is no objection to referring to Jesus as “God,” if this is what Thomas had in mind. Such would be in harmony with Jesus’ own quotation from the Psalms in which powerful men, judges, were addressed as “gods.” (John 10:34, 35, RS; Ps. 82:1-6) Of course, Christ occupies a position far higher than such men. Because of the uniqueness of his position in relation to Jehovah, at John 1:18 (NW) Jesus is referred to as “the only-begotten god.” (See also Ro, By.) Isaiah 9:6 (RS) also prophetically describes Jesus as “Mighty God,” but not as the Almighty God. All of this is in harmony with Jesus’ being described as “a god,” or “divine,” at John 1:1 (NW, AT).
The context helps us to draw the right conclusion from this. Shortly before Jesus’ death, Thomas had heard Jesus’ prayer in which he addressed his Father as “the only true God.” (John 17:3, RS) After Jesus’ resurrection Jesus had sent a message to his apostles, including Thomas, in which he had said: “I am ascending . . . to my God and your God.” (John 20:17, RS) After recording what Thomas said when he actually saw and touched the resurrected Christ, the apostle John stated: “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:31, RS) So, if anyone has concluded from Thomas’ exclamation that Jesus is himself “the only true God” or that Jesus is a Trinitarian “God the Son,” he needs to look again at what Jesus himself said (vs. 17) and at the conclusion that is clearly stated by the apostle John (vs. 31).
Does Matthew 1:23 indicate that Jesus when on earth was God?
Matt. 1:23, RS: “‘Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanʹu-el’ (which means, God with us [“God is with us,” NE]).”
In announcing Jesus’ coming birth, did Jehovah’s angel say that the child would be God himself? No, the announcement was: “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High.” (Luke 1:32, 35, RS; italics added.) And Jesus himself never claimed to be God but, rather, “the Son of God.” (John 10:36, RS; italics added.) Jesus was sent into the world by God; so by means of this only-begotten Son, God was with mankind.—John 3:17; 17:8.
It was not unusual for Hebrew names to include within them the word for God or even an abbreviated form of God’s personal name. For example, Eliʹathah means “God Has Come”; Jehu means “Jehovah Is He”; Elijah means “My God Is Jehovah.” But none of these names implied that the possessor was himself God.
What is the meaning of John 5:18?
John 5:18, RS: “This was why the Jews sought all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the sabbath but also called God his Father, making himself equal with God.”
It was the unbelieving Jews who reasoned that Jesus was attempting to make himself equal with God by claiming God as his Father. While properly referring to God as his Father, Jesus never claimed equality with God. He straightforwardly answered the Jews: “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing.” (John 5:19, RS; see also John 14:28; John 10:36.) It was those unbelieving Jews, too, who claimed that Jesus broke the Sabbath, but they were wrong also about that. Jesus kept the Law perfectly, and he declared: “It is lawful to do good on the sabbath.”—Matt. 12:10-12, RS.
Does the fact that worship is given to Jesus prove that he is God?
At Hebrews 1:6, the angels are instructed to “worship” Jesus, according to the rendering of RS, TEV, KJ, JB, and NAB. NW says “do obeisance to.” At Matthew 14:33, Jesus’ disciples are said to have “worshiped” him, according to RS, TEV, KJ; other translations say that they “showed him reverence” (NAB), “bowed down before him” (JB), “fell at his feet” (NE), “did obeisance to him” (NW).
The Greek word rendered “worship” is pro·sky·neʹo, which A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature says was also “used to designate the custom of prostrating oneself before a person and kissing his feet, the hem of his garment, the ground.” (Chicago, 1979, Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich, Danker; second English edition; p. 716) This is the term used at Matthew 14:33 to express what the disciples did toward Jesus; at Hebrews 1:6 to indicate what the angels are to do toward Jesus; at Genesis 22:5 in the Greek Septuagint to describe what Abraham did toward Jehovah and at Genesis 23:7 to describe what Abraham did, in harmony with the custom of the time, toward people with whom he was doing business; at 1 Kings 1:23 in the Septuagint to describe the prophet Nathan’s action on approaching King David.
At Matthew 4:10 (RS), Jesus said: “You shall worship [from pro·sky·neʹo] the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.” (At Deuteronomy 6:13, which Jesus is evidently here quoting, appears the personal name of God, the Tetragrammaton.) In harmony with that, we must understand that it is pro·sky·neʹo with a particular attitude of heart and mind that should be directed only toward God.
Do the miracles performed by Jesus prove that he is God?
Acts 10:34, 38, RS: “Peter opened his mouth and said: ‘ . . . God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; . . . he went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.’” (So Peter did not conclude from the miracles that he observed that Jesus was God but, rather, that God was with Jesus. Compare Matthew 16:16, 17.)
John 20:30, 31, RS: “Now Jesus did many other signs [“miracles,” TEV, Kx] in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.” (So the conclusion we should properly draw from the miracles is that Jesus is “the Christ,” the Messiah, “the Son of God.” The expression “Son of God” is very different from “God the Son.”)
Pre-Christian prophets such as Elijah and Elisha performed miracles similar to those of Jesus. Yet that certainly is no proof that they were God.
Is Jesus the same as Jehovah in the “Old Testament”?
Is believing in Jesus Christ all that is required for salvation?
Acts 16:30-32, RS: “‘Men, what must I do to be saved?’ And they [Paul and Silas] said, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.’ And they spoke the word of the Lord [“God,” NAB, also JB and NE footnotes; “God’s message,” AT] to him and to all that were in his house.” (Was that man’s ‘believing in the Lord Jesus’ just a matter of his saying sincerely that he believed? Paul showed that more was required—namely, knowledge and acceptance of the Word of God, as Paul and Silas now proceeded to preach it to the jailer. Would a person’s belief in Jesus be genuine if he did not worship the God whom Jesus worshiped, if he did not apply what Jesus taught as to the kind of persons his disciples should be, or if he did not do the work that Jesus commanded his followers to perform? We cannot earn salvation; it is possible only on the basis of faith in the value of the sacrifice of Jesus’ human life. But our lives must be consistent with the faith that we profess, even though that may involve hardship. At Matthew 10:22 [RS] Jesus said: “He who endures to the end will be saved.”)
Did Jesus have a heavenly existence before he became a human?
Col. 1:15-17, RS: “He [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation . . . All things were created through him and for him. He is before all things.”
Does Jesus have his fleshly body in heaven?
1 Cor. 15:42-50, RS: “So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. . . . It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. . . . Thus it is written, ‘The first man Adam became a living being’; the last Adam [Jesus Christ, who was a perfect human as Adam had been at the start] became a life-giving spirit. . . . I tell you this, brethren: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.” (Italics added.)
Illustration: If a man pays a debt for a friend but then promptly takes back the payment, obviously the debt continues. Likewise, if, when he was resurrected, Jesus had taken back his human body of flesh and blood, which had been given in sacrifice to pay the ransom price, what effect would that have had on the provision he was making to relieve faithful persons of the debt of sin?
It is true that Jesus appeared in physical form to his disciples after his resurrection. But on certain occasions, why did they not at first recognize him? (Luke 24:15-32; John 20:14-16) On one occasion, for the benefit of Thomas, Jesus appeared with the physical evidence of nail prints in his hands and a spear wound in his side. But how was it possible on that occasion for him suddenly to appear in their midst even though the doors were locked? (John 20:26, 27) Jesus evidently materialized bodies on these occasions, as angels had done in the past when appearing to humans. Disposing of Jesus’ physical body at the time of his resurrection presented no problem for God. Interestingly, although the physical body was not left by God in the tomb (evidently to strengthen the conviction of the disciples that Jesus had actually been raised), the linen cloths in which it had been wrapped were left there; yet, the resurrected Jesus always appeared fully clothed.—John 20:6, 7.
Is Jesus Christ the same person as Michael the archangel?
The name of this Michael appears only five times in the Bible. The glorious spirit person who bears the name is referred to as “one of the chief princes,” “the great prince who has charge of your [Daniel’s] people,” and as “the archangel.” (Dan. 10:13; 12:1; Jude 9, RS) Michael means “Who Is Like God?” The name evidently designates Michael as the one who takes the lead in upholding Jehovah’s sovereignty and destroying God’s enemies.
At 1 Thessalonians 4:16 (RS), the command of Jesus Christ for the resurrection to begin is described as “the archangel’s call,” and Jude 9 says that the archangel is Michael. Would it be appropriate to liken Jesus’ commanding call to that of someone lesser in authority? Reasonably, then, the archangel Michael is Jesus Christ. (Interestingly, the expression “archangel” is never found in the plural in the Scriptures, thus implying that there is only one.)
Revelation 12:7-12 says that Michael and his angels would war against Satan and hurl him and his wicked angels out of heaven in connection with the conferring of kingly authority on Christ. Jesus is later depicted as leading the armies of heaven in war against the nations of the world. (Rev. 19:11-16) Is it not reasonable that Jesus would also be the one to take action against the one he described as “ruler of this world,” Satan the Devil? (John 12:31) Daniel 12:1 (RS) associates the ‘standing up of Michael’ to act with authority with “a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time.” That would certainly fit the experience of the nations when Christ as heavenly executioner takes action against them. So the evidence indicates that the Son of God was known as Michael before he came to earth and is known also by that name since his return to heaven where he resides as the glorified spirit Son of God.
If Someone Says—
‘You don’t believe in Jesus’
You might reply: ‘Evidently you are a person who believes in Jesus. And so do I; otherwise I would not be at your door today.’ Then perhaps add: ‘In fact, the importance of faith in Jesus is prominently featured in our publications. (Turn to an appropriate chapter in whatever book you are offering and use this as a basis for discussion, highlighting his role as King. Or read what is stated on page 2 of The Watchtower, regarding the purpose of the magazine.)’
Or you could say: ‘Do you mind if I ask you why you feel that way?’
Another possibility: ‘Apparently someone has told you that, but may I say that such is not really the case, because we have very strong faith in Jesus Christ.’ Then perhaps add: (1) ‘But we do not believe everything that people say about Jesus. For example, some say that he was just a good man, not the Son of God. We do not believe that, do you? . . . That is not what the Bible teaches.’ (2) ‘And we do not believe the teachings of groups that contradict what Jesus himself said about his relationship with his Father. (John 14:28) His Father has given him ruling authority that affects the lives of all of us today. (Dan. 7:13, 14)’
‘Do you accept Jesus as your personal Savior?’
You might reply: ‘The Bible clearly says . . . (quote Acts 4:12). I believe that. But I have also learned that serious responsibilities go with it. How is that? Well, if I really believe in Jesus, then I can’t believe in him just as far as it seems convenient.’ Then perhaps add: ‘His perfect life given in sacrifice makes it possible for us to have forgiveness of sins. But I know that it is also vital to pay attention to his instructions regarding our responsibilities as Christians. (Acts 1:8; Matt. 28:19, 20)’
Or you could say: ‘(After confirming the fact that you do believe in Jesus as Savior, not only of yourself, but of all who exercise faith in him . . . ) It is important that we respond appreciatively not only to what he did in the past but also to what he is doing now. (Matt. 25:31-33)’
‘I have accepted Jesus as my personal Savior’
You might reply: ‘I am glad to hear that you believe in Jesus, because there are so many people today who give no thought to what Jesus did for us. You no doubt know well the scripture at John 3:16, don’t you? . . . But where will such people live forever? Some will be with Christ in heaven. But does the Bible show that all good people go there? (Matt. 6:10; 5:5)’