The Trinity: An Interdisciplinary Symposium on the Trinity

By Stephen T. Davis; Daniel Kendall et al. | Go to book overview

2 Jesus' Self-Designation 'The Son of Man' and the Recognition of His Divinity

Craig A. Evans

Apart from the divine identity of Jesus as the Son there could not be a Trinity—at least not in the traditional Christian sense. The concept of Trinity expresses the idea that the three Persons that make it up are fully divine, fully God: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Theologians, philosophers, and apologists have debated and will continue to debate whether or not Jesus was divine and in what manner he related and/or relates to God. The historical exegete is left to explore the question whether or not our sources indicate that Jesus and/or his contemporaries understood him as in any sense divine. It is this latter point that the present paper explores.

For the last century or so biblical critics have frequently asserted or assumed that the ascription of divine status to Jesus was to be traced to early Christianity's contact with the Greco-Roman influences outside the Jewish Palestinian environment in which the movement had its beginning. The overlap between Greco-Roman language and New Testament language is extensive and meaningful. The former describes kings and emperors as 'gods', 'sons of god', 'saviours', 'lords', 'benefactors', and even 'creators'. A sampling of inscriptions will make this clear. From the Greek world, a third-century bce inscription from Halicarnassus honours Πτολɛμαίου

σωτρος καὶ θɛο ('Ptolemy, saviour and god'). The famous Rosetta Stone bears the inscription of a later Ptolemy (196 bce), who is described as Βασιλɛὺς Πτολɛμαος αἰωνόβιος . . .ὑπάρχων θɛὸς ἐκ θɛο καὶ θɛς ('King Ptolemy, the everliving . . . being a god [born] of a god and a goddess'). An inscription found over a door of a Temple of Isis on the island of Philae refers to Ptolemy XIII (62 bce): το κυρίου βασιλ[έ]ος θɛο ('of the lord king

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