I recently attended a debate at a local university between Muslim and Christian representatives.  During the Q&A after the debate one Muslim student went to the microphone to ask; "If Jesus really was God, why didn't he just say so! Where does Jesus say 'I am God, worship me.'"

This is one of many common arguments Muslims use to deny the deity of Jesus. Did Jesus ever say; "I am God?" No. There was no need.

He demonstrated He was God

Power over sickness and disease

  • Healed a leper - Matthew 8: 2-3, Mark 1: 40-42, Luke 5: 12-13
  • Restored a disfigured hand - Matthew 12: 9-13, Mark 3: 1-5, Luke 6:6-10
  • Healed a paralytic - Matthew 9: 1-7, Mark 2: 3-12, Luke 5: 18-25
  • Healed a lame man - John 5: 1-9
  • Restored sight to two blind men - Matthew 9: 27-30
  • Restored sight to another blind man - Mark 8:22-26
  • Healed a Centurion's paralyzed servant - Matthew 8:5-13, Luke 7: 2-10
  • Healed many lame, deaf, lame and other illnesses - Matthew 15: 29-31
  • Healed a deaf-mute man - Mark 7: 31-37
  • Healed ten lepers at once - Luke 17:11-21

Power over death

  • Raised Jairus' daughter - Matthew 9: 23-26, Mark 5: 35-42, Luke 8: 49-55
  • Raised Lazarus - John 11:17-44
  • Raised a widow's son at Nain - Luke 7:11-17

Power over demons

  • Cast an unclean spirit from a boy: Matt. 17:14-20; Mark 9:14-29; Luke 9:37-42
  • Cast out a legion of demons from a man - Matthew 8: 28-34, Mark 5: 1-20, Luke 8: 26-39
  • A demon-possessed mute man was healed both spiritually and physically - Matthew 9: 32-33

Power over sin

  • Forgave sin - something reserved for God alone: Matthew 9: 1-7, Mark 2: 3-12, Luke 5: 18-25

The Jews Recognized His claim to be God

  • When he claimed the divine title "I AM" - John 8:57-59
  • When he said he was one with the Father - John 10:29-33

Jesus Himself asserted his Deity

  • Claims to be the "Son of Man" - a title of Divinity: Matt. 16:27-28; Matt. 17:22; Mark 8:38; Mark 9:31; Luke 9:26; Luke 9:44; John 9:35-38
  • Equating himself with God the Father. - John 5: 17-18; John 10:37-39. Even if Muslims do not recognize the claim of Jesus to be equal with God, the Jews obviously did. The problem here is not with the scripture, but with the Muslim understanding of what the Jews heard Jesus say.
  • Possessed divine foreknowledge - Matt. 16:21; Matt. 17:22-23; Matt. 20:17-19; Mark 8:31; Mark 9:30-31; Mark 10:32-34; Luke 9:22; Luke 18:31-34

Spoke as God in the first person

Whenever the Old Testament prophets brought a word from God they always began their declaration with the words "Thus says the Lord." The capitalized word Lord is the English transliteration of the Hebrew YHWH, God's personal name revealed to Moses on Mount Moriah:

Ex. 3:12 So He said, "I will certainly be with you. And this shall be a sign to you that I have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain."
Ex. 3:13 Then Moses said to God, "Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, "The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they say to me, 'What is His name?' what shall I say to them?"
Ex. 3:14 And God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM." And He said, "Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.' "  15 Moreover God said to Moses, "Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: 'The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is My name forever, and this is My memorial to all generations.'

The phrase in Hebrew where God names himself - The LORD God - is YHWH Elohim. God even says to Moses, "This is My name forever."

Every time a prophet speaks for God he uses God's personal name. In fact the phrase "says the Lord" is used a total of 841 times in the Old Testament.

Josh. 7:13 Get up, sanctify the people, and say, "Sanctify yourselves for tomorrow, because thus says the LORD God of Israel...
Judg. 6:8 that the LORD sent a prophet to the children of Israel, who said to them, "Thus says the LORD God of Israel...
1Sam. 2:27 Then a man of God came to Eli and said to him, "Thus says the LORD...
Is. 7:7 thus says the Lord GOD...

But when Jesus spoke, he never used the phrase "says the Lord," but instead Jesus says, "I say to you..." because as God himself, he speaks in the first person. In this way, Jesus declares his deity. He never needs to say "I am God" because He speaks as God himself does.

  • Matt. 5:21 "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder... 22 But I say to you...
  • Matt. 5:26 Assuredly, I say to you...
  • Matt. 5:27 "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not commit adultery.' 28 But I say to you...
  • Matt. 5:31 "Furthermore it has been said, 'Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.' 32 But I say to you...
  • Matt. 5:33 "Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.' 34 But I say to you...
  • Matt. 5:38 "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' 39 But I tell you...
  • Matt. 5:43 "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44 But I say to you, love your enemies...

Conclusion

Was Jesus God? Absolutely! Did he claim to be God? Without a doubt. Did he ever use the words Muslims demand he use - I am God? No, he didn't need to; his claim to deity was self-evident in so many other ways there was no need to use those exact words. The Jewish religious leaders clearly understood what Jesus' claims to deity were. If Muslim apologists old and new cannot see it that way, that is due to a lack of discernment and understanding on their part.

Specifically, when Jesus claimed to be "I AM" in John 8:58, he clearly was making a claim of deity. How do we know? The Jews around him picked up stones to stone him for blasphemy. However, I recently had a Muslim argue against this. She said the phrase I AM simply is a present tense verb in the Greek of word which means 'to be.' She is right; that is the word used here.

But one objection Muslims commonly raise against Christians interpreting certain verses in the Quran has to do with context. Muslim apologists will accuse Christians of taking a verse out of its historical context in which the verse is set, most commonly used when Christians discuss some of the more violent verses of the Quran such as Sura 9:5 or 9:29. Muslims say we must take interpret those verses using the historical context in which they are set.

Great! Let's interpret John 8:58 using the same criteria then. In John 8:58, in addressing the Pharisees, Jesus said "Before Abraham was, I AM." In the historical context of first century Judaism, the phrase "I AM" used in such a stand-alone setting was nothing short of a declaration of deity. To the Jewish mind of the first century, one did not use those words in isolaton unless one was claiming to be God himself. The Jews understood this, and we can see this in their actions of picking up stones to stone him. 

There is no doubt who Jesus was claiming to be. Muslims ignore this claim at their own peril.

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