Have we read the deity of Christ into the Bible? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.
Written on a popular level, Ed Komoszewski and Rob Bowman’s “Putting Jesus In His Place” is an excellent look at the biblical testimony to the full deity of Jesus Christ. The writing is clear and accessible with several charts that will help the reader with seeing the comparisons that the writers frequently make.
Also, the writers regularly go with the best in New Testament scholarship. We’re not talking about just reading popular authors. (Although the people they reference should be popular in the church and it’s a sign of our weakness that they’re not.) We’re talking about scholars like Bauckham, Hurtado, Witherington, and Wright. That’s just a small sample.
The writers also do not go too technical which will be a benefit. At times, there is Greek terminology used, but I suspect those who have no grasp at all of the Greek language would still manage to find their way through this work.
At the start, the book explains as well the importance of honor in the ancient worldview, a point that I like to see repeatedly emphasized as so many people today think the biblical culture was just like theirs. This only leads to a further misunderstanding of what we find in the Bible.
The book has the advantage as well of going through the New Testament and not just going to the main texts usually used like John 1:1-18 or Hebrews 1 or John 20:28, etc. Of course, they do go to these texts, but they bring up several points where the Bible implicitly has in the background the full deity of Jesus and that these passages do not make sense unless you see that.
The book focused on comparing Jesus in five areas to make a cumulative case. The acronym used is HANDS. Jesus shares the honors of God, the attributes of God, the name of God, the deeds of God, and the seat of God. This is a powerful case combined together and goes beyond just finding texts where Jesus is explicitly called God.
However, while this case is powerful, I do have some concerns that I would like to see if the writers decide to write a second edition of the book in the future.
First, I would like to see more interaction with the other side. One of my rules for reading a book is to beware of the sound of one hand clapping. A case sounds powerful if you don’t interact with the other side.
Now this book does interact with the other side, but it should be more frequent. For instance, I don’t think it was until I was 100 pages into the book that I came across the first mention of Jehovah’s Witnesses. For the writers addressing a popular audience, this is the group they will come across the most that is arguing against the deity of Christ. Their arguments need to be taken more seriously and need to be referred to more often.
Second, I would like to see more of an index. There is an index of Scriptural passages, but it would be nice to see something like an index of writers or even people like Jehovah’s Witnesses or people like Greg Stafford. (I know who Stafford is, but it would have been nice to also seen who he is explained in the text since many people might not check notes.)
Third, I do think some cases could have been stronger, but I suppose that is the same for every work. For instance, Revelation 5:13-14 was used repeatedly, which is good, but I never saw mentioned how it says that all creation worships Him who sits on the throne and the Lamb, which differentiated the Lamb from creation. I think Matthew 28:17 could be strengthened when you noticed that the people in the text grasped Jesus’s feet and worshiped him. Jehovah’s Witnesses often tell us that the Greek word proskuneo, means to bow down and do obesiance. That would be problematic here since if the feet of Jesus are already being grasped, then it’s quite likely that they were already bowed down.
I also think some examples could have been improved upon as well. For instance, we are told Jesus was omnipresent in that He saw Nathaniel while Philip was talking to him. Yet could not the Jehovah’s Witness say Elisha knew about what Gehazi was doing while Gehazi was out? Mind you, I do not think that is a good objection, but it is an objection and I can easily see a Jehovah’s Witness using it.
Of course, in any work, there are always ways to improve and that would require volumes and volumes. Still, the main improvement I would like to see would be more interaction with the other side. I think every chapter should deal with some counterarguments to the position or reasons to doubt it.
Also, a caveat, this book is written on a popular level for Christians. You will not see arguments generally for the historicity of the text or the textual reliability of the text. Numerous books have been written on those areas already and I do think it would be too much to ask that everyone who is writing a book like this also have to write a book defending historicity and textual reliability. Those who want to argue on other grounds against the deity of Christ must go elsewhere.
Still, despite the caveats and ways of improvement, I do recommend this book. It is the best book I know of on a popular level dealing with the subject, but I hope those who read it will also read the scholarly books that deal with the subject.