Does Scripture actually teach that Jesus is fully divine? There’s a handful of different ways we could look at this, but one of the most overlooked ones that I find quite fascinating is how the New Testament authors are using the Old Testament and what the Old Testament says about the God of Israel and now transforming that to describe the full deity of Jesus. In other words, they’re saying what the Old Testament is describing as God is now fully revealed to be a Triune God with the Son as a fully divine, now-in-flesh person.
Where do we see this? Well, the use of “Lord” very early, even before Jesus was born in Luke’s infancy narrative (Luke 1 and 2), that itself is special. We lose this in English translation, but “Lord,” coming from kurios, was an almost technical term used to translate both Yahweh and Adonai as the Hebrew Scriptures made their way into Greek. And so to immediately begin using that word to describe the Lord Jesus itself is laden with meaning.
Mark 1 is a famous example where Mark begins his Gospel saying that the beginning of the gospel of Jesus is as written in Isaiah, Malachi, and Exodus. And you have two different passages, three really, that are stitched together to say that you have this messenger preceding the way of the Lord. And that Lord in their original context was Yahweh, now we understand it to be Jesus. Very simple way that he does that massively meaning-filled transformation.
Another area that I’ve worked on in my own writing is the transformation of divine metaphors. If you ever read the Old Testament you don’t go very far without bumping into a metaphor being used for God himself. We do this all the time in our speech where we take things we know, concrete things that we’re familiar with, and use them to articulate aspects of more abstract things. So for instance you see all over the place, particularly in the Psalms, but elsewhere as well, that God is described as my refuge, my strong tower, my rock, my horn of salvation. He is the mother bird who gathers the Israelites to himself. Of course God isn’t actually a rock. He’s not actually a mother bird, but these are metaphors that the Israelites were using to describe their relationship with the one true God.
Jesus is now taking on that metaphor for himself saying, ‘I am actually the incarnation of the mother bird who is gathering the people of Israel to himself.’You turn to the New Testament and the New Testament authors pick up on several of these. And what they do is they start to translate and transform them to now take Jesus Christ himself as the thing to which that metaphor is pointing. Luke does this famously a handful of times where he has Jesus (and Matthew actually echoes this as well) Jesus is traveling to Jerusalem and he says, “Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how long have I desired to gather your children as a mother bird gathers her nestlings, but you have rejected me” (Matt. 23:37). He’s drawing on this very rich Old Testament heritage where the only one who is ever described that way, several different places from Exodus all the way through the Psalms, is God himself. It’s not strictly speaking a messiah that is the mother bird of Israel, it’s God himself. Jesus is now taking on that metaphor for himself saying, ‘I am actually the incarnation of the mother bird who is gathering the people of Israel to himself.’
That’s just one great example where, quite creatively actually, the New Testament authors and Jesus are saying the way we really understand who God is through these metaphors is now the way we understand the person and work of Jesus himself. It’s quite subtle. It’s not like Jesus is walking around all the time saying, “Hey, I’m God in the flesh!” although he does occasionally, in indirect ways, but it’s almost a more powerful way of doing it. It’s using the conceptual raw materials of an early Jewish convert to Christianity, for instance, to portray the same kind of truth that they’re getting at to say, when we see Jesus Christ in the flesh, he is the incarnation of the God of the Old Testament. And the interesting thing is they use the Old Testament to prove that out.