Essay / Theology

The Best Book on Jesus’ Divinity

Many months ago, Ed Komoszewski wrote to me and asked if I might be interested in seeing a forthcoming book he had recently finished co-authoring with Rob Bowman. It was on the deity of Christ; I was interested; he sent me page proofs; I loved it. The book was Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ (by Robert M. Bowman, Jr. and J. Ed Komoszewski, Kregel, 2007).

It was exactly the book I’d been looking for to recommend to people who asked me for a solid set of arguments that Jesus is God. I hated recommending books that mixed good arguments with weak ones, and I was tired of waving my hand at a whole shelf of narrowly-focused volumes, a bunch of scattered articles, and selections from gigantic books by Bauckham, Hurtado, and N. T. Wright. Putting Jesus in His Place had it all. I sent an endorsement to the publisher, Kregel, saying

While reading the book, I found myself at several points thinking, “It’s too bad that a popular-level book like this can’t afford to give the details on some of the more complicated evidence,” only to discover that Bowman and Komoszewski plunged right in and provided easy-to-understand summaries of the specialist scholarship. Putting Jesus in His Place is the book I’ve been looking for to put into the hands of believers who want to understand how the New Testament teaches that Jesus is God.

And then I found I had more to say about the book, so I reviewed it for Touchstone Magazine. The review just came out in the April 2009 issue of the magazine. Here’s some of what I say in that review:

Older apologetics relied heavily on Jesus’ claim to deity (think of the Liar-Lunatic-Lord trilemma made famous by C. S. Lewis), but that approach tended to restrict attention to a handful of verses. Likewise, the appeal to the few passages in which Jesus is directly referred to as God could result in a rather narrow basis for such an important doctrine.

“The case for the deity of Christ does not rest on a few proof-texts,” say the authors. Rejecting “The popular notion that some fourth-century Christians decided to impose on the church a belief in Jesus as God and wrenched isolated Bible verses from their contexts,” they recommend thinking more broadly about the nature of the New Testament evidence.

Jesus didn’t so much verbalize his claim to deity, for example: he enacted it. The people of God were waiting for the Lord to show up in person to bring reconciliation: Jesus walked among men healing, forgiving, and doing everything that God was supposed to do. When, on occasion, he also claimed to be more than a prophet, his claim made sense because it put into words what he was doing in the flesh.

Jesus does what God does. This is the foundation for his claims to deity. N. T. Wright has recently helped his readers to see this with his massive narrative arguments, and Bowman and Komoszewski boil a lot of Wright down to a manageable size. They also manage to hold on to the more direct claims to deity that Jesus occasionally makes in the gospels, a task that Wright himself is not always successful with.

If I sound enthusiastic, it’s because I’m enthusiastic. I reviewed the book because I recommend it.

And while I’m in the business of recommending, let me recommend Touchstone. They make a few of their lead articles available online every month (not the book reviews—sorry!), and they run a blog with eight good contributors and open comments. If you like what you see there, you ought to subscribe. It’s a conservative ecumenical journal that has managed to avoid all the mistakes made by most ecumenical projects.

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