Biyernes, Hunyo 12, 2015



ONE OF THE WITNESSES summoned by proponents of the Christ-is-God theology to prove their contention regarding the doctrine of the alleged deity of Christ is Thomas the Apostle.  He is the same apostle who has been dubbed “doubting Thomas” in theological and religious circles because he once maintained an adamant position not to readily believe the testimonies of those who had actually seen the risen Lord, unless the account could be visibly proven.  However, was Thomas’ statement in John 20:28 a statement of faith of a believer or a statement of a person who was in a stage of disbelief and amazement when he addressed Jesus as “my Lord and my God?”

 According to the narrative of John, when Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week (Jn. 20:1), He was first seen by Mary Magdalene to whom He said, “… Go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and to your Father and to My God and to your God’” (Jn. 20:17, New King James Version).

     Take note that Jesus told Mary Magdalene that His God is also the God of His “brethren.”  And since Christ considers those who hear God’s words and follow them as His brothers or brethren (Lk. 8:21), Thomas, being one of His apostles, was among those to whom this message was intended.  The message is clear:  the God of Jesus is also the God of the disciples whom Jesus considers to be His brethren.  Mary Magdalene did go and tell the disciples what Jesus had spoken to her (John 20:18).

     What was the reaction of the disciples when Mary Magdalene told them about the news of Jesus’ resurrection?  The gospel according to Mark narrates that when the disciples first heard that Jesus was alive and had been seen by her, “they did not believe” (Mk. 16:11, NKJV); the apostles thought that what the women said was nonsense (Lk. 24:9-11).

     After this event, Jesus appeared anew to two of the disciples (Mk. 16:12) who went to a village called  Emmaus (Lk. 24:13).  He walked with them and while they were on the road, they told Him about the news that He was seen by some women who had seen a vision of angels and reported that He was alive (Lk. 24:23).

     What was Christ’s reaction their words?  Christ called them “fools, and slow of heart to believe” (Lk. 24:25, King James Version).  With these statements, Jesus was rebuking them because of the hardness of their heart.  These two disciples returned to Jerusalem and told the eleven apostles that Christ had risen (Lk. 24:33-34).  What was the reaction of the apostles upon hearing them?  Mark recorded that they did not believe the report of these two disciples who were with Jesus on the road to Emmaus (Mk. 16:13).

     When the disciples were assembled, with the doors locked for the fear of the Jews, Jesus came and told them to be at peace.  Then He showed to them His hands and side (Jn. 20:19-20).  What was their reaction at this time?  The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord (Jn. 20:20).

     Who was absent when Christ first came?  John narrated that Thomas was not with them when Jesus came (Jn. 20:24).  The other disciples told him that they had seen the Lord (Jn. 20:25).  Did Thomas believe this report?  Possessing an attitude similar to that previously held by the other disciples, he reacted with disbelief and skepticism.  He told them, “…Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe” (Jn. 20:25, KJV).  By this statement, Thomas became identified with skepticism and disbelief.

     Mark reported that Jesus later appeared to the Eleven as they were eating (Mk. 16:14).  Luke reported that when the two disciples found the Eleven assembled together, they told them that the Lord risen (Lk. 24:33-34).  John reported that this event happened eight days after Jesus initially and briefly appeared to the disciples (Jn. 20:26).  The disciples were gathered again and Thomas was with them at this time (Jn 20:26).  Jesus summoned Thomas to reach out his finger, to look at His hands, and to reach out his hand to Him (Jn. 20:27).

     What was the reaction of the disciples, including Thomas?  They were terrified and frightened and supposed that they had seen a spirit (Lk. 24:37).  What did Christ do when they mistook Him for a spirit?  He showed them His hands and His feet and told them that a spirit has no flesh and bones (Lk. 24: 38-39).  Notice that before He showed His hands and feet, what did Christ tell them?  “Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts?” (Lk. 24:38, KJV.)  By these statements, Christ was clearly upbraiding them.

     Christ statements in Luke 24:39 is also tacitly teaching them that He is not God.  Prior to this event, Christ had earlier instructed the disciples about the nature of God.  He taught that God is a spirit, [Greek, “pneuma”].  The apostles mistook Him for a spirit which is tantamount to falsely thinking of Christ as having the same nature as God or being God Himself.  Is this only an assumption?  The very fact that Thomas stated to Jesus, “My Lord and my God!” serves as palpable evidence that they had indeed believed a mistaken identity of Jesus.  But, Jesus immediately corrected their wrong conclusion concerning His nature.  He emphasized to them that He is not a spirit (Lk. 24:39), which is equivalent to saying that He is not God in His state of being.

     Jesus’ statement in Luke 24:39 serves as His didactical teaching to anyone who would think of Him as God.  The clarification He made to those who thought of Him as a spirit is a reminder to anyone who would mistakenly think of Him as God.  Whenever someone has a question regarding the true nature of Jesus Christ, he should be reminded simply about Jesus’ own statements in Luke 24:39 and His acknowledgment of His nature in John 8:40 wherein He emphatically declared, “I am a man” (New Century Version).

     In the account given by Mark, it was reported that Jesus upbraided or scolded His disciples for their unbelief and hardness of heart because they did not believe those who saw him after He had risen (Mk. 16:14).  Was Thomas one of those whom Jesus rebuked and upbraided?  Yes, because he is one of the Eleven (Lk. 24:33, Mk. 16:14).  At this juncture, Christ told him, “Be not faithless, but believing” (Jn. 20:27, KJV).  What are these words that Christ uttered to Thomas?  These are upbraiding words which He said to Him and to the rest of the apostles as narrated by Luke (24:39).

A statement of amazement and disbelief:
When Thomas answered and said to Him, "My Lord and my God!" was he at this point affirming his faith in the alleged deity of Jesus or was he in state of unbelief?

Think of the situation before Jesus showed Himself to them: the doors were shut when Jesus abruptly stood in their midst and summoned Thomas to come near to Him. What was Thomas' reaction? A reaction of unbelief and amazement. Is this kind of reaction something that is strange or unusual? No. The fact is, Thomas was not the only one caught perplexed but also the rest of his companions. Luke reported that when Jesus appeared abruptly in their midst while the disciples were gathered together, they were terrified and frightened (Lk. 24: 36-37).

"Now as they said these things, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and said to them, “Peace to you.”  But they were terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit."  (Luke 24:36-37, NKJV)

Even after Jesus showed His hands and His feet (Lk. 24:40), still they did not believe because of their joy and amazement (Lk 24:41).

"When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet.  But while they still did not believe for joy, and marveled, He said to them, "Have you any food here?" (Luke 40-41, NKJV)

It was at this time that Jesus upbraided them (Mk. 16:14).

"Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen." (Mark 16:14, NKJV)

It is not surprising, therefore, for Thomas to react in such fashion similar to the other disciples. Being in a state of wonder and disbelief, he uttered statements that were contrary to the message taught to them by Jesus through Mary Magdalene. What did Jesus tell Mary that Thomas and the rest of the disciples should believe concerning the question of who should be their God? Jesus taught Mary and the disciples that their God is His God (Jn. 20:17)

Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene
"Jesus said to her, “You don’t need to hold on to me! I have not yet gone back up to the Father. But go to my followers and tell them this: ‘I am going back to my Father and your Father. I am going back to my God and your God.’”  Mary Magdalene went to the followers and told them, “I saw the Lord!” And she told them what he had said to her." (John 20:17-18, Easy to Read Version, emphasis ours)

It must be remembered that during the preceding days before His death, Jesus taught His disciples the identity of the only true God whom they should believe. In His intercessory prayer to the Father in heaven, He emphasized the absolute oneness of God by saying, "Father, ... You, the only true God" (Jn. 17:1,3, NKJV).

"Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You,  And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." (John 17:1,3, NKJV, emphasis ours)

Obviously, Thomas failed to remember these words of his Master. What he uttered in John 20:28 should not be regarded as a statement of faith nor should they be considered as a strong biblical foundation to assert Christ's alleged deity.

Thomas' statement in John 20:28 should be rejected as basis in proving the alleged divinity of Christ. Remember that Thomas was not preaching at that moment. His statement was against the statement that was written about Christ, uttered by Peter when he was preaching under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4, 22)

 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know— (Acts 2:22, NKJV, emphasis ours)

If the proponents of the Christ-is-God theology were to summon Thomas as a witness to prove their point, their evidence is weak because the one they consider as their prime witness was at that time in a state of doubt.

A mistake rebuked
Others ask "Why did Jesus not rebuke Thomas if his statement was wrong?" They allege that Jesus accepted Thomas' statement and even blessed him afterwards. Is it true that Thomas was not rebuked and was blessed later? What did Jesus tell him after he proclaimed, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? . . . . . (Jn. 20:29, Revised Standard Version)

"Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe." (John 20:29, RSV)

What do we see at this point? Jesus was rebuking him, not blessing him. On the other hand, who are blessed according to Jesus? 

"... Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe." (Jn. 20:29, Ibid.)

It is true that many of Christ's disciples had neither seen Him person-after He had risen nor had witnessed His resurrection. They had not seen His resurrected body, yet they believed His body had risen from the grave. Although many have not seen Jesus walked on earth as a man, many have accepted His testimony that He is a man telling the truth which He heard from God (Jn. 8:40). Apostle Peter testified that He is a man proven by God through the miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him (Acts 2:22, Today's English Version). Apostle Paul taught the Christians that the man Jesus Christ is their Mediator to God (I Tim. 2:5, KJV). His disciples never proclaimed Jesus as God in their preaching and in their epistles.

Unfortunately, there are still those who insist on submitting the doubting apostle's statement in John 20:28 as their alleged evidence in proving their thwarted belief on Christ's state of being. The reason is simple. In the absence of explicit biblical evidences that could substantiate their claim, they have no other recourse but to give much credit to the testimony of a doubting person. In a way, there are many "doubting Thomases" who, in spite of the overwhelming biblical evidences that it is not Jesus but the Father alone who is the only true God (Jn. 17:1, 3; 1 Cor. 8:6; Eph. 4:6) still contend that Jesus is God, using as basis erroneous statements such as that which was uttered by the Apostle Thomas in John 20:28.

However, those who have done a thorough examination of the biblical narratives cited, after doing an exhaustive study, would agree to the truth that: Thomas' statement in John 20:28 is not a confession of faith but a statement made by a person who was in a state of amazement and disbelief.

God's Message: November 2004| Volume 36| Number 11| ISSN 0116-1636| p. 4