Did Jesus Claim to be God?
They say the best offense is a good defense. With Easter around the corner, I am expecting a blitz of shoddy scholars/bloggers (what's the difference these days?) attempting to cast a shadow of doubt on the person and work of Christ. One oft repeated argument is: "Jesus never claimed to be God." I have already shared an anticipatory post on the biblical support for the deity of Christ here. While I am certain this list sufficiently parries any claims to the contrary, I believe there is an explicit claim to deity from the mouth of Jesus that has been overlooked due to an oversight in intertextual titles.
I have been translating Matthew, and I was trucking along fine until I came to the sobering passage in Matthew 7:21-23. As an aside, translation is an interesting process. Sometimes your mind sort of goes into cruise control, as your translation can actually become a mere mental exercise of substituting the English words in place of the Greek–rather than exploring the semantic range of each word. And that's just what happened when I came to v. 21: "Οὐ πᾶς ὁ λέγων μοι· κύριε κύριε, εἰσελεύσεται εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τῶν οὐρανῶν, ἀλλʼ ὁ ποιῶν τὸ θέλημα τοῦ πατρός μου τοῦ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς," or as most English translations have it, "Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven."
It's a memorable passage. I have heard many evangelists strum their somber call of repentance to this nocturne. And as expected, my memory kicked in, and I translated it as it is typically written. I wondered, though, where else has "κύριε κύριε" (Lord Lord) appeared in the New and Old Testament? As κύριος means "lord", it shouldn't be much of a surprise that in every instance where "κύριε κύριε" appears in the NT, it is translated as "Lord Lord."
[Clicking on the image will open a PDF of the table with Logos hyperlinks for each respective file.]
Here's where this gets interesting. There are 19 instances of "κύριε κύριε" in the LXX (Greek translation of the OT). Since the English translations primarily rely on Hebrew, the title is never rendered as "Lord, Lord" in any English version of the Old Testament as the Hebrew doesn't use this title. Reason being, this title is universally understood to be a direct referent for the Lord God every single time. What's more, in at least Deuteronomy 9:26; 1 Chronicles 17:24; Psalm 130:3 (129:3 LXX); 139:8; Jeremiah 28:62, κύριε κύριε stands in place of the tetragrammaton–the Hebrew name of God transliterated in four letters as "YHWH."
What does this all mean? In Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus 1) claims to be the eschatological judge, 2) has personal relation to the Father ("my" Father and not the standard "our" Father), and 3) applies the title used 19 times in the LXX for the Lord God to himself. Maybe this is just a systematician overstating the case, but in my opinion this is one of the clearest proofs for Christ's deity in the entire New Testament. Here, the claim comes directly from the mouth of Jesus.
With the certainty of forthcoming posts from quality journalists like Newsweek, Huffpost, and the Onion, I leave you with the sagacious words of the prophetess of our era, Taylor Swift: "Haters gonna hate hate hate."