Have you ever spoken with Jehovah’s Witnesses about the divinity of Jesus? If you have, then you know how frustrating it can be. It’s very difficult to show them that Jesus really is God, because they have ways of explaining away the passages that say so explicitly. Because of that, it’s helpful to also bring up passages that teach Jesus’ divinity in other, more subtle ways. They most likely won’t be as familiar with these arguments, so they won’t have memorized ways to explain them away. Plus, once we understand the logic of these texts, they’re actually much clearer than many of the verses that explicitly apply the word “God” to Jesus.
In this article, I want to look at some of those other passages. The New Testament teaches the divinity of Jesus in numerous ways, but I want to focus on just one: by quoting Old Testament texts about God and applying them to Jesus. This is much more subtle than coming straight out and explicitly saying that he’s God, but like I said, once you understand the implications of these texts, it’s just about impossible to deny that the Bible really does teach this doctrine. Specifically, let’s look at two passages that do this.
The Coming of the Lord
To begin, let’s look at an example of this in the Gospels. The second Gospel, Mark, opens with a quote from the Old Testament:
“As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,
‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who shall prepare your way;
the voice of one crying in the wilderness:
Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight’” (Mark 1:2-3)
Mark says that this quote comes from Isaiah, but it’s actually an amalgamation of two Old passages, one from Isaiah and one from Malachi:
“A voice cries:
‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.’” (Isaiah 40:3)
“Behold, I send my messenger
to prepare the way before me….says the Lord of hosts” (Malachi 3:1)
In their original contexts, these prophecies both referred to God’s coming to his people Israel, but in Mark, they refer to the coming of the Messiah, Jesus, to God’s people. This is particularly easy to see with the verse from Malachi. In its original context, it’s in the first person, but Mark changes it to the second person. He takes a text in which God speaks about himself and changes it so that God is speaking about Jesus, most likely to emphasize the distinction between Jesus and the Father. Moreover, the next few verses make it clear that the messenger spoken of here is John the Baptist (Mark 1:4-8, especially verses 4, 7-8), who prepared the way for Jesus, so it’s clear that Mark is applying these passages to Jesus.
However, the fact remains that these prophecies are about to the coming of God to Israel, and Mark doesn’t change their meaning so entirely that they now refer to the Messiah instead of God. No, by retaining the reference to “the Lord” in the passage from Isaiah, he makes it clear that the promised messenger is still heralding the coming of God, and this can mean only one thing: God fulfilled this promise and came to his people in Jesus and, more specifically, as Jesus. The coming of Jesus simply was the coming of God to his people, which tells us that Jesus must be God.
Next, let’s look at the Letter to the Hebrews. In the opening chapter, the author of this letter quotes several Old Testament passages about Jesus and the angels in order to show Jesus’ superiority over them. He employs several passages to make his point, but I want to focus on one:
‘You, Lord, founded the earth in the beginning,
and the heavens are the work of your hands;
they will perish, but you remain;
they will all grow old like a garment,
like a mantle you will roll them up,
and they will be changed.
But you are the same,
and your years will never end.’” (Hebrews 1:10-12)
Like Mark did in his Gospel, the author of Hebrews makes it crystal clear who this passage is about. In the immediately preceding verses, he quotes an Old Testament text and explicitly says it’s about Jesus (Hebrews 1:8-9), and the little word “and” at the beginning of this passage tells us that this one is about him as well.
When we look for this text in the Old Testament, we find that it comes from Psalm 102:25-27. In context, these lines are part of a prayer that begins in the previous verse:
“‘O my God,’ I say, ‘do not take me from here
in the midst of my days,
you whose years endure
throughout all generations!’” (Psalm 102:24)
Immediately after these words comes the part that Hebrews quotes, so it’s clear that the one addressed in those verses is God as well. Consequently, we can see that the author of Hebrews did the same exact thing that Mark did in his Gospel. He quoted an Old Testament passage about God and applied it to Jesus, thereby implying that Jesus is God without having to spell it out explicitly.
Jesus is God
From all of this, we can draw only one conclusion: Jesus is God. The New Testament doesn’t usually say this explicitly, but it clearly teaches this doctrine in other, much more subtle ways. One of those ways, as I’ve shown, is by quoting Old Testament passages about God and applying them to Jesus. So the next time you have a discussion with a Jehovah’s Witness about this topic, don’t focus solely on the passages that explicitly call Jesus “God.” Bring up some of these passages too, and you’ll have a much stronger, much more comprehensive case for the orthodox Christian doctrine of Jesus’ divinity.