The identity of Jesus Christ is one of the most contentious questions in the world. For Christians, it is the key question in life, and the Bible’s answer has inspired believers to give up their possessions, their friends, their standing in society, and even their very lives.
H.G. Wells once wrote, “I am a historian, I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that the penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history.”
Many religions would vehemently disagree with that statement, but every word of the New Testament rings with the truth of Wells’ declaration. Here are eight different views of Jesus the contradict the Bible, and why they are each wrong from a Christian perspective.
These views come from Vancouver pastor Mark Clark’s new book The Problem of God: Answering a Skeptic’s Challenges to Christianity, and from an interview with the author.
1. The Christ myth.
In his book, Clark presents (and debunks) the popular “Christ myth,” which claims that Jesus never existed, but was crafted by the disciples using parallels to pagan gods, most notably the Egyptian god Horus.
This myth breaks down on many counts. First, at least ten first-century historians and writers outside of the Bible mentioned Jesus of Nazareth by name, making his real existence in history indisputable.
Perhaps more importantly, however, the connections between pagan gods and Jesus are later fabrications, not real discoveries. The popular writers and film producers who crafted the Christ myth do not reference primary sources, something every good historian must do.
For instance, the mythmakers claim that Horus: was born of a virgin on December 25, was born in a manger, had three kings follow a star to his birth, was a child teacher by age twelve, was baptized, had twelve disciples, was crucified between two thieves, and raised from the dead.
The primary sources, however, show that Horus had four disciples: a turtle, a bear, a lion, and a tiger. Horus’ mother was not a virgin, and while one of the three dates for Horus’ birth was December 25, Jesus was not born on December 25, and Christians never claimed he was. Similarly, the Bible does not claim that three kings saw Jesus’ birth — an unspecified number of Magi came long after Jesus was born. In most Horus stories, the god doesn’t die at all.
Clark’s book went through each of the pagan gods whose stories the Bible writers were said to have plagiarized, and debunked each myth. Jesus was not based on Horus, Mithras, Dionysus, Attis, or Krishna, and no serious scholar takes these claims seriously.
2. Buddhism: The enlightened man.
While views of Jesus are “as widespread as the religions that are popular,” Clark told PJ Media that “the closest view that I would have had growing up is the Buddhist view.” In this telling, “Jesus isn’t God but he’s an enlightened man, a good teacher, a good moral example. I don’t think my family would have ever said, ‘Jesus — you shouldn’t be like him.'”
This popular view is not supported by the Bible, however. In his book, Clark noted that in the gospel of John, “Jesus says that he has been sent from heaven to earth no less than thirty-nine times, and he is unique among the founders of world religions in making this claim.” Neither Mohammed, nor Buddha, nor Krishna ever claimed to have come from heaven.
Clark cited Jesus’ claim “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58). In this sentence, Jesus was not using bad grammar — He was identifying with the Jewish God. In Exodus, when God appeared to Moses, Moses asked what God’s name was. God told Moses His name was “I AM WHO AM” (Exodus 3:13-14).
Right after Jesus made this statement, the Jews around him “picked up stones to throw at him” (John 8:59). They were trying to execute Jesus for speaking blasphemy.
The very opening of the gospel of John debunks the claim that Jesus could just have been an enlightened man.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any ting made that was made. … And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1-3, 14).
The entire New Testament, from the words of Jesus to the letters of Paul, to the narratives of the gospels, consistently declare that Jesus Christ was not just an enlightened man or a “great moral teacher.” They say that He was God incarnate.
3. Hinduism: An incarnation of god.
Fine, the Bible says Jesus was an incarnation of God. Couldn’t he be like Krishna, the major god in Hinduism? Was Jesus’ claim to be an incarnation of God really that radical?
Yes. Clark wrote, “You can claim to be God in a polytheistic framework (many gods) or a pantheistic framework (everything is god); it’s not all that outrageous because you would just be one example of divinity among others,” like Krishna.
“But Jesus claimed there is only one God in the whole universe (note his prayer to the Father: ‘This is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent,’ in John 17:3), and that was it,” the pastor explained. “Such a claim, made within the Jewish worldview, was absurd.”
This is why the religious leaders wanted to kill Jesus, because He was claiming to be one with, not just a polytheistic god with many avatars or incarnations like in Hinduism, but the one God who made the entire universe.
4. Islam: A prophet inferior to Mohammed.
The Quran claims that Jesus Christ was a prophet who never claimed to be God, whose words were twisted by the disciples, and who never died on the cross.
Jesus’ resurrection is a key facet of Christianity, and the disciples died for this belief. Islam claims that Jesus did not really die on the cross, so when His body was placed in a tomb, it healed and he walked out alive.
Clark pointed out the gaping hole in this theory. “If there was one thing the Romans knew how to do it was kill people! They would crucify up to six thousand people on a single day,” the pastor wrote. “They didn’t put guys up on crosses and take them down only to have them head home a few days later by mistake!”
The gospels further report that when a Roman lance pierced the side of Jesus, blood and water gushed out. Modern science has explained why: when someone dies of asphyxiation (which is how crucifixion killed people), the sac around their heart fills with fluid. The blood and water which came out was actually a scientific proof that Jesus had died — which is why the Romans did not break his legs on the cross.
As Clark wrote, the gospels “contain unflattering content portraying the disciples as scared and slow to believe, even exposing Thomas as a doubter.” Jesus even calls Peter, the leader of the disciples, “Satan.” Furthermore, the people who first saw Jesus after the resurrection were women — who at the time could not testify in court.
The disciples died, and died painfully, for Jesus, claiming He rose from the dead and that He was literally God. Why would they fabricate the gospels if they were willing to portray themselves in a bad light and die for their beliefs?
5. Jehovah’s Witnesses: The Archangel Michael.
In his book, Clark identified the Jehovah’s Witness view of Jesus as “the archangel Michael.” This is a simple and accurate way of stating their view that Jesus was God’s first creation, God’s spokesman, but not God Himself.
Historic Christianity identifies Jesus as God, calling Him the Second Person of the Trinity. In a mysterious union, God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit are all God in substance but different persons.
Jehovah’s Witnesses disagree, saying that Jesus is not God, but is a separate created being. They say that before Jesus’ human life, this being emerged throughout scripture as the personification of Wisdom in Proverbs, as involved in the work of creation, and as the Archangel Michael. After His human life, Jesus went back to this spiritual work.
This twists many verses of scripture, including Jesus’ clear declaration, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). It also subverts Philippians 2:6, which clearly says Jesus was “in very nature God.”
6. Mormonism: One of many gods.
“Mormonism teaches that Jesus was only a man who became one of many gods, and that he was a polygamist and a half-brother of Lucifer,” Clark wrote.
Those familiar with first century Judaism should immediately grasp the problem with this idea. According to the Old Testament, there is only one God. Mormonism proposes that there are multiple worlds like Earth in existence, and that each one has its own God. This is closer to the polytheism the Jews rejected than the monotheism they taught.
Furthermore, there is absolutely no biblical evidence that Jesus and Lucifer are related. Jesus is part of God, one of the Persons of the Trinity, while Lucifer is a created being, an angel who rejected God.
Like the Christ myth, Mormonism is forcing its alien view of the universe and God onto Jesus Christ.
7. New Age: A state of consciousness.
“New Age guru Deepak Chopra says Jesus is a state of consciousness we can all aspire to,” Clark wrote.
Chopra explained a bit more of his view in a 2008 Time interview. “In Eastern philosophical systems there’s an established idea of a path through personal consciousness to a collective conscience to a universal conscience, which people call the divine,” the New Age teacher said. “I concluded that Jesus must have experienced this consciousness.”
Hilariously, Chopra redefined Jesus’ statement, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). “But what does Jesus mean by ‘I’? In his language, Aramaic, the word is translated as ‘the I within the I.’ So he may be speaking about himself as a universal spirit.”
Copra further reinterpreted the resurrection. “The symbolic language of the crucifixion is the death of the old paradigm; resurrection is a leap into a new way of thinking,” the guru said. “Every spiritual tradition has this idea of death and resurrection. It’s not unique to Christianity.”
Just a few short responses: First, the resurrection is not an “idea” in Christianity, but a historical fact, and it is unique — St. Paul described it as a “stumbling block” to both Jews and Greeks at the time. (1 Corinthians 1:23). Second, there is absolutely no evidence Jesus studied Buddhism or spoke of himself as a “universal spirit.”
Most importantly, Jesus in the Bible promises that anyone who seeks to save his life (psyche — a word which also means soul, identity, character) will lose it, but whoever loses his life/soul/identity for Jesus’ sake will find it (Mark 8:35). This is the exact opposite of New Age universal consciousness.
Jesus promises a renewed individuality, not a disappearance into the ocean of universal consciousness. In St. John’s letter to the church in Pergamum, he wrote Jesus’ promise to give the believer “a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.” (Revelation 2:17).
8. Scientology: An implant forced upon Thetan.
The founder of Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard, described Jesus as being an “implant,” which is a form of “thought insertion” put deliberately and with evil intent into a person’s pure mind or “thetan.”
According to R. Philip Roberts in The Apologetics Study Bible, Scientology’s materials “tout the concept of Jesus as God as being a fiction that ought to be removed.”
Scientology does not teach one specific doctrine about God, but it presents itself as a system for freeing the immortal soul, the thetan. According to this religion, thetans brought the material universe into being for their own pleasure — it is not real, but an agreed-upon fiction.
Scientology is reminiscent of Gnosticism, a religion which competed with early Christianity and taught that matter was evil while spirit is good. The Gnostics though that Jesus was not really man, because that would make him partially evil.
In Christianity, matter is considered both real and good, created by God. The Genesis account of creation repeats over and over again that “God saw that it was good.” Christians believe Jesus’ death and resurrection were real, physical, historical events.
As with Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormonism, and New Age teachings, this view of Jesus is an imposition of new philosophies on Jesus, not a discovery of something new about Jesus.
So who was Jesus?
According to Christianity, Jesus was the Hebrew God incarnate. Throughout the gospels, Jesus claimed to be one with God, and this did not mean one among many gods, or a state of consciousness, or an enlightened human being.
The New Testament accounts of Jesus’ life were composed shortly after the events themselves, and there are more surviving manuscripts of the Bible than any other ancient text. In his book, Clark noted that the gospel of Mark was written around 70 A.D., a mere 40 years after Jesus’ ascension, and the letters of Paul were written as early as fifteen to twenty years after Jesus’ life.
This may sound late to modern people, but in terms of the ancient world, it was fast. Furthermore, people in oral cultures had a much better memory for memorization. There is also evidence that three of the gospels — Matthew, Mark, and Luke, which are called the “synoptic gospels” — were composed from an even earlier collection of Jesus’ sayings.
The Jesus of the New Testament claimed unequivocally to be God, to be the one way to God the Father, and to be “the way and the truth and the life.” These are either the ravings of a lunatic, or they are mendacious lies, or they are the statements of the one true God demanding allegiance.
Based on the evidence, it is logical to accept Jesus as Lord, to dismiss him as an insane person, or to condemn him as a demonic figure. But each of the options given above dodge this fundamental question. They cannot be true, given the evidence of the scriptures.
The problem of Jesus’ identity is central for every person to work out. Jesus was either a madman, a liar, or God incarnate, and the only hope for humanity. One thing He most certainly was not is the popular image of a squishy “good moral teacher” who just wants everyone to get along.
But don’t just take Clark’s word for it — go read the gospels themselves.