Jesus is not God - a book review I couldn’t help noticing a fascinating review in The Times not so long ago. The book was called ‘Christian beginnings: from Nazareth to Nicaea, AD 30-325’, and it was written by the respected Bible scholar, (the late) Geza Vermes. Focusing on Jesus, he shows how the Christian Church changed its beliefs after it became the religion of the Roman empire in the fourth century. The teaching that Jesus was God Himself, a doctrine known as the Trinity, only came into being after the Council of Nicaea in AD 325. The Bible shows that Jesus was not God Himself, but His son and subordinate to him. For example, Jesus said: ‘My Father is greater than I’ (John 14 v28, NKJV) The Apostle Paul wrote that when God’s purpose with the earth finally comes to an end: ‘..the son himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under him, that God may be all in all’ (1 Corinthians 15 v28, NKJV). The book is reviewed by Prof. Diarmaid MacCulloch, Professor of the History of the Church at Oxford University and a leading authority on Christian history. Probably the best way to summarise the message is to quote MacCulloch’s closing paragraphs: ‘The original church of Jewish converts withered away and in its place came a very different “Catholic” Church, which proclaimed Jesus as divine as well as human, the cosmic and eternal Son in a trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. What Vermes demonstrates through a careful analysis of the writings of this Catholic Church is that, up to the fourth century, most Christians saw the Son as subordinate to the Father. All this changed at the Council of Nicaea in 325, when the Roman Emperor Constantine I decided to back a minority party that emphasised the equality between Father and Son. For a century Christians in the Roman Empire resisted this imposition on their faith, but now Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox treat the result of Nicaea as if it had always been the way in which proper Christians think about this intricate problem. Scholars of Church history inside universities have long known this story, but it is surprising how little it has penetrated the wider Church.’ It’s worth checking the relevant Bible passages!

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