Al-Kadhi states that
Please consult our responses to sections 188.8.131.52 and 184.108.40.206 on the matter.
"His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed that Jesus was the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue." (RSV) John 9:22
"Now some of the people of Jerusalem were saying: 'Is not this the man whom they are trying to kill? And here he is speaking openly but they say nothing to him! Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Messiah?'" (RSV) John 7:25-26
Life is not one-dimensional. In most of our actions there is a mixture of motivations, some obvious and others buried in the subconscious. Identifying one of them does not imply there are no others. This is the essence of al-Kadhi's logical fallacy in his argument.
Al-Kadhi is correct that there were some religious leaders who were envious of Jesus and his rising authority among and popularity with the people. They felt threatened in their own position and reacted to protect their power. This can be shown from various passages like the ones presented by al-Kadhi above. However, as irregular as Jesus' trial before the Sanhedrin was, it would be hard to sustain that all of them were corrupt and powerhungry. This was the highest religious court of Israel and even those who had mainly political motives had to present a real case to condemn Jesus to death in this council of seventy distinguished men. In the end, however, the motivation of the religious leaders doesn't really matter. They might have opposed and condemned him for formally correct or incorrect reasons. The issue is what Jesus himself claimed. I think al-Kadhi will agree with us on that. As it happens, both of these issues are addressed in one passage. Could they formally establish the charges of blasphemy? Was Jesus indeed claiming to be divine? Let us consider the event of his trial before the Sanhedrin as reported in Matthew 27:57-66.
It is clear that the accusing party had to establish before the court a case that was at least formally correct and gave a foundation on which to convict Jesus. They attempted to do so by means of false witnesses. However, they were not prepared well enough and these witnesses contradicted each other. The high priest sees the case slip away under his hands and in a last measure he challenges Jesus to declare himself under oath regarding his own identity.
From the formulation of the question it is clear that the high priest asked Jesus if he claimed to be the Messiah (=Christ). The expression "the Son of God" was in his eyes just another synonym for the Messiah. It is one of the common titles for the Messiah (see e.g. 1 Chronicles 17:10-15). The title "son of God" does not in itself imply the deity of the person as can be seen from many passages. (In some passages where Jesus speaks of himself as the Son (of God) the Jews react with the charge of blasphemy not because of this title, but because of the claims and authority that Jesus associates with himself at those occasions.) The high priest did not ask him the question, "Are you God?" He inquires regarding the claim whether he is the Messiah.
Jesus answers with a statement which results in a unanimous condemnation of him as a blasphemer. Why this is so might not be easily understood by many. Muslims often even think that he rejected the title "Son of God" and stresses "Son of Man", i.e. emphasizing that he is only a man. This is a bad misunderstanding of this title and we need to investigate what this answer meant based on the Jewish scriptures. Since this is the only statement he makes before the court, and does so under oath, we need to understand the true meaning of Jesus answer. Jesus identifies himself with the person spoken of in Daniel 7:
13 "In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence.
14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.
We note that this son of man coming with the clouds is given sovereign power and that he is worshiped (rightfully). This alone makes clear his divine status. See this exposition for a fuller discussion of this text. But there are more scriptures to take into account to understand the full impact of Jesus' claim.
I will quote from Tremper Longman III & Daniel Reid, "God is a Warrior", pages 67-69
We learn of the vehicular cloud, however, in the psalms and the prophets. God is the cloud rider in Psalm 68:4:
and in Psalm 104:3-4:
The prophets also use the cloud-riding image in clear judgment/war contexts:
The LORD is slow to anger and great in power;
the LORD will not leave the guilty unpunished.
His way is in the whirlwind and the storm,
and clouds are the dust of his feet. (Na 1:3)
Thus, Daniel 7:1-14 presents the reader with two image clusters. On the one hand, we have four beasts and horns that represent depraved human kingdoms; on the other hand, we see two human figures, the Ancient of Days and one like a son of man, who image the divine realm.
Everyone should be able to see now why the high priest reacts with the judgment that Jesus claimed deity for himself and as such condemned him for blasphemy. Whether with ulterior political motives to get rid of Jesus or not, the claim of Jesus himself is clear. He uses quotations from the Holy Scriptures to identify himself and not let anyone have the excuse that he never stated clearly who he is.
Al-Kadhi is wont to demand: "Where does Jesus ever say 'I am God'?" Here he does, very clearly and succinctly, before the highest religious court of the Jews. Let nobody be fooled about Jesus' claims.
May the reader ponder this carefully and not evade the implications.
More on this issue can be found in this article about The Ascension of Jesus.
One foundational passage for the Messianic title "Son of God" is
1 Chronicles 17:10-15
The Rebuttal to "What Did Jesus Really Say?"
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