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Does the fact that the Bible distinguishes Jesus from God disprove his Deity?

Sam Shamoun


Throughout the NT Jesus is distinguished from God. This can especially be seen from Paul’s writings since he starts his epistles by mentioning God and Christ, e.g., “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God… Grace and peace to you from God our Father AND from the Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 1:1, 7). Since the NT repeatedly differentiates God from Christ doesn’t this prove that Jesus is not and cannot be God?


The question or objection confuses and compounds several issues. It equivocates on the word God, assuming that it has the same meaning in every context, thereby confusing the difference between sense and reference. However, the word God can have a different sense or meaning depending upon the referent or the context in which it is used.

This leads us to the second problem with the question. All throughout the NT the term God commonly functions as a proper name for the Father, much like the word Lord is commonly used as a title or as part of Jesus’ name, i.e. “the Lord Jesus Christ.” In fact, in every single place where Jesus is distinguished from God it is a distinction between the Father and the Son just as the following passages affirm:

“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ, To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 1:1-7

“For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh… What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised— who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? … For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:3, 28-35, 38-39

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” John 3:16-18

God in the above passages is clearly the Father. Since Trinitarianism affirms that the Father and Son are personally distinct we therefore see no problem with the NT distinguishing God from Christ.

God is also used to refer to the nature that the Son shares in common with his Father. In other words, when the NT applies God to Christ it is in the sense of predication, affirming that Christ has the nature of God and fully possesses all the Divine qualities. Here is an example:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with the God (kai ho logos een pros ton theon), and the Word was God (kai theos een ho logos). He was in the beginning with the God (houtos een en arche pros ton theon)… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth… No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is God, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known” John 1:1-2, 14, 18

In this particular context John states that the Word was with the God and was God. The use of the definite article before God, i.e., ton theon, indicates that the Word was having intimate fellowship with a specific entity commonly referred to or known as God, which in this case would be the Father. John then goes on to describe the Word as being essentially God. According to Greek NT scholars by placing the noun theos before the verb “was” (een) John is emphasizing and laying stress on the qualities or nature of the Word:

The nominative case is the case that the subject is in. When the subject takes an equative verb like “is” (i.e., a verb that equates the subject with something else), then another noun also appears in the nominative case–the predicate nominative. In the sentence, “John is a man,” “John” is the subject and “man” is the predicate nominative. In English the subject and predicate nominative are distinguished by word order (the subject comes first). Not so in Greek. Since word order in Greek is quite flexible and is used for emphasis rather than for strict grammatical function, other means are used to determine subject from predicate nominative. For example, if one of the two nouns has the definite article, it is the subject.

As we have said, word order is employed especially for the sake of emphasis. Generally speaking, when a word is thrown to the front of the clause it is done so for emphasis. When a predicate nominative is thrown in front of the verb, by virtue of word order it takes on emphasis. A good illustration of this is John 1:1c. The English versions typically have, “and the Word was God.” But in Greek, the word order has been reversed. It reads,

kai   theos  en    ho  logos
and  God   was  the  Word.

We know that “the Word” is the subject because it has the definite article, and we translate it accordingly: “and the Word was God.” Two questions, both of theological import, should come to mind: (1) why was theos thrown forward? and (2) why does it lack the article? In brief, its emphatic position stresses its essence or quality: “What God was, the Word was” is how one translation brings out this force. Its lack of a definite article keeps us from identifying the person of the Word (Jesus Christ) with the person of “God” (the Father). That is to say, the word order tells us that Jesus Christ has all the divine attributes that the Father has; lack of the article tells us that Jesus Christ is not the Father. John's wording here is beautifully compact! It is, in fact, one of the most elegantly terse theological statements one could ever find. As Martin Luther said, the lack of the article is against Sabellianism; the word order is against Arianism.

kai ho logos en ho theos  “and the Word was the God” (i.e., the Father; Sabellianism)

kai ho logos en theos  “and the Word was a god” (Arianism)

kai theos en ho logos  “and the Word was God” (Orthodoxy).

Jesus Christ is God and has all the attributes that the Father has. But he is not the first person of the Trinity. All this is concisely affirmed in kai theos en ho logos. (William D. Mounce, Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar [Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI 1993], Chapter 6. Nominative and Accusative Definite Article (First and Second Declension), pp. 28-29; underline emphasis ours)

That the God whom Jesus is distinguished from is the Father can be seen not only from the context of John 1 which specifically mentions the word Father but also from John’s first epistle:

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life—the Life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the Eternal Life, which was with the Father (hetis een pros ton patera) and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” 1 John 1:1-7

Here the God whom the Word of Life/Life/Eternal Life has been fellowshipping with from the beginning is expressly said to be the Father.

It is therefore evident from the foregoing that John was saying that Jesus is the eternal Word who was with God the Father before creation and who existed as God in essence. Hence, Jesus as the preexistent Word is both distinct from and identical to God.

The following Biblical analogy should prove helpful. According to the Hebrew Bible the word Adam is the name that God initially gave to both the man and the woman:

“Then God said, ‘Let us make Adam in our image, after our likeness. And let THEM have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created Adam (ha adam) in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:26-27

“This is the book of the generations of Adam. When God created Adam, he made him in the likeness of God. Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named THEM Adam when they were created.” Genesis 5:1-2

The prophetic Scriptures also use the term to refer to mankind in general:

“But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from Adam (ha adam). From his fellow Adam (ha adam) I will require a reckoning for the life of Adam (ha adam). Whoever sheds the blood of Adam (ha adam), by Adam shall his blood be shed, for God made Adam (ha adam) in his own image.” Genesis 9:4-6

At the same time Adam is also used as a name for the first male, particularly in contexts where he is distinguished from his wife:

“And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam (ha adam) and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to Adam (ha adam) and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ And he said, ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.’ He said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?’ Adam (ha adam) said, ‘The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.’ Then the LORD God said to the woman, ‘What is this that you have done?’ The woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate.’ … And to Adam he said, ‘Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, “You shall not eat of it,” cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.’ Adam (ha adam) called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them. Then the LORD God said, ‘Behold, Adam (ha adam) has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—’ therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out Adam (ha adam), and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life. Now Adam (ha adam) knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, ‘I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD.’” Genesis 3:9-13, 17-24; 4:1

And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and called his name Seth, for she said, ‘God has appointed for me another offspring instead of Abel, for Cain killed him.’” Genesis 4:25

“When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth. The days of Adam after he fathered Seth were 800 years; and he had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days that Adam lived were 930 years, and he died.” Genesis 5:3-5

Thus, Adam can have a different sense depending on the referent or context. This is why Eve can be said to be with Adam while also being called Adam! She was both personally distinguishable from and identical to Adam!

In fact, the prophetic Scriptures further proclaim that Adam and Eve would actually become one flesh through their sexual union:

“Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to Adam (ha adam) to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam (ha adam) called every living creature, that was its name. Adam (ha adam) gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam (ha adam) there was not found a helper fit for him. So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam (ha adam), and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from Adam (ha adam) he made into a woman and brought her to Adam (ha adam). Then Adam (ha adam) said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman (isshah) because she was taken out of Man (ish).’ Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh (basar echad). And Adam (ha adam) and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” Genesis 2:19-25

The word used for one is echad, the same word used in the Shema in respect to God’s unity:

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one (Yahweh echad).” Deuteronomy 6:4

According to the inspired Scriptures the one Lord God exists as a plurality of Divine Persons – three to be exact – who are capable of carrying out the exclusive works of God and whom all believers must swear allegiance and devote themselves entirely to:

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” Matthew 28:19

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father, we are one (hen esmen). John 10:27-30

“You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. So, then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of … Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God… Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised— who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” Romans 8:9-17, 26-27, 34

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

“Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says ‘Jesus is accursed!’ and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit. Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills … And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts.” 1 Corinthians 12:3-11, 28-31

“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit — just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call — one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says, ‘When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.’ (In saying, ‘He ascended,’ what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he [Christ] gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” Ephesians 4:1-7, 10-16 – cf. 2:11-22

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” 2 Corinthians 13:14

“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.” 1 Peter 1:1-3

Therefore, much like Adam is a community of distinct persons who are called to have fellowship with one another in a similar way the one eternal God is also a community of three distinct Divine Persons who have fellowship and communion with one another.(1)

Returning back to our analogy, we saw how the word Adam can have a different sense or meaning depending upon the context. In certain passages it refers to the common humanity shared by both the male and female, as well as by human beings in general. Yet in other contexts Adam functions as a proper name for the first male thereby distinguishing him from Eve his wife.

In a similar way the word God can have a different sense depending upon the referent or context in which it appears. The NT commonly uses God for the Father and therefore functions as the Father’s proper name. As such it serves to distinguish the Father from the Son as well as affirming the fact that the Son is subject to the Father in terms of authority. As noted NT Scholar Murray J. Harris explains:

“First, in all strands of the NT, theos generally signifies the Father… When we find the expression theos pater we may legitimately deduce that ho theos estin ho pater. And since pater refers to a particular person (not an attribute), the identity between ho theos and ho pater as proper names referring to persons must be numerical. 'God' must be equated with 'the Father.' If Jesus were everywhere called theos so that in reference to him the term ceased to be a title and became a proper noun like 'Iesous, linguistic ambiguity would be everywhere present.

“Another reason why theos regularly denotes the Father and rarely the Son is that such a usage is suited to protect the personal distinction between the Son and Father… which is preserved everywhere in the NT, but nowhere more dramatically than where the Father is called 'the God of our Lord Jesus Christ' (Eph. 1:17) or 'his God and Father' (Rev. 1:6) and where Jesus speaks of 'My God' (Matt. 27:46; Mark 15:34; John 20:17; cf. Rev. 3:2, 12), or, in an address to Jesus reference is made to 'your God' (Heb. 1:9). God was the one to whom Jesus prayed, the one he called his Father (e.g., Matt. 11:25). It was ho logos, not ho theos, of whom John said sarx egeneto (John 1:14).

“Clearly related to this second reason is a third. The element of 'subordinationism' that finds expression not only in the four authors who use theos as a christological appellation but also elsewhere in the NT may have checked any impulse to use theos regularly of Jesus. By customarily reserving the term theos for the Father, NT writers were highlighting the fact, whether consciously or unconsciously, that while the Son is 'subordinate' to the Father, the Father is not 'subordinate' to the Son. One finds the expression 'the Son of God' where God is the Father, but never 'the Father of God' where God is the Son.

“A fourth reason that may be suggested for the comparatively rare use of theos as a christological ascription was the danger recognized by the early church that if theos were applied to Jesus as regularly as to the Father, Jews would have tended to regard Christianity as incurably deuterotheological and Gentiles would probably have viewed it as polytheistic. If theos were the personal name of the Father and the Son, Christians would have been hard pressed to defend the faith against charges of ditheism, if not polytheism, however adamant their insistence on their retention of monotheism.

“Fifth, behind the impulse generally to reserve the term theos for the Father lay the need to safeguard the real humanity of Jesus against docetic or monophysitic sentiment in its embryonic form. In the early years of the church there was a greater danger that the integrity of the human ‘nature’ of Jesus should be denied than that his divinity should be called into question, witness the fact that docetism not Arianism was the first christological deviation.

“Finally, the relative infrequency of the use of theos for Jesus corresponds to the relatively infrequent use of ontological categories in NT Christology which is functional in emphasis…” (Harris, Jesus As God - The New Testament Use of Theos in Reference to Jesus [Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI; July 1998, Paperback], pp. 282-283; bold emphasis ours)

At the same time there are certain places where God is used to describe the nature or qualities that Christ has and shares in common with the Father. This, therefore, affirms that the distinction between God and Jesus is not in respect to their nature but in regards to their Persons, i.e., Jesus is personally distinct from God the Father while being equal to him in essence.

Hence, just because the Son is distinguished from God doesn’t prove that the Son isn’t God anymore than Eve being distinguished from Adam proves that she isn’t Adam as well.

Further Reading

The Real Truth of John 1:1
A Brief Rebuttal to Anti-Missionary Attacks on the Trinity

“Let us make man” and the Cohortative Mood
Trinity Proof Texts


(1) Now there are obviously profound differences between God and man so that one shouldn’t press this analogy too far. For instance, God is uncreated whereas man is temporal. Man is a physical being whereas God is not physical and doesn’t have physical organs or private parts. Man is also a sexual being commanded to procreate whereas God is not sexual and does not procreate. Thus, although Adam and Eve became one flesh through sexual union the Father and Son are one in a different sense; nor did the Father and Son have to come together to become one since they have always been one. Moreover, man is composed of both male and female elements whereas there is no female entity within the Godhead, a goddess so to speak. Finally, Adam and Eve are not just distinct persons but also distinct beings, whereas the Father and Son are distinct Persons who share the same eternal Being.