When it comes to Jesus, most outside the Church would prefer to view Him as a good teacher or a prophet. And Jesus did take on this role...until some began to question his true identity:
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?"And they said, "Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets."He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."And Jesus said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. (Matt. 16:13-17)
So, He is not just a prophet, but Christ, the Son of the living God. Christ or Messiah means "Anointed", meaning from conception He was anointed with the Spirit of God. That is, the Spirit of God Himself dwelled inside of Him. This is why He was born of a virgin, for that is how Jehovah Himself could become incarnate. That He was Jehovah, is shown by many statements He made about Himself, including this one:
All power has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. (Matt. 28:18).By this is meant that He glorified His human body, and made it Divine. For those who follow a Tritheism of three persons, if indeed that is true, that there are three persons: if Jesus has all power, then what does God the Father have? That simply does not make sense. What does make sense is the Father was inside of Him, as the soul is inside the body.
Many who were outside the inner circle of disciples considered Jesus to be a good teacher. Was He just a good teacher? Consider this passage:
Now behold, one came and said to Him, "Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?"So He said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments." (19:16-17)Later he says to this man, who had followed the 10 commandments:
If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me. (19:21)The 10 commandments begin with "I am the Lord your God." This man, who thought he had followed all the commandments, did not recognize Jesus as Lord, or Jesus as Jehovah in human form. But some may take the answer of Jesus as stating He was not God. This is not true...consider these statements that Jesus made:
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. (John 10:11)
I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. (John 10:14)
A shepherd is one who guides and instructs...a teacher. So Jesus' question was somewhat rhetorical...He was gently leading the man to think of who he was speaking to. It is not enough to simply live a moral life. Morality must be spiritual, for all good originates from God. We appropriate that to ourselves by living by it, and that becomes conjoined to our soul. As God's Spirit begins to live in us, it is that spiritual influx which causes us to have eternal life.
So, when reading the Gospels, one has this odd choice to make about Jesus: He is either Lord, or He is a Liar, or He is a Lunatic. The Liar theory falls apart quickly, when one considers that Jesus was crucified for not backing off from the claims to Divinity He made about Himself. This "trilemma" was made popular by C.S. Lewis who said the following:
"I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. ... Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God."
The Jews did not escape the trilemma: they simply held the view that this guy was insane, or had a demon inside of him. They went with the "Lunatic" theory and stuck with that, despite the miracles He performed.
ESCAPE FROM THE TRILEMMA
Given the dilemma of the Trilemma of Lord, Liar or Lunatic, there are two popular escapes from this logical conundrum:
1. The Biblical scriptures were falsified. Jesus did not say those odd things about himself, and did not make any claim to Divinity. This is also called the "Legend" theory.
2. Jesus did make those claims about Himself, but was some lesser being, an Angel or Avatar, created after the existence of God.
For theory #1, also known as the "Legend" theory, for it to hold true it must be shown that the Gospels were somehow falsified later in time. Some modern scholars hold to this view, but it is also popular among Muslims. For those who have studied Biblical criticism, there is no evidence to support this theory. There are literally thousands of old manuscripts and fragments, distributed geographically, where it becomes quite easy to identify modifications to scripture. One would have to throw out large portions of the Gospels to show that Jesus was just a prophet -- and this is something that Thomas Jefferson did with the Bible. He edited the Gospels, took out all the statements concerning Jesus' claims to Divinity, and removed all references to miracles...in the end, Jesus becomes an ordinary man, who remains quite dead after the crucifixion. There is no manuscript evidence to support this view...and one is left with the historical problem of how Christianity could have begun with a prophet who made no claims about himself, and died an ordinary death. One would also need to explain the early martyrs who died for their beliefs -- and the oral traditions of the apostles. In short, it is an untenable historical theory.
In the 3rd century A.D., a heresy arose known as "Arianism", named after Arius, who stated that Jesus was the first created being before God made creation. This is theory #2 - that Jesus was an angelic being or avatar, through whom all things were created. It is for this heresy alone that the doctrine of the Trinity of three persons was invented in the fourth century. The church successfully counteracted the heresy, but in so doing jumped from the frying pan into the fire: the doctrine essentially is a form of Tritheism. Instead of recognizing Jesus as Jehovah in human form, a second person of a Trinity of beings was created in this doctrine. Swedenborg stated that the reason why God allowed the Catholic Church to gain as much power as it did was to eliminate the heresy of Arianism, as using religion for the sake of dominion due to the love of self could not be entirely eliminated. Among the different Christian heresies, any form which denies the Divinity of Jesus in His human form is the worst kind - as there is conjunction between God and the human race through His Divine Human. That is the meaning of the Eucharist or the sacred rite of the communion meal.
JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES - A MODERN FORM OF ARIANISM
Out of curiosity, I wanted to see if anyone could come up with some logical defense for a trinity of three persons, and joined in on a conversation concerning the Trinity. I could find no one who could provide a logical defense. The only explanation I got is that God decided to "divide" Himself into three persons. Thus if there is one God, what is that One? Instead of One Divine Being or Person, the One God becomes a substance. This substance is shared among three divine persons. In other words, when looked at more closely, the Trinity is nothing more than a form of Tritheism. However, most Christians will not even seek to explain it, content that it is a "mystery of faith". There are mysteries of faith, but this is no mystery - the "mystery of faith" is used to hide the logical inconsistency of the doctrine. Most Christians will not question it, as they have not been taught to question their beliefs, but just accept it on the basis of church authority or tradition. So the discussion on this topic on the usenet groups reached a dead end.
As I was cross-posting on this usenet discussion, another side discussion developed with another group, who sought to prove that Jesus was an angel. They were quite an intelligent group, one of them a trained theologian. I don't think I ever encountered a group that was so well versed in scripture - so the conversation went back and forth, each side using scripture to support their arguments. Here is one verse, I don't remember if I used this one:
You, O Jehovah, are our Father; Our Redeemer from Everlasting is Your name. (Isa. 63:16)
Here we have Jehovah, who is One Divine Being, who declares Himself to be both Father and Redeemer. Father and Son are not two separate beings: they are different aspects of One Being, Jehovah. In human form, He is the Son, who redeemed humanity. Thus in the New Testament, Jesus is known as "Lord", just as Jehovah is called "Lord" by the Jews, and Jesus is known as the Redeemer. But this group, who I am pretty sure were Jehovah's Witnesses, were quite keen on proving that Jesus was just an angelic being who became incarnate. They used proof texts such as these:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. (Col. 1:15)
Despite the fact that the above verse mentions that Jesus is the visible image of the unseen God, the phrase "firstborn over all creation" is taken to mean that Jesus is the first created being. The "firstborn" is a highly symbolic phrase, and was used in ancient times to represent love or charity. The word "creation" can either refer to all of creation, or the creation of a new spiritual man as each person is reformed, becoming a new creation in the eyes of God. In other passages, Jesus states that He is "The First and the Last" - He is the first in all things. Swedenborg had much to say on the meaning of the word "firstborn":
"It has been disputed from the most ancient times, which is the firstborn of the church, charity or faith; for the reason that man is regenerated and becomes a church by means of the truths of faith. But those who put faith foremost and made it the firstborn, all fell into heresies and falsities, and at length extinguished charity altogether; as we read of Cain, by whom such faith is signified, that at length he killed his brother Abel, by whom is signified charity; and afterwards of Reuben, the firstborn son of Jacob, by whom likewise faith is signified, that he polluted his father's couch (Gen. xxxv. 22; xlix. 4); wherefore he was held unworthy, and the primogeniture was given to Joseph (Gen. xlviii. 5; 1 Chron. v. 1).
"From this source were all the contentions, and also all the laws, respecting primogeniture in the Word. The cause of there being such controversy was, that it was not known, as even at this day it is not known, that a man has only so much of faith as he has of charity; and that when a man is being regenerated, charity presents itself to faith, or what is the same, good presents itself to truth, and insinuates itself into it and adapts itself to it in every particular, causing faith to be faith; and thus that charity is the very firstborn of the church, although to man it appears otherwise (see also n. 352, 367)." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 2435).
When the text is used where Jesus states that He is the Light of the world, that is, He is the Divine Truth, Jehovah's witnesses will respond with this text:
Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. (Gen. 1:3)
Which was an interesting and odd use of scripture. They asked why did God create light on the first day of creation? My response was:
1. The first 11 chapters of Genesis are written in symbolic form, and cannot be taken literally.
2. The seven days of creation are not seven days in which the world was created, but are symbolic of seven states in the regeneration of a person, in which they become a new creation. The first state is when one receives the Divine Truth, or becomes aware of spiritual truth. This is why on the first day God says, "Let there be light."
There is another subject that people are mostly unfamiliar with in this conversation, that there are two main aspects of God: Divine Love, and Divine Truth. In regards to the Divine Love, He is known as "Jehovah", in regards to Divine Truth, He is known as "God". Thus in scripture, He is often referred to as "Jehovah God" or "Lord God." God is also known as the "Light" when it comes to Divine Truth, and "fire" is used to refer to love. But by making Jesus a created being, Jehovah's Witnesses are separating these two aspects of God into two beings. That this is not the case, is discussed in detail by Swedenborg in the work, Angelic Wisdom concerning Divine Love and Wisdom.
THE ORIGIN OF THE ANGELS
Another proof-text Jehovah's witnesses use is this one:
For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. (1 Thes. 4:16)
Since the "voice of an archangel" is mentioned, some suppose that Jesus is the archangel Michael. But in this argument, there is a preexisting assumption I recognized. What is the origin of the angels? Many assume that before man was created, there existed a body of angels in heaven. So where do the angels come from, where did they get their human form? In the visions of Swedenborg, the origin of the angels was revealed: all angels, and all demons, who exist in heaven and hell, originated from the human race:
"In the Christian world it is quite unknown that heaven and hell are from the human race, for it is believed that angels were created from the beginning and of them was formed heaven; and that the devil or satan was an angel of light, but because he became rebellious he was cast down with his crew, and of them was formed hell. Angels wonder exceedingly that there should be such a belief in the Christian world, and still more that nothing at all should be known about heaven, when yet that is the primary thing of doctrine in the Church; and because such ignorance prevails, they rejoice in heart that it has pleased the Lord now to reveal to mankind many things respecting heaven, and also hell, and thereby as far as possible to dispel the darkness which is daily increasing, because the Church has come to its end. They wish for this reason that I should declare from their mouth, that in the whole heaven there is not one angel who was so created from the beginning, nor in hell any devil who was created an angel of light and cast down; but that all, both in heaven and in hell, are from the human race; in heaven those who lived in the world in heavenly love and faith, in hell those who lived in infernal love and faith; and that hell taken as a whole is what is called the devil and satan. The hell which is behind, where are those called evil genii, is called the devil, and the hell which is in front, where are those called evil spirits, is called satan. What the one hell is and what the other, will be told in the following pages. They said that the Christian world had gathered such a belief regarding those in heaven and those in hell, from some passages in the Word, understood only according to the sense of the letter, and not illustrated and explained by genuine doctrine from the Word; when yet the sense of the letter of the Word, unless genuine doctrine throws light upon it, draws the mind in various directions, begetting ignorance, heresies, and errors." (Heaven and Hell, n. 311).
Once the origin of the angels becomes known, the entire argument of the Jehovah's Witnesses, or Arianism, falls apart. One cannot become an angel until one was once born as human. As Jehovah became incarnate as a human, after the resurrection He essentially became an angel, as all humans do, except that in His case He rose as to the body, and made His human Divine.