Putting Jesus in His Place
The Case for the Deity of Christ
Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team
Without a doubt, the deity of Jesus Christ is one of the most important foundational doctrines of the Christian faith. It is no exaggeration to say that once the deity of Christ is denied, every other distinctive Christian doctrine will topple sooner or later.
It is concerning therefore that many Christian leaders today appear ill-equipped to defend the biblical basis for this doctrine, contenting themselves with rote recital of a handful of proof-texts whose initial impact can be readily deflected by the pseudo-scholarly arguments of cultists and skeptics. Furthermore, controversy-stoking books like The Da Vinci Code have popularised the myth that the doctrine of Christ’s deity was a fourth-century innovation concocted for political purposes. In such a climate, the publication of Putting Jesus In His Place by Robert Bowman and Ed Komoszewski comes not a moment too soon.
Putting Jesus In His Place is without a doubt the most comprehensive, up-to-date, and readable defense of the deity of Christ available today. The authors have done a wonderful service to the church — and by implication, to the world — in laboring to distill so much scholarly literature into such a clear, cogent, and accessible volume.
The book is divided into five parts which correspond to five categories of biblical evidence for the deity of Christ. The acronym ‘HANDS’ is used as a mnemonic for these categories. As the authors put it, “Jesus shares the HANDS of God”:
· He shares the honors due to God.
· He shares the attributes of God.
· He shares the names of God.
· He shares in the deeds that God does.
· He shares the seat of God’s throne.
Unlike many acronyms used for teaching purposes, HANDS is not a contrived gimmick to which the subsequent material is ruthlessly forced to submit, but rather a genuinely useful and memorable means of summarizing categories of biblical evidence that have already been identified and explored by scholars.
In Part 1 (‘Honors’) the authors show how the New Testament presents Jesus as one who enjoys the honor and glory due exclusively to God, who accepts worship from both men and angels, who receives petitionary prayer, and who is revered to a degree appropriate for God alone.
Part 2 (‘Attributes’) examines the New Testament passages that speak of Jesus possessing the unique attributes of God. Jesus is said to be “the whole fullness of deity” incarnate and the “exact imprint” of God’s being. He is pre-existent, eternal, uncreated, immutable, supremely loving, all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present, and beyond human comprehension. Since all these characteristics are understood to be unique to God, it follows by seamless logic that Jesus must be no less than God.
In Part 3 (‘Names’) the various biblical descriptions and titles of God are reviewed and shown to be applied to Jesus throughout the New Testament. Jesus is ‘Immanuel’ (lit. ‘God with us’) and referred to as ‘God’ in both John’s Gospel and the Epistles. In numerous passages he is directly identified as the ‘Yahweh’ of the Old Testament, which explains in turn the significance of the designation ‘Lord’ throughout the New Testament. Many other names exclusive to God are also attached to Jesus, such as ‘Savior’, ‘I Am’, and ‘Alpha and Omega’. (Readers who are aware of some of the exegetical controversies surrounding these passages will be pleased to see that the authors address each one head-on, in either the main text or the end notes.)
Part 4 (‘Deeds’) documents the many activities attributed to Jesus that would have been considered the sole prerogative of God by his Jewish contemporaries. He created and sustains the universe. He has absolute power over nature. He speaks with unprecedented divine authority. He saves people. He is the source of eternal life — and the heavenly judge who determines who receives that eternal life rather than eternal condemnation. To borrow from Irving Berlin: anything God can do, Christ can do too!
Finally, Part 5 (‘Seat’) shows how the New Testament writers describe Jesus as occupying the very throne of God. Indeed, it is precisely this exalted status that explains how Jesus can enjoy all the honors due to God. Seated beside his Father, the Son has universe dominion and will one day receive universal worship.
The closing chapter summarizes the authors’ case and tenders their conclusion:
“Any one of these five lines of evidence would be good support for belief in the deity of Christ. All five lines of evidence considered together, prove beyond reasonable doubt that Jesus Christ is God.”
After digesting the author’s five-course meal, it is virtually impossible to disagree with them. Indeed, perhaps the most striking aspect of their case for the deity of Jesus is that there is such an overwhelming quantity and variety of evidence for this foundational Christian doctrine.
Although the book covers a remarkable amount of ground and engages with a great deal of scholarly material, the chapters have been kept relatively short and the lively prose earns and retains the reader’s interest. Technical discussions are reserved for the end notes, while a “Recommended Resources” section provides a manageable selection of books for further reading as an alternative to a comprehensive bibliography (which would more likely intimidate readers than inspire them to further study). An appendix provides “HANDS Review Tables” that summarize (via Scripture references) all the evidence presented in the book. Altogether these features add up to an invaluable apologetic resource.
Putting Jesus In His Place is not merely intellectually stimulating; it is also spiritually invigorating. I found that often during my reading I was moved to pause for worship as I reflected afresh on the wonder and glory of Jesus. If, like me, you tend to treat with a pinch of salt any claim that some new publication is “a must-have book”, all I can do is ask that you set aside that cynicism just long enough for me to say that Putting Jesus In His Place is — you’ve guessed it — a must-have book.
Read an interview with J. Ed Komoszewski here.