B. B. Warfield’s Lord of Glory

Non-Christians have denied the deity of Jesus from the beginning of his ministry to the present day. They attack the reliability of the New Testament, saying that Jesus never claimed to be God. Christians have responded over time by building the case for Jesus’s deity. B. B. Warfield added his case to the cause with his book The Lord of Glory.

Genre. The Lord of Glory is a powerful, evidential apologetic for the deity of Jesus. Warfield presents his evidence with some technical details. But anyone with an interest in apologetics can grasp his evidence and arguments. Also, an understanding of the theological landscape in 1907 would help the reader understand Warfield’s argument better. But overall, it remains an easily digestible work.

Organization. Warfield builds his argument from the titles ascribed to Jesus. He works through the New Testament Canon sequentially. He spends most of his time in the Gospels, but also develops his theme from the rest of the literature as well. In the last chapter, he states his conclusion and interacts with theories current in his day.

Argument. Warfield intends to examine the titles and names applied to Jesus in order to learn how the NT writers view Jesus (Intro.). His purpose is to show that the NT writers thought of Jesus as God.

Mark uses the simple name “Jesus” throughout his narrative (Ch. 1). The name Jesus was common. So, people specified which Jesus by saying “Jesus of Nazareth” or “Jesus, Son of David.” However, Mark’s simple use of “Jesus” indicates that the Christians elevated this Jesus above the other Jesuses (p. 5). Further, Mark demonstrates this elevation by applying only Messianic titles to Jesus (p. 12). The most often used title “Son of Man” was designated by Jesus himself to emphasize his suffering mission and his eschatological kingship (p. 30)

The purpose of Mark’s Gospel is to explain the origins of the Gospel of the Messiah (Ch. 2). Mark begins by portraying Jesus as the Messiah (p. 33). Yet, Jesus is also much more than Messiah. He is superhuman, “superangelic,” and identified as YHWH himself (pp. 36, 45). These later facts were less obvious in Mark’s account because it was not his purpose to explain them (p. 52). Mark’s purpose focuses on the Messiahship of Jesus while these other facts simply attend the discussion (p. 53).

Matthew runs along the same lines as Mark, but Matthew develops themes which are latent in Mark (Ch. 3). Matthew uses the formal title “Jesus Christ” three times, emphasizing Jesus’s role as Messiah (pp. 57-8). “Christ” in Matthew’s presentation becomes a proper name given to Jesus, signifying his open claim to Messiahship (p. 64). Further, Jesus claims the title “House Master” which is a picture of the divine Lord (p. 69). Matthew also emphasizes the glory of the “Son of Man” much more than Mark (p. 87).

Matthew conceives of Jesus as a transcendent Being who is Messiah (Ch. 4). Jesus is supramundane, superhuman, and superangelic. The implication, then, is that Jesus is an uncreated Being, able to stand beside God (pp. 89-90). And it is not that Jesus is the chief of creation, but that he is equal with God (p. 93). The last words of Jesus—claiming the Name of the Trinity—close Matthew’s Gospel with the fact that Jesus is God (p. 96). Luke finishes the synoptic view of Jesus with a few minor additions and variations (Ch. 5).

The synoptics produce a unified picture of Jesus (Ch. 6). The picture is him as Lord and Messiah (p. 125). Jesus is more than just a human messiah. He is true deity, being described this way both in his person and in his works (p. 145).

Even if you allow for the historio-critical reduction of the synoptics, the same Jesus is portrayed (Ch. 7). The Gospels were clearly written within the first century. Thus, they present an early picture of Jesus as God (p. 146). The existence of earlier documents before the Gospels does not disprove this conclusion (p. 147). And it is impossible to deconstruct the documents in such a way as to remove the deity of Jesus (p. 149). Therefore, there is no way to deny the deity of Jesus if the report of the evangelists is true (p. 157).

John presents the same picture of Jesus as the synoptics (Ch. 8). The emphasis in John on the deity of Christ is a difference in quantity and not in kind (p. 174). John presents Jesus as God in the prologue (p. 177). The title “Son of God” points to Jesus’s preexistence and superhuman dignity (p. 191). Since both John and the synoptics portray Jesus as deity, it cannot be asserted that John presents a later and more developed view of Jesus’s deity (p. 200). The book of Acts furthers the argument that the deity of Jesus is not a later development by John (Ch. 9).

Paul, who represents the earliest writings of Christianity, corroborates the picture of the Gospels and Acts (Ch. 10). The letters of Paul contain in them the earliest examples of how the church discussed and referred to Jesus (p. 222). Paul used the title “Lord” most often to refer to Jesus, instead of the simple designation “Jesus” used in the Gospels (p. 224). The use of “Lord” in Paul is influenced by how the LXX used “Lord” in connection with YHWH (p. 226). Thus, Paul placed Jesus as Lord making him equal with the Father. Yet Paul maintained the concept of “one God.” Therefore, the Trinity is implicit in Paul’s letters which are the earliest documents of the church (p. 237).

Jesus appears the same in the Catholic epistles and Revelation (Ch. 11-13). James and Jude, both relatives of Jesus, did not place themselves as equals with him, but as servants. And they honored Jesus with the formal title of “Jesus Christ” (pp. 264-6). Peter presents Jesus as Redeemer and directly states that he is God (pp. 269-70). John also calls Jesus God (p. 274). The author of Hebrews, though insisting on Jesus’s humanity, presents Jesus as the Son in terms equal to God (p. 278). Thus, Jesus must have been viewed as God because no trace that Jesus was viewed merely as a human can be found in the Catholic epistles (p. 275). John closes the Canon with the same view of Jesus as God (p. 294-5).

The issue has practical application for theology today (Ch. 14). It is clear that Jesus was viewed as God from the earliest records of Christianity (p. 298). This presents the modern reader with an inescapable reality. If Jesus is not God, then He and the origins of Christianity are unexplainable. Christianity and Jesus should be very different if this is the case. But if Jesus is God, then both he and Christianity make perfect sense (p. 303-4).

Unique Features and Strengths.  Warfield is very thorough, bringing enough data to solidly seal his case. And he presents his information in a logical method. Also, his approach is unique. While most apologetics focus on the external evidence, he focused only on the internal evidence. Further, he focuses on the titles of Jesus as an argument for Jesus’s deity. I have read a lot in apologetical material and I have not seen this approach duplicated.

Weaknesses. His main outline is sufficiently clear, but the progression of his thought in each chapter is a little harder to follow. Content wise, he tends to repeat himself from chapter to chapter. Although he was self-aware of this repetition, it seemed he could have reduced the number of words that he used to recap his argument.

Evaluation. His purpose was to show that Jesus was viewed as God from the earliest Christian documents. Overall, he did an excellent job gathering the data and arguing his point. In the end, he successfully accomplished his purpose. I would highly recommend this book for anyone interested in apologetics.

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