Review: Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of ChristRelated Media
Kregel Academic (September, 2007)
Paperback, 392 pages
Robert Bowman, Jr. and J. Ed Komoszewski
We all have that unwelcome relative-the one we're ashamed of. The one we hope and pray will forget about the family reunion each year and, when she doesn't, the one we all work hard to avoid. She's the one we wish would go away because she makes us feel uncomfortable. She doesn't represent our family the way we'd like our family to be thought of. She's the branch in the family tree we'd prefer would fall off.
For too many Christians, the deity of Christ is like that unwelcome relative. We hope and pray that the topic will not come up in conversation because we're uncomfortable attempting to defend it. So we work hard to avoid it, while opponents are working equally hard to disprove it. It's time Christians take another look at this topic, and begin to realize the defensible and comforting nature of the deity of Christ.
Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ is, according to Dr. Daniel B. Wallace, "the first serious book on the deity of Christ written for a popular readership in decades." My first impression of this book zeroed in on its endorsers. The book is endorsed by four pages of the world's New Testament heavyweights and includes a foreword by Dr. Darrell Bock, all of which (and much more) can be found on the authors' aesthetically impressive website at www.deityofchrist.com.
Bowman and Komoszewski have delivered a thoroughly comprehensive treatment of this seemingly slippery subject. The book includes 22 tables and a steady stream of endnotes containing a wealth of insights and additional resources. As I read it, I found myself longing for a cheat sheet or executive summary that would bullet the extensive data for concise and convenient access. I found just that at the end of the book.
Putting Jesus in His Place is built upon the acronym H-A-N-D-S, a tool with hooks upon which every Scripture, claim, proof, and logical argument for the deity of Christ can be hung.
Jesus shares the Honors of God (42 pages)
Jesus shares the Attributes of God (52 pages)
Jesus shares the Names of God (56 pages)
Jesus shares the Deeds of God (48 pages)
Jesus shares the Seat of God (30 pages)
In their conclusion, the authors rightly claim: "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."
One mark of a well-written book is when its intended audience can read it without feeling targeted. Bowman and Komoszewski incorporate playful section headings throughout (e.g., "Jesus: Older than Dirt - Literally"), and the overall readability of the book appeals to a lay audience. At the same time, their solid research and copious endnotes satisfy the scholar. Both can read it without feeling targeting or excluded.
Putting Jesus in His Place includes traditional proofs of Jesus' deity: His claims, miracles, power over nature, ability to forgive sins, and many, many more. Other arguments included for Jesus' deity are not so obvious. For example, the authors offer convincing proof that Jesus' preferred title "Son of Man" reflects His deity as much as His humanity, though the latter is often alone associated with the term.
Moreover, those interested in Jesus' eternal Sonship, the hypostatic union, His place in the Trinity, and other fields that indirectly relate to His deity will also be rewarded. The authors give a balanced presentation, admitting the weaknesses of their own arguments while recognizing that a weak argument is still an argument (and they don't include many arguments that are weak).
Bowman and Komoszewski demonstrate a remarkable utility with the biblical text, examining countless passages with integrity. They are not pulled out of context, but accompanied by historically-informed explanations that yield rewarding insights. The authors take the time to answer most objections to their biblical interpretations. In the process, they interact with no fewer than fifteen different English translations (noting which one they're citing from along the way). They include pertinent word studies that explain complexities for us in simple, digestible terms. Two highlights stand out among many pertaining to biblical insights: 1) a very helpful discussion of the kenosis passage (Philippians chapter two) in light of Jesus' pre-existence, and 2) a stimulating discussion of Colossians chapter one regarding Jesus' deity.
The authors are familiar with the biblical languages, which are transliterated for the reader in parentheses. This prevents the text from reading like a scholarly journal, but still allows the language experts the opportunity to look under the hood. I was pleasantly surprised at the healthy dose of interaction with the Hebrew Scriptures. This helps the reader to see Jesus through first century Jewish lenses. And it reinforces the inappropriateness of Jesus' words and deeds if He is anything less than God. One doesn't properly say and do what Jesus said and did without being God. One doesn't write about Jesus the things Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, James, Peter, Jude, and the author of Hebrews wrote without either apologizing or explaining oneself.
Generally speaking, the five chief sections of the book are given equal treatment, with the exception of the final proof for Jesus' deity-that He shares the seat of God. Bowman and Komoszewski spend twelve fewer pages in this section than any other, likely because it doesn't contain multiples such as honors, attributes, names, and deeds. According to the authors, "Of the five major lines of evidence for the deity of Christ we are discussing in this book, the last category of evidence-that of Jesus' occupying the seat of God-is the least familiar to most Christians." Most readers will find this territory the most unfamiliar and interesting to explore.
Bowman and Komoszewski have put Jesus in His place. Jesus is fully God. The authors stage a direct attack upon certain core errors in the teachings of Jehovah's Witnesses and Arius (the 3-4th century precursor to today's JWs), as well as contemporary Oneness and Modalism movements. Certainly there is enough here to place an element of doubt in the minds of many Jehovah's Witnesses. Every serious Jehovah's Witness will have this book on his shelf; how much more should it be on the shelf of every serious Christian. Like feared prosecutors in a courtroom, Bowman and Komoszewski parade a tour de force of evidence in the courtroom of biblical interpretation. Churches, Sunday School classes, small groups, and individuals need to examine this book closely so that they are no longer ashamed of their "unwelcome relative"-or paralyzed when they hear the knock at the door. Prepare to get wet from the splash this book makes on culture and the Church.
Related Topics: Christology