I cannot personally conclude that Jesus was a liar or a lunatic. The only other alternative is that he was--and is--the Christ, the Son of God, as he claimed. But in spite of the logic and evidence, many people cannot seem to bring themselves to this conclusion.
In "The Da Vinci Code" Dan Brown claims, "By officially endorsing Jesus as the Son of God, Constantine turned Jesus into a deity who existed beyond the scope of the human world, an entity whose power was unchangeable." Novelist Brown wants people to believe the idea that Christ's deity was invented at the Council of Nicea. Although discussed prominently in popular culture, the "fact" has been rejected by well over 99.9 percent of biblical scholars who study documented history. Here's why.
The New Testament itself provides the earliest evidence for the belief that Jesus is divine. Since these these documents were composed in the first century just decades after the events surrounding Jesus, they predate the Council of Nicea by more than two centuries. While they were written by different people for a variety of purposes, once unmistakable theme they share is that Christ is God.
The ante-Nicene fathers provide additional support that Jesus was considered divine long before the council of Nicea. The ante-Nicene fathers were early Christian thinkers who lived after the close of the New Testament period (c. 100), yet before the council of Nicea (325). The ante-Nicene fathers included men such as Justin Martyr, Ignatius, and Irenaeus. There is no doubt that they understood Jesus to be divine. Consider some quotes from their ancient works:
-Ignatius of Antioch (AD 110): "God incarnate...God Himself appearing in the form of Man."
-Justin of Martyr (AD 100-165): "...being the First-begotten Word of God, is even God."
-Irenaeus (AD 177): "...the Father is God and the Son is God; for He who is born of God is God."
-Melito of Saris (circa AD 177): "He was man, yet He is God."
Probably the most convincing evidence that Jesus was considered divine before Nicea comes from non-Christian writers. The Greek satirist Lucian of Samosata (c. AD 170), the Roman philosopher Celsus (c. 177), and the Roman governor Pliny the Younger (c. 112) make it clear that early Christian understood Jesus as divine. Pliny persecuted Christians because of their belief that Jesus was divine. Pliny acknowledged. "They had met regularly before dawn on a fixed day to chant verses alternately among themselves in honour of Christ as if to a god."
Given these facts, in addition to many more, the authors of "Reinventing Jesus" conclude: "To Suggest that Constantine has the ability--or even the inclination--to manipulate the council into believing what it did not already embrace is, at best, a silly notion." The evidence is clear: Jesus was believed to be divine long before the council of Nicea.
When I discuss the material in this chapter with most Jewish or Muslim people, their response is quite interesting. I share with them the claims Jesus made about himself and then put to them the options: Was he contained in the trilemma (liar, lunatic, or Lord)? When I ask if they believe Jesus was a liar, they give me a sharp "No!" Then I ask, "Do you believe he was a lunatic?" Their reply is, "Of course not." "Do you believe he is God?" Before I can get a word in edgewise, I hear a resounding "Absolutely not!" Yet one has no more choices.
The issue with these three alternatives is not which is possible, for obviously all three are possible. Rather, the question is, "Which is most probable?" You cannot put him on the shelf merely as a great moral teacher or a prophet. That is not a valid option. He is either a liar, a lunatic, or Lord and God. You must make a choice. Your decision about Jesus must be more than an idle intellectual exercise. As the apostle John wrote, "These are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and"--more important--"that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name" (John 20:31).
The evidence is clearly in favor of Jesus as Lord.
from: More Than a Carpenter
by: Josh and Sean McDowell