Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Examining the Muslim criticism of C. S. Lewis’ Trilemma

How the Appeal to Liberal Critical Scholarship Discredits the Islamic Faith

Sam Shamoun

Most Christians who are involved in apologetics have not only heard of C. S. Lewis and are not only acquainted with his classic works such as Mere Christianity, but are also familiar with Lewis’ Trilemma. The Trilemma deals with Jesus’ Divine claims and the conclusions that can be drawn from them. As Lewis explained it:

“Then comes the real shock. Among these Jews there suddenly turns up a man who goes about talking as if He was God. He claims to forgive sins. He says He has always existed. He says He is coming to judge the world at the end of time. Now let us get this clear. Among Pantheists, like the Indians, anyone might say that he was a part of God, or one with God: there would be nothing very odd about it. But this man, since He was a Jew, could not mean that kind of God. God, in their language, meant the Being outside the world, who had made it and was infinitely different from anything else. And when you have grasped that, you will see that what this man said was, quite simply, the most shocking thing that has ever been uttered by human lips.

“One part of the claim tends to slip past us unnoticed because we have heard it so often that we no longer see what it amounts to. I mean the claim to forgive sins: any sins. Now unless the speaker is God, this is really so preposterous as to be comic. We can all understand how a man forgives offences against himself. You tread on my toe and I forgive you, you steal my money and I forgive you. But what should we make of a man, himself unrobbed and untrodden on, who announced that he forgave you for treading on other men’s toes and stealing other men’s money? Asinine fatuity is the kindest description we should give of his conduct. Yet this is what Jesus did. He told people that their sins were forgiven, and never waited to consult all the other people whom their sins had undoubtedly injured. He unhesitatingly behaved as if He was the party chiefly concerned; the person chiefly offended in all offences. This makes sense only if He really was the God whose laws are broken and whose love is wounded in every sin. In the mouth of any speaker who is not God, these words would imply what I can only regard as a silliness and conceit unrivalled by any other character in history.

“Yet (and this is the strange, significant thing) even His enemies, when they read the Gospels, do not usually get the impression of silliness and conceit. Still less do unprejudiced readers. Christ says that He is ‘humble and meek’ and we believe Him; not noticing that, if He were merely a man, humility and meekness are the very last characteristics we could attribute to some of His sayings.

"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 a 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 patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” (Mere Christianity, foreward by Kathleen Norris [Harper Collins Edition, 2001], Book 2. What Christians Believe, Part 3. The Shocking Alternative, pp. 51-52; underline emphasis ours)

Christians aren’t the only ones familiar with Lewis’ Trilemma. Muslim polemicists are also aware of this and realize the ramification that Lewis’ apologetic has on the truth claims of Islam which denies the Deity of Christ. Not surprisingly these same Muslim dawagandists quickly run to critical liberal scholarship to undermine Lewis’ defense of Christ’s Divinity. They appeal to disbelieving scholars in order to attack the reliability of the NT so as to convince their constituents that the Divine claims attributed to Jesus in the Gospels are fabricated and were never uttered by the historical Jesus. However, these same Muslim “apologists” do not realize (or simply do not care) the kind of impact that such unbelieving scholarship has on their own Islamic beliefs. The Muslims are inconsistently applying the criticisms and arguments of liberal scholars against the Holy Bible and yet never bother to apply these same arguments against their own views; nor do they stop to think for a moment of how these assaults against the NT affect their Islamic beliefs concerning Jesus.

One such Muslim propagandist who inconsistently appeals to liberal scholarship is Bassam Zawadi. Zawadi has written a short “reply” whereby he seeks to show the fallacy inherent in Lewis’ reasoning.

He even quotes (more like misquotes) conservative scholars to prove that Lewis’s Trilemma is fallacious!

However, it is refreshing to see that respected Christian scholars - including the conservative ones - could see the fallaciousness of this supposed trilemma as I will show below. (Examining C.S. Lewis' Trilemma)

He then proceeds to cite Craig L. Blomberg and Craig Evans, two noted Conservative NT scholars, to show that there are other options besides the three mentioned by Lewis, such as the assertion that the speeches of Christ as recorded in the Gospels are fabrications and do not accurately reflect the words of the historical Jesus. In so doing Zawadi and gives the misleading impression that they rejected Lewis’ Trilemma!

For instance, compare what Zawadi quotes of Blomberg,

The problem with this argument is that it assumes what is regularly denied, namely, that the gospels give entirely accurate accounts of the actions and claims of Jesus ... This option represents the most common current explanation of the more spectacular deeds and extravagant claims of Jesus in the gospels. (Craig L. Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels, (Intervarsity Press, 1987), page xx)

With what he actually wrote in context:

The problem with this argument is that it assumes what is regularly denied, namely, that the gospels give entirely accurate accounts of the actions and claims of Jesus. One can preserve Lewis’s alliteration and introduce a fourth option – the stories about Jesus were legends. This option represents the most common current explanation of the more spectacular deeds and extravagant claims of Jesus in the gospels: they were the product of the early church’s desire to glorify him, and so it exaggerated its portraits of him above and beyond what the facts permitted. Unless one can successfully dismiss this alternative, one cannot appeal to Lewis’s apologetics. An examination of the gospels’ historical reliability must therefore precede a credible assessment of who Jesus was. (Craig L. Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels, (Intervarsity Press, 1987), p. xx; underline emphasis ours)

Blomberg clearly says that one must first refute the attacks against the historical reliability of the Gospels in order for Lewis’ Trilemma to be logically valid. And this is precisely what Blomberg and Evans set out to do, just as the titles of their books clearly show! (In fact, the name of Evans’ book which Zawadi quotes from is Fabricating Jesus: How Modern Scholars Distort the Gospels. The title gives us an idea of Evan’s purpose in writing this book!) These authors present conclusive evidence which establishes that the Gospels are historically reliable and that they accurately preserve the words of the historical Jesus.

In light of this there is nothing logically fallacious about Lewis’ Trilemma since both its premises and its conclusion are valid, just as the following syllogism shows.

  1. The Gospels are early historical documents that accurately preserve and reliably transmit the words of the historical Jesus.
  2. The Gospels report Jesus claiming to be the unique Divine Son of God.
  3. Therefore, the historical Jesus believed and claimed to be the unique Divine Son of God.

Hence, there is nothing logically fallacious with Lewis’ Trilemma once it is presented accurately. The only fallacy is Zawadi’s blatant distortion and caricaturization of Lewis’ argument.

What makes this all the more amazing is that one of the liberal scholars that Zawadi references admits that the Gospels are early eyewitness accounts! Zawadi quotes from the late John A. T. Robinson, a liberal scholar who wrote a book titled Redating the New Testament. In that book Robinson argues that all of the New Testament was written before 70 AD, and that much of it was written earlier, before AD 64. Robinson based this partly on the fact that the New Testament doesn’t reflect firsthand knowledge of the Temple's destruction in 70 AD. Robinson assigns the following dates for the Gospels:

Matthew – at 40 to after 60 AD.
Mark – at about 45 to 60.
Luke – at before 57 to after 60.
John – at from 40 to after 65.

Robinson also believed that the fourth Gospel was actually written by the Apostle John and that Paul authored all of the books which bear his name. Robinson further argued that the epistle of James was authored by a brother of Jesus within twenty years of Christ’s resurrection.

This means that all of the New Testament books were all written within forty years of Jesus’ resurrection during the time when the first generation of eyewitnesses were still living. Not only were they written during the lifetime of friendly eyewitnesses who personally knew Jesus but they were also composed when the very hostile enemies of Christ were still alive! This establishes that what we have written is based on historically reliable eyewitness testimony since the NT authors could not have fabricated stories of Jesus or the early Church and gotten away with it since there were both friendly and hostile witnesses who would have corrected and/or exposed them.

In light of this one would naturally assume that Robinson would hold to the historical reliability of the Gospels, especially in reporting the words of Jesus. Yet such is not the case since Robinson questions whether Jesus ever claimed to be the Son of God, let alone God! He writes:

We are often asked to accept Christ as divine because he claimed to be so--and the familiar argument is pressed: ‘A man who goes around claiming to be God must either be God--or else he is a madman or a charlatan (aut deus aut malus homo)’. And, of course, it is not easy to read the Gospel story and to dismiss Jesus as either mad or bad. Therefore, the conclusion runs, he must be God.

But I am not happy about this argument. None of the disciples in the Gospels acknowledged Jesus because he claimed to be God, and the Apostles never went out saying, ‘This man claimed to be God, therefore you must believe in him.’ In fact, Jesus himself said in so many words, ‘If I claim anything for myself, do not believe me’. It is, indeed, an open question whether Jesus ever claimed to be the Son of God, let alone God. He may have acknowledged it from the lips from others–but on his own he preferred ‘the Son of Man’. In Mark 14.61 f., he is reported to reply to the question at his trial, ‘Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?’, with the simple words, ‘I am’. But in the parallel passage in Matthew he gives an equivocal answer: ‘The words are yours’ (as he does in all the Gospels when questioned by Pilate)–and what conceivable interest would Matthew have in watering Jesus’ claims? We cannot be sure what titles Jesus claimed, and we should be wise, like the Apostles, not to rest our faith on them. Their message was rather that ‘God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified’. That is to say, through the Resurrection God vindicated and set his seal upon this man as the one through whom he spoke and acted in final and decisive fashion. He vested himself utterly and completely in the man Christ Jesus; in him all his fullness dwelt. What God was, the Word was. (Robinson, Honest to God [Westminster, Philadelphia, 1963], pp. 71-73; underline emphasis ours)

To better appreciate what Robinson meant by the Word being what God is it is important that we quote him further:

But before we ask with Bonhoeffer, ‘What is Christ, for us today?’, we should stop and pose the prior question of what it is we have to reinterpret, of what in fact the New Testament is saying. For I believe that the supranaturalist, like the naturalist, estimate of Christ, whatever its intention, tends to be a distortion of Biblical truth. I do not say that it necessarily is, since the mythological-metaphysical framework can obviously provide the setting, as it has in the past, for an entirely orthodox Christology. But in practice popular preaching and teaching presents a supranaturalistic view of Christ which cannot be substantiated from the New Testament. It says simply that that Jesus was God, in such a way that the terms ‘Christ’ and ‘God’ are interchangeable. But nowhere in Biblical usage is this so. The New Testament says that Jesus was the Word of God, it says that God was in Christ, it says that Jesus is the Son of God; but it does not say that Jesus was God, simply like that.

What it does say is defined succinctly and accurately as it can be in the opening verse of St John’s Gospel. But we have to be equally careful about the translation. The Greek runs: kai theos en ho logos. The so-called Authorized Version has: ‘And the Word was God.’ This would indeed suggest the view that ‘Jesus’ and ‘God’ were identical and interchangeable. But in Greek this would most naturally be represented by ‘God’ with the article, not theos but ho theos. But, equally, St John is not saying that Jesus is a ‘divine’ man, in the sense with which the ancient world was familiar or in the sense in which the Liberals spoke of him. That would be theios. The Greek expression steers carefully between the two. It is impossible to represent it in a single English word, but the New English Bible, I believe, gets the sense pretty exactly with its rendering, ‘And what God was, the Word was’. In other words, if one looked at Jesus, one saw God–for ‘he who sees me, has seen the Father’. He was the complete expression, the Word, of God. Through him, AS THROUGH NO ONE ELSE, God spoke and God acted: when one met him one was met–and saved and judged–by God. And it was to this conviction that the Apostles bore their witness. In this man, in his life, death and resurrection they had experienced God at work; and in the language of their day they confessed, like the centurion at the Cross, ‘Truly this man was the Son of God’. HERE WAS MORE THAN JUST A MAN; here was a window into God at work. For ‘God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself’. (Ibid., pp. 70-71; capital emphasis ours)


There is a paradox running through all the Gospels that Jesus makes no claims for himself in his own right and at the same time makes the most tremendous claims about what God is doing through him and uniquely through him. Men’s response to him is men’s response to God: men’s rejection of him is men’s rejection of God. And the fourth Gospel merely highlights this paradox (IT DOES NOT, AS IS USUALLY SAID, PRESENT QUITE A DIFFERENT PICTURE OF THE CLAIMS OF JESUS) when it combines the saying that the ‘Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing’ with the uncompromising assertion, ‘No one comes to the Father, but by me’. Jesus never claims to be God personally: yet he always claims to bring God, completely.

This paradox is the point from which our reinterpretation of Christology must start. As the summary of his ministry in the fourth Gospel, Jesus cries out and says, ‘He who believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. And he who sees me sees him who sent me’. Jesus, that is to say, reveals God by being utterly transparent to him, precisely as he is nothing ‘in himself’… (P. 73; capital emphasis ours)

One is left wondering how can Jesus not be God if, as Robinson asserts, he is more than a man and all that God is? If all the fullness of God dwells within Jesus then how can he be anything less than God?

Returning to the issue at hand, notice the circularity and inconsistency behind Robinson’s reasoning. He alludes to Jesus’ words from the NT to prove that Jesus either never claimed or even outright denied that he was God, thereby presupposing the historical veracity of such sayings. And yet Robinson’s statements clearly intend to cast doubt on any passage where Jesus does affirm his Deity! What makes this assertion all the more ironic is that Robinson himself cites Jesus claiming to be the Son who does nothing but what he sees the Father doing!(1)

Robinson’s question begging is further seen by his claim that we cannot be certain which titles the historical Jesus affirmed and accepted for himself. However, he doesn’t doubt and is absolutely sure that the Gospels accurately report Jesus’ supposed denials of being Divine!

Zawadi also appealed to philosopher John Hick, someone who is not a recognized NT scholar by any means. Be that as it may we will have more to say concerning him a little later.

Another dawagandist who appeals to liberal critics to undermine the NT is a Muslim who goes by the name ‘Captain Planet’. This Muslim left the following comments on Muslim “apologist” Ibn Anwar’s blog:

Captain Planet said

July 11, 2009 at 1:39 pm

If to die does not mean “cease to exist” and, therefore, we say that Jesus – who is supposed to be God, the second person of the Trinity – did not “cease to exist” even though he died, then his death was really not a permanent offering… in which case, how would that atone for the sins of mankind?

Trinitarians often play these word games. The fact they have to do this itself, for me, is sufficient proof for the falsity of the Trinity. It just does not seem reasonable that God would confuse humanity with such confusing notions about Himself.

I personally avoid having such discussions with Christians because even if we assume that the Trinity makes perfect logical sense – which it does not – it does not follow that it is right.

From a purely historical perspective – and I am attempting to talk here as a historian and not as a Muslim – it is HIGHLY UNLIKELY that Jesus, a Jew of first century Palestine, thought of himself as divine in any sense, let alone the second person of the Trinity. Moreover, there is no proof whatsoever that the Jews were expecting the Messiah to be a divine being, let alone the second person of the Trinity (they did not even entertain a Trinitarian concept of God, they were Unitarians!).

Historical Jesus scholars are largely agreed upon the above: that it is highly unlikely and most improbable that the historical Jesus was going around preaching his divinity to the people.

Catherine M. Murphy, Under the heading “Things Jesus Didn’t Talk About”, writes:


His own divinity: One of the cardinal principles of historical Jesus research is that the belief in Jesus’s divinity is a post-resurrection phenomenon. During his life, his acts of power were understood as signs that God (or Satan) was working through him – not that he was God.

The gospel of John presents Jesus teaching that he’s divine, but most scholars treat this as a later interpretation rather than a historical fact because it’s so much more highly developed here than in the earlier gospels and gospel sources...

Catherine M. Murphy, The Historical Jesus For Dummies, 2007, John Wiley & Sons, Indianapolis: Indiana, p. 178.


James White goes around conveying the impression as if he is representing mainstream scholarship. But the truth is just the opposite. The perspective on Jesus he is presenting is one which is widely dismissed by scholars.

Thus, if Jesus is most unlikely to have claimed to be God, then out goes the Trinity.

Does it now matter if the Trinity makes “sense?” It does not. It still remains historically baseless. (Ibn Anwar, Response to Dr. James White)

What this Muslim forgot to mention is that this very same source claims that most historians believe that not only did Jesus never teach that he was Divine but that he also never claimed to be the Messiah!

The terms “MESSIAH,” “son of God,” and “son of man” from the preceding list become titles for Jesus AFTER HIS RESURRECTION and come to bear meanings that they don’t carry in Jewish scripture, such as meanings tied to Jesus’ unique role as God’s son and thus is divine himself (see Chapter 15). Most historians think that these LATER Christological beliefs (theological views of what it meant to be Christ or messiah) WEREN’T AT STAKE DURING HIS ACTUAL LIFE. But by the time the gospels were written, these beliefs are at stake, and so the gospel writers focus the Jewish trial around the matter of Jesus’s identity. Had Jesus actually claimed divine power equal to God’s, he might have been guilty of blasphemy, at least as the Sadducees likely defined it (they were pretty strict about such things compared to the Pharisees; see Chapter 7). (Catherine M. Murphy, The Historical Jesus For Dummies [Wiley Publishing, Inc., Indianapolis, IN 2008], Part IV: Witnessing Jesus’s Execution and Resurrection, Chapter 14: Examining Jesus’s Crucifixion, p. 232; capital and underline emphasis ours)

Murphy isn’t the only author who asserts that historians reject the claim that Jesus believed to be or called himself the Messiah:

Matthew and Josephus both refer to “Jesus who is called ‘Messiah.’” Matthew places the remark on the lips of Pilate at Jesus’s trial, while Josephus mentions “Jesus who is called Messiah” almost as a side remark in his narration of the death of James the brother of Jesus, who was put to death at the instigation of the high priest Ananus in the early 60s CE. Both of these authors are writing in the last quarter of the first century of the Common Era and refer to Jesus who is called “Messiah.” But by whom was Jesus called the “Messiah”? The obvious answer surely is, by Christians, and Josephus himself traces the name of the Christians back to the founder of their movement, Jesus, which implies that he was known as “Christ” (Ant. 18:64). Matthew, in contrast, would have us believe that Jesus was known as “Messiah” during the course of his final ministry in Jerusalem and in particular at his trial. While no one disputes Jesus was proclaimed and heralded as Messiah in the early church, the question as to whether or not he was recognized as such during his own lifetime is a much more complex and disputed topic. Moreover, it is equally debated as to whether Jesus claimed to be the Messiah and whether we can legitimately talk of a “messianic self-consciousness” on the part of the historical Jesus.

Scholarship on the Messianic Question

This “messianic question” as to whether or not Jesus believed himself to be the Messiah is a recurring riddle of historical Jesus scholarship. Julius Wellhausen wrote that of all the problems facing scholarship on the life of Jesus, “among the most important questions is whether and in what sense he [Jesus] believed and claimed himself to be the Messiah.” Similarly, H. J. Holtzmann said that the messianic consciousness of Jesus was “the main problem of New Testament theology.” The nature of the dilemma, as Albert Schweitzer recognized long ago, is that researchers have had to wrestle with the problem of the purportedly nonmessinaic character of Jesus’s public ministry in contradistinction to his messianic vocation and identity as affirmed by early Christian sources.

Primitive Christianity was a messianic movement that venerated a figure with the appellation Christos (Christ/Messiah/Anointed One), and followers of Jesus were given the name Christianoi (Christians/Messianists) to distinguish them from other Jewish sects. Did a self-professedly messianic claimant lie at the root of this messianic movement, or was the messianic identity of Jesus a subsequent development in the christological reflection of the early Christian communities that attributed the title to him in the course of their post-Easter theologizing? In the last one hundred years of historical Jesus research, mainly under the influence of William Wrede and Rudolf Bultmann, the CONSENSUS has largely rejected the position that the historical Jesus regarded himself as the Messiah. In fact, Martin Hengel goes so far as to state: “Today the unmessianic Jesus has almost become a dogma among many New Testament scholars. One is tempted to describe this phenomenon as ‘non-messianic dogmatics.’” Just in case one thinks that Hengel is exaggerating the state of scholarship, consider the following collection of comments:

For this is the truly amazing thing, that there is in fact not one single certain proof of Jesus’ claiming for himself one of the Messianic titles which tradition has ascribed to him…. Not a single one of his words speaks of the Messias designatus.8

Jesus is never once recalled as using the title “Messiah” of himself or as unequivocally welcoming its application to him by others.9

To claim that Jesus is the Messiah is absurd.10

There is not a single genuine saying of Jesus in which he refers to himself as the Messiah.11

It seems that before the passion Jesus did not openly claim to be the Messiah.12

Scenes in the Gospel in which Jesus is addressed or acknowledged as the Messiah are very few and acceptance of that title by Jesus is marred by complications.13

There is thus no certainty that Jesus thought of himself as bearer of the title “Messiah.” On the contrary, it is unlikely that he did so: all the gospel writers so regarded him, but they could cite little direct evidence.14

Jesus never chose to call himself “Messiah” or “Son of God” and even when others questioned him about his Messiahship, he usually declines to give a straight answer.15

As a possible role model he was more hostile than welcoming to the idea of the royal Messiah16.

The historical-critical work on the Gospels regarding the question of the work and the self-understanding of the “earthly” Jesus leads to the following result: Jesus did not designate himself as “Messiah.”17

Such skepticism is unsurprising given that Jesus in the Gospels never EXPLICITLY refers to himself as the Messiah, but he is called the Messiah, King, or Son of David by others, such as Peter (Mark 8:29/Matt. 16:16/Luke 9:20), Bartimaeus (Mark 10:47-48), the high priest (Mark 14:61), Nathanael (John 1:49), the Galilean crowds (John 6:15; Matt. 12:23), Passover pilgrims (Mark 11:9-10), and Martha (John 11:27). By itself such data might suggest that Jesus inspired messianic hopes but did not embrace the title himself ... The notion that Jesus of Nazareth never claimed to be the Messiah has thus remained a well-worn position in modern research, although it is probably not as strongly held as it once was… (Michael F. Bird, Are You The One Who Is To Come? – The Historical Jesus and the Messianic Question, foreward by Stanley E. Porter [Baker Academic, Grand Rapids, MI 2009], Chapter 1. Jesus Who Is Called the Christ,” pp. 23-27; capital and underline emphasis ours)

8. Gunther Bornkamm, Jesus of Nazareth (trans. Irene McLuskey et al.; London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1973), 172, 178.

9. James D. G. Dunn, Jesus Remembered, vol. 1, Christianity in the Making (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), 653.

10. Donald H. Juel, “The Origin of Mark’s Christology,” in Charlesworth, The Messiah, 453.

11. Eduard Schweitzer, Jesus (trans. D. E. Green; London: SCM, 1971), 14.

12. Dahl, “Crucified Messiah,” 40.

13. Raymond E. Brown, The Death of the Messiah (2 vols.; ABRL; New York: Doubleday, 1994), 1:475.

14. E. P. Sanders, The Historical Figure of Jesus (London: SCM, 1993), 242.

15. Geza Vermes, The Authentic Gospel of Jesus (London: Penguin, 2004), 402.

16. James D. G. Dunn, “Messianic ideas and Their Influence on the Jesus of History,” in Charlesworth, The Messiah, 374.

17. Otfried Hofius, “Ist Jesus der Messias?” JBT 8 (1993) (Pp. 25-26)

The readers may be left wondering what do these scholars do with the statements of Jesus in the Gospels where he embraces and accepts the title Messiah? Simple… they question their historical authenticity and claim that the Church made them up!

One may wish to look elsewhere in the hope of finding more explicit evidence that Jesus claimed to be a messianic figure. There are several places where Jesus accepts the title of “Messiah,” according to the evangelists. In John 4, during Jesus’s encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well, she claims, “I know that Messiah is coming (Messias erchetai)…. When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us,” to which the Johannine Jesus replies, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you” (John 4:25-26). In the Markan trial scene the high priest asks Jesus: “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” and Jesus replies, “I am” (Mark 14:61b-62; but see the different responses in Matt. 26:64; Luke 22:67-68; John 18:33-34). Elsewhere Jesus does refer to the Messiah, but never with the first-person personal pronouns. In Mark we read: “For I tell you the truth, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you are of Messiah [Christou este] will by no means lose the reward” (Mark 9:41) A titular occurrence appears also in Matthew: “Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah [ho Christos]” (Matt. 23:10). Jesus warns of false messiahs (pseudochristoi) in the Olivet Discourse of the synoptic tradition (Mark 13:21-22/Matt. 24:24) and poses a riddle about the Messiah as the Son of David (Mark 12:35-37). Since most of these texts comport with the Christology and kerygma of the primitive church, scholars have been reluctant to regard them as historically authentic and usually suppose that they are accretions to the Jesus tradition by the early church, which invested the tradition with its own christological convictions concerning Jesus’s identity. (Pp. 26-27; underline emphasis ours)

What makes this rather interesting is that Catherine Murphy claims that scholars actually think that the historical Jesus may have used the title Son of Man!

The resurrection led Jesus’s followers to believe not only that he had a unique relationship to God, but also that he was superior to other luminaries like King David and the angels (Psalm 110 is interpreted to this end in 1 Corinthians 15:25; Matthew 22:41-46; Acts 2:29-36; Hebrews 1:3; 10:13). These folks DEVELOPED titles for Jesus to reflect THEIR beliefs. The titles people developed reflected THEIR Christology, or view of Jesus as the Christ or messiah ...

Out of all the titles that Jesus maintains, the ONLY ONE that the historical Jesus may have used of himself besides “Jesus” or “son of Joseph” was “Son of Man.” Scholars think that Jesus may have used this title because it’s his regular form of self-reference in the earliest Gospel, Mark, and because it was a common term synonymous with “human being.” At times it looks like that’s all the gospel authors mean by it too (for example, Mark 8:31; Matthew 8:20; Luke 9:58). But at other points, the gospel authors follow the book of Daniel, and apply the title “Son of Man” to Jesus as a kind of heavenly figure who will come to rule the world (Q 17:24; Mark 8:38; 13:26; in Daniel 7:13-14, this figure isn’t an individual but rather the glorified people of Israel).

Two titles emerge as clear favorites – “Messiah/Christ” and “Lord.” “Lord” was a term used for human masters or superiors and also for God. The title “Messiah” or “Christ” was reserved for a designated human agent of God who would restore the kingdom, the Temple, or the world in a definitive way. Because Jesus hadn’t done this – or at least had not completed it – some of his followers apparently thought that his status as messiah would begin when he returned (see Acts 3:20-22). But most other followers christened him “Christ” in the interim so that already in Paul’s letters to the Romans “Christ” sounds like his proper name (Romans 9:5). This title is so characteristic of early believers that within a generation they are already being called Christians themselves. (The Historical Jesus For Dummies, Chapter 15: From the Messiah to Son of God, pp. 248-250; underline emphasis ours)

This raises several problems for both Zawadi and his fellow comic book character, Captain Planet. First, if we are to blindly accept the criticisms of these historians and scholars (much like these Muslims do) then this means that Muhammad was mistaken for believing that Jesus was the Messiah since, according to these scholars, the historical Jesus didn’t think he was and never claimed to be!

(And remember) when the angels said: O Mary! Lo! Allah giveth thee glad tidings of a word from him, whose name is the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, illustrious in the world and the Hereafter, and one of those brought near (unto Allah). S. 3:45

Therefore, since Jesus never went around telling people that he was the Messiah why, then, do these Muslims continue to believe in the Quran and Muhammad when it is obvious that their prophet derived such beliefs from the teachings of Jesus’ followers? In other words since these critical scholars believe that it wasn’t Jesus who claimed to be the Messiah but that it was his followers after his resurrection that did this means that Muhammad’s views have been influenced by the teachings of these early believers.

In light of this why do these Muslim taqiyyists still hold to the divine origin of the Quran in light of their appeal to the claims of liberal critical scholarship which undermine much of what the Quran says concerning Jesus? The answer is obvious.

Second, the context of some of Jesus’ Son of Man sayings includes statements of Jesus where he either admits or accepts that he is the Messiah and the Son of God:

“Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, ‘Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?’ But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer. Again the high priest asked him, ‘Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?’ ‘I am,’ said Jesus. ‘And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.’ The high priest tore his clothes. ‘Why do we need any more witnesses?’ he asked. ‘You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?’” Mark 14:60-64 – cf. 13:26-27

If these Son of Man statements are authentic then Jesus’ acceptance of the titles Messiah and Son of God must be deemed authentic as well since they appear in the same context. This, therefore, shows that these so-called scholars are mistaken when they claim that Jesus never said that he was the Messiah or Son of God. And if they are mistaken in this area then this opens the possibility that they are also in error when they assert that the historical Jesus never claimed to be Divine.(2)

This leads us to the third problem that Muslims such as Zawadi are faced with. In using the title Son of Man Jesus was identifying himself with the Divine figure that the prophet Daniel saw:

“In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.” Daniel 7:13-14

Not only does this particular Son of Man rule forever but he also rides the clouds like God (cf. Num. 10:34; Psalm 68:4, 33-34; 104:3; Isa. 19:1; Nah. 1:3) and is worshiped in the same way that God is (cf. Dan. 3:12, 14, 16-18; 6:16, 20; 7:27; Psalm 86:9; Isa. 66:23; Rev. 15:4). Thus, in claiming to be this very specific Son of Man the historical Jesus was basically making himself out to be a preexistent Divine Being appearing in human form! In other words the historical Jesus did claim to be fully Divine, thereby refuting the scholars which Zawadi and his cartoon cohort cited who say otherwise!(3)

Fourth, the sources that Zawadi and Captain Planet appeal to do not adequately address the fact that the worship of Jesus as Divine took place within twenty years of Christ’s death and resurrection. These scholars fail to explain why Jesus’ first followers, all of whom were monotheistic Jews, would worship him as the unique Divine Son of God and exalted Lord of creation if the historical Jesus never made any Divine claims whatsoever.

As noted Christian philosopher and apologist William Lane Craig explains,

“Those who deny that Jesus made any personal claims implying divinity face the severe problem of explaining how it is that the worship of Jesus as Lord and God came about at all in the early church. It does little good to say that the early church wrote its beliefs about Jesus back into the Gospels, for the problem IS THE VERY ORIGIN OF THOSE BELIEFS THEMSELVES. Studies by New Testament scholars such as Larry Hurtado of the University of Edinburgh, Martin Hengel of Tübingen University, C. F. D. Moule of Cambridge, and others have proved that WITHIN TWENTY YEARS of the crucifixion A FULL-BLOWN Christology proclaiming Jesus AS GOD INCARNATE existed. How does one explain this worship by monotheistic Jews of one of their countrymen whom they had accompanied during his lifetime, APART FROM THE CLAIMS OF JESUS HIMSELF? The great church historian Jaroslav Pelikan points out that all the early Christians shared the conviction that salvation was the work of a being no less than the Lord of heaven and earth and that the redeemer was God himself. He observes that the oldest Christian sermon, the oldest account of a Christian martyr, the oldest pagan report of the church, and the oldest liturgical prayer (1 Cor. 16:22) ALL REFER TO CHRIST AS LORD AND GOD. He concludes, ‘Clearly it was the message of what the church believed and taught that “God” was an appropriate name for Jesus Christ.’ But if Jesus never made any such claims, then the belief of the earliest Christians in this regard becomes inexplicable.” (Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics [Crossway Books, Wheaton, IL: Third Edition 2008], Part Five: De Christo, 7. The Self-Understanding of Jesus, p. 300; capital and underline emphasis ours)

And here is what Craig says in response to a book produced by liberal authors such as John Hick, which Zawadi actually quotes from,

“In the Gospels there are a number of self-descriptions used by Jesus which provide insight into his self-understanding. Until recently, critical scholars have been quite skeptical of the authenticity of such self-descriptions. In 1977 a group of seven British theologians, headed by John Hick of the University of Birmingham, caused a great stir in the press and among the laymen by publishing a book provocatively titled The Myth of God Incarnate. In it they asserted that today the majority of New Testament scholars agree that the historical Jesus of Nazareth never claimed to be THE MESSIAH or the Lord or the Son of God or indeed any of the divine titles that are attributed to Christ in the Gospels. Rather, these titles developed later in the Christian Church and were written back into the traditions handed down about Jesus, so that in the Gospels he appears to claim these titles for himself. Thus, the divine Christ of the Gospels who appears as God incarnate is a myth and ought to be rejected.

Today no such skeptical consensus exists. On the contrary the balance of scholarly opinion on Jesus’ use of Christological titles may have actually tipped IN THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION.” (Ibid., pp. 300-301; capital and underline emphasis ours)

How interesting. Zawadi cites a book which not only denies that Jesus claimed to be God but also sets out to prove that he never taught that he was the Messiah! Such inconsistency is typical of Muslim dawagandists and is therefore not surprising.

Hence, since NT scholarship is coming to the conclusion that both the historical Jesus and all of his first followers believed and taught that Christ is the Divine Son of God this means that C. S. Lewis stands vindicated and his Trilemma is therefore logically valid.

With that said we conclude this study in the words of Dr. Craig:

“Explicit use of Christological titles like Messiah, the Son of God, and especially the Son of Man, combined with implicit Christological claims made through his teaching and behavior indicates a radical self-understanding on the part of Jesus of Nazareth. Indeed, so extraordinary was the person who Jesus thought himself to be that Dunn at the end of his study of the self-consciousness of Jesus feels compelled to remark, ‘One last question cannot be ignored: Was Jesus mad?’ Dunn rejects the hypothesis that Jesus was insane because it cannot account for the full portrait of Jesus that we have in the Gospels. The balance and soundness of Jesus’ whole life and teachings make it evident that he was no lunatic. But notice that by means of these claims of Jesus, on the basis of sayings shown to be authentic, we are brought round again to the same dilemma posed by the traditional apologetic: if Jesus was not who he claimed to be, then he was either a charlatan or a madman, neither of which is plausible. Therefore, why not accept him as the divine Son of God, just as the earliest Christians believed?” (Ibid., p. 327; underline emphasis ours)

Amen! Come Lord Jesus, come! We confess that you are neither a lunatic nor a liar. Rather, we believe that you are whom you claimed to be, namely, the preexistent Divine Son of God and the risen Lord of glory! We pray that by your grace we will always love and worship you as the beloved Son of the Father and the sovereign eternal Lord of all! Amen.

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(1) According to John’s Gospel Jesus claimed to be the unique Divine preexistent Son of God, which his Jewish contemporaries took to be blasphemous and worthy of death since they realized that Jesus was basically making himself out to be God and equal with God!

“So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted him. Jesus said to them, ‘My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.’ For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.” John 5:16-18

“‘My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. I and the Father are one.’ Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, ‘I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?’ ‘We are not stoning you for any of these,’ replied the Jews, ‘but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God… do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?” John 10:27-33, 36

“The Jews insisted, ‘We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.’” John 19:7

These sayings cannot be simply brushed aside as later Christological developments since we find similar statements in the earliest Gospel strata:

“And he began to speak to them in parables. ‘A man planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a pit for the winepress and built a tower, and leased it to tenants and went into another country. When the season came, he sent a servant to the tenants to get from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. And they took him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Again he sent to them another servant, and they struck him on the head and treated him shamefully. And he sent another, and him they killed. And so with many others: some they beat, and some they killed. He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, “They will respect my son.” But those tenants said to one another, “This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.” And they took him and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard.’” Mark 12:1-8

In this parable Jesus makes a clear distinction between himself and the prophets since he identifies himself as God’s beloved Son and Heir whereas the rest are God’s servants (Cf. Jer. 7:25; 25:4; 26:5; 29:19; 44:4). Dr. Craig explains why even skeptical scholars accept this as an actual saying of the historical Jesus:

“Even skeptical scholars like those in the Jesus Seminar recognize the authenticity of this parable, since it is also found in one of their favorite sources, the Gospel of Thomas (65), and so is by their reckoning multiply attested. Moreover, as [Craig] Evans has emphasized, the parable not only reflects the actual experience of absentee landowners in the ancient world but also employs stock images and themes found in rabbinic parables: Israel as a vineyard, God as the owner, unworthy rebellious tenants, the figure of a son, and so on, so that it coheres well with a Jewish milieu. There are, furthermore, aspects of the parable which render unlikely its later origin in the Christian church, for example, the concern over who should possess the vineyard after it is taken from the present tenants and the absence of the resurrection of the slain son. The parable also contains interpretative nuances rooted in the Aramaic targums (paraphrases) of Isaiah 5 which were in use in Jesus’ day. Evans concludes, ‘When understood properly and in full context, everything about the parable of the wicked vineyard tenants–including its context in the New Testament Gospels–argues that it originated with Jesus, not with the early church.’” (Reasonable Faith, p. 311)

In this next passage Jesus claims to be the unique Son who alone knows the Father completely and is therefore the only One qualified to make him known, being the One to whom the Father has entrusted all things:

All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” Matthew 11:27 – cf. Luke 10:22

This saying is astonishing not only because Jesus claims to possess everything that the Father has and that he alone is qualified to reveal him to others, but also because he makes himself out to be just as incomprehensible as the Father is! Jesus says that no one knows him just as no one knows the Father, which presupposes that he is just like his Father in his incomprehensibility! This explains why it is only the Father (along with his Holy Spirit [cf. Luke 10:21; 1 Corinthians 2:10-12; Romans 8:26-27]) who can know the Son since only someone who has an infinite mind can know and perfectly understand an incomprehensible Being. This further explains why Jesus can say that he alone knows the Father in the same way that the Father knows him, i.e., Jesus is a Divine Person who is both incomprehensible and has an infinite mind!

This, too, is a saying which scholars deem to be authentic since it is found in Q, a very early sayings source.

“… Again there is good reason to regard this as an authentic saying of the historical Jesus. It is a Q saying of Jesus and therefore VERY EARLY. The saying has been shown to go back to an original Aramaic version, which counts in favor of its authenticity. Moreover, it is unlikely that the church invented this saying because it says that the Son is unknowable–‘no one knows the Son except the Father’–which would exclude even Jesus’ followers from knowing him. But the conviction of the post-Easter church is that we can know the Son (see, e.g., Phil. 3:8-11). Notice, too, that according to the saying the content of Jesus’ revelation is the Father, whereas Jesus himself was the content of the church’s proclamation. The reference to the Son is almost informal, rather than emphasizing a title like ‘Son of God.’ So this saying is unlikely to be the product of later church theology.

“This saying has been characterized as a bolt out of the Johannine blue. For what does it tell us about Jesus’ self-concept? It tells us that he thought of himself as the exclusive Son of God and the only revelation of God… As Denaux has rightly emphasized, what we have here is a Johannine Christological affirmation IN THE EARLIEST STRATUM of the Gospel traditions, an affirmation which forms a bridge to the high Christology of John’s Gospel, and yet, in light of passages like Mark 4:10-12; 12:1-11; 13:32; and Matthew 16:17-19; 28:18, is also at home in the Synoptic tradition. On the basis of this saying, we may conclude that Jesus thought of himself as God’s Son in absolute and unique sense and as having been invested with the exclusive authority to reveal his Father God to men.” (Ibid., pp. 311-312; capital emphasis ours)

(2) Dr. Craig cites NT scholar Robert Gundry who provides compelling reasons why Mark’s report of Jesus’ questioning before the high priest is historically accurate:

“So are these words of Jesus, which served as the basis for his condemnation by the Sanhedrin and for his delivery to the Roman authorities on charges of treason, authentic? In his meticulous commentary on Mark’s Gospel, Robert Gundry argues that the words of the high priest ‘Son of the Blessed (One)’ are likely authentic because this use of a circumlocution for ‘God,’ though common among Jews, was not characteristic of Christians; moreover, it appears only here in the Gospel of Mark, who elsewhere prefers the title ‘Son of God’ (1:1; 3:11; 5:7; 15:39). As for Jesus’ reply to the high priest’s question, Gundry provides several lines of evidence in support of its authenticity: (1) the combination of sitting at God’s right hand and coming with the clouds of heaven appears nowhere in New Testament material except on Jesus’ lips; (2) the Son of Man is nowhere else associated with the notion of sitting at God’s right hand’ (3) the saying exhibits the same blend of oblique self-reference and personally high claims that characterizes other Son of Man sayings (Mark 2:10, 28; 8:38; 13:26); (4) even though Psalm 110:1 concerning sitting at the right hand of God is alluded to frequently in the New Testament, the substitution of ‘the Power’ for ‘God,’ though typical for Jewish reverential usage, occurs nowhere else in the New Testament; and (5) Mark is unlikely to have created a prediction to the Sanhedrin which they did not, in fact, see fulfilled.” (Reasonable Faith, pp. 317-318)

Craig further writes:

“In addition, Gundry notes the subtlety of the Markan account of the trial, which would escape a later Christian fabricator. Rules for dealing with capital blasphemy cases in the Mishnah (Sanhedrin 7.5) concern cases in which a person is accused of having pronounced on some previous occasion the divine name ‘Yahweh’ so as to dishonor God. During the trial the alleged blasphemy of the accused is not actually repeated, but some substitute for the divine name is used. Only at the trial’s close is the courtroom cleared, and in the presence of the judges, the lead witness is instructed, ‘Say expressly what you heard.’ He then repeats the blasphemous words uttered by the accused, at which all the judges stand and rend their clothes. In Jesus’ trial, the blasphemy occurs unexpectedly on the spot, so that only the high priest is standing and tears his garments. If Jesus actually uttered the divine name by saying, ‘You will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Yahweh,’ a report of what transpired in Jesus’ trial would not include the pronunciation of the divine name itself but some substitute for it, like ‘the Power.’ Gundry concludes, ‘The collocation of capital blasphemy and clothes-rending in m. Sanh. 7.5 as well as in Mark favors … that Mark’s account of Jesus’ trial rests on trustworthy information…. For though Christians might have fabricated an account so defamatory of the Sanhedrin, Christians are unlikely to have fabricated–or even have been able to fabricate–an account corresponding so subtly to a later idealization of Sanhedrin jurisprudence in cases of capital blasphemy.’ How did Jesus dishonor God? Gundry answers, ‘We may best think that the high priest and the rest of the Sanhedrin judge Jesus to have verbally robbed God of incommensurateness and unity escalating himself to a superhuman level, by portraying himself as destined to sit at God’s right hand and come with the clouds of heaven.’” (Ibid., p. 318)

(3) In fact, Jesus’ Son of Man statements pass some of the very criteria which historians use to assess the reliability of a given saying or specific report with flying colors.

9. Some biblical scholars question whether Jesus ever used this title of himself. The designation “Son of Man” was not used, however, in the New Testament as a part of the church’s own way of speaking about Jesus. Other than on the lips of Jesus, he is so designated only in Acts 7:56 (Stephen’s vision prior to his stoning) and Revelation 1:13 (John’s initial vision). The Son of Man sayings of Jesus, then, pass a stringent test of authenticity (the so-called criterion of dissimilarity): if a saying of Jesus is unlikely to have been worded as it is by the early church, then we may infer that Jesus probably said it. (The reverse, though, is not a valid argument: from the fact that the early church would be comfortable wording something as it appears in a Gospel saying, it does not follow that Jesus didn’t say it.) (Robert M. Bowman & J. Ed Komoszewski, Putting Jesus in His Place – The Case for the Deity of Christ [Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, MI 2007], Notes, Chapter 20: God’s Right-hand Man, p. 357)

Craig writes:

“It is highly likely that Jesus thought of himself as and claimed to be the Son of Man. This was Jesus’ favorite self-description and is the title found most frequently in the Gospels (over eighty times). Yet, remarkably, this title is found only once outside the Gospels in the rest of the New Testament (Acts 7:56). That shows that the designation of Jesus as ‘the Son of Man’ was not a title that arose in later Christian usage and was then written back into the Jesus tradition. On the basis of the criterion of dissimilarity we can say with confidence that Jesus called himself ‘the Son of Man.’ Dunn concludes, ‘When we encounter a thoroughly consistent and distinctive feature–a tradition which depicts Jesus regularly using the phrase ‘son of man’ and virtually no other use of the phrase–it simply beggars scholarship to deny that this feature stemmed from a remembered speech usage of Jesus himself.’” (Reasonable Faith, p. 315; underline emphasis ours)

It also satisfies the criterion of multiple attestation since it is found in all the Gospel strands, e.g., Q, Mark, the so-called M or special Matthean material, L or special Lukan material, John etc.

That Jesus believed in the eschatological appearance of the figure described in Daniel’s vision is multiply attested in Markan and Q sayings (Mark 8:38; 13:26-27; Matt. 10:32-33/Like 12:8-9; Matt. 24:27, 37, 39/Luke 17:24, 26, 30). In Daniel’s vision the figure looks like a human being, but he comes on the clouds of heaven, and to him is given a dominion and glory that is God-like. The Similitudes of Enoch presents a similar vision of the preexistent Son of Man (I En. 48.3-6 cited above; cf. 62.7) who ‘shall depose kings from their thrones and kingdoms’ (I En. 69.29). We have also mentioned the Danielic vision of 4 Ezra 13, in which Ezra sees ‘something like the figure of a man come up out of the heart of the sea,’ whom the Most High identifies as ‘my son’ (4 Ezra 13.37) and who preexists with the Most High. The point in mentioning these passages is not that people listening to Jesus would have recognized his allusions or ideas–which they evidently did not–but rather that the construal of Daniel’s Son of Man as a divine-human figure would be neither anachronistic nor un-Jewish for Jesus. By using the oblique, self-referential expression ‘the Son of Man,’ Jesus prevented a prematurely transparent revelation of his super-human and messianic dignity.” (Ibid., p. 316)

This means that the only real reason why certain NT critics reject the veracity of these Son of Man sayings is primarily due to certain theological and/or historical presuppositions which they share in common with Muslim apologists. It is these very assumptions that do not allow them to accept even the possibility that the historical Jesus would have made such Divine claims. The following NT scholar explains it best:

Jesus’ favorite self-designation, due to its concealing as well revealing nature, was the title Son of Man. Jesus in using this title clearly had in mind the Son of Man spoken of in Daniel 7:13 (as is evident from Matthew 10:23; 19:28; 25:31; Mark 8:38; 13:26; 14:62). Therefore, rather than stressing humility, it is clear that the title reveals the divine authority Jesus possesses as the Son of Man to judge the world and his sense of having come from the Father (cf. here also Matthew 5:17; 10:34; Mark 2:17; 10:45). Many attempts have been made to deny the authenticity of some or all of the Son of Many sayings, but such attempts founder because this title is found in all the Gospel strata (Mark, Q, M, L, John), and satisfies perfectly the “criterion of dissimilarity,” which states that if a saying or title could not have arisen out of Judaism or out of the early Church, it must be authentic. The denial of the authenticity of this title is therefore based not so much on exegetical issues as upon RATIONALISTIC PRESUPPOSITIONS that a priori deny that Jesus of Nazareth could have spoken of himself in this way. Robert H. Stein (The Portable Seminary, David Horton (general editor) [Bethany House Publishers, 2006], Chapter 5. The Doctrine of God the Son, p. 128; capital and underline ours)

Stein further asserts that the historical Jesus referred to himself as the Son of God in a unique sense,

“… He referred to himself also as the Son of God (Matthew 11:25-27; Mark 12:1-9), and a passage such as Mark 13:32 in which he clearly distinguished between himself and others must be authentic, for none in the church would have created a saying in which the Son of God claims to be ignorant as to the time of the end.” (Ibid.)

Here Stein is alluding to the principle or criterion of embarrassment which states that, as a general rule, committed followers of a religious leader normally would not invent embarrassing stories about their founder. In light of this it seems highly unlikely that the early Church would attribute ignorance to the Son of God. Here again is Craig:

“… It seems highly unlikely that this saying could be the manufacture of Christian theology, especially in light of traditions like Matthew 11:27 (cf. John 5:20; 16:15, 30; 21:17c), because it ascribes ignorance to the Son. The criterion of embarrassment requires the authenticity of the reference to the Son’s ignorance. Just how embarrassing the saying was is evident in the fact that although Matthew reproduces it (Matt. 24:36), Luke omits it, and most copyists of Matthew’s Gospel also chose to drop the verse (though it is preserved in the best manuscripts). That Mark preserves this saying, despite his emphasis on Jesus’ predictive power and foreknowledge (Mark 11:2; 13; 14:13-15, 18, 27-28, 30), is testimony to his faithfulness to the tradition. As Markan commentator Vincent Taylor nicely puts it, ‘Its offence seals its genuineness.’” (Reasonable Faith, pp. 312-313)