10 Essential Books on the Divinity of Jesus


We listed several scriptural evidences for the divinity of Jesus in a recent article. In that article, we focused primarily on the evidence from the Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, since those are often cited by skeptics as evidence of an early non-belief in Jesus’s divinity. That article, however, barely scratched the surface of positive evidence for the divinity of Jesus in the New Testament. That is why I wanted to provide you, our readers, with a resource with some of the best books on this topic. These books heavily informed the article I wrote, some more directly than others. All of them would be a benefit to your home library.

Where to Start?

Robert M. Bowman, Jr. & J. Ed Komoszewski, Putting Jesus in His Place (Kregel, 2007)

This is the place to start your reading for understanding the biblical depiction of Jesus as God. Bowman and Komoszewski’s modern-day classic gives a grand overview of the relevant texts and uses an ingenious acronym, HANDS, to show how the Bible depicts Jesus sharing Honors, Attributes, Names, Deeds, and Seat (i.e., throne) with God.

Christopher J. H. Wright, Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament (IVP Academic, 2014)

Part of understanding the New Testament depiction of Jesus is by understanding the Old Testament’s pointing toward Jesus. The New Testament authors saw Jesus as the fulfillment and embodiment (literally) of an ancient promise God made to rescue and dwell with his people. This book does an excellent job of teasing out those biblical threads. It helps us see what the earliest Christian authors understood intuitively about Jesus’s true identity. If you are especially interested in this topic, I’ve also heard great things about Edmund Clowney’s The Unfolding Mystery (P&R, 2013).

Context of Early Jewish and Christian Beliefs on the Divinity of Jesus

Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the God of Israel (Eerdmans, 2008)

The idea that the divinity of Jesus was a later theological development in the Christian tradition was a foregone conclusion in the most respected scholarly circles before the arrival of Richard Bauckham and Larry Hurtado. This book, a revised and updated version of his groundbreaking God Crucified, contains the writings that proved to be a watershed moment in our understanding of the New Testament. It is from these essays that the famous Bauckhamian dictum was handed down: “The earliest Christology was already the highest Christology.”

Larry Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ (Eerdmans, 2005)

Larry Hurtado’s magisterial Lord Jesus Christ took the novel approach of looking at the devotional practices of early Christianity. As Bauckham and Hurtado both know well, even before the Gospels and other writings that now make up the New Testament came down to us, devotional practices developed. These practices of Christian leaders and the rank and file speak volumes about the very early—that is to say, not later-developed—belief in Jesus’s divinity. If the size of this book is too daunting, consider Hurtado’s truncated Honoring the Son (Lexham Press, 2018).

The Divinity of Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels

Simon Gathercole, The Preexistent Son (Eerdmans, 2006)

The notion that Jesus is considered divine in the Gospel of John is a given. Critics say this is because John was the latest Gospel written and was produced after a time of theological development. The earlier Synoptic Gospels—Matthew, Mark, and Luke—lack these elements of a supernatural/divine Jesus, or so they say.

Enter Simon Gathercole. He finds many of the same elements of Jesus’s divinity in John’s Gospel are also in the Synoptics. He focuses especially on heavenly pre-existence. Gathercole’s response is a tour de force and should be read far and wide.  

The Divinity of Jesus in Paul’s Epistles

Chris Tilling, Paul’s Divine Christology (Eerdmans, 2015)

Tilling’s work moves beyond familiar arguments over titles and verses to start taking a wider view at the scriptures. Here he finds markers of Jesus’s divinity hidden in plain sight. This wonderful book is like a much more focused version of Bowman and Komoszewski’s book above. Once you look at all the similarities between God and Jesus that Tilling draws out, you must ask with the disciples: who is this man?

Tilling’s basic thesis is monumental: “It will be maintained that this pattern of Christ-relation language in Paul is only that which a Jew used to express the relation between Israel/the individual Jew and YHWH. No other figure of any kind, apart from YHWH, was related to in the same way, with the same pattern of language, not even the various exalted human and angelic intermediary figures in the literature of Second Temple Judaism that occasionally receive worship and are described in very exalted terms” (73).

David Capes, The Divine Christ (Baker Academic, 2018)

There has been much made about the different uses of the word “Lord” in the Bible and extrabiblical literature, especially by non-Trinitarians who deny the divinity of Jesus. The word for “Lord” does have a semantic range that allows for non-divine referents, admittedly. However, Capes sets out to prove that Paul’s usage of the title for “Lord” Jesus Christ is being used in the same way as it was for the “Lord” YHWH. This is an important volume that helps to clear up the confusion around the “Lord” debate.

Responses to Specific Criticisms about the Divinity of Jesus

Michael F. Bird, Craig A. Evans, Simon J. Gathercole, Charles E. Hill, and Chris Tilling, How God Became Jesus: The Real Origins of Believe in Jesus’ Divine Nature—A Response to Bart D. Ehrman (Zondervan Academic, 2014)

This book is a scholarly response to Bart Ehrman’s popular book, How Jesus Became God, in which he argues that the idea of Jesus’s divinity was a later theological development, largely absent from the Bible except for the Gospel of John, and anachronistically read back into the other New Testament documents. The scholars assembled for this response book are a veritable theological nerd Avengers team who show the many errors in Ehrman’s methods, analyses, and conclusions.

While the response in this book is wide-ranging, there were a few issues that Ehrman raised that were not addressed. Have no fear! You can read my responses to Ehrman’s claim that Jesus is a failed apocalyptic prophet and that his life may have been based on Peregrinus, plus my commentary on Ehrman’s inconsistent argumentation about the Son of Man.

Michael F. Bird, Jesus the Eternal Son (Eerdmans, 2017)

Michael Bird, perhaps our most entertaining New Testament scholar today, answers the challenge of adoptionist Christology in this book. Adoptionism sprung up in the church’s early (though not earliest) centuries and remains a popular option among some New Testament critics today who discount the alleged “theological developments” that led to the orthodox/traditional position of the Trinity.

Bird does an excellent job explaining why some texts appear to show Christ achieving Lordship and Kingship, as if he did not have it before. Also, though I have not had a chance to view it yet, Dr. Bird’s recent book Jesus Among the Gods (Baylor, 2022) looks to be an excellent, well-received work that is an expansion of his chapter from How God Became Jesus (see above).  

A Classic Response

St. Athanasius the Great, On the Incarnation (SVS Press)

This essay from Athanasius is one of the most beloved statements on the divinity of Christ that transcends divisions between Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox Christians. Athanasius looks to make sense of the incarnation and its salvific purpose in the main part of his work. However, he also seeks to answer some critiques concerning the divinity of Christ.

Note that Athanasius is from a different time and, therefore, is answering different questions directed at Christianity from Jewish and Gentile (Platonic) interlocutors. Nonetheless, this is still a supremely useful book and a devotional classic. The St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press edition also includes a wonderful introductory essay by C. S. Lewis. If you end up enjoying this work, consider also St. Gregory of Nazianzus’s On God & Christ and St. Cyril of Alexandria’s On the Unity of Christ, both also from SVS Press’s Popular Patristics Series.

BONUS: Upcoming Release …

Not yet released: Brant Pitre, Jesus and Divine Christology (Eerdmans, August 2024)

Brant Pitre is a preeminent Catholic scholar who has already produced some of my favorite books on the Jewish roots of the New Testament and on the historical Jesus. Now he wields his erudite pen to confront the issue of Jesus’s self-understanding. This is an important topic widely scrutinized but not exhaustively addressed until now. Pitre’s case for Jesus’s divine self-understanding is sure to be a welcome and critical addition to this body of research.

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Abdu Murray

Abdu Murray is an international speaker and author on the intersections of the Christian faith and the questions of culture.