Dec 19, 2007

Is Jesus Unique in All Creation and Religious History?

By Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. John Weldon

The average non-Christian, and even many Christians, have little
understanding of how unique Jesus really is. Messianic prophecy
is only a small part of Jesus’ uniqueness. In all the world and
throughout all history, there has never been anyone like Him.
There never can be. One only needs to read His words in the
Gospel to plainly see this.

Anyone who wishes can also read the world’s greatest religious
and philosophical literature – the Analects of Confucius, the
Qur’an of Muhammad, the Vedas of the Hindus, the teachings of the
Buddha, or of Taoism, Shinto, Zoroaster or any of the great
philosophers like Plato, Socrates, Wittgenstein, Aristotle,
Descarte, Hume, Bacon – or any of the greatest scientific minds
such as Einstein. One who does this will realize that they all
pale in comparison to the words of Jesus. One could argue that
all the literature of the world combined hardly matches the
quality, character, uniqueness and truth of the words of Jesus,
because, compared to the words of Jesus, the words of anyone else
are almost lifeless. The light bulb and sun, the glass of water
and the ocean, or the atom and the universe; even these
comparisons seem in ways inadequate. Indeed, one cannot gauge the
gap adequately: it is a chasm that literally separates the
infinite from the finite even as the words of God are separated
from the words of men. If Jesus really is God incarnate, then
this is what one expects. Listen to the response of those who
actually heard Him speak, believer and unbeliever, friend and
enemy, alike:

You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you
are the Holy One of God. (John 6:67-69)

The Jews were amazed and asked, "How did this man get such
learning without having studied?" (John 7:15)

"No one ever spoke the way this man does," the guards declared.
(John 7:46)

Those with open and closed minds alike should frankly study His
words if for no other reason than to prove their uniqueness.
Reverent study of the words of Christ and comparison to any or
all other religious teachings should logically make one a
follower of Jesus.

I, John Weldon, majored in philosophy in college for almost two
years, have an M.A. degree in Christian Evidences, another
Masters in Biblical Studies and a Ph.D. in Comparative Religion.
Additionally, I have studied some 70 minor religions and cults.
For 25 years I have examined or studied competing religions and
philosophies. Nothing comes close to the glory and majesty of
Jesus. I can say without the slightest possibility of ever being
proven wrong that there is no one anywhere like Jesus.

The Bible also teaches that there is no one who has ever lived
who is like Jesus. In John 3:16-18, Jesus declares:

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son,
that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal
life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the
world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him
is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned
already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and
only Son.

The words translated "one and only" are translated from the
Greek monogenes, which literally means "one of a kind." This
word emphasizes the unique nature of the one spoken of. In all
human history there is no one else like Jesus because only Jesus
is the literal Son of God. In John 5:18, where Jesus called God
His (very) own Father, the Greek term means God the Father exists
"in a special relation to Jesus which excludes the same
relationship to others."1

Because Jesus Christ is God’s only Son, the Apostle Paul
discusses His supremacy and preeminence over all creation:

He [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the first born over
all creation. For by Him all things were created: things in
heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or
powers or rulers or authority; all things were created by Him and
for Him. He is before all things and in Him all things hold
together. And He is the head of the body, the church; He is the
beginning and the First Born from among the dead, so that in
everything He might have the supremacy. (Col. 1:15-18)

The Greek word translated "image" is eikon. Like the word
charakter in Hebrews 1:3, it means Jesus is the express image of
(or of identical nature with) God. Further, when Jesus is
described as the first born over all creation, the word
translated "first born" is prototokos and stands in contrast to
ktizo (created). By using the word prototokos, the Apostle Paul
was emphasizing Christ’s preeminence, priority and sovereignty
over all creation, as the context reveals. Paul was not stating,
as Jehovah’s Witnesses and some others have maintained, in the
attempt to deny Christ’s deity, that Jesus literally came into
existence at some point in time. If that had been His intent, He
would have used appropriate Greek words teaching that Christ had
a beginning.

If the Bible itself teaches that Christ is unique, that there
never has been and never will be another like him; if Christ’s
own teachings, actions, character and resurrection prove this is
true, and if one-fourth to one-half of the world has recognized
this fact to varying degrees, then the burden of proof must
clearly rest with the critic to prove otherwise. Isn’t it
significant that in 2,000 years no critic ever has?

When we consider all the great religious teachers, leaders, and
prophets who have ever lived, who is the equal of Jesus? Not
Moses, Confucius, Buddha, or Lao Tse (Taoism), who never claimed
to be anything other than sinful men. Not Muhammad, Joseph Smith,
Zoroaster or Guru Nanak (Sikhism) who never gave any proof they
were true prophets of God. Not Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, or Krishna
who were only myths.

If we examine the specific claims of such individuals, we find
none of them claims what Jesus does. In The Qur’an the Muslim
prophet Muhammad states, "Surely I am no more than a human
apostle."2 In fact, Muhammad is acknowledged as sinful and asks
forgiveness from God – is even rebuked by God – several times.3

If Muhammad confessed he was sinful, Jesus claimed He was
sinless. If Muhammad only claimed to be a prophet of God, Jesus
claimed to be God. If Muhammad was rebuked by God, Jesus was
never rebuked by God; in fact, He said, "I always do what
pleases Him" (John 8:29).

The Buddha simply claimed to be an enlightened man, one who could
show others how to escape the duality of this world and find
eternal release from suffering in a state of individual
nonexistence called "nirvana." After his alleged enlightenment,
the Buddha said he realized the importance of maintaining an
attitude of equanimity towards all things because this attitude
helps one to end the cycle of rebirth, attain permanent release
from the human condition and "enter" nirvana:

Monks, I’m a Brahmana [enlightened being], one to ask a favor of,
ever clean-handed, wearing my last body…. I am inexorable, bear
no love nor hatred toward anyone…. I have the same feelings for
respectable people as for the low; or moral persons as for the
immoral; for the depraved as for those who observe the rules of
good conduct…. You disciples, do not affirm that the Lord Buddha
reflects thus within himself, "I bring salvation to every living
being." Subhuti entertain no such delusive thought! Because in
reality there are no living beings to whom the Lord Buddha can
bring salvation.4

Houston Smith in The Religions of Man comments about the Buddha,

Notwithstanding his own objectivity toward himself, there was
constant pressure during his lifetime to turn him into a god. He
rebuffed all these categorically, insisting that he was human in
every respect. He made no attempt to conceal his temptations and
weaknesses, how difficult it had been to attain enlightenment,
how narrow the margin by which he had won through, how fallible
he still remained.5

If Buddha claimed merely a personal enlightenment designed to
escape human nature, Jesus claimed (in His own nature) to be the
Light of the world. If Buddha claimed it was wrong to consider
him one who brings salvation to men because men, having no
permanent reality, do not finally exist, Jesus taught that He
came to bring salvation to all men and to dignify their existence
eternally. If the Buddha promised to give others enlightenment so
that they might find nirvana, a state of personal dissolution in
the afterlife, Jesus promised to give men abundant life and
eternal immortality in heaven. If Buddha had the same feelings
for good and evil, Jesus exalted righteousness and hated evil.

Confucius said, "As to being a Divine Sage or even a Good Man,
far be it for me to make any such claim."6 If Confucius denied
that he was divine or even a good man, Jesus claimed He was
divine and morally perfect.

We can proceed to examine all the world’s major religions in
detail and never find anyone like Jesus. Not in Hinduism,
Jainism, Sikhism, Confucianism, Buddhism, Taoism, Shinto,
Judaism, Zoroasterism, Islam, or any other religion. Zoroaster
only claimed to be a prophet, "I was ordained by Thee at the
first. All others I look upon with hatred of spirit."7 Lao-tze
and Guru Nanak sum up the attitude, at one time or another, of
all the great religious founders when they confessed their
humanity and even their ignorance. For example, Lao-tze the
founder of Taoism said, "I alone appear empty. Ignorant am I, O
so ignorant! I am dull!… I alone am confused, so confused!"8
Even in the latter part of his life, Guru Nanak, the founder of
Sikhism still struggled to achieve enlightenment and lamented
over his own spiritual darkness, "I have become perplexed in my
search. In the darkness I find no way. Devoted to pride, I weep
in sorrow…. How shall deliverance be obtained?"9

In The World’s Living Religions, Professor of the History of
Religions, Robert Hume comments that there are three features of
Christian faith that "cannot be paralleled anywhere among the
religions of the world."10 These include the character of God as
a loving heavenly Father, the character of the founder of
Christianity as the Son of God, and the work of the Holy Spirit.

All of the nine founders of religion, with the exception of Jesus
Christ, are reported in their respective sacred scriptures as
having passed through a preliminary period of uncertainty, or of
searching for religious light…. All the founders of the
non-Christian religions evinced inconsistencies in their personal
character; some of them altered their practical policies under
change of circumstances. Jesus Christ alone is reported as having
had a consistent God-consciousness, a consistent character
himself, and a consistent program for his religion.11

If the claims of men mean anything, or have any implications,
and, certainly they must, whether true or false, then no one else
in history ever claimed and did what Jesus did.

Again, Jesus is absolutely unique in the claims He makes for
Himself. He says, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows
me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life"
(John 8:12). How many other men have ever said that? Jesus said,
"I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the
Father except through me" (John 14:6). How many other men have
ever said that? As we saw, Jesus even claimed that 1500 years
before His birth, Moses wrote about Him and further, that the
entire Old Testament bore witness to Him (John 6:46-47; Luke
24:27, 44).

Jesus commanded men to love Him in the exact same way that they
love God – with all their heart, soul, and mind (Matt. 22:37-38).
Jesus said that God the Holy Spirit would bear witness of Him and
glorify Him (John 16:14). Who ever made such a claim? Jesus said
that to know Him was to know God (John 14:7). To receive Him was
to receive God (Matt. 10:40). To honor Him was to honor God (John
5:23). To believe in Him was to believe in God (John 12:44-45;
14:1). To see Him was to see God (John 8:19; 14:7). To deny Him
was to deny God (1 John 2:23). To hate Him was to hate God (John
15:23). Did any other men in history ever made such statements?

In Mark 2, Jesus claimed He could forgive sins – something all
religions concede is reserved to God alone. In John 10:28 and
11:25, He said He could give all who believed on Him eternal
life. How can a mere man, indeed anyone less than God – give
eternal life to creatures who die? Yet Jesus raised the dead even
in front of His enemies – not in some dark alley, but before
scores of eye witnesses (Luke 7:11-15; 8:41-42, 49-56; John
11:43-44). Who else ever did that? He did other miracles that
amazed those who saw them.

We have never seen anything like this! (Mark 2:12).

Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind.
(John 9:32)

In Matthew 25, He said that He would actually return at the end
of the world and that He Himself would judge every person who
ever lived; that He would personally raise all the dead of
history and that all the nations would be gathered before Him!
Who ever said that? He would sit on His throne of glory and judge
and separate men from one another as a shepherd does the sheep
from the goats (Matt. 25:31-46, cf. John 5:25-34). Just as
clearly, Jesus taught that every person’s eternal destiny
depended upon how they treated Him (John 8:24; Matt. 10:32).
Jesus said, "You are from below, I am from above; you are of
this world, I am not of this world" (John 8:23).

All these statements and many more like them, leave us little
choice. Either Jesus was who He said He was – God incarnate – or
else He was absolutely crazy. But who can believe that?


1 Gerhard Kittel (ed.,) q.v., monogenes, Theological Dictionary
of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1978), Vol. 4,
pp. 740-41

2 Sura, "The Night Journey," in N. J. Dawood, trans., The
Koran, Baltimore, MD: Penguin, 1972), p. 235.

3 Ibid., 50; Suras 4:106, 40:57, 47:21, 48:2, 110:3,
respectively, pp. 423, 244, 384, 460, 468 in J. M. Rodwell,
trans., The Koran (NY: Dutton, 1977).

4 Robert O. Ballou, The Portable World Bible: A Comprehensive
Selection from the Eight Great Sacred Scriptures of the World
(NY: The Viking Press, 1968), pp. 134, 147, 151.

5 Houston Smith, The Religions of Man (NY: Harper & Row, 1965),
p. 99.

6 Arthur Waley, trans., The Analects of Confucius (NY: Vintage,
1938), p. 130.

7 Yasna, 44:11; Moulton, Ez.368; from Robert E. Hume, The World’s
Living Religions (NY: Charles Schribner’s Sons, 1959), rev., p.

8 Tao-Teh-King, 20:3, 20:5-7 cited in Hume, p. 136.

9 In Hume, p. 95.

10 Hume, p. 283.

11 Ibid., pp. 285-286.