Book Review: Putting Jesus in His Place

“What Christians have affirmed for nearly two millennia — that Jesus is God — is frequently and openly called into question today. Surprisingly, many who embrace the authority of Scripture are quick to argue that Jesus’ deity is found nowhere in its pages.”

Putting Jesus in His Place, The Case for the Deity of Christ, by Robert M Bowman Jr and J Ed Komoszewski (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2007; 392 pages) is a detailed but readable demonstration of the scriptural basis for the divinity of Jesus Christ. It is a work which doesn’t sacrifice clarity for a sound academic and biblical approach. Structuring the specific arguments around the acronym “HANDS,” the authors demonstrate from the New and Old Testaments that Jesus Christ, the Messiah, shares the Honours due to God, the Attributes of God, the Names of God, performs the Deeds of God and shares the Seat of God’s throne.

The various facets of each of these claims are explored systematically, with abundant scriptural references. Concise, clearly written sections under each major heading stand alone but also build into a well constructed argument that develops convincing momentum. The inescapable conclusion from each chapter and subsection is that Jesus Christ is indeed whom the Christian church testifies him to be; God, with us. Apprehended together, the five strands of the argument are impressive.
This is a book I personally found very helpful as I was seeking to articulate my own convictions about our Lord and Saviour. It is not a defence of the doctrine of the Trinity as a whole, and the unity of God, genuine humanity of Jesus and the deity and personality of the Holy Spirit are taken as a given. That’s not a criticism; if the level of detail covering the deity of Christ were extended to these topics, the book would require several volumes. (I hope that my own efforts to embrace all of these topics in The Trinity Hurdle, will do them some small justice.) By using the acronym HANDS, the authors seek to not only organise the biblical teaching about the deity of Christ, but present it in a manner that will make it memorable and easy to explain. I believe they have achieved this.
The genius of Putting Jesus in His Place is the simplicity and logic of its organisation of detailed biblical material to present a convincing case. In doing so they address popular traditional and temporary misconceptions and answer opposing arguments without resort to withering, critical rhetoric. Part One shows how Jesus shares the Honours due to God (the H of HANDS). In other words, the devotion directed to Jesus in the Bible and the directives to give him this devotion put him at the level of God. The authors demonstrate that devotion to Jesus began with earliest Christianity and that Jesus himself required his followers to pay him the honour due to God alone (John 5:23 and context). This includes the use of specific doxologies which ascribe to him glory, which is due to God alone. They proceed to demonstrate that both the earthly and heavenly Jesus are worshipped, in the same way God is worshipped, a devotion which angels are precluded from receiving. The calling on the Lord in prayer and Jesus as the focus of such prayer are then expounded, with a brief review of early Christian devotional hymns. The Honours section concludes with an exposition of faith in Jesus (not merely belief about Jesus) as consistent with faith in God. Jesus is the object of devotional faith, of fear, service, love and obedience in precisely the same way as these are directed to God.
While I was still a Christadelphian, I thought that arguments for the deity of Christ were based on a few favoured verses taken out of context, such as “The Father and I are One,” or, “The Word was God,” which could readily be explained away. In turn, Christadelphians could produce their “own” verses, such as “The Father is greater than I,” and “The Man Jesus Christ,” which we ignorantly and audaciously thought demolished “The Trinity,” as if no Trinitarian had ever noticed them before. What I failed to comprehend, and perhaps my Christadelphian friends still do, is that the doctrine of the Trinity, correctly understood (which we clearly didn’t) actually encompasses the unity of the Godhead, the full and genuine humanity of Jesus Christ and his subjection to the Father. Furthermore, that a sort of “verse versus verse” tennis lobbing back and forth is not the way to do theology.

Bowman and Komoszewski’s work does not fall into this trap at all. It is so convincing because it carefully builds a very sound case, step by step, exploring discreet themes and taking verses in their scriptural and historical context. I had already reached most of the conclusions found in Putting Jesus in His Place by the time I came across this gem, and wish I’d had the benefit of it many years ago when I was struggling to understand who Jesus is, for myself. Yet I still found it tremendously helpful for the clarity and memorability of its organisation, the concise scriptural arguments and the way the authors build their case.
To say I “challenge” Christadelphians to read it and engage with it may sound rather arrogant. All I can do is encourage anyone who wishes to understand Jesus more, or to be challenged to test the foundation on which they believe their faith stands, and open their minds to the Scriptures (Acts 17:11) and their hearts to the Holy Spirit (John 16:13). What is demonstrably arrogant is to refuse to listen to the rational arguments of those with whom we may disagree, to misrepresent their position (intentionally or unintentionally) and to refuse to challenge our own preconceptions. Surely, if what we believe is “the Truth,” it should withstand a fair discussion from the Scriptures?
Putting Jesus in His Place is a useful reference, a study that is comprehensive yet readable, scholarly yet devotional. It presents a balanced argument for the deity of Christ and food for thought for believers and sceptics alike. In the words of the authors:

“The biblical teaching about Jesus found in his HANDS constitutes powerful cumulative case for regarding Jesus as our Lord and God. If you do not yet believe in Jesus is God, consider the evidence presented here. If you do believe in the deity of Christ, the biblical teaching reviewed here will enrich your understanding of that truth and equip you to share it with others.”

Some other reviews of Putting Jesus in His place, A Case for the Deity of Christ:
Endorsements, table of contents, foreword and first section of the book:
Putting Jesus in His Place is available through Amazon, both print and Kindle editions, as well as through Christian booksellers such as Koorong here in Australia.


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