The argument that Jesus was liar, lunatic or Lord of all is used to get people to accept he was Lord by a process of elimination.  It presupposes that there is something special about Jesus' claim to be Lord. 

It is an unusual claim if he made it.  But there are bigger claims even if they are less exotic.  Gurus such as Nanak said that if you hear the Gurus teaching just once you are filled with rubies and gems and jewels.  This is easily testable for many hear a religious message and may qualify to teach it and are left unchanged.

If Jesus were God and could only speak Aramaic then isn't that a bigger mystery than being God in the first place? 

Anyway the trilemma presupposes that the New Testament accounts are special and unusually reliable.  Scholars are not convinced Jesus really claimed to be God. And even if he did would he agree with what Christians say that meant?

It is a trick for we are not told that if it is texts we rely on then the question becomes, were they originated by mentally disturbed storytellers?  By God?  By liars?  By some combination of these?  It is not simple.  That is not as "sexy" as the liar and lord and lunatic talk. 

As Jesus was an ordained Jewish minister, he got the title Rabbi.  To be ordained he had to confess and reject sin.     He had to swear on the shema that there was only one unified god of Israel, one Lord.  This was a rejection of God becoming men.   It rejected the validity of other gods.  If he swore while thinking he was God or wanting others to think it he was ordained under false pretences.  Nobody denies that until his time, the accepted interpretation of the shema was that it was about a God who was one person instead of a God who was supposedly three persons in one God.

The shema was the Jewish creed.  The statement about loving neighbour was not a part of it.  Jesus in fact would help nobody except with a miracle.  That was lazy of him.  Liberal "Christians" want to be about the neighbour thing.  They oppose the traditional view that if your love for God is too far short it will lead to you harming the neighbour. To make a man into God is definitely out unless he really is God.

It is terrible when a faith in both its true form and revised "liberal" form is rife with lies and especially when the makers of the faith are not doing much for their neighbour anyway.

Anyway the trilemma presupposes that though much religious faith is hard to call sane that this form is sane.  Jesus could have been wrong about being God and still have been sane.  He claimed to be a man with extra abilities but a man all the same.  He had faith he was God.  If believers are sane while they regard people as God even when the people protest he could be sane too.  Let us leave aside the suspicion that the real believer is in fact suffering from a mental or emotional disorder.  The trilemma is over simplistic.  If miracles are real, if the paranormal is real, it may have misled Jesus to think he was God.  So then he would not have been a liar or lunatic while saying he was God.  Nothing changes the fact that if you are certain that those saying Jesus claimed to be God are right, it is their word you are taking not that of Jesus.  The question is not if Jesus was liar about being Lord, really Lord or in some way mentally disturbed.  The question is if they are liars, really know he is Lord or are disturbed.

It is ableist to make a big deal of asserting that a compassionate God who wants to relate to people as a man and share in human suffering wouldn't become one who struggled with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.  What is the big deal?  The gospels speak of Jesus getting tired and having to take a break for heaven's sake!


Background is vital.  There were lots of apocalyptic prophets and Messiahs in Israel at the time Jesus allegedly lived.  The dead being raised was a part of the narrative and when Jesus failed to raise the dead the Church decided he did not fail for he raised himself and the others are yet to be raised.  It was a matter of when you will be raised not if. 

The life of Joseph Smith by his mother speaks of a culture that was riddled with people having revelations allegedly from God.

After Obama, somebody saying they might one day be president of the USA does not seem so odd.

The trilemma is not as convincing when you realise that we only think it is persuasive for it so strange to us.  If we had friends claiming to be God we would not be thinking that somebody claiming to be God means they might be really God.  We would think they are sane and not liars but just caught up in nonsense.
The trilemma is superstition and cruel superstition at that for it is a very serious thing to encourage people to give their lives to Jesus if there is too much uncertainty. There is more than just the question of if Jesus was liar, lunatic or Lord of All. Was he honestly mistaken?  Did he make his belief that he was God all about himself - and did it leak out and lead to this thing he wanted to stay personal to end up being part of a religion?   If self-deception was involved we must remember that there are billions of ways to be self-deceiving regarding an issue or claim. So a trilemma is pathetically simplistic.  Was his claim to be God a misunderstanding? Was it his followers who lied that he claimed to be God? Or did they not lie but imagine that the Holy Spirit inspired them to "realise" that Jesus was God? Did Satan do miracles to make people think falsely that Jesus claimed to be God? Remember how Paul in Romans 1 condemns anybody who turns God into a man. Did he claim to be God in the sense that a Pantheist does? What if he thought that the word God describes a moral principle and that himself and the Father and the Holy Spirit are only God in the sense that they adhere to that principle? Was Jesus fooled by aliens or demons to think that he was God? Did he claim to be honorifically God - eg was he like those who were called God as a mark of honour without any literal meaning being intended? After all he said that people who were very good were called gods in the Old Testament - they were not real gods but were gods by honour. Was he joking if he said he was God for after all he said God should be seen as Abba Daddy - really! That we should be over-familiar with God? Sounds like a joke!

Even if Jesus did claim to be God he shot himself in the foot by saying it was a sin not to believe in him.  The matter is too complicated for that.  He should affirm somebody's unbelief in him.

It is undeniable that the New Testament if it says Jesus was near-God - as good as God - or actually God, is trying to manipulate us into something like the trilemma.


A CALL TO HERESY, Robert Van de Weyer, Lamp Press, London, 1989
ALLEGED DISCREPANCIES OF THE BIBLE, John W Haley, Whitaker House, Pennsylvania, undated
ASKING THEM QUESTIONS, Various, Oxford University Press, London, 1936
CHRIST IS GOD, Rev JP Arendzen DD, Augustine Publishing Company, Devon, 1987
CHRIST OUR LIGHT, J Buys SJ Geoffrey Chapman and Gill & Son, London-Melbourne, Dublin 1966
CHRISTIANITY FOR THE TOUGH-MINDED Ed John Warwick Montgomery, Bethany Fellowship Inc, Minneapolis, 1973
DID JESUS CHRIST REALLY COME DOWN FROM HEAVEN? Alan Hayward, Christadelphian ALS, Birmingham
DO CHRISTIANS BELIEVE IN THREE GODS? Radio Bible Class, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1992
EVIDENCE THAT DEMANDS A VERDICT, Vol 1, Josh McDowell, Alpha, Scripture Press Foundation, Bucks, 1995
FOUR GREAT HERESIES, John R Rice, Sword of the Lord, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, 1975
GOD AND THE HUMAN CONDITION, F J Sheed, Sheed & Ward, London 1967
HANDBOOK OF CHRISTIAN APOLOGETICS, Peter Kreeft & Ronald Tacelli, Monarch, East Sussex, 1994
HERESIES AND HOW TO AVOID THEM, Editors Ben Quash and Michael Ward, SPCK, London, 2007
HONEST TO GOD, John AT Robinson, SCM Press, London, 1963
JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES John Wijngaards, Catholic Truth Society, London, 1998
JESUS GOD THE SON OR SON OF GOD? Fred Pearce Christadelphian Publishing Office, Birmingham
MERE CHRISTIANITY, CS Lewis, Fontana, Glasgow, 1975
MIRACLES, CS Lewis, Fontana, London, 1960
PRIESTLAND’S PROGRESS, Gerald Priestland, BBC, London, 1981
SCIENCE AND THE BIBLE, Henry Morris, Moody Press, Bucks, 1988
SET MY EXILES FREE, John Power, Logos Books, MH Gill & Son Ltd, Dublin, 1967
SOME MODERN FAITHS, Maurice C Burrell and J Stafford Wright, Intervarsity Press, Leicestershire, 1988
THE CASE FOR CHRIST, Lee Strobel, HarperCollins and Zondervan, Michigan, 1998
THE EARLY CHURCH, Henry Chadwick, Pelican, Middlesex, 1987
THE GODHEAD EXPLAINED, Christadelphian Press, Beverley, South Australia
THE METAPHOR OF GOD INCARNATE, John Hick, SCM Press, London, 1993
THE MYTH OF GOD INCARNATE, John Hick ed., SCM Press, London, 1977
THE NEW CULTS, Walter Martin, Vision House, Santa Ana, California, 1980
THE SPIRIT OF GOD, John Bedson, Lightstand Burbank CA 1984
THE UNAUTHORISED VERSION, Robin Lane Fox, Penguin Books, Middlesex, 1992
UNDERSTANDING THE CULTS, Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Campus Crusade for Christ, San Bernardino, 1983
UNITARIAN CHRISTIANITY AND OTHER ESSAYS, William Ellery Channing, The Bobs-Merrill Company Inc, Kansas, 1957
YOU CAN LIVE FOREVER IN PARADISE ON EARTH, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, New York, 1982
Kevin Quick discusses the Jehovah’s Witnesses claim that the Bible never says that Jesus is God
Gives the Jehovah’s Witness response to this site
Father and/or Son by H Wayne Hamburger

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