Christ’s Enemies Claimed He Said He Was God. But He Only Said, “I’m the Son of God.”

Most Christians think Jesus claimed to be God. Ask most of them who know their Bible, “Where does the Bible say Jesus claimed to be God?” and they’ll likely answer, “He said it in John 10.30, ‘I and the Father are one.’” But that is a far cry from saying, “I am God,” or the like. One is struck with the thought, “Is that the best evidence Christians have for Jesus claiming to be God? If so, maybe he never made such a claim.”

This is a very important issue for Christians. Most assert that a person must believe Jesus is God in order to be a genuine Christian and thus possess salvation and the hope of eternal life. That’s what the institutional church has insisted since the early fourth century. But interpreting Jesus’ saying in John 10.30 as a claim to be God ignores its context.

Jesus was attending the Feast of Dedication at the temple in Jerusalem. We read, “The Jews therefore gathered around Him, and were saying to Him, ‘How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.’” (John 10.24).* Jesus responded by mentioning his marvelous works that he had been doing and how they testify to his intimate relationship with God (vv. 25-29).

So, when Jesus then said he and God the Father were “one,” he meant they were unified. That is, they were in complete harmony regarding Jesus’ mission of doing good works and drawing disciples to himself. This is confirmed in Jesus’ so-called “high priestly prayer” he made the night he was betrayed and arrested. It, too, is recorded only in John’s gospel. Jesus, in anticipation of his crucifixion, death, resurrection, and ascension, prayed to the Father about his eleven apostles, “Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are” (John 17.11). He soon added, “The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity” (vv. 22-23). So, Jesus asked the Father for the same oneness for his apostles that he said, in John 10.30, he and the Father had. To say that “one,” there, means Jesus is God requires that it means the same here, which is ludicrous.

Jesus’ antagonistic listeners thought like many Christians have, that Jesus here claimed to be God when he said he and the Father were “one.” For, when Jesus asked them why they were picking up stones to stone him to death (John 10.31), they replied, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God” (v. 33). (It seems they accused him of claiming to be “a god” since the Greek text lacks the article with theos–the Greek word for “God/god.”)

The Roman Catholic Church’s prestigious Pontifical Biblical Commission rejects this common interpretation of John 10.30. In its very important and excellent document on Christology, Bible et christologie (1983), this elite group of twenty Catholic scholars allege that those who espouse classical (Nicene-Chalcedonian) Christology tend to be obstinate, “not being open” to critical investigation, resulting in their appeal to Scripture only defensively. These scholars chose the venerable American Catholic Joseph A. Fitzmyer to produce a commentary on this document. In it he explains, “the Commission is pointing its critical finger at Catholic fundamentalism, often associated with this approach to Christology. An example of this sort of use of the NT [New Testament] would be the appeal to Jn 10:30, ‘I and the Father are one,’ to establish the divinity of Christ.” Fitzmyer means that he and commission members do not believe Jesus here claimed to be God.

Jesus then asked his interrogators, “do you say of Him, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?” (John 10.36; no article here for huios [Son] either). John A.T. Robinson insists that Jesus here made the following important points: (1) he implicitly denies the Jews’ allegation that he said he was God, (2) he distinguishes himself from God, and (3) he affirms his true identity as Son of God.

Now, Jesus never went about declaring publicly that he was the Son of God; but he often implied it by calling God his “Father.” Until then, Jews had recognized their God Yahweh corporately as the father of the Jewish nation; but individual Jews rarely or never identified God personally as their father, as Jesus regularly did.

Then, Jesus clarified what he meant by him and the Father being one. Many Christians have failed to grasp this. He declared, “the Father is in Me, and I in the Father” (John 10.38). Later, Jesus affirmed this truth again by telling his apostles, “Believe Me that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me” (14.11).

Scholars call this concept “the Mutual Indwelling.” In saying this truth here, Jesus clearly disavows that his being one with God means that he claims to be God or a god. Rather, Jesus here affirms a God-in-Christ Christology as contrasted with the traditional, incarnational, Christ-is-God Christology that Christians later developed. The Apostle Paul later explained one half of this concept, “that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself” (2 Corinthians 5.19).

Jesus’ opponents seem to have accepted his clarification about being one with the Father, in which he denied claiming to be God. How so? They never brought this charge against him during the interrogation of him by the Jewish Sanhedrin (Council).

In sum, when Jesus said, “I and the Father are one,” he did not mean he and God the Father were one in essence, making himself God, but one relationally, resulting in a functional unity. And if this brief saying of Jesus in John 10.30 is the best traditionalists can muster to support their assertion that Jesus claimed to be God, we can be pretty sure he never made such a claim.

(In my book, The Restitution of Jesus Christ (2008, 600 pp.), I devote ten pages to explaining what Jesus meant in John 10.30 when he said, “I and the Father are one.” In doing so, I cite forty-four scholars and four church fathers.)

*All scripture citations are from the New American Standard Bible.

(To see a titled list of over fifty, two-three page posts (easily accessible) about the Bible not saying Jesus is God, click here.)

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  • kzarley

    Yes, Jesus was a created human being. He did not preexist. Thus, he did not exist with God–who is the Father of those who believe–at creation. Jesus was just like us except for his virgin birth. Thus, he did not come into this world with a nature to sin, as we do. All things being created “in” and “through” him, in Col 1.15, means God had Jesus in mind as the “firstborn of all creation,” meaning his preeminence not preexistence. He had to be man and not God to save us (Heb 2.17). His virgin birth does not prevent him from being a man, since Adam came into this world similarly, having a supernatural origin. Actually, Jesus at his birth was more of a man than we are, since he was man as God made man in the beginning, being without sin. Jesus being fully man and not God, and then overcoming sin, dying on the cross, and thus being our Savior, is what enables him to be greatly rewarded by God.

  • John

    Is this a joke? How about John 8:58 where Jesus , “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM”? Or how about when the Pharisees wanted to stone Jesus for making himself equal with God? (John 10:33). Or how about when Jesus forgave sins and the Pharisees rightly remarked that only God could forgive sins? How is it possible to ignore such scenarios and state that Jesus did not claim to be God or that his enemies did not level that accusation against him?

  • Anonymous
  • http://www.SeekGodDeeply.com Christopher

    I also remember Yeshua saying “All that I do YOU CAN DO and more” as well as “I of MYSELF can do NOTHING” and “If I bear witness of myself I bear witness to a lie”
    I also remember him telling all of YOU to seek FIRST the Kingdom of God (Which is within yourselves), so all of you Christians who don’t have a clue about this place which is within you and haven’t attempted to follow his command to seek this place, you have NO RIGHT to call him Lord as he told you no to in Luke 6:46 …
    “”””Before Abraham was, I AM”””” that is correct and Moses showed us who I AM is. I AM that I AM, YOU are that I AM .. The I (self) within you is the one that is one with the Father. Yeshua the PERSON and all you PEOPLE will never receive respect from God as stated in the Bible “God has NO RESPECT for PERSONS” (Romans 2:11) Your persona (your mask) hides your true “I”, your I AM that is ONE with the Father. We are all truly one with the Father just unrealized because of our masks (personas’) ..

    If you truly are devoted to Jesus (Yeshua as he was called in his language), you would study his native language of Aramaic, learn and understand the Aramaic culture and how words have masculine and feminine meanings, and begin to translate the Aramaic text on your own and you will reveal the blasphemy within every one of the MANY MANY MANY DIFFERENT translations of the so called same Christian Bible. If you are STILL stuck to the masculine (physical) words on the pages of the Bibles then you are demonstrating the lack of the Holy Spirit within you. Yes I said that because in the Bible it says that ONCE THE HOLY SPIRIT is IN YOU, you will no longer need to be taught, read, learn or listen to any OUTSIDE teachings because the HOLY SPIRIT will now guide you, from within, into ALL TRUTH. (1John2:27) .. Remove the Logs in your eyes people, and for those who condemn gays, sinners, love some yet hate others, go and reread Romans 2:1. Once again those that condemn or hate have NO RIGHT calling Yeshua Lord because he told you to “Love your neighbor as yourself” NOT THE PERSONA OF YOUR NEIGHBOR nor to love them as the PERSONA of yourself BUT to LOVE the “I” within them that is the same “I” within you which is the same “I” that was in Yeshua. That is why Yeshua was able to say the Father is in Him, He in you and We all are in the Father and the Father in all of Us and Yeshua in Us as We in Him …. get it? huh? yes!!!!
    WE ARE ALL ONE WITH THE FATHER

  • Joshua livingston

    King James Bible
    I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.

    • Joshua livingston

      Psalms

  • musicalA

    It looks like all comments here have missed the real point including the writer. Jesus never conceded or denied His truth. I read the following blog post and in it are some excellent points, complete with scriptural references that makes who Jesus is so very clear. http://truebeliever4.wordpress.com/2014/09/05/why-islam-directly-opposes-christianity/

  • Kyle Vandermark

    So question if Jesus isn’t God then who sits on the throne? The bible clearly states that God is a spirit
    John 4:24 KJV
    [24] God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
    So if God is a spirit then who sits on the throne??
    I have your answer….
    1 Timothy 3:16 KJV
    [16] And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.
    God is a spirit, Jesus is the name and the fleshly image of God!
    Deuteronomy 6:4 KJV
    [4] Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord :
    Ephesians 4:5 KJV
    [5] One Lord, one faith, one baptism,
    Ephesians 4:6 KJV
    [6] One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
    I’m not going to argue but I serve One God and his name is Jesus I don’t cling to one verse and say oh look it mentions three persons like:
    Matthew 28:19 KJV
    [19] Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

    You have to understand the use of the word name in this scripture is singular not plural they are told to baptize in the NAME. Let me explain it this way I am a carpenter, and I am a young minister, and I am also a collegiate student but that does not tell you what my name is. The name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost is Jesus!
    The hope for this world is Jesus
    Acts 4:12 KJV
    [12] Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

    • kzarley

      You are right that the hope for this world is Jesus. But you need to use some modern translations of the Bible. KJV is outdated because it is not as accurate. It is based on Textus Receptus, which had only a few Greek mss. whereas since then thousands were discovered. E.g., in 1 Tim 3.16 you quote “God,” but the correct Greek text has hos which is translated “who” in all modern English versions. Thus, 1 Tim 3.16 does not identify Jesus as “God.”

      Are you insinuating God does not sit on his throne because he is spirit? What are angels? They are spirits. Even so, according to the Bible they have appeared to humans many times. When they do they always are human-looking. They can stand and sit (Acts 1.10; Matt 28.2); John 20.2). Being spirit does not prevent them from having form visible to us.

      It is the same with God (John 5.37; 6.46). However, fallen humas cannot approach God or they will die (Ps 104.2; 1 Tim 1.17; 6.16). In the eschaton, in our resurrection bodies with our hearts having God’s law written on them, we literally will see God’s face (Ps 17.15; Mt 5.8; 18.10; Rev 22.4).

      Read my RJC book.