Was Jesus Making Himself God?

Was Jesus Making Himself God? September 18, 2015

The Gospel of John records a narrative in which Jesus’ Jewish interlocutors accused him of “making yourself God” (John 10.33 NRSV and throughout). This is one of two texts in this gospel that traditionalist Christians cite to support that Jesus was God, the other being John 5.18. But they misinterpret both texts by claiming that these accusations were true of Jesus–saying he indeed was “making himself equal to God” (5.18) and making himself God (10.33). On the contrary, in both texts the author means that this is what Jesus’ opponents alleged, which is not true. The author makes this plain by quoting Jesus’ response in both cases. In John 5.19-47, Jesus rebuts the allegation that he makes himself equal with God, and in John 10.34-38 he does likewise.

Regarding the John 10 text, Jesus was attending the Feast of Dedication at the temple in Jerusalem (v. 22). His interlocutors questioned him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly” (v. 24). This request reveals what scholars have called “the Messianic Secret.” It is prominent in all four New Testament gospels, but especially in the Gospel of Mark. It means that Jesus did indeed remain publicly quiet about his messiahship until at the end, when the high priest made the same inquiry to Jesus that prompted the Sanhedrin’s condemnation of him at his trial or hearing.

Jesus answered the question at the Feast of Dedication by relating about his ministry and relation to God as his Father (John 10.25-29). Then he said, “I and the Father are one” (v. 30). Jesus’ opponents then took up stones with which to stone him for blasphemy because they perceived he thereby was making himself God. But Jesus denied it by first saying, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, you are gods?’ If those to whom the word of God came were called ‘gods’–and the scripture cannot be annulled–can you say that the won whom the Father has sanctified and sent into the world is blaspheming because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’?” (vv. 34-36).

Jesus here quotes from Psalm 82, in which the psalmist rebukes Israel’s judges for juding unjustly (vv. 1-4). He then says of them, “You are gods, children of the Most High, all of you” (v. 6). In the Hebrew text, the word here translated “gods” is elohim, the common Hebrew word for “God” that appears in the Hebrew Bible (=Old Testament) more than 2,500 times. Does the psalmist mean those men actually were gods? Hardly! In the Hebrew Bible, elohim occasionally was also aplied to men and angels. When it was, it meant only that those so called were powerful.

Jesus’ meant that if the psalmist, inspired by God’s Spirit, spoke the word of God, which was true and therefore cannot be annulled, how can it be wrong for Jesus also to so identify himself as an elohim like those judges of Israel since he claims to be “God’s Son”? The obvious answer is that it would not have been wrong for Jesus to do that as long as it be understood that neither he nor those judges of Israel were actual gods in the sense that the God of Israel is God.

Again, Jesus said he was “doing the works of my Father,” which included actual miracles (John 10.37). Then he explained what he meant by, “I and the Father are one,” by saying, “the Father is in me and I am in the Father” (v. 38; cf. 14.9-11). Scholars call this the mystical Mutual Indwelling. So, rather than identifying himself as God, Jesus merely was claiming that God indwells him and he indwells God. These Jews still thought that was blasphemy since “they tried to arrest him again, but he escaped from their hands (v. 39).

Many Christians have erroneously thought like these enemies of Jesus did, that in claiming a mutual indwelling with God the Father Jesus was claiming to be God. Quite the contrary, the Johannine Jesus soon taught his apostles at the Last Supper, “You will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you…. Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them” (John 14.20, 23). This teaching of Jesus is what is called God-in-Christ Christology. Traditionalists believe this but also believe Jesus is God, called classical Incarnation Christology which means God-is-Christ Christology. But I think the Bible only verifies God-in-Christ Christology, not classical Incarnation Christology, which means Jesus is God incarnate, that is, he is actually God.

On the contrary, God indwells Jesus and God indwells each of us Christians by means of his Holy Spirit. But that does not make us or Jesus “the only true God” as the Johannine Jesus soon called the Father (17.3). And in that prayer to the Father concerning his disciples, “that they may be one, as we are one” (v. 11). So, if the “one” (Gr. hen) Jesus said in John 10.30 means Jesus is God, then Jesus was asking the Father to make his disciples “God” as well, which is ludicrous.

In conclusion, the Gospel of John never says that Jesus claimed to God, neither in John 5.18, 10.33, nor anywhere else.


To see a list of titles of 130+ posts (2-3 pages) that are about Jesus not being God in the Bible, with a few about God not being a Trinity, at Kermit Zarley Blog click “Chistology” in the header bar. Most are condensations of my book, The Restitution of Jesus Christ. See my website servetustheevangelical.com, which is all about this book,  with reviews, etc. Learn about my books and purchase them at kermitzarley.com. I was a Trinitarian for 22 years before reading myself out of it in the Bible.

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  • Ruthie Andrews

    Your posts on trinitarianism and Jesus as Christ and not as God are very helpful. Thanks!