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Christian Biblical Studies
Scripture references are to the King James (Authorised) Version
If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?
– John 10:35, 36 –
WHO are these ‘gods’?To answer, it is necessary to review the debate between Jesus and oppositional Jews at Solomon’s Porch, and of which these verses are an integral part.
In v. 30, Jesus had made a revelation which infuriated them – ‘I and [the] Father are one’, and they prepared to stone Him, not for the first time (v. 31) – ‘Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him.’
Verses 32 to 38 record the following exchange (our emphasis added):
32 Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of these works do ye stone me?
33 The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God.
34 Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?
35 If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken;
36 Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?
In John 5:17, 18 we read of the Jewsʼ murderous intent, precipitated by His healing the crippled man on the Sabbath. Here, too, they raise the same complaint (emphasis added):
17 . . . Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.
18 Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.
They charge Him, first, with profaning the Sabbath by healing the invalid and, second, of putting Himself on a par with the Almighty, claiming to be His Son. The accusation is identical to that of John 10:33 – ʻthou makest thyself Godʼ. The official indictment against Him when He was later brought before Pilate, accurately reflects what He had said and what the Jews understood Him to have meant (John 19:7):
We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.
The notion that one could be an offspring of the Most High was alien to Jewish theology. The nation of Israel had been formed under a theocracy, with an impassable gulf between them and the Most High, whose name was not to be uttered. Their relationship with God was defined by an aloofness exemplified in the Tabernacle and the Temple. The Almighty dwelt in the Most Holy, high and unapproachable by the ordinary person. Israel was a house of servants and it would have seemed impious to draw close to the omnipotent God with the intimacy and familiarity of sons. With the advent of Jesus, that perception was to be altered, as we read in John 1:11, 12 (our emphasis throughout):
11 He came unto his own [the Jews], and his own received him not.
12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.
The Apostle Paul would later write (Gal. 4:4-7):
Again, in 1 John 3:1:
Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.
The followers of Christ – Jew or Gentile – received the privilege of sonship, each one a son of the Father as Jesus was a son of the Father. Each one was separate and distinct from the Father and yet at ʻoneʼ with the Father. This truth is reflected in Jesusʼ prayer of John 17:21: ʻthat they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us. . .ʼ.
As for Jesusʼ being God Himself, He tells His audience (John 5:37), ʻYe have neither heard [Godʼs] voice at any time, nor seen his shapeʼ, a statement He could not have made were He really God, without some deception. Besides, no one could see God and survive the experience (Exod. 33:20-23). However, as the most eloquent representation of God on earth, Jesus could tell Philip ʻhe that hath seen me hath seen the Father: and [why] sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?ʼ (John 14:9).
In John 10:34, 35, Jesus harks back to Psa. 82:6: ʻYe are gods [theois]; and all of you are children of the Most High.ʼIn the generic sense, ‘gods’ refers to magisterial mighty ones. These particular gods are sons of the Heavenly Father, those having been justified and sanctified by faith, begotten of the holy spirit, and offered the promise of immortality. A change of dispensation was at hand, because Jesus now ‘brought life and immortality to light through the gospel’ (2 Tim. 1:10). Hence the propriety of His question, ʻ[Why do you say of Me], whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?ʼ [emphasis added]
Jesus did not claim to be God the Father. Those who insist that He did, unwittingly align themselves with His enemies, who accused Him of assuming equality with God, a misunderstanding which Jesus corrected. Properly understood, we see that Jesus was a ‘god’ (John 1:1), and that the members of His Church also were ‘gods’ in the biblical sense – sons of the Most High.