Friday, March 26, 2010

Is Jesus God? The Significance of the Shema of Jesus in John 10:30

Is Jesus God? The Shema of Jesus in John 10:30 tells us what Jesus himself thought, assuming of course that this verse is an accurate record of what Jesus himself said.

The divinity of Jesus is one of the key themes of the Gospel of John. In a debate with some of his Jewish opponents about whether he was the Christ, Jesus responded with the statement I and the Father are one (John 10:30). Jesus’ opponents obviously understood that he was claiming to be equal with God, because they picked up stones to stone him (in accordance with Lev 24:16) for the sin of blasphemy (John 10:31). This is confirmed in their explanation in John 10:33. In their opinion, Jesus could not be God, because he was a human being.

In the context, the word theon in v. 33 should be translated as God rather than as a god. The sin of blasphemy was (and is) considered in Judaism as being a sin against the name of YHWH. By saying I and the Father are one, Jesus was actually alluding to the Shema, the basic Jewish confession of faith: “Hear [shema in Hebrew], O Israel, YHWH our God, YHWH is one” (Deut 6:4). The Shema clearly teaches that Yahweh is one. But notice how Jesus changes it. In place of Yahweh, he has I and the Father. From the orthodox Jewish perspective, this is gross blasphemy. Jesus was saying that the Shema applied to him! He actually mentions himself before the Father. He was claiming to be Yahweh! This is why his Jewish opponents wanted to stone him. In their opinion, he had blasphemed the divine name.

Jesus’ christological transformation of the Shema is one of the reasons why the orthodox Christian position has been that Jesus is God’s anthropological self-revelation. Christianity teaches in effect that God created a physical universe with the plan of entering the universe himself in a personal way in human form, in the person of Jesus, the image of God, for the purpose of self-revelation.


Joseph said...

Hey Steven,

Thanks! That's some great work. But, what if a JW then told you to look at John 10:34ff and said Jesus Himself teaches that the term "god" can be used to refer to human judges. How would you respond to this?

Steven Coxhead said...

Please see the following by way of a response:

"I Said You Are Gods": John 10:34 Must Be Understood in the Context of John 10:30;

"I Said You Are Gods": The Meaning of Psalm 82; and

"I Said You Are Gods": John 10:34-36 and the Divinity of Jesus.