Sunday, April 18, 2010

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

How should we understand Jesus’ quote of Ps 82:6 in John 10:34? I have argued previously that the term gods is used in Ps 82 of the rulers of Israel who are viewed as being members of the divine council (see “‘I Said You Are Gods’: The Meaning of Psalm 82”). As VIPs in God’s presence, they can legitimately be called gods or sons of God. They are gods not in terms of their inherent nature or being, but only in the sense that they have been invited by God to be members of the divine assembly. God effectively has his own “pantheon,” an assembly of VIPs who have been given the privilege of listening to his wise counsel and legal judgments, and who (on the basis of this) are supposed to judge and rule God’s people justly.

Picking up on this idea, in John 10:34 Jesus points out to his Jewish opponents that their law (i.e., the Hebrew Bible) records God calling the rulers of Israel gods. Jesus’ explanation of the significance of this verse is given in John 10:35–36:
“If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken—do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?”
Jesus’ statement in v. 35 that God “called them gods to whom the word of God came” confirms the suggestion that the VIPs in God’s presence had the privilege of hearing God’s wise counsel and legal judgments. These VIPs heard the word of God, and could legitimately be called gods, Jesus implies, as Ps 82 shows.

In v. 36 Jesus then compares himself with these gods. A number of scholars have noted that Jesus employs in v. 36 a qal wahomer (i.e., an a fortiori) argument. A qal wahomer argument follows the logic of if A is a true, then how much more is B true. If the rulers of Israel who had the privilege of hearing God’s word could legitimately be called gods, how much more appropriate is it that he “whom the Father consecrated and sent into the word” be called the Son of God!

In the context, Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God is not merely an assertion of his Messianic status. To confess that Jesus is the Son of God can simply mean that Jesus is the Messiah, who is viewed as being human (e.g., John 1:34, 49). The idea of a human messiah is quite acceptable in Jewish circles. But John’s Gospel broadens the meaning of the concept of the Son of God. Jesus is portrayed in this Gospel as being a divine messiah. According to John’s Gospel, true faith confesses that Jesus is a divine Messiah, the true bread from heaven, who is one with the Father.

Jesus is clearly asserting the idea that he is a divine Messiah in John 10:30–38. He inserted himself into the Shema, claiming “I and the Father are one” (v. 30). He spoke of how he had been sent into the world by the Father (v. 36), which implies his heavenly pre-existence. He goes on to say that “the Father is in me, and I in the Father” (v. 38), and his opponents react once again by seeking to seize him (v. 39).

The qal wahomer form of Jesus’ argument also means that it is not right to argue on the basis of John 10:34 that Jesus is the most exalted god among many. The a fortiori nature of the argument means that Jesus cannot be said to be a god in the same way that the rulers or any of God’s people can. The god-like VIPs of Ps 82 were recipients of divine revelation (John 10:35), but Jesus is the supreme vehicle of divine revelation (John 1:14, 18). The VIPs heard the word of God, but Jesus is the Word of God (John 1:1, 14). The VIPs are of the world, but Jesus was sent into the world (John 10:36). Being the self-revelation of the Father in human form, Jesus is God. God the Father is invisible and unknowable (John 1:18; Col 1:15; 1 Tim 6:16). He expresses himself, and makes himself visible and knowable, through the Son. Because the Son is the expression of the Father, the Son is God, because he is the form in which the Father has chosen to reveal himself to us.
“No one has ever seen God; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known (John 1:18).”
If we human beings of faith who are made from the dust of the earth are privileged to be raised up to be seated in the heights of heaven as members of the divine assembly and given the exalted title of gods, how much more should the One who is the self-expression of the Father in physical form be called God in the fullest sense of the word!

YHWH said that we are gods, and he also says that Jesus is God.

5 comments:

Joseph said...

Steven,

Thanks so much. This is great! Praise the God-Man!! Christ is all!

prospit said...

All praise be to God

bob said...

Jesus invites us into the house of the father by telling the elite they are also God to keep from being stoned. I like the logic of keeping a cast system in place by always qualifying and quantifying the lesser ability to bond close to God inherited by us mere mortals. I choose to think Christ was saying the kingdom of God is open to all of us to receive the blessings . I guess Im just a poor Christian of little faith. Seems more of the same stuff important people are viewed higher in heaven then simple loving people.

Steven Coxhead said...

Hello bob!

As stated at the end of my post, all of God’s people (i.e., those who have faith) will have the privilege of being raised up to be part of the divine assembly and given the exalted title of gods. Jesus obliterates human ideas of caste by taking all of God’s people up into the highest caste. The simple loving people of God will definitely not be left out.

Me said...

Very helpful. Thank you