Thursday, April 8, 2010

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

I’ve been asked how I would respond to a Jehovah’s Witness interpreting John 10:34-36 as evidence that the term god can be used to refer to human beings. Of course, the Jehovah’s Witnesses claim this passage as confirming their belief that Jesus is not God, but the most exalted of the sons of God (who can also legitimately be called gods).

Suggesting that John 10:34–36 supports the view that Jesus is not God does not fit with the evidence of John 10:30. I have argued in a previous post that in John 10:30 Jesus inserts himself into the Jewish Shema on a level equal with God the Father (see “Is Jesus God? The Significance of the Shema of Jesus in John 10:30”). Jesus’ opponents obviously understood that he was claiming to be equal with God, because they picked up stones to stone him (John 10:31) for the sin of blasphemy: “We are not stoning you for any good work, but for blasphemy, and because you, a man, make yourself God” (John 10:33). In the context, the word theon in v. 33 should be translated as God rather than as a god. The sin of blasphemy is considered in Judaism as being a sin against the name of YHWH. Jesus’ Jewish opponents wanted to stone him, because he had blasphemed the divine name by inserting his own name into the Shema, as if he were YHWH himself. This is exactly what Jesus was claiming. By inserting his name into the Shema, he was claiming to be YHWH himself. Therefore, Jesus’ Jewish opponents understood correctly that he was claiming to be equal with the Father, hence their desire to stone him.

In response to their desire to put him to death, Jesus quoted Ps 82:6: “I said, ‘You are gods’” (John 10:34), and argued as follows:

“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’?” (John 10:35–36).

In order to understand Jesus’ argument, we need to understand Ps 82. This will be the subject of my next post. But however John 10:34–36 is to be understood, it must be consistent with the unequivocal evidence of John 10:30.


Joseph said...

Thanks Steven,

I look forward to your next post.


John Thomson said...


Good post. I particularly like your principle of allowing the plain NT text explain the OT. :-)