Verses of John 10


John 10:34 Commentary - The Apologists Bible Commentary

The Apologists Bible Commentary

John 10

34 - 39 34 Jesus answered them, "Has it not been written in your Law, 'I SAID, YOU ARE GODS'? 35 If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), 36 do you say of Him, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, 'You are blaspheming,' because I said, ' I am the Son of God'? 37 If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; 38 but if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father." 39 Therefore they were seeking again to seize Him, and He eluded their grasp.

C o m m e n t a r y This passage has been the object of much discussion, commentary, and debate among those with differing views about the Deity of Christ. Some claim that Jesus denies that He is God, taking for Himself the lesser title "Son of God." Others argue that Jesus is asserting that He is God, co-equal with His Father. Still others say that Jesus is neither affirming nor denying His Deity, but rather is answering the specific charge of blasphemy (v. 33). Which of these views, if any, is correct? To answer this question, there are several rather complex issues to unravel. First, we must look to the context. What has Jesus just asserted that roused the Jews to such anger that they would accuse Him of blasphemy? What does He say following this passage? Next, we must determine the meaning of the Old Testament verse Jesus is quoting in His defense. Then we must understand why Jesus quotes this passage - what is it about this passage that counters the accusation of blasphemy? Finally, we must put these pieces together to reconstruct Jesus' argument and place it in context with what precedes and follows. Context This pericope begins with the Jews gathering around Jesus in the Temple portico, asking Him to tell them in plain terms if He is the Messiah (v. 24). Jesus answers by giving two reasons they should already know the answer to this question: His words and His works (v. 25). Jesus says that the reason they do not know He is the Messiah is not because He has failed to speak clearly or to manifest who He truly is through His miracles, but because they lack faith (vv. 25 - 26). Jesus says that His sheep know Him and hear His voice, but the Jews are not His sheep (vv. 26 - 27). To this point, while Jesus may well have provoked his listeners to anger, there is nothing in what He has said that warrants the charge of blasphemy. But then Jesus says, "I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish" (v. 28). Here Jesus claims for Himself the Divine prerogative of granting life to His sheep. The Jews knew that only YHWH gives life (Deut. 32:39), let alone eternal life. Then Jesus equates His power to keep His sheep firmly in hand with His Father's power to do the same thing (vv. 28 - 29). The Jews knew that the Father was "greater than all," but when Jesus said that He had the same power to preserve His sheep as His Father has, this was a clear claim to equality with God. Jesus further drives the point home with His assertion that He and His Father are "one" (v. 30 ). It is at this point - and with good reason, from their perspective as unbelievers - that the Jews prepare to stone Jesus. Jesus immediately challenges them by returning to one of the two reasons He has given for making clear that He is the Messiah - His works: "I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning me?" (v. 32). This is not an evasive response - and it does not follow that Jesus' subsequent response will be evasive, either. The Jews reply that they are not stoning Him for His works, but for claiming to be God, which is blasphemy, according to their Law (v. 33). Some have argued that the Jews are accusing Jesus of nothing more than being "a god," on the basis that the Greek word theos ("God") lacks the article in this verse and on Jesus' use of Psalm 82 (see below). While many nouns without the article in Greek are indefinite, many others are not. Context, once again, is our sure guide for determining meaning. If the Jews believed that "a god" could grant eternal life or was equal to the Father in the power to preserve the Sheep, there might be some warrant for theos in this verse being rendered "a god." But this is manifestly not the case; while some might be called "gods," in the OT, none were ever said to have Divine powers such as these. Further, the Law against blasphemy did not pertain to those claiming to be 'a god,' but was specific to defaming the name of YHWH (Lev. 24:16), which any man did who claimed to be God or equated his power with YHWH's power. The Jews would be risking their lives if they were to stone Jesus on the grounds of the Temple for anything other than a Law clearly defined in the Hebrew Scriptures. Immediately after quoting Psalm 82 in His defense, Jesus again returns to the testimony of His works (vv. 37 - 38). Jesus then repeats what He has previously asserted in slightly different words: "The Father is in Me and I in the Father." This further appeal to an intimate relationship in which the Father's intimacy with the Son is no less than the Son's intimacy with the Father incites the Jews beyond talking and Jesus must elude them and flee. It may be said here that if Jesus' appeal to Psalm 82 is meant as nothing more than an answer to the charge of blasphemy, as some commentators allege, He has completely undermined His defense with new claims of unity and equality with His Father. It would seem untenable, given that He knew the hearts of his accusers, that Jesus would provoke the Jews with such a statement, unless it was a logical extension of what He has just said. The Meaning of Psalm 82 The words quoted by Jesus in John 10:34 are from Psalm 82:6. The pertinent section reads as follows: I said, "You are gods, And all of you are sons of the Most High. Nevertheless you will die like men And fall like any one of the princes." There has been much debate about whom "you" refers. There are three common suggestions: 1) Angelic beings; 2) the Children of Israel at Sinai when they received the Law; 3) human judges or rulers who have judged unjustly. Many who argue that ancient Israel practiced a form of polytheism or henotheism argue for option #1. They see this verse preserving an old tradition in which the pagan gods are judged by YHWH. The problem with this view is that Jesus' appeal to this verse presupposes that it refers to human beings; if it refers to angels, the Jews could rightly ignore Jesus' defense, for He is not an angel claiming the title "God," but a man (v. 33). Jerome Neyrey makes an interesting case for option #2 ("I Said Ye Are Gods:" Psalm 82:6 and John 10 ). Neyrey argues that extra-Biblical Jewish literature from shortly after the time of Christ indicates that the Jews thought that the Children of Israel had, in a sense, become "gods" when they received the Law. However, they almost immediately fell into idolatry and lost their divine status. The chief problem I see with Neyrey's otherwise provocative article is that there is simply no example of the Israelites being called "gods" in the Bible, and Jesus' argument is based specifically on Scripture which "cannot be broken." In my view, Jesus' reference is unlikely, on the one hand, to rely on Psalm 82, and on the other, on a Midrashic interpretation of it. Option #3 is, on the whole, the most likely. In the immediate context, the "sons of the Most High" are said to judge, albeit unjustly (v. 2). There is probable Biblical precedent for calling human judges "gods" (Exodus 22:8, 9; Judges 5:8,9). The judges were "gods" in the sense that the "word of God came" to them as a Divine commission to perform a duty on earth that ultimately belongs only to God. The judges, then, parallel Jesus - though to a lesser degree; for He received a Divine commission par excellence and every work He does is that of the Father (cf., 5:19 ff). Jesus' Use of Psalm 82 There are two important points to raise when considering why Jesus quotes this particular Psalm in His defense: 1) The Jews base their charge of blasphemy on what they see as Jesus' self-proclamation of Deity: "You being a man make yourself out to be God" (v. 33); and 2) Jesus' use of Psalm 82 must be consistent with the overall answer that Jesus is giving the Jews to their challenge to say "plainly" whether He is the Messiah (v. 24). Regarding the first point, we may say that Jesus' use of Psalm 82 refutes the foundation of the Jews' accusation. The judges in Psalm 82 do not "make themselves" gods, but rather the divine title is given to them by God, on the basis of their commission ("to whom the Word of God came."). In affirming that He is the Messiah, Jesus uses this general principle to declare that His divine title ("the Son of God") was not of His own proclamation, but comes as the result of the Father's commission ("sanctified and sent into the World;" cf., Mark 1:11; Luke3:22). Regarding the second point, Jesus cannot be simply using an ad hominem argument to evade the charge of blasphemy because both before and after verses 34 - 36, He is claiming far more than merely being "a god" in the sense the Judges were "gods." The judges in Psalm 82 are not said to grant eternal life to their followers, nor to be equal to the Father in their power to hold them fast. If Jesus were making an ad hominem argument, He would be essentially saying, "You don't know your own Scriptures - I am simply calling myself 'the Son of God' in the same way God calls the judges in Psalm 82 'gods' and 'sons of the Most High.'" The Jews could simply respond, "We know what God called the judges - but you are not claiming to be 'a god' like the judges - you are claiming to be far more than they! You have claimed a blasphemous unity with God unlike any exampled in our Scriptures, let alone Psalm 82!" The same can be said of Jesus' title, "Son of God." If Jesus meant to say that His divine title is less than the judges' title (that is, that 'Son of God' is a less exalted title than "a god"), the Jews could rightly reject His answer as equivocation. Jesus is defending His statements prior to verse 34. Thus, "Son of God" must be viewed as meaning the same thing as One who grants eternal life, who holds His sheep in a grip as powerful as His Father's, and who is One with the Father. Indeed, Jesus knew well what the Jews would make of this title - the Jews had accused Him before of using this title to make Himself "equal" with God (5:18 ). Jesus' subsequent statement, which again repeats His claim to profound unity with His Father, and which the Jews understand as confirming their accusation, makes clear that Jesus is using Psalm 82 to establish the Biblical basis for the exclusive claims He is making. There is, of course, no "Biblical basis" in the OT for the specific divine title, "The Son of God," nor for the specific claims Jesus is making for Himself. The judges of Psalm 82 are called "gods" on far less merit than Jesus. Jesus is using Psalm 82 to establish a general principle - namely, that it is not blasphemous for one with a divine commission to be called by a divine title. Having established this point beyond dispute ("the Scripture cannot be broken"), He then establishes the basis for His unique divine title in His correspondingly higher divine commission ("whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world"). Jesus' title and claims are, therefore, included within the general principle, and He cannot legitimately be accused of blasphemy. The Argument in Context The Jews have asked Jesus to plainly say if He is the Messiah. We may summarize His response as follows:"You should already know the answer to this question: My words and my works tell you plainly who I am. The reason you don't know who I am is because you do not believe. My sheep hear my voice and know me, but you are not my sheep. I grant eternal life to my sheep, and no one can snatch from my hand those that the Father gives me. My Father is greater than all and no one can snatch my sheep from my Father's hand - my Father and I are One!"At this point, the Jews understand that Jesus is making exclusive claims of equality with God, which (unless true!) are blasphemous. Jesus asks which works He has done that warrant the charge of blasphemy. The Jews reply that they are not stoning Him for His works, but for the words He has just spoken. Jesus replies as follows: "The Scripture says that God calls the judges in Psalm 82 'gods' on the basis of their divine commission. Thus, since the Scripture cannot be wrong, it is not blasphemy for one with a divine commission to have a divine title. I do not have a commission like the judges; I have an exclusive commission from my Father, for He set me apart and sent me into the world - to do the works you have seen, to say the words I have said, to grant eternal life to my sheep, to hold them fast in the same way my Father does, for He and I are One. Therefore, I have not committed blasphemy! But even if you persist in denying my words, you should believe on the basis of my works, for they prove that the Father is in Me in the same way I am in Him: we are One!" The Jews, of course, do not believe Jesus - not because they misunderstand Him (such would suggest that Jesus was ineffective in communicating His identity, or was being consciously deceptive) - but because they lack faith. They are not Jesus' sheep, as He has said. Thus, their rejection of Him lies in denial and self-deception, the root cause of all who reject God and His Christ (Romans 1:18 - 19).

G r a m m a t i c a l A n a l y s i s `oti egw eipa qeoi este hOTI EGÔ EIPA THEOI ESTE I said gods you are. · I said (hoti ego eipa). Recitative hoti before a direct quotation like our quotation marks. Eipa is a late second aorist form of indicative with -a instead of -on. (RWP ) · Ye are gods (theoi este). Another direct quotation after eipa but without hoti. The judges of Israel abused their office and God is represented in Ps 82:6 as calling them “gods” (theoi, elohim) because they were God's representatives. See the same use of elohim in Ex 21:6; Ex 22:9, Ex 22:28. Jesus meets the rabbis on their own ground in a thoroughly Jewish way. (RWP ) proV `ouV `o logoV tou qeou egeneto PROS hOUS hO LOGOS TOU THEOU EGENETO With whom the word of God was · To whom the word of God came (pros hous ho logos tou theou egeneto). The relative points to ekeinous, before. These judges had no other claim to the term theoi (elohim). (RWP ) kai ou dunatai luqhnai `h grafh KAI OU DUNATAI LUTHĘNAI hĘ GRAPHĘ And cannot be broken the scripture · And the scripture cannot be broken (kai ou dunatai luthēnai hē graphē). A parenthesis that drives home the pertinency of the appeal, one that the Pharisees had to accept. Luthēnai is first aorist passive infinitive of luō, to loosen, to break. (RWP )

O t h e r V i e w s C o n s i d e r e d Jehovah's Witnesses objection: The New World Translation renders John 10:33 as follows: The Jews answered him: "We are stoning you, not for a fine work, but for blasphemy, even because you, although being a man, make yourself a god. Greg Stafford defends the translation "a god" in this verse as follows: The fact that Jesus answered the Jews by quoting Psalm 82:6 (where beings other than Jehovah are called "gods") shows that they had accused him of claiming to be "a god," not "God" (Stafford , p. 116). Mr. Stafford suggests that if the Jews had accused Jesus of being God, then his response in citing a text where others are not called God would not refute their point and would be essentially meaningless in reply. response: Mr. Stafford's argument seeks to prove that the Jews accused Jesus of making Himself 'a god' solely on the basis of His reply to them. While Jesus' reply is essential in understanding this passage, so is the surrounding context. First, it is important to note that the Jews do not make their accusation on the basis of Jesus calling Himself "God's Son." Instead, it arises from the following claims: 1. He has implicitly agreed that He is the Messiah (v. 25). 2. He has said that the Jews are not "His sheep," to whom He will give eternal life (v. 28). 3. He has said that no one can snatch His sheep from His hand (v. 28). 4. He has said that His Father is "greater than all" (v. 29). 5. He has said that no one can snatch His sheep from His Father's hand (v. 29). 6. He has said that He and His Father are one (v. 30). Now, I could agree that the Jews might have thought Jesus was making Himself "a god" if somewhere in their Scriptures there was 'a god' who had equated Himself to YHWH in this manner. But nowhere do we find 'a god' saying anything like these claims. Jesus says that He is the one who grants eternal life; He places Himself on equal footing with His Father - who is "greater than all" - in claiming that He will keep His sheep firmly in hand; He has claimed to be "one" with His Father. This last cannot be a mere claim to "unity of purpose," for even the Jews would say that they are "one with God" in this regard. For the Jews, Jesus' statements were claims to Divine prerogatives rightly belonging only to YHWH. Furthermore, the specific accusation is blasphemy; I am unaware of any Biblical definition of blasphemy that deals with claims about being 'a god.' Unless Mr. Stafford can provide proof otherwise, this fact supports the traditional interpretation - that is, that the Jews accused Jesus of making Himself God. This interpretation is further supported by Jesus' subsequent remarks, in which He reaffirms his Unity with His Father in slightly different terms (v. 38). Had the accusation been merely that He was making Himself "a god," and if Jesus knew the hearts of His listeners, why does Jesus further incite them with another provocative statement He knew they would misunderstand? Is He trying to mislead them? On the other hand, if Jesus is answering their challenge by asserting His Deity, his further statement in vv. 37ff simply amplifies the point; knowing their hearts, He pushes the point home - "I'm answering your question directly: I am the Messiah, and all that that title entails - but you do not believe because you are not of my sheep." objection: In personal correspondence, Mr. Stafford has argued as follows: Hence, Jesus replies [to] the accusation, telling them that if those against whom the word of God came can be called gods, then surely the one sent by God can be called a god (per the Jews' argument), or in parallel thought, God's Son: Sons of the Most High (Psalm 82) = gods (plural) God's Son (John 10) = a god (singular) response: While I agree with the first statement, I do not believe the second is logically sound. I would rephrase his equations as follows: sons of the Most High (Psalm 82) = gods (plural) a son of the Most High/God = a god (singular) It does not follow that "a son = the Son." Mr. Stafford's argument is, in fact, a logical fallacy known as "affirming the consequent." The link Mr. Stafford forges between the 'sons of the most High' in Ps 82 and "God's Son" in John 10 is not quite the one Jesus does. If Mr. Stafford were right, the Jews could simply answer: "Hey, no fair, Jesus! We know that in some contexts, beings other than God can be called 'gods," but you weren't claiming to be 'a god' or "a son of God" in that sense; you were claiming the prerogatives of the true God just now! Don't just toss an ad hominem argument our way - you are committing blasphemy, and Ps 82 doesn't get you off the hook!" The title "God's Son" must mean essentially the same thing as "I and the Father are one" and "no one can snatch them out of my hands / no one can snatch them out of my Father's hands." In other words, it must be understood as making the same claim to Deity as the statements to which the Jews are reacting. Mr. Stafford argues on the basis that Jesus' argument must be a meaningful response to the Jews. I agree. Thus, Jesus cannot be claiming something less than His previous statements, or less than those that follow - all of which caused the Jews to accuse Him of blasphemy. Indeed, in John 5:19 ff, we find the Jews reacting in much the same way to Jesus' statement that God is "his own Father." With this in mind, we may rephrase Mr. Stafford's equations as follows: sons of the Most High (Psalm 82) = gods (plural) God's Son (John 10) = equal with God (John 5:19) (singular) Jesus cannot turn to an OT passage in which one who is commissioned by God is called the Son of God. But He can point to a passage that establishes the general principle that it is not blasphemous for one with a divine commission to be called by a divine title ("sons of the Most High;" "gods"). Jesus' own title, the Son of God, is justified by His commission par excellence, because it is included within the Scriptural principle He has just established. Notes 1 For a detailed analysis of Jesus' use of Psalm 82, see W. Gary Phillips, "John 10:34-26: An Apologetic Study," Bibliotheca Sacra, 584 (1989) . I am indebted to Phillips' study throughout this next section. 2. Robertson is typical of those advocating this view: "As Jews (and rabbis) they are shut out from charging Jesus with blasphemy because of this usage in the O.T. It is a complete ad hominem argument" (RWP ). D.A. Carson argues: "Although it is ad hominem - i.e., it does not require Jesus to subscribe to the same literal exegesis as his opponents - it is not for that reason silly" (Carson , p. 399). In my view, if Jesus uses an exegesis contrary to the Jews, He has not effectively answered them. It would allow the Jews to reject His answer on the grounds of equivocation - that is, that He now claiming that "the Son of God" means no more than "sons of the Most High" in Psalm 82. I think it better to understand Jesus as establishing a general principle that the Jews would have to agree with, on the basis of their acknowledgement that "the Scripture cannot be broken." 3. This fallacy may be illustrated as follows: If I am in Toledo, I am in Ohio. I am in Ohio, therefore I am in Toledo (not necessarily; I might be in Cleveland). Similarly, if one is the Son of God, one is a son of God. But that does not mean that "a son of God" is the same thing as "the Son of God." The "gods" in Ps 82 are "sons of the Most High," but that does not make them the Son of God.

Verses of John 10


Consult other comments:

John 10:34 - Abbott's Illustrated New Testament

John 10:34 - The Greek Testament

John 10:34 - Albert Barnes' Notes on the Bible

John 10:34 - Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament

John 10:34 - Calvin's Complete Commentary

John 10:34 - The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

John 10:34 - Adam Clarke's Commentary and Critical Notes on the Bible

John 10:34 - Commentary on the Holy Bible by Thomas Coke

John 10:34 - Companion Bible Notes, Appendices and Graphics

John 10:34 - Expository Notes of Dr. Constable (Old and New Testaments)

John 10:34 - Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers (Old and New Testaments)

John 10:34 - The Expositor’s Greek Testament by Robertson

John 10:34 - Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary

John 10:34 - John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

John 10:34 - Gnomon of the New Testament

John 10:34 - Godet Commentary (Luke, John, Romans and 1 Corinthians)

John 10:34 - Henry Alford's Greek Testament

John 10:34 - The Apologists Bible Commentary

John 10:34 - Jamieson, Fausset and Brown's Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

John 10:34 - Heinrich August Wilhelm Meyer's New Testament Commentary

John 10:34 - Commentary Series on the Bible by Peter Pett

John 10:34 - English Annotations on the Holy Bible by Matthew Poole

John 10:34 - Old and New Testaments Restoration Commentary

John 10:34 - Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

John 10:34 - A Popular Commentary on the New Testament

John 10:34 - John Trapp's Complete Commentary (Old and New Testaments)

John 10:34 - The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

John 10:34 - Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament

John 10:34 - Whedon's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

John 10:34 - Combined Bible Commentary

The Apologists Bible Commentary