Last time we left, our study of the Trinity was in the gospel of John and we were in the tenth chapter. If you’re just now reading this, I definitely recommend reading yesterday’s blog to understand what is going on in this chapter. To give a brief summary, last time, Jesus said “I and the Father are one” which we saw as a statement of him affirming his deity. Today, we’re going to see the response to that by the Jews in verses 31-39 of the same chapter.
31Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, 32but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?”
33“We are not stoning you for any of these,” replied the Jews, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”
34Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are gods’? 35If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came—and the Scripture cannot be broken— 36what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’?37Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. 38But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.” 39Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp.
To begin with, they pick up the stones to stone Jesus. Jesus points to his miracles and asks for which one of them they are stoning him. They answer they stone him not because of the miracles but because he, a man, claims to be God.
Let’s be sure on this. The Jews did understand what Jesus was saying very well. The problem was not that they did not understand what he said. The problem was that they understood what he said and did not believe it.
Jesus gives an interesting argument in reply and I recommend going back and reading it. What did he mean by that? “You are gods?” This is an argument that the Mormons will often use and even if the Mormons did not, this is still a confusing passage to some and we should study it not just to answer the cults but for our own edification. Keep in mind that that is also important when studying the Trinity as we are. If you think the purpose of this is only to beat up Jehovah’s Witnesses, you’ve missed the boat. This is to help us in our education and our knowledge of the holy.
Jesus quoted Psalm 82. Let’s look at that Psalm.
1 God presides in the great assembly;
he gives judgment among the “gods”:
2 “How long will you defend the unjust
and show partiality to the wicked?
3 Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless;
maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed.
4 Rescue the weak and needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.
5 “They know nothing, they understand nothing.
They walk about in darkness;
all the foundations of the earth are shaken.
6 “I said, ‘You are “gods”;
you are all sons of the Most High.’
7 But you will die like mere men;
you will fall like every other ruler.”
8 Rise up, O God, judge the earth,
for all the nations are your inheritance.
I take this to be a reference to Israel as the statement pointed to commands they were to follow and they were in the assembly of YHWH. However, they were not fulfilling the role they were supposed to be doing. Therefore, while they are gods in their position of judging, they will die like mere men. It’s a mocking Psalm. To our Mormon friend, keep in mind it does not say “You will become gods.” It says “You are gods.” It’s present tense.
Jesus then says that the law cannot be broken, a strong teaching on the inerrancy of the OT, and since that is the case, then if these wicked and evil men have the right to be called gods, then surely he, the righteous one, has the right to be called the Son of God. (Note that being the Son of God is seen as being equal to God.)
Jesus is using an argument that the Jews would call “qal wahomer.” We call it “A fortiori.” It’s the lesser to greater argument.It starts with a lesser point and uses that support a greater point. Let’s look at some other examples. The first from John 7.
21Jesus said to them, “I did one miracle, and you are all astonished. 22Yet, because Moses gave you circumcision (though actually it did not come from Moses, but from the patriarchs), you circumcise a child on the Sabbath. 23Now if a child can be circumcised on the Sabbath so that the law of Moses may not be broken, why are you angry with me for healing the whole man on the Sabbath?
And from Matthew 7:
9“Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! 12So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!
The argument is in fact an argument for the deity of Christ. The Jews understood that. That is why they picked up stones to stone him yet again.
Let us hope that the opponents of Jesus do not take him more seriously than we do.