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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

John 10:33 "a god" or "God"?

John 10:33 "a god" or "God"?

(From the RDB Files)

John is the only Gospel writer who used the word theos in all its meanings. It should not be surprising, then, that he is also the only Gospel writer who clearly applies the title theos directly to Jesus!  John, like some of those ancient Hebrew Scripture writers of the Old Testament who used elohim in all its various meanings, used it to mean the only true God over 90% of the time.  But in a few scriptures he used it to mean "a god" in its positive, subordinate, secondary sense.  A clear instance of this is found at John 10:33-36 where Jesus quotes from and comments on Psalm 82:6.

It is certainly better to use the trinitarian-translated New English Bible (NEB) here because it obviously translates theos correctly at John 10:33 ("a god") whereas the King James Version and many other trinitarian translations do not.

The context of John 10:33-36 (and of Psalm 82:6 which is quoted there) and NT Greek grammar show "a god" to be the correct rendering. Young's Concise Critical Bible Commentary, p. 62, by the respected trinitarian, Dr. Robert Young, confirms this:

"`makest thyself a god,' not `God' as in C.V. [King James Version or `Common Version'], otherwise the definite article would not have been omitted, as it is here, and in the next two verses, -- `gods .. gods,' where the title is applied to magistrates, and others ...."

It is also admitted that this is the meaning of Jn 10:33 by noted trinitarian NT scholar C. H. Dodd:
"making himself a god." - The Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel, p. 205, Cambridge University Press, 1995 reprint.

A Translator's Handbook on the Gospel of John by trinitarians Newman and Nida insists that "a god" would not be "in keeping with the theology of John" and the charge of blasphemy by the Jews, but, nevertheless, also admits:

     "Purely on the basis of the Greek text, therefore, it is possible to translate  [John 10:33] 'a god,' as NEB does, rather than to translate God, as TEV and several other translations do.  One might argue on the basis of both the Greek and the context, that the Jews were accusing Jesus of claiming to be `a god' rather than 'God.' "- p. 344, United Bible Societies, 1980.

The highly respected (and highly trinitarian) W. E. Vine indicates the proper rendering here:
"The word [theos] is used of Divinely appointed judges in Israel, as representing God in His authority, John 10:34" - p. 491, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words.
So, in the NEB it reads:

" 'We are not going to stone you for any good deed, but for your blasphemy. You, a mere man, claim to be a god.'  Jesus answered, 'Is it not written in your own Law, "I said: You are gods"?  Those are called gods to whom the word of God was delivered - and Scripture cannot be set aside.  Then why do you charge me with blasphemy because I, consecrated and sent into the world by the Father, said, "I am God's SON"?' "

Not only do we see John using theos in its positive alternate meaning here, but we also see Jesus clarifying it.  When some of the Jews were ready to stone him because they said he was claiming to be a god (Jesus' reply about men being called gods in the scriptures would have been nonsensical if he were replying to an accusation of being God), Jesus first pointed out that God himself had called judges of Israel gods (Ps. 82:6)! 

Also see: 


Timitrius said...

The only issue I have with this, and I am not a Trinitarian myself, is that I'm not sure why the Jews would have thought from Jesus saying that he was one in purpose with the Father (10:30) that he was "a god", and thus committing blasphemy?

Put another way, why did the Jews want to stone Jesus for claiming to be "a god", as opposed to claiming to be "God", and why did they get this impression from Jesus' words at 10:30?

tigger2 said...

From my “I Am” study:

As for the charge that the Jews were going to stone him because he claimed to be God, we should be aware that the Jews stoned people for many offenses. For example, a person pretending to be a "wizard" was to be stoned to death according to the Law (Lev. 20:27 - KJV, RSV, ASV, LB). Today's Dictionary of the Bible, 1982 ed., tells us
"Wizard, a pretender to supernatural knowledge and power .... such a one was forbidden on pain of death to practice his deceptions ... Lev. 20:26, 27." - p. 654.

We also know that some of the Jews wanted Jesus killed for blasphemy because he admitted to being the Messiah (Christ) - see Matt 26:59-68 and footnotes for Matt 26:65 and Luke 22:71 in The NIV Study Bible, Zondervan Publ., 1985.

It was even forbidden by the Jews for others to say that Jesus was the Messiah - John 9:22. And, in fact, that was obviously why Stephen was stoned to death.

At Acts 7:55-58, Stephen looked up into heaven "and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and he said, 'Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of man [synonymous with the Messiah, not God] standing at the right hand of God.' But they [the Jews] ... cast him out of the city, and stoned him." - RSV.

Stephen was stoned, not because he claimed to be God, nor because he claimed Jesus was God (quite the contrary, in fact, as his quoted statement clearly shows: Jesus "standing at the right hand of God") but because he was proclaiming Jesus to be the Messiah (Christ)! See The NIV Study Bible footnotes for Acts 7:56 and Mk 8:31.
Not only would the Jews be familiar with the expression “I and [another person or persons] are one,” but Jesus has just told them (10:29), “My Father is greater than ALL.” - NASB.

Also see:

THEON - ('RDB's Rule')
ONE - John 10:30

These are in the right hand column of the home page here.

Anonymous said...

There is a quote from p344 United Bible Societies 1980

Is this the name of the publication. If so what is it?

tigger2 said...

The quotes from this publication begin in the paragraph before this one. The title of it is also given in that earlier paragraph: "A Translator's Handbook on the Gospel of John."

Timitrius said...

In response to my own comment above, Jesus claimed to have been given God's authority and prerogatives (verses 27-30), and the Jews viewed this as a presumptuous, and therefore blasphemous claim to have been given Jehovah's authority. Thus he made himself "God" i.e. put himself in God's place. Jesus responded that those who were given authority by God as judges in Israel were called "gods" so why shouldn't God's only-begotten Son claim such authority? There is nothing in it to do with "homo-ousiousness".