Friday, March 27, 2009

Jesus said, "I and the Father are ONE"

I have decided to continue with the theme of the deity of Christ. In an earlier post, we have established that the earliest Christians believed Christ to be divine. Although some examples were previously provided, I have chosen to narrow down on two example of Christ's revelationary self-identification.

In John 10:30 Jesus makes a very important claim - a claim that those in his presence recognised and Christians and non-Christians alike recognise. This claim is one that sets Jesus' apart from the prophets (both from God and false).

Jesus said:
"I and the Father are one."
One of the greatest ways to understand this verse is to see how those living in Jesus' context saw it. So, how did they react?

"Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, "I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?"

"We are not stoning you for any of these," replied the Jews, "but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, CLAIM TO BE GOD." "
John 10:31-33

The enormity of the statement, “I and the Father are one,” within the context of the Gospel of John is difficult to overstate. There are several reasons for this. First, this is a type of “I am” statement for Jesus, this time “we are.” There is a continued reference to the divine name of Jehovah God, I AM (see John 8:58 below). Second, there is a further divine claim in obvious allusion to the famous Shema of Deuteronomy 6:4, “Hear O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” This was the monotheistic bedrock of the Jewish religion, that there was only one God. Yet Jesus has now included himself in this monotheistic confession. He does not mean that he has achieved some type of mystical unity with God that might be more at home with Hinduism. He is speaking of the very essence of his relationship with the Father, that there is a sameness about them. The theological math here is that 1 + 1 = 1 (cf. John 1:1). And yet a third element in this should be noted. Jesus does not say, “I am the Father.” Although he makes a mighty claim here, he continues to maintain a certain level of distinction between the Father and himself.

But this isn't the only time Jesus made this claim. We turn to John 8:58-59:

"Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham 1was born, I am.” "
Now, how did those Jews in Jesus' context react to this?

"Therefore they apicked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple. " (verse 59)
At this point Jesus makes one of the most sensational statements in all of the recorded Gospels, and one of the most staggering statements in John, “before Abraham was, I am.” This is the climax of the “I am” statements in John. Here the “I am” has two very important implications.

First, the “I am” (ἐγὼ εἰμί, egō eimi) is an intentional play upon the divine name of God found in the Old Testament. At the burning bush, when Moses asked God what his name was, the answer was “I am who I am” (Exod 3:14). In Hebrew, this name is יהוה (YHWH), which is sometimes transliterated as “Jehovah.” It is based upon the Hebrew verb for “being,” and so God’s personal name revealed to Moses is literally “the I am.” Here, as in verses 24 and 28, there is no complement for the verb. The statement is not “I am (something).” It is just “I am.” Jesus has already said that one must “believe that I am” (v. 24) and “know that I am” (v. 28). To make these demands is to claim the name of God for personal use. In some ways Jesus is saying, “I am the ‘I am.” I am God.”

Second, this claim has other enormous theological implications. By saying “before Abraham was, I am,” Jesus is asserting his transcendence over time and history. He does not say “I was there with Abraham.” In effect, he says “I am there with Abraham, and even before.” Time does not limit God, and it does not limit Jesus. As John has said, “In the beginning was the Word” (1:1; cf. Rev 22:13).

We must be careful here. For us these theological truths can be dangerously overstated as in the simplistic bumper-sticker theology that says, “Jesus is Jehovah.” Although we may not completely understand all the distinctions, Jesus does not remove everything that separates the Father from the Son. In fact if there is no difference between the Father and the Son, much of what Jesus has said in this chapter is nonsense: God is not his Father; he is his own “father.” The Father did not send him; he sent himself. He does not know the Father; he knows himself. This results in a loss of the humanity of Jesus, a loss that orthodox Christianity has never tolerated. At the end of the day we must affirm both the full humanity and the full divinity of Christ, and that is precisely one of the major agendas of the Gospel of John.

Time for talking is now over as far as the Jews are concerned. They understand exactly what is at stake in Jesus’ claim to be “I am.” He has gone far beyond being an irritation to them. He is now a dangerous blasphemer, a threat that cannot be ignored. Mob violence mentality takes control, and preparations for a stoning/ lynching begin. But this is not the time, place, or method for Jesus’ death, so the text says he hid himself and he gets away safely (implying a miraculous escape).

Hence, these two statements are so powerful that one cannot deny that Christ claimed to be divine.

[Related posts: The Myth: The Early Christians did Not believe Christ to be Divine| The Deity of Christ | The Subordination of Christ ]


  1. How people can claim the Bible does not testify to the divinity of Christ I do not know. It is so clear. Thanks for another great post.

  2. Greetings Ari

    On the subject of who Jesus is,
    especially in regards to
    John 10.30ff, Deut 6.4, John 8.58, 1.1ff;
    I recommend this video:
    The Human Jesus

    Take a couple of hours to watch it; and prayerfully it will aid you in your quest for truth.

    Yours In Messiah
    Adam Pastor