“Whom Do You Make Yourself out to be?”
The question, or rather the ugly insinuation of being a blasphemer by the Jews (see John 8) is still being asked of Jesus today in a more genteel way by those who deny the Deity of Christ. It is assumed, that Jesus must actually say” I am God” for the truth of Incarnation of the Word of God to be true. It never seems to occur to them that they are assuming the validity of their own numerical Monotheism ( i.e., “ONE” Person, if they even grant personhood to the notion of what it means to be God). And by Incarnation it is not meant that the “Word” was equivalent to the Greek demiurge or eternal reason or “thought” of God. The Apostle John, in the first eighteen verses of his Gospel asserts the primacy of Plurality of Persons over the demiurge paradigm of Greek philosophy, the Incarnation of the Second Person of a plurality of Persons called God, the only one of His kind, to be the author of eternal salvation to every one who believed in Him.
H. B. Swete, author of “Introduction To the Old Testament In Greek”, a work that has been used in Seminaries around the world for well over a hundred years, has also written extensively on the New Testament and its major teachings about God and the Kingdom of God. In a series given while Regius Professor of Divinity in the University of Cambridge (1903) sought to clarify the teachings of Jesus about Himself in the Gospels. Only a short portion is included here, in exactly the way it appears in print (though not easy or cheap to come by) for the purpose of showing how simply and persuasively Jesus affirmed His unique and essential union with the Father that defies simplistic dismissal. He makes his points in a scholars hand that should be patiently but closely followed to gain the full import of what the Apostle’s related about what Jesus began to do and teach. ( Note: ” ——” marks page end ).
“TEACHING IN THE GOSPEL OF ST. JOHN” *
“Who art Thou?” “Whom makest Thou Thyself?” 1 Others saw quite clearly what Jesus meant; He “called God His own (ιδιον) Father, making Himself equal with God”; “Thou, being a man,” they said bluntly, “makest Thyself God.” 2 On two occasions this conviction lashed them into a fury; they seized the fragments of marble which were lying on the pavement of the courts, and would have stoned Him for a blasphemer then and there.3 Were they mistaken in their interpretation of His words? A large and growing body of modern theologians is of opinion that they were. The question is a vital one. Jesus taught as He did at the risk of His life, and must therefore have regarded this element in His teaching as of primary importance. That it was reserved for Jerusalem and for the Temple invests it with especial solemnity. What then is the nature of the Sonship which our Lord claims in these discourses?
1 John viii. 19, 25, 53. 2 John v.I8, x. 33· 3 John viii. 59, x, 31.
Is it merely an ethical relation to God, a relation of love and trust, and intimate fellowship, unique’ in its perfection, but the same in kind as that which belongs to all living members of His Church? Or is it, over and above this, an essential relation, involving a participation in the inner life of God? In support of the former view it is argued that in other passages the Lord attributes to the disciples the same distinctive features of Divine Sonship: “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world”; “the glory which Thou hast given Me I have given unto them, that they may be one, even as We are One.” I Such words show clearly that there is an analogy between the Sonship of Christ and the sonship of believers; the latter is, if we may dare to speak so, modeled upon the former; the ethical characteristics of the two differ only in degree. But the question before us is not answered by pointing out certain resemblances. Can we apply to the disciples of Christ, in any state of perfection
I John xvii. 16, 22. Teaching of Our Lord. 10
which can be reached by a created nature, all that the Lord has claimed for Himself? Can they be said, e.g., to have life in themselves as the Father hath life in Himself? 1 Would any degree, of moral assimilation to God ·justify· a merely human being in saying, “I and the Father are one”? In nearly everyone of our Lord’s sayings about His Sonship there is something which cannot be transferred to His disciples, which the Christian consciousness refuses to regard as applicable to itself. Thus His words justify the Evangelist’s deduction that He is “the Only-begotten Son,” and even “God only-begotten.” It is not without significance that the writer of the Fourth Gospel does not permit himself to call believers “sons of God “; they are “children” (τεκνα), but he reserves the title “Son” (ό υίός) for our Lord.
1 There is a sense in which believers may be said ἔχετε ζωὴν ἐν ἑαυτοῖς (cf. John vi. 53), but not ὥσπερ γὰρ ὁ πατὴρ (v. 26).
2 Cf John i. 12, xi. 52; I John iii. I f., 10, V. 2.
On one occasion, indeed, Jesus ‘seems to deprecate the logical import of His words. “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, Ye are gods’? If He called them ‘gods’ unto whom the word of God came, and the Scripture cannot be broken, say ye of Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘Thou blasphemest,’ because I said, I am the Son of God’?”1 The argument is from the less to the greater; “if· Divinity could be ascribed by an inspired writer to mere mortal men who were entrusted with the Divine word in the ordinary way, how, can it be denied to One who has been sent from God with a direct message to mankind? ” Our Lord purposely limits Himself here to the lowest view which could be taken of His mission; even on that hypothesis He has the right to call Himself Son of God. But it is clear that He does this without prejudice to any higher’ claim, and His words cannot be taken to neutralize all that He has elsewhere said as to His essential oneness with the Father.”
I John x, 34 ff. Cf. Psa, lxxxii. 6 f. (LXX.: ἐγὼ εἶπα θεοί ἐστε καὶ υἱοὶ ὑψίστου πάντες).
* From: H. B. Swete, D.D., Studies In The Teaching Of Our Lord, (Hodder and Stoughton, Publishers, 1906), pp 128-132.