Our new commentator, KG, has a bee in his bonnet; in all kindness, let us try to swat it. If I interpret him aright, his line is that to say Jesus was God is not to say that there is a conundrum which led Christians to the articulation of the Trinity, but rather that, understood in the context of Second Temple Judaism, it does not mean what later Christians took it to mean, and that the idea that Jesus is the Deity is a Platonic implant; he has failed to explain how the Jews who followed Jesus and knew nothing of Plato could identify Jesus as God, because he maintains that this does not mean what Christians take it to mean. This fails to explain why the early Christians were persecuted by the Jewish authorities, or why a Pharisee called Saul, when he converted, did not use the arguments KG uses, to stop the authorities persecuting him and others; perhaps Paul, like the rest of us, lacked KG’s knowledge of the Second Temple Judaism in which he had been living, and with which he continued to interact? Ignoring the Saul/Paul problem, KG offers the passage which many Muslims, Messianic Jews and JW’s offer to support their heretical views; as he is shy about telling us which of these he is, let us take the passage he offers and subject it to some exegesis.
Jesus answered them, “Has it not been written in your Law, ‘I
said, you are gods’? If he called them gods, to whom the word
of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), 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’?”
So what is being said here? Do the words huios ton theon eimi, mean Jesus was not claiming He was God? If so, it is hard to explain verse 39; why did the Jews try to seize him? Perhaps, like the early Christians, they thought he was claiming to be God? They certainly could not have tried to seize him because he was claiming something else; that would make no sense. So, we can see that the Jews here took him to be blaspheming, reading ‘theon’ as ‘God’, not ‘a god’. Unless, of course, the Jews wanted to stone him because they were just feeling that way that day; perhaps, unlike KG, as Second Temple Jews, they understood only too well what Jesus was claiming?
The notion that the passage supports the view that Jesus is not claiming to be God does not only not fit with what verse 39 says, it makes verse 30 incomprehensible: ‘ I and My Father are one.” The Shema (Deuteronomu 6:4) teaches that YHWH is one, but in place of YHWH Jesus places himself. Form any orthodox Jewish perspective this was rank blasphemy and merited the penalty of stoning. They picked up stones as the natural reaction to this. The Jews did the same to Saul/Paul. Paul did not turn round and say that that this was all a big misunderstanding, he said Jesus was one with God. The Jews tried to stone him for it, as he had joined in the stoning of Christians for their crime. Or perhaps KG thinks they were picking up stones for some other reason?
I shall retirn to this theme, God willing, next week.
In a second post on Monday, I shall return to this theme.