John 10:30: Oneness of Father and Son

A fascinating article by American Muslim scholar Ali Ataie, first published here

In fact, the authorities get their wish and Jesus makes perhaps his most controversial statement yet: “I and the Father are one” (ἐγὼ καὶ ὁ πατὴρ ἕν ἐσμεν). As they pick up stones (once again) in order to create a melodramatic public display of disapproval, Jesus this time (unlike following John 8:58), engages them as to why they are doing what they are doing. Christ protects his flock and gives them eternal life through his teaching and their full acceptance of it. However the Father is the source of everything, and it was He who gave (δέδωκέν) the sheep to Jesus, the Good Shepherd, in the first place, and He also protects His shepherd’s flock – He and Jesus are one: in will, purpose, and intention, born out of love.

In vs. 28-29, we now have the allusion to Zechariah 13:7 that I mentioned earlier. We now understand that when God said: “I will turn my hand upon the little ones,” He was referring to the protection (عناية) of the Disciples when the shepherd, the “man of God’s fellowship,” (من المقربين[Q 3:44.9]), will be struck. This oneness is due to Christ’s theosis (جمع) with the Father; a relational oneness that he offers his followers as well, and has nothing at all to do with any notion of homoousion or ontological henositic union (إتحاد) with God. Brown says about v. 30, “we find that the unity posited there also concerns men; for just as the Father and Son are one, so they bind men to themselves as one – ‘that they may be one, even as we’ (xvii 11).”

The authorities respond that Jesus had committed “blasphemy” (βλασφημία) because he “made himself a god (θεόν),” which may also be rendered the God. In other words, the authorities are at least charging Jesus with giving himself divine attributes that belong only to God, the Father. In vs. 37-38, however, Christ centralizes the Father by telling the authorities to believe in the works of the Father which He does through Christ. If the authorities can at least confess that Jesus does the works of God as a navi (نبي) or tsaddiq (صديق), such “partial faith” will eventually lead the authorities “to know and understand” (γνῶτε [aorist sub.] καὶ γινώσκητε [pres. sub.]) that Jesus has a unique unitive relationship with the Father because he is the monogenes Son, that is to say, the one and only Messiah.

The reader of John should know at this point that Jesus is engaging a specific method of catechesis (κατηχησις), and pivotal to his teaching method is to “reason from the Scriptures” (διελέξατο αὐτοῖς ἀπὸ τῶν γραφῶν), to use the Lukan phrase from Acts 17:2.5. Jesus says in effect: “Even if I called myself ‘god/God’ (θεος), does not the Tanakh refer to Messengers of God as ‘gods?’ (Psalm 82:6; Exo. 7:1). Why do you think that is? Is it not because they are sanctified and holy men? This is how God (ο θεος) honors and exalts them. Yet you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am (εἰμι) the Son of God (Messiah) – sanctified and sent!?’ Your charge is not consistent with Scripture! But forget about nitpicking terms, look at my works! Do you not see that they are miracles? If so, how am I able to do them? Now look at my obedience to God and my character. Am I self-aggrandizing or do I give the glory to God? My works coupled with my ethics testify that I am true and that I love God and God loves me.”

Brown says: “The reason why the judges could be called gods was because they were vehicles of the word of God (vs. 35), but on that premise Jesus deserves so much the more to be called God… The Psalm concerns the judges who received the title of gods; one of John’s themes is that Jesus is the judge par excellence; Scripture thus finds its fulfillment in Jesus, who is par excellence worthy of the title given to judges.” “In no way would receiving revelation ever provide a reason to be associated with God as a partner in His godhead.” Hengel’s assertion that with John 10:30, “the Evangelist is on the way toward the Nicene Creed: θεον αληθινον εκ θεου αληθινου, γεννηθεντα ου ποιηθεντα, ομοουσιον τω πατρι,” seems to me to be conveniently ignorant of its context. Rae argues that Jesus’ statement in John 14:28, “The Father is greater than I” (ὁ πατὴρ μείζων μού ἐστιν) indicates “a functional subordination and not an ontological one,” i.e. the the Father is greater than the Son is His “office:” a clever way of dealing with the text, but in contradiction to the Council of Florence (1438-45) which dictates: “No one of them [the three persons] precedes the others in eternity, or exceeds them in greatness.”

Moltmann comments: “Here the Trinity is a non-hierarchical community of equals” (emphasis mine), while Jesus the Son clearly admits his inferiority to the Father. While Trinitarian theologians continually maintain that the councils are grounded by Scripture, it is at least very difficult to justify Trinitarian concepts such as Perichoresis with John 14:28 hanging around the text. As stated earlier, it is axiomatic that “Jesus of Nazareth,” the incarnated Logos, is not greater than the Father; this goes without saying. Jesus’ mentioning of the Father must be read in juxtaposition with “the Son.” The Father is greater than the Son because the former caused the latter’s existence. The Father is, in the language of the Patristics, “the very God” (autotheos) and uncaused (agennetos), and additionally, the only person of the “Trinity” who is called ho theos (the God) in Scripture and referred to by the Son as the “one true God” (tov monon aleithinon theon [John 17:21.5]) and even “my God” (theov mou [John 20:17.5]).

From an Islamic standpoint, the Modal & Dynamic Monarchists as well as the Proto-orthodox were correct, there is indeed a nominal difference between the Father and Son, but contra Modalism, this isn’t the only difference, and contra Proto-orthodoxy, this difference was real, essential, and ontological. Tertullian points points out that “one” here in the Greek of John 10:30 is the neuter “hen” (Lat. unum) and not the masculine heis (unus), with the former, according to him, referring to substance (substantia) and the latter to person (persona). Thus the text affirms homoousion theology while avoiding Modalism. Unfortunately for Tertullian, Jesus uses the same neuter word, “hen,” while praying for his Disciples to be “one, just as we are one” (ὦσιν ἓν καθὼς ἡμεῖς ἕν ἐσμεν [John 17:22.9]).

I would argue that Philo uses the word “god” (θεος) with reference to Moses in his Life of Moses in a way that is not dissimilar to how Jesus intends its usage here in John 10. Litwa says: “The mode of deification in Philo is participation. As true Being (το ον), Philo’s primal God is divine in and of himself. Other divine beings, by contrast, need to participate in the divinity of the Existent to gain the name of θεος.” According to Philo, the prophets, the ones to whom the “word of Allah came” (John 10:35.5), are “‘inspired’ (επιθειασας) (Mos. 2.259, cf 263, 272), “carried by God” (θεοφορειται) (Mos. 2.250, cf. 264, 273), or “possessed” (κατασχεθεις) (Mos. 2.288). When Moses became a prophet and received the word of God, he experienced a “metamorphosis (μεταμορφουμενος), transformed into a prophet (μεταβαλων υπο θεου)” and was “ensouled by God” (εψυχωσθαι υπο προφητην). “The inspired Moses was “no longer in himself” (ουκετ ων εν εαυτω) (Mos. 2.250).” But Moses only “comes near to the Existent,” he is not actually Him. Christ as the perfect human manifestation of God’s well-pleasing Will, represented by the exalted epithet “the Logos,” was just as much θεος as Moses, in fact even more deservedly due to his unique relationship with the Father – “a unique god” (μονογενὴς θεὸς [John 1:18.5]).

Although I have mentioned various ayat and ahadith of the Prophet Muhammad which indicate theosis between God and the human being, I feel it is appropriate at this point in my theo-mystical exegesis of John 10 to list some of them together:

“Whoever obeys the the Sent One, obeys God” (Q 4:80).
من يطع الرسول فقد أطاع الله

“God and His Apostle; it is more befitting that you (all) please Him (meaning them)” (Q 9:62).
والله ورسوله أحق أن يرضوه

“And you did not throw when you threw; rather it was God who threw” (Q 8:17).
وما رميت إذ رميت ولكن الله رمى

“And he never speaks from himself; it is nothing other than Revelation revealed to him” (Q 53:3-4).
وما ينطق عن الهوى إن هو ألا وحي يوحى

“ (The Messenger is) kind (ra’uf) and merciful (rahim) to the believers” (Q 9:128).
بالمؤمنين رؤوف رحيم

“Who obeys me, obeys God; whoever disobeys me, disobeys God.”
من أطاعني فقد أطاع الله ومن عصاني فقد عصا الله

“Fatimah is a piece of my flesh; whoever angers her, angers me, and whoever angers me, angers God.”

فاطمة بضعة منني فمن أغضبها فقد أغضبني ومن أغضبني فقد أغضب الله

“Whoever sees me in a dream has seen the Truth.”
من رآني في المنام فقد رآ الحق

“Whoever shows enmity towards my friend/saint (wali), then I will declare war of him.”

من عادى لي وليا فقد آذنت بالحرب

“My servant does not perform any action more beloved to Me than his obligatory acts (fara’idh); and he continues to draw near unto me with supererogatory acts (nawafil) until I love him. Then I become the hearing by which he hears, the eyesight by which he sees, the hand by which he holds, and the foot by which he walks; and if he were to ask anything from me I will surely give it to him.”

وما تقرب إلي عبدي بشيء أحب إلي مما افترضته عليه، ولا يزال عبدي يتقرب إلي بالنوافل حتى أجبه. فإذا أحببته كنت
سمعه الذي يسمع به، وبصره الذي يبصر به، ويده التي يبطش بها، ورجله التي يمشي بها، ولئن سألني لأعطينه.

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Categories: Bible, Biblical scholarship, Christianity, God, Islam, Quran

6 replies

  1. مَن كَانَ عَدُوًّا لِّلّهِ وَمَلآئِكَتِهِ وَرُسُلِهِ وَجِبْرِيلَ وَمِيكَالَ فَإِنَّ اللّهَ عَدُوٌّ لِّلْكَافِرِينَ

    Whoever is an enemy to Allah, His Angels, His Messengers, Jibrael (Gabriel) and Mikael (Michael), then verily, Allah is an enemy to the disbelievers.

    [Quran 2:98]

    Like

    • This is regarding those who slandered the angel Gabriel.

      Allah, His angels and His messengers are one in the sense that animosity to any one of them is animosity to all of them.

      Like

  2. Masha’Allah.
    It’s very fine article. I have no idea why Dr Ataie is not in the stage ?!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Could Ali Atai be invited to produce articles here? And by the way here is a very interesting link for Paul Willaims

    http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/the-deliberately-flawed-divine-torah/

    Liked by 1 person

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