"Seen Me: Seen Father" - John 14:7-9
John 14:1 - "believe in God, believe also in me." 14:7 - "If ye had known me, ye would have known my Father also: from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him. (:8) Philip saith unto him, Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us. (:9) Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and dost thou not know me, Philip? He that hath seen me hath seen the Father; how sayest thou, Show us the Father? (:10) Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I say unto you I speak not from myself: but the Father abiding in me doeth his works." - ASV.
We can understand what Jesus actually intended when he said "I am in the Father and the Father is in me" and "the Father is abiding in me." And it is not very difficult to understand his saying, "If you had known me, you would have known my Father" since Jesus is in perfect harmony with the Father's will and purpose (i.e. "one," "in," etc.). But what about "he that has seen me has seen the Father"?
First, let's examine the relationship between "abiding in," "knowing," and "seeing" (horao in NT Greek) as commonly used figuratively in the Bible. 1 John 2:3, 5, 6 - "by this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments .... By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner He walked [your purpose, actions words, and life must reflect his example]." - NASB. And 1 John 3:29, "he that keeps His [God's] commandments abides in Him, and He in him." - NASB. These scriptures show, again, the intended meaning for the figurative use of "abides."
Now notice the relationship between "know" and "see": 3 John 11 - "the one who does good is of God; the one who does evil has not seen [horao] God." And 1 John 3:6 - "No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen [horao] Him or knows Him." - NASB.
We can see, then, that horao ("see") can mean the same thing as "abiding in" or "knowing," and all three may have the figurative meaning of agreement in purpose and will with someone else.
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, vol. 4, p. 380, tells us:
"What is seen in a vision is a revelation from God. Statements that human beings have seen or will see God Himself do not refer to a perception of a physical aspect of God by human physical senses but a process of coming to some amount of understanding of God, often just a simple realization of His greatness or some other aspect of His nature, either by a revelatory vision (Isa. 6:15; Ezk. 1:26-28), … or by their acquaintance with Jesus Christ (Jn 14:9, cf. 1:18)." – Eerdmans, 1991.
The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Vol. 3, 1986 printing, Zondervan, pp. 513, 515, 518, explains the meanings of horao.
"Horao" means "... become aware (Gen. 37:1). (b) figuratively it comes to be used of intellectual or spiritual perception .... It also means ... attend to, know or have experienced (Deut. 11:2), or be concerned about something (Gen. 37:14; Is. 5:12)." - p. 513. - - "Besides the general meaning of to know, horao and its derivatives can mean to obtain knowledge". - p. 515.
This trinitarian reference also states:
"For the NT God is utterly invisible (Jn 6:46; 1 Tim. 1:17; 6:16; Col. 1:15) ... yet the resurrection narratives especially stress that the risen Christ is visible." - p. 518.
Professor Joseph H. Thayer (who was "the dean of New Testament scholars in America" - Dictionary of American Biography, Vol. IX) in his Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament ("a standard in the field") also defines horao with similar meanings and specifically tells us that John 14:7, 9 is in the category of "2. to see with the mind, to perceive, to KNOW."
In discussing this meaning of "horao," Thayer writes:
"to know God's will, 3 John 11; from the intercourse and influence of Christ to have come to see (know) God's majesty, saving purposes, and WILL, Jn. xiv. 7, 9". - p. 451, Baker Book House, 1984 printing.
We can understand, then, why the very trinitarian The NIV Study Bible, 1985, Zondervan, explains John 14:7 this way:
"Once more Jesus stresses the intimate connection between the Father and himself. Jesus brought a full revelation of the Father (cf. 1:18), so that the apostles had real knowledge of him." - footnote for John 14:7.
Trinitarian minister and acclaimed New Testament scholar, Dr. William Barclay, also comments on John 14:7-9:
"The Jews [including Jesus, of course, and those to whom he spoke] would count it as an article of faith that no man had seen God at any time .... To see Jesus is to see what God is like." - p. 159. "`He who has seen me has seen the Father,' Jesus is the revelation of God." - p. 161.
"The danger of the Christian faith is that we may set up Jesus as a kind of secondary God. But Jesus himself insists that the things he said and the things he did did not come from his own initiative or his own power or his own knowledge but from God. His words were God's voice speaking to men; His deeds were God's power flowing through him to men. He was the channel by which God came to men." - The Daily Study Bible Series: The Gospel of John, pp. 159, 161, 162, Vol. 2, The Westminster Press, 1975.
So there is no real reason to insist that John 14:7, 9 shows Jesus as being equally God with his Father. The probability is that, in harmony with the usage of the time, Jesus was merely saying that what he spoke came from God, and what he did is what God directed. He meant that understanding what he did and said was like knowing ("seeing") God* (as, in a similar sense, those who literally saw angels sent by God and speaking God's words were said to have "seen God"). Jesus is totally in harmony with ("one" with) the Father in purpose (see the ONE study paper) so that we can "see" the Father's will in Jesus.
As in all other "Jesus is equally God" evidence, we find that the trinitarian "proof" is a scripture that can honestly be translated or interpreted in at least one other way which would prove no such thing!
We never find a statement clearly stating that "Jesus is equally and fully God" in the entire Bible. And yet other such essential knowledge that leads to eternal life is clearly and repeatedly emphasized: "Jesus is the Christ [Messiah]," "our savior and king" - the one who appears before God in heaven in our behalf, the one through whom we must approach God. Surely this most important information in the Bible of exactly who God is and exactly who Jesus is would not be hidden from us in the slightest degree!
*Origen, noted by many to be the greatest and most knowledgeable scholar of the NT Greek explained John 14:9:
"But ... God is invisible .... Whereas, on the contrary, God, the Father of Christ, is said to be seen, because `he who sees the Son,' he says, `sees also the Father.' This certainly would press us hard [to explain], were the expression not understood by us more correctly of understanding, and not of seeing. For he who has understood the Son will understand the Father also." - p. 277, vol. iv, The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Eerdmans Publishing.
For more, see:
Seeing God; Jesus (John 14:9) (Insight-1 pp. 789-791; Watchtower Online Library)