Search Related Sites

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Is Jesus called "God" in John 10:33? Or is he called "a god"?

John 10:33 "a god" or "God"?

John is the only Gospel writer who used the word theos in all its meanings. It should not be surprising, then, that he is also the only Gospel writer who clearly applies the title theos directly to Jesus!  John, like some of those ancient Hebrew Scripture writers of the Old Testament who used elohim in all its various meanings, used it to mean the only true God over 90% of the time.  But in a few scriptures he used it to mean "a god" in its positive, subordinate, secondary sense.  A clear instance of this is found at John 10:33-36 where Jesus quotes from and comments on Psalm 82:6.

It is certainly better to use the trinitarian-translated New English Bible (NEB) here because it obviously translates theos correctly at John 10:33 ("a god") whereas the King James Version and many other trinitarian translations do not.

The context of John 10:33-36 (and of Psalm 82:6 which is quoted there) and NT Greek grammar show "a god" to be the correct rendering. Young's Concise Critical Bible Commentary, p. 62, by the respected trinitarian, Dr. Robert Young, confirms this:

"`makest thyself a god,' not `God' as in C.V. [King James Version or `Common Version'], otherwise the definite article would not have been omitted, as it is here, and in the next two verses, -- `gods .. gods,' where the title is applied to magistrates, and others ...."

It is also admitted that this is the meaning of Jn 10:33 by noted trinitarian NT scholar C. H. Dodd:
"making himself a god." - The Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel, p. 205, Cambridge University Press, 1995 reprint.

A Translator's Handbook on the Gospel of John by trinitarians Newman and Nida insists that "a god" would not be "in keeping with the theology of John" and the charge of blasphemy by the Jews, but, nevertheless, also admits:

     "Purely on the basis of the Greek text, therefore, it is possible to translate  [John 10:33] 'a god,' as NEB does, rather than to translate God, as TEV and several other translations do.  One might argue on the basis of both the Greek and the context, that the Jews were accusing Jesus of claiming to be `a god' rather than 'God.' "- p. 344, United Bible Societies, 1980.

The highly respected (and highly trinitarian) W. E. Vine indicates the proper rendering here:
"The word [theos] is used of Divinely appointed judges in Israel, as representing God in His authority, John 10:34" - p. 491, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words.
So, in the NEB it reads:

" 'We are not going to stone you for any good deed, but for your blasphemy. You, a mere man, claim to be a god.'  Jesus answered, 'Is it not written in your own Law, "I said: You are gods"?  Those are called gods to whom the word of God was delivered - and Scripture cannot be set aside.  Then why do you charge me with blasphemy because I, consecrated and sent into the world by the Father, said, "I am God's SON"?' "

Not only do we see John using theos in its positive alternate meaning here, but we also see Jesus clarifying it.  When some of the Jews were ready to stone him because they said he was claiming to be a god (Jesus' reply about men being called gods in the scriptures would have been nonsensical if he were replying to an accusation of being God), Jesus first pointed out that God himself had called judges of Israel gods (Ps. 82:6)!