31 Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him.

32 Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me?

33 The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God.

34 Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?

35 If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken;

36 Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?

According to my interpretation, he's saying that if obvious mortals are called gods then the Messiah, the "Son of God" can certainly bear this title. But why does Jesus say this instead of accepting the charge that he claims to be God? It seems as though he's saying "I can be the Messiah without being God".

  • But why does Jesus say this, instead of accepting the charge that he claims to be God ? - Apart from the obvious fact that they were already preparing to stone Him ?
    – Lucian
    Jan 2, 2018 at 23:05

4 Answers 4


Well, the sacred writer, St. John, removed any future ambiguity in the reading of such passages already, in chapter 5:

John 5:18 (DRB)

Hereupon therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he did not only break the sabbath, but also said God was his Father, making himself equal to God.

Or simpler yet:

John 1:1

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

How can Jesus, "the Word . . . made flesh," be both "with God" and "[be] God"? Jn 1:1,14 Because they are distinct Persons in God.

Notice this (5:18) is St. John's inspired 'commentary' on the motives of the Jews. Separate from the narrative, but an explanation of it. Jesus didn't 'allegedly, according to the Jews' break the Sabbath (no less, in the context of saying He, just as God the Father, "works even [on the Sabbath]" Jn 5:1—a claim to divinity itself). He didn't 'allegedly, according to the Jews' "[call] God His own Father, making Himself equal with God." He did.

Why does Father and Son mean more than an 'adoptive' sonship and 'adoptive fatherhood?' (i.e. why does Son mean of the same divine nature of God) Because Jesus claimed to be the Son of God because He literally came forth from Him (this is why He is called the 'Son' or even 'Word' of God in the first place):

John 8:42

"Jesus therefore said to them: If God were your Father, you would indeed love me. For from God I proceeded, and came; for I came not of myself, but he sent me:"

John 16:28

I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again I leave the world, and I go to the Father. His disciples say to him: Behold, now thou speakest plainly, and speakest no proverb.

Notice Jesus is not speaking figuratively, but of His actual nature as a Person.

This echoes the words of the eternal Wisdom of God from Sirach 24:5 (vul):

Sirach 24:1-16

Wisdom shall praise her own self, and shall be honoured in God, and shall glory in the midst of her people, 2 And shall open her mouth in the churches of the most High, and shall glorify herself in the sight of his power, 3 And in the midst of her own people she shall be exalted, and shall be admired in the holy assembly. 4 And in the multitude of the elect she shall have praise, and among the blessed she shall be blessed, saying: 5 I came out of the mouth of the most High, the firstborn before all creatures: 6 I made that in the heavens there should rise light that never faileth, and as a cloud I covered all the earth: 7 I dwelt in the highest places, and my throne is in a pillar of a cloud. 8 I alone have compassed the circuit of heaven, and have penetrated into the bottom of the deep, and have walked in the waves of the sea, 9 And have stood in all the earth: and in every people, 10 And in every nation I have had the chief rule: 11 And by my power I have trodden under my feet the hearts of all the high and low: and in all these I sought rest, and I shall abide in the inheritance of the Lord. 12 Then the creator of all things commanded, and said to me: and he that made me, rested in my tabernacle, 13 And he said to me: Let thy dwelling be in Jacob, and thy inheritance in Israel, and take root in my elect.

14 From the beginning, and before the world, was I created, and unto the world to come I shall not cease to be, and in the holy dwelling place I have ministered before him. 15 And so was I established in Sion, and in the holy city likewise I rested, and my power was in Jerusalem. 16 And I took root in an honourable people, and in the portion of my God his inheritance, and my abode is in the full assembly of saints.

Now clearly, this is the classic divine Wisdom. We might say 'Word,' since He comes from the mouth of the Most High. For Jesus to be using this language of coming forth from God would right be understood to be blasphemous for a mere man to say (but which Jesus never was).

But we also see that for Jews, calling someone the Son of God meant you were calling them divine. They must have understood that for someone to be claiming to be THE Son of God, like Jesus did, He was claiming to be of the same nature of God the Father (hence a 'Son'; hence a 'Father' in the first place).

John 19:7

The Jews answered him: We have a law; and according to the law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.

They realized Jesus wasn't claiming the same adoptive sonship of all of God's people (how could they not, given the way Jesus spoke of Himself, anyway?)

We see Son of God being interpreted as simply 'God Himself' in the following passage also:

John 10:31-36

The Jews then took up stones to stone him. 32 Jesus answered them: Many good works I have shewed you from my Father; for which of these works do you stone me? 33 The Jews answered him: For a good work we stone thee not, but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, maketh thyself God. 34 Jesus answered them: Is it not written in your law: I said you are gods? 35 If he called them gods, to whom the word of God was spoken, and the scripture cannot be broken; 36 Do you say of him whom the Father hath sanctified and sent into the world: Thou blasphemest, because I said, I am the Son of God?

This is actually a bit of an emphatic linguistic device (God vs. Son of God) by Jesus here: He uses the title 'Son of God' which rings in the ears as something lesser than simply 'God;' so that when He uses it of Himself, it makes them look ridiculous to claim that He can't even call Himself the Son of God, even though He comes forth from the Father and into the world, and is legitimately the eternal Son of God, but they'll allow and accept that mere men were called 'gods' in the Old Testament because of their divine offices as judges. Even though He is the Messiah and the Son of God.

One would be astute to observe that Jesus reacts not as if they had lied in saying He made Himself out to be God, for which they would be rightly upbraided, and Jesus would have had to have corrected, not played along with. He attempts, rather, to establish the reasoning behind their outrage. And He uses a didactive approach from the Scriptures to show how He has more right to be called God, because He is the Son of the Living God, the Word of God Himself, not one to whom God's word is sent.


The first point to notice is that the Jews accuse him of blasphemy: "You being a man make yourself out to be God." Furthermore, this results in an attempt to stone him. So the view of Jesus' opponents is clearly that Jesus is making claims to divinity. For them, Jesus' claims are so clear cut that stoning is the only reasonable response.

Jesus' reply needs to be read in this light. He's responding to a charge of blasphemy. Now either Jesus considers himself God, or he does not. In my view, his reply only makes sense if he considered himself to be God. If he didn't, the natural reply would be to say something like, "Hang on guys, I never said what you're accusing me of. I think you misunderstood what I was saying." He would be saying that it's not blasphemy because he never claimed to be God.

But instead he continues the debate. In fact, in all his debates with the Jews Jesus consistently goes the other way, and this is one of the factors which convinces me Jesus was seriously claiming to be divine. Rather than denying blasphemy because he isn't God and they misunderstood his statements, he is denying blasphemy because he really is God. In other words, "Yes I made those claims and they are in fact true. Hence no blasphemy."

That's the point of the current passage. Jesus is effectively saying that there are other passages where humans are labelled as gods, and the Jews have not applied blasphemy in that case. Rather, they take time to understand correctly the way the word is used, and are able to conclude that this is not a case of blasphemy. So Jesus challenges them here with the same idea. "God has sanctified me; God has sent me into the world; and I am claiming to be the very Son of God. These words are only blasphemy if they are untrue, and I am challenging you to consider that they really are true."

One final point. It's important to avoid reading back our modern thought patterns into the original text. When the OP says in the last sentence, "I can be the Messiah without being God," my immediate response is, "Yes, but what actually is wrapped up in the word 'Messiah'? When Jesus claims to be the Messiah, what content is he embracing?" Some of these questions have the sense of "If I was in that debate my answer would have been different." But we need to put ourselves back in the original setting as far as possible.


I think the argument you are posing could be expressed:

(a) Mortal men can be called "gods"

(b) Jesus is a mortal (hidden premise)

so therefore by (a) and (b):

(c) Jesus can be called "god"


(d) Jesus doesn't state outright that He is God (capital "G")

so therefore by (c) and (d):

(e) Jesus is saying that he is "god" but not "God"

I don't think this is a valid argument, for the reason that (e) does not necessarily follow from (c) and (d). The fact that he does not seem to state outright that he is God is not the same thing as saying explicitly that He is not God.

Elsewhere in John's Gospel, Jesus is called the Word of God, who is Himself God (John 1:1). In v.35 we read that those who became "gods" become so because the Word of God came unto them. That is to say, Christ is "God" by nature, but mortal men become "gods" by grace.

  • 1
    The thing is, the issue of Christ's deity is of utmost importance to me... So since Christ has only claimed attributes that belong to God but hasn't explicitly said he's God (like John and Paul have, whom I do have faith in) I'm looking to the next closest thing - Jesus being accused of making himself God and how he responds. Instead of taking the charge, he literally asks them "haven't men been called gods? Can't I be the Son of God?" By the exact words of Christ, it seems as though he's saying "I'm the Messiah but not God" isn't it?
    – GNU Geek
    Jan 1, 2018 at 15:42
  • I would answer by saying that not clearly affirming something is not the same thing as denying it. Your question explicitly refers to Christ denying His Divinity. You might want to rephrase your question.
    – user33515
    Jan 1, 2018 at 16:20
  • Denying his deity is actually what I interpreted, since as I said I feel he's saying "why can't I be the Son of God without making myself God"? I don't believe this verse denies his divinity considering the entire Bible, I just think Christ seems to be doing that in this narration.
    – GNU Geek
    Jan 1, 2018 at 16:23
  • @GNU Greek, you are struggling with some questions I used to have. The website under my profile might be helpful. May God bless your deligent study of His Word. Jan 3, 2018 at 4:55
  • @Jesus Saves Thanks, I'm beginning to understand things better and I will check your link out.
    – GNU Geek
    Jan 3, 2018 at 16:13

The very context of the John 10 shows not that Jesus denies, but, on the contrary, asserts His divinity, for in the immediate antecedent of this passage He says interchangeably that nobody is able to take the disciples from His hands (John 10:28) and from the Father's hands (John 10:29). Besides, He says that all those miracles He does in the Father's name (John 10:25); however, simultaneously, those same deeds He also does not as some saint, prophet or angel, but on His own authority in saying "I give them eternal life" (John 10:28); now, if Son does on His own sovereign authority, as the King and not as a servant, things of the Father in the Father's name, in a way that there is not even an eyewink or a tiny momentum of hiatus between His sovereign action and that of the Father, then by implication, necessarily, it follows that Father's and the Son's deeds are one, so that neither Son can perform anything without the Father, and, furthermore, nor the Father can perform anything, but through the Son. Therefore, if the Father creates the world and gives life through the Son (John 1:3), and it is absurd to suppose even that He does so not necessarily but optionally, so also Father gives eternal life also necessarily through the Son, who, accordingly, says that it is He (the Son) who sovereignly gives this eternal life (John 10:27), in the sovereignty He eternally shares with the Father, in virtue of which sovereignty and in virtue of which one inseparable divine activity (cf. also John 5:17), He says that "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30), which is a clear assertion of the Son's divinity.

This is absolutely well and rightly understood by his listeners, who candidly confess that the reason they want to kill Jesus is exactly this affirmation of divinity.

But in the sequence of this affirmation, Jesus kind of mitigates His claim, however, again, this mitigation is only an apparent mitigation, for He does not equate Himself with, but clearly separates Himself from those "to whom word of God came", which separation is seen in the syntax of "if... then...". If the principle through which the earthly kings or prophets became worthy of being named "gods" was the divine word (John 10:35), that is to say, if those kings/prophets have therefore divinity through participation in the word of God, that is to say, either a) in the very hypostasized Word of God, who is their Creator and now stands in front of them Incarnate as Jesus Christ, or b) in the divinizing action of God, which action is a unitary action of the Father and the Son, then in both cases the Son is clearly not to be listed among the gods-in-virtue-of-participation, but is the very Principle through whom they get their status of participatory divinity, Himself possessing this divinity properly with the Father.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.