(Biases on the table: I am a Christian and believe that Jesus is God in the flesh, namely, the eternal Λογος of God Rev 19:13 (who is distinct from the Father προς τον θεον, but of the same nature και θεος [εστιν], hence the terms Father and Son), as I believe John incontrovertably teaches in his Prologue: John 1:1; 14.)—There is a similar question here, but I'm asking a slightly different question.)


According to the Nestle-Aland 28th Edition, John 5:18 reads (translation mine):

διὰ τοῦτο οὖν μᾶλλον ἐζήτουν αὐτὸν οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι ἀποκτεῖναι, ὅτι οὐ μόνον ἔλυεν τὸ σάββατον, ἀλλὰ καὶ πατέρα ἴδιον ἔλεγεν τὸν θεὸν ἴσον ἑαυτὸν ποιῶν τῷ θεῷ.

Now because of this the Jews wanted all the more to kill him, for he not only broke the Sabbath, but even called God his own Father, making himself equal to God.1

To me, this lacks any sort of 'said they' after 'he not only broke the Sabbath,' if we are to believe John is describing a false opinion of the Jews, instead of their reaction to a truth about Jesus which John himself holds to.

Take, for example, two verses prior (5:16), where John uses the exact same structure of something indubitably true and recorded as true in the text itself:2

καὶ διὰ τοῦτο ἐδίωκον οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι τὸν Ἰησοῦν, ὅτι ταῦτα ἐποίει ἐν σαββάτῳ.

And because of this the Jews persecuted Jesus: for these things he was doing on the Sabbath.

Assumption: I'm assuming no one will reject the fact that Jesus 'did these things on the Sabbath,' since John says He did (5:15).


Given the above assumption: what is missing/present —according to those who hold that John doesn't believe Jesus is equal to the Father— in the latter verse, that is not in the former? OR Are there other instances where John refers to the false opinion of the Jews in this way (i.e. giving no clear indication that what they percieved about Jesus was false)?

I hope the question is clear; if not, I can clarify.

As always: thanks in advance.


1 I chose 'even' over 'also' because of the preceding ου μονον .. αλλα. No other reason.. for those who are really picky.

2 We're calling him John; this isn't about the identity of the author at all.

  • Non sequitur. It does not follow that two verses that are not exactly alike are an example of Jews "giving no clear indication that what they perceived about Jesus was false" . Also, why are you asking for the answer only from "those who hold that John doesn't believe Jesus is equal to the Father"? Who holds this doctrine?
    – Seeker
    Commented Oct 22, 2019 at 1:47
  • I'm asking 'what validity has the notion that John doesn't believe Jesus claimed to be equal with the Father' based on this kind of passage from John. It's a very straightforward question. Plenty of people deny that Jesus is equal to the Father. 'He's just the Son of God, not God!' Commented Oct 22, 2019 at 16:41
  • As Ray Butterworth also mentions, no one holds the view that John himself does not believe Jesus is God. Also John's use of two verses not exactly alike is not an example of " giving no clear indication that what they percieved about Jesus was false".
    – Seeker
    Commented Oct 23, 2019 at 0:12
  • "Also John's use of two verses not exactly alike is not an example of " giving no clear indication that what they perceived about Jesus was false"" Where did I suggest it was? The no clear indication that what they perceived about Jesus was false is the indication there is seen no falsehood in what they perceived about Jesus.. Commented Oct 23, 2019 at 16:21
  • Here : Given the above assumption: what is missing/present in the latter verse, that is not in the former?
    – Seeker
    Commented Oct 23, 2019 at 21:43

3 Answers 3


Thanks for your well researched question. First of all, the "these things" that he did were healing miracles, not "breaking the Sabbath" by working as a doctor as the Jews suggested. I don't believe John is saying Jesus actually broke the Sabbath, but was being accused of doing so because he healed on the Sabbath. The miracle described involving the blind man is the antecedent to "these things" not "breaking the Sabbath."

The verses you are considering have an important run-up you didn't quote:

Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.
-- John 5:17 (KJV)

And then the verse after needs to be mentioned to give the one you quoted context:

Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.
-- John 5:19 (KJV)

From these verses, Jesus himself says he takes his cues from the Father having been 'seeing' him, which must be understood to mean perceive, understand, know by the Spirit of the Father (given without measure to Jesus). The Father doesn't work from 9-5 on the Sabbath, but He does heal people on the Sabbath (it is lawful to break sabbath to save life, etc.).

So, to try to answer clearly: Jesus didn't break the Sabbath according to the Old Testament definition of breaking the Sabbath, and didn't make himself "equal to God" by saying he was God's Son, which is also a common O.T. trope (Israel is his firstborn, etc.). I'll let Jesus answer: "the Father is greater than I" (John 14:28).

So there you have it. If Jesus was God's absolute equal then Jesus never would have said this. He would have said, "I'm God" not "God is my father." Paul would have called him "the invisible God" not "the image and likeness of the invisible God" (Col. 1:15). Thomas can say, "my lord and my God" while bowing at the feet of Jesus because this is much like bowing down at the Temple where God's presence abides.

John 1 says, "God was the Word" not "the Word was God." That might seem like the same thing to the casual reader, but it's not: it the Father Yehovah who is the Creator, and his Son is "the firstborn of all creation." Everything begins with the Spirit of God, and then he Speaks His Word - brings His Spirit into corporeal form. The Word was inherent in the Spirit of God, and is "begotten" by being spoken into being from the foundation of Creation. Jesus is actually the God-bearer, not Mary!

  • Welcome to BH.SE! Please take the tour to get a feel for how the site functions. A pretty good first answer. I have edited your text to add quote formatting and remove a few abbreviations.
    – enegue
    Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 8:40
  • Thanks for your answer. Notwithstanding the many things in your answer I would take issue with linguistically speaking (not the least of which is your translation of John 1:1c), my question is more one of grammar or syntax than (contextual arguments or) semantics. If you read my question carefully as summarized at the bottom, you will see that I am asking a conditional question based on a premise which must be granted first. Be careful to distinguish 'he was doing these things on the Sabbath' (which John hismelf records has having been done) with 'it was wrong in their eyes.' Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 13:59
  • Jesus said 'I and my Father are One'. And when they came to arrest him he said 'I am' and they fell backward to the ground, Judas and all. 'Being in the form, God, he thought it not robbery to be equal God'.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Mar 27, 2018 at 13:28
  • ὃς ἐν μορφῇ Θεοῦ ὑπάρχων οὐχ ἁρπαγμὸν ἡγήσατο τὸ εἶναι ἴσα Θεῷ, - " Who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to cling to" - Phil. 2:6
    – Jacob
    Commented Mar 27, 2018 at 13:47
  • 1
    Fantastic answer. I completely agree. Jesus did not break any Sabbath, and Jesus is not equal with God. These were false accusations from the Jews. I would add that a more clear rendering of John 1:1c is "... and the Word was a god", that is to say, an immortal divine being in the image of God who is God's only-begotten Son and who is therefore himself "a god" in the sense that he is a separate divine being. He is the head of the Divine council of angelic sons of God and has been given authority by God over all things visible and invisible.
    – Joshua B
    Commented Feb 22 at 19:41

First of all Jesus Christ did not break or violate the Sabbath. If He did then He sinned because He transgressed the law of God 1John 3:4. Secondly, the Jews knew exactly what Jesus was claiming when they said, "He was calling God His own Father making Himself equal with God." The question is not whether or not the Jews correctly or incorrectly understood Jesus. What was it that JESUS SAID that caused them to say he was claiming to be God, or equal to God? They wanted to stone Him at John 8:59. They wanted to stone or kill Him and accuse Him of blasphemy at John 10:30-39. Also at John 19:7. "The Jews answsered Him, "We have a law, and by that law He ought to die because (or why?) He made Himself out the Son of God." If the Jews misunderstood Jesus why did they bring up the law at Leviticus 24:16? Read the trial record at Matthew 26:57-66. At vs63 the high priest Caiaphas ask Jesus to swear as to His identity. "I adjure You by the living God, that You tell us WHETHER (1) Are you the Christ/Messiah and (2) the Son of God." At Luke 22:70 Jesus says, "Yes, I am." Vs65, Then the high priest tore his robes saying. "He has blasphemed! So what was the blasphemy? Claiming to be the Messiah is not a blasphemy offense. Many other people down through the ages even today claim to be the Messiah. The blasphemy is that Jesus Christ was the one and only Son of God as in there are not others. Even the Jews claimed to be sons of God and none of them were accused of blasphemy. Also notice at John 20:30,31, Many other signs Jesus also performed etc. vs31, but these have been written that you may believe that Jesus is (1)the Christ/Messiah and (2) the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. This is exactly what the high priest ask Jesus to swear too.

  • Let me add to what Ray stated about the Jews having "idioms." One of those "idioms" is the "son of" idiom and it can be found throughout the Bible. For example, "Sons of the prophets" refer to men belonging to a prophetic band. Amost 7:14. Sons of goldsmiths is a goldsmit. Nehamiah 3:8. There is "Sons of affliction which are afflicted ones, Proverbs 31:18. In the NT we have "Son of perdition which means the lost one, Judas. And the "son of man" or the "son of God." These two expressions show the possesion of a certain nature. Jesus referred to Himself as the "son of Man" and the "Son of God.
    – Mr. Bond
    Commented Oct 22, 2019 at 20:34
  • If you read my complete answer above (user 32542 where it starts off, "First of all Jesus etc.) you will see that the Jews knew exactly what Jesus was claiming. There is one and only Son of God in the way His Father says at John 3:16. Jesus is also the only person who has two natures, one on His mother's side, human, and one on His Father's side which is Deity. You can prove wrong buy giving me an example of a son that does not share the same nature as his father. This is a universal law.
    – Mr. Bond
    Commented Oct 22, 2019 at 20:43

This whole question seems to be based on this assumption: "John is describing a false opinion of the Jews".

But that assumption isn't true, so the question becomes moot.

The "opinion of the Jews" was:

  • he not only broke the Sabbath
  • but even called God his own Father
  • making himself equal to God

The third point naturally follows from the second (even if not taken literally, the "son of" expression is common in Hebrew, meaning having the same attributes).

Jesus did call God his Father (about 30 times in John's gospel alone), so the second point isn't an opinion.

So the only thing that could be an opinion is the first point, that Jesus broke the Sabbath.

From the Jews' point of view, not simply as their opinion, Jesus did break the Sabbath.

By the time of Jesus, many extra rules and regulations had been added to God's commandments. These rules were designed so that if one obeyed these extra rules, it would guarantee that God's rules were being obeyed, and it would be obvious to everyone that they were. That was their purpose.

Even today, modern Jews don't eat meat and dairy at the same meal. This expanded rule guarantees that there won't be even the slightest chance that they might be violating Exodus 34:26 ("… Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother's milk.").

(Modern non-religious examples are laws that require that our car tires stop turning at a stop-sign, or that deli meats be kept at 165°F. Each one is far more than is required, wasting time and fuel in one and overcooking the food in the other, but if obeyed strictly they will guarantee safety.)

While Jesus didn't break God's Sabbath laws, he did publicly violate the expanded laws regarding the Sabbath. This was an observed fact, not an opinion.

Matthew's gospel was written for a Jewish audience, just as Mark's was for Romans and Luke's for Greeks. But John's was written later, not for any specific audience. He did not need to explain about the difference between the letter of God's laws and the Jewish practice at the time. It was enough for the readers to know that the Jews persecuted him because he broke the standard laws of their society.

  • The point about the sabbath being hedged with protective laws is interesting, however, Jesus uses the word "work" in the sense of "work on the Sabbath" (5:16) which truly is a violation of the sabbath, and which only God can do, and says, "My Father works until now, and I also am working." It seems then that "he broke the sabbath" is not a false statement at all, but that the Son of God is not under the non-moral commandments where relevant to His messianic mission. The blasphemy seen is "not only" calling God His Father but claiming to be God also in that He is exempt from the sabbath. Commented Oct 23, 2019 at 16:38
  • Your thoughts ? Commented Oct 23, 2019 at 16:38
  • @SolaGratia, the purpose of the Sabbath is to provide a rest from physical labour, to spend time on spiritual thoughts. Doing his Father's work wasn't physical work, it was spiritual. As he said in Mark 3:4: "And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace.". Even the Pharisees (morality police) couldn't argue against that. Commented Oct 23, 2019 at 16:59
  • I concur. However, when John says that Jesus did this, not that the Jews said He did, that it the issue here. Commented Oct 23, 2019 at 17:28

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