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There is significant debate about the meaning and import of Thomas' exclamation in John 20:28 of

"My Lord and my God!"

including what the proper understanding is of both significant terms, 'Lord' and 'God'.

Having said that, assuming Thomas is claiming that Jesus is God, why does Thomas add 'my' to 'God' - if Jesus is God, is He not someone else's God?

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  • I decided to post my answer from another thread that deals with the "Son of God" and the "Son of Man" issue we were discussing. I feel it's easier this way then explaining it all over again. My answer can be found in the following thread. hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/44492/… I invite any questions you might have. Thank You! – Mr. Bond Mar 26 at 20:18
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In answering this question, i have avoided New Testament scriptures with the exception of Jesus claim that He was God.

In Jesus time, only the old Testament existed and not in the form we know them today. Clearly, those who knew the scriptures were well aware of the relationship between an individual and His (or Her) God, as it was well established in numerous texts.

Consider the following Old Testament quotations from various individuals describing a "personal" God...

Exodus 15:2

The LORD is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father's God, and I will exalt him.

Daniel 9:4

I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed: "Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments,

Psalm 18:2

The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

Isaiah 12:2

Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD himself, is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation.

Genesis 24:48

and I bowed down and worshiped the LORD. I praised the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who had led me on the right road to get the granddaughter of my master's brother for his son.

From my own Christian perspective, Jesus is "My Personal Saviour". Yes he is a man for all people so to speak, however, unlike a King or Prime Minister, Jesus door is open and we communicate directly and personally on a regular basis.

So when Thomas exclaimed, "My Lord and My God", he was stating in that moment he finally realised that the very man he had been following was indeed God! My interpretation of the Biblical narrative concerning Thomas is that prior to this moment, after Jesus had died, Thomas had lost his faith..a faith in Jesus prior claim during his ministry that he was God. That faith was now restored.

I think generally all Christians believe in an eternal God (one who also prexisted eternally). Now listen to what Jesus said concerning himself about this...

John 8:58,59

58“Truly, truly, I tell you,” Jesus declared, “before Abraham was born, I am!”

59 At this, they picked up stones to throw at Him. But Jesus was hidden and went out of the temple area.

There is only one reason why they (in this case Jewish Pharisees, see vs 13) would pick up rocks to stone anyone in the above event, Jesus was claiming to be "the" pre-existing eternal God, a crime punishable by stoning to death!

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  • "That faith was now restored." This exegesis is interesting - if I'm reading you right, basically, you're saying Thomas already was a proto-trinitarian, then lost his belief Jesus was God, but then that belief was restored at the moment he saw Jesus raised? It's a bit off-topic from the core of your answer ('my' was commonly used in reference to the One God), but I'm interested in that line of argument nonetheless. – Anthony Burg Feb 18 at 21:14
  • @ Anthony...not the moment Jesus was raised. Thomas now realised that Jesus was alive and the man standing before him not only had the scars, but the very ones Thomas had described to the others in his moment of open doubt...Thomas now knew Jesus (who was supposedly dead) had heard every word. I have added to my answer to clarify Jesus claim and therefore linking "Lord" and "God". We know from many other stack exchange discussions that Jesus disciples regularly called him Lord, so i dont think it necessary to go into that. Hopefully my edit better answers this part of the question? – Adam Feb 18 at 21:18
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"My God" occurs frequently in the NT as a mark of the personal relationship between a person and God, eg, 2 Tim 1:3, Phm 1:4, 1 Cor 1:4, Pil 1:3, 4:19, 2 Cor 12;21, Rom 1:8, etc. We see the same thing in the OT and is usually in the Phrase, "the LORD my God", Ps 104:1, 140:6, Dan 9:20, Ezra 9:5, 2 Chron 2:4, etc.

Similarly, "your God" (always referiing to the LORD) occurs frequently in the OT and usually in the phrase, "the LORD your God", Deut 10:12, 17, 12:11, 18, Josh 23;13, 1 Chron 22:19, Jer 42:20, etc.

The phrase, "My God" is closely related (as per John 20:28) with another phrase, "My Lord" which always refers to Jesus in the NT - Matt 22:44, Mark 12:36, Luke 20:42, Acts 2:34, John 20:13, 28, Luke 1:43, Phil 3:8. These generally allude to OT references such as Ps 35:23 (LXX) and Ps 110:1.

Thus, these personalised versions of "My God" and "My Lord" are common in the Bible.

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  • @Dottard...i feel your answer needs editing. You state "your" God. However, the relationship valid to this question would require correlation in the context of "My God" and "My Lord". Or are you just adding an additional descriptor often used? – Adam Feb 18 at 23:22
  • @Adam - yes the latter - another example of "personalizing" God. – Dottard Feb 18 at 23:55
  • I shall +1 your answer. – Adam Feb 19 at 4:07
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The phrase "my God" uses a possessive adjective in the first person singular which shows that the speaker (Thomas) regards Jesus to be his personal God, which means that he believes that Jesus himself is whom he will worship or whom he trusts for salvation. This is very similar to 2 Peter 1:1 wherein Jesus is "our God", a phrase with a possessive adjective in the first person plural. In this case, the church collectively acknowledge Jesus to be both their God and Saviour.

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I will take a slightly different approach to this verse so that the community understands there is scholarly debate over this verse and its intended usage.

The debate surrounds the cultural context within which the Gospel of John was written. John lived and wrote in Ephesus which was in the Roman province of Asia Minor. If one understands the dominant cultural features of Asia Minor, John's gospel starts to make more sense.

As with the other Gospels, we are not exactly sure of the date of their composition. Many scholars place John as the last Gospel to be composed - possibly in the late '80s or early '90s of the first century. (although you should know that not everyone agrees. see Robinson, The Priority of John for a counter-argument).

So if you assume - as many do - that John wrote his Gospel from Ephesus in the latter decades of the first-century then we need to know something about the Imperial Cult and the Caesar at the time, Domitian.

Ephesus, in John's day, was ground-zero for the Imperial Cult and the sanctioned worship of Emperor Domitian.

Domitian insisted on being called 'Dominus et Deus' 'Lord and God.'

Colin Hemer in The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in their local Setting writes:

"It is well known that Domitian required to be addressed as domius et deus (Suetonius, Dom. 13; Martial, Epig. 9.56.3), a title corresponding to that applied to Jesus in Thomas' confession (John 20:28)"

Both the Gospel of John and Revelation are set against the declaration by the Roman emperors - particularly Domitian - that they are in fact the divine rulers of the cosmos. John's gospel also refutes many of the main gods or goddesses in the region of Asia Minor as well (Aclepisu, Dionysus, or Demeter).

John would be including this declaration by Thomas at this point in his Gospel in order to directly refute the claims of the emperor Domitian.

It is important to note the original cultural context of the Gospels - and particularly John because John includes many stories not found in the other three. In the first century, the Imperial Cult used the language of "Savior," "Good News," "Advent," and "Son of God." You can read the Priene Calendar Inscription here.

See the following for more info:

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  • This is interesting context (possibly, if the dating is correct). But are you saying the 'my' in 'my God' was intended to distinguish between Domitian and the One God? – Anthony Burg Feb 18 at 23:52
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    @AnthonyBurg No. I'm saying that John included this detail from Thomas because it tells his audience who the legitimate "Lord and God" is. The language that is used in our New Testament is the same language used for the Imperial Cult (Savior, Lord, Good News, etc.). We have to decide "Who is Lord?" Well, it not Caesar. But John's original audience would have picked up on it immediately. – S. Broberg Feb 19 at 4:28
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John 20:28 verse is grammatically linked to John 1:49.

The lack of the phrase "you are" in John 20:28 compared to John 1:49, means the new faith of Thomas and consequently, of the recent Christian Church, which was of circumcision: In Jesus, there was the theophany of the Trinity, the essence, the complete substance of divinity.

I hope it was well explained, I really wanted to explain everything to you in the English language, but the difficulty is enormous.

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