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John 10:33 is typically translated as something like

"“We are not stoning You for any good work,” said the Jews, “but for blasphemy, because You, who are a man, declare Yourself to be God.”" (Berean Study Bible)

Jesus responds to this by talking about the gods of Psalm 82.

"Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your Law, 'I have said you are "gods"'?"

This seems like a non sequitur. According to the standard translation, they are accusing him of being God and Jesus is responding about gods - God's representatives. How is that an adequate response?

This suggests another possibility, that the Jews instead said something like

"“We are not stoning You for any good work,” said the Jews, “but for blasphemy, because You, who are a man, declare Yourself to be a god.”"

This would make some logical sense of Jesus' response. This would also fit with what Jesus says at John 10:36.

"How then can you accuse Me of blasphemy for stating that I am the Son of God?"

Jesus is saying they are accusing him of blasphemy for being the Son of God - not God Himself.

Is it grammar that is primarily driving the typical translation of John 10:33 which renders the Jews' statement as 'God' instead of 'god', or are background theological views driving the translation?

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  • Jesus denied he was God in John 10:34-36.and he did not contradict himself elsewhere. John 17:3 and John 5:44. If we align ourselves with his accusers' words that he is God when Jesus expressly denied he is,, is like saying that Jesus was wrong and his accusers were right . Consider too the motives of his accusers, they were trying to entrap him with his words. John 14:28, Jesus plainly says that his Father is greater than him. – Alex Balilo Apr 9 at 10:11
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As often is the case, it is both grammar and dogma/theology that has rendered 'God' - but mostly dogma. The key to understanding difficult or strange passages is to seek other verses input and the consistent message God has left through the whole text.

If we eliminate the bias that has crept into the text we will see this consistent message clearly. We can do this by context and also by other verses where the same words are used.

CONTEXT

John 10

  • v6 Jesus spoke to them using this illustration, but they did not understand what He was telling them.
  • v7 So Jesus said to them again
  • v19 Dissension occurred again among the Jews
  • v20 Many of them were saying, “He has a demon and is insane. Why do you listen to Him?
  • v24 The Jews then surrounded Him... “How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.”
  • v25 I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father’s name, these testify of Me. -v26 you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep
  • v30 I and the Father are one. (Everyone by now should readily dismiss this verse as suggesting Jesus and the Father are one substance. v30 is easily understood correctly with John 17:11,22)
  • v31 The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him

Context shows the Jews had no idea what was going on, who Jesus was, or what he was doing! They wanted to stone him because they were angry and sought any excuse to get rid of this man who understood the word of God like no one else ever did, showing them up for the hollow sepulchres they were - full of dead. Jesus was full of life and holy and they knew he was not at all like them! (He rightly called them children of the devil)

OTHER VERSES

And so v33

We are not stoning You for a good work, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God

-v34 and v35, Acts 12:22 Herod, 28:6 Paul and others have 'god', and rightly so. v33 is exactly the same, yet irrationally, gets 'God'.

They totally misunderstood what he was saying - in fact they had a veil over them according to God's plan.

But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ. 15 But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their hearts; 16 but whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 2 Cor 3:14

He told them they were not his sheep - he was not their Lord and Master, not their teacher or guide - certainly not the one sent from God they had been waiting millennia for.

They could not (or were unwilling) see who he was. He said he was the son of God and justified this claim by quoting other references of the same concept. He said he did the works of his Father - believe on the works v38

  • believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father.

How we might then side with the Jews and their desperate claims of blasphemy is bewildering if only to support a dogma of Jesus being God, when the text and words of Jesus and his apostles never say anything of the kind.

The same de-contextualised verses (a few listed below) are typically used to support a Jesus being God idea, but when read in context they say the opposite. Jesus, a man only who was born of Mary, the word of God become flesh, died, raised, exalted, made heir, Lord and Messiah, and given all authority under God - sitting at God's right hand.

  • John 10:30 I and the Father are one.
  • Heb 1:8 Your throne, O God, endures forever
  • John 8:58 Before Abraham was, I am.
  • John 1:1-3 in the beginning was the logos
  • John 1:18 only begotten God

Is it grammar that is primarily driving the typical translation of John 10:33 which renders the Jews' statement as 'God' instead of 'god', or are background theological views driving the translation?

So the dogma and theology of Jesus being God has allowed alterations and additions to the text to support this theory - the most infamous being 1 John 5:7.

Capitalising 'god' when it suits them is just one method of advancing a threeology not of the original text.

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  • I was aware of Acts 28:6, which seems to have the same grammatical construction but a different typical translation, but not Acts 12:22, which is a bit different but seems analogous. These passages seem key to this argument, as they seem to show that the text in John 10:33 is ambiguous and requires contextual interpretation. +1 – One God the Father Apr 7 at 16:14
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    @user48152 I have to take issue with you saying, "Context shows the Jews had no idea what was going on, who Jesus was, or what he was doing!" In my post I made this statement! "What did Jesus say that caused the Jews to accuse Him of blasphemy?" My question to you is, "If the Jews had no idea of what was going on, (your words), why at the trial did they bring up Leviticus 24:16, the issue of blasphemy? I also said in my post that the Jews accused Jesus of working with Beelzebul. Luke 11:14-23. Please read: rsc.byu.edu/celebrating-easter/… – Mr. Bond Apr 7 at 21:11
  • Simply bc they were so focussed on the law, they missed Jesus’ teaching that pointed to the way of grace. ‘I am the way’ he said, and they still thought the law was everything. Naturally, they used the law in attempt to justify their actions and attitudes as ‘children of the devil’. (Skimmed the article, if they say Jesus is creator then they have made grievous error and poor understanding thus results) – user48152 Apr 7 at 22:08
  • Another verse with very related content is John 5:18. This is not directly quoted from the opponents of Jesus but it is John's (inspired) insertion of their reasoning: Jesus' claim to be the Son of God was equal to His claiming equality with God. The adjective ιδιος indicates one's own or private rather than general or public. They understood Jesus to be claiming that God was his own Father personally rather than including himself as one of many. This would have been an excellent opportunity for the Gospel writer to indicate that the opponents understood Jesus' claim wrongly. – Mike Borden Apr 13 at 11:38
  • It does seem to be the natural way to be ambiguous in important matters - things are indeed kept hidden in full view from most and revealed to 'babes' only. We simply need to affirm our initial understanding with all other texts to see if it has merit or not. The term 'equal' has many variables - equal in what way, is left for the reader to decide exegetically (hopefully) Jesus was equal to God in some ways - but this does not make him God - being an image of God or having the form of God doesn't either. – user48152 Apr 13 at 11:55
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This is definitely a grammatical problem and is subtle. The matter at hand in John 10:33 is what Daniel B Wallace in "Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics" (GGBB) calls "Qualitative Predicate Nominatives. Let is take some non-threatening examples.

In each of these case we will have two nouns in the nominative case connected or correlated by a verb

  • John 1:14 - ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο = "the word became flesh". Here we note that "word" is articular and "flesh" is not. Therefore, we cannot say, "The word became a flesh", nor can we say, The word became the flesh". This is NOT a convertible proposition because we cannot say, "the flesh became word". Thus, we have a statement of quality, "The word became flesh".
  • 1 John 4:8 - ὁ Θεὸς ἀγάπη ἐστίν = "God is love". Same qualitative construction as above - we cannot translate, "God is a love", nor, "God is the love". We have a statement of quality like, "the car is red".
  • Luke 23:6 - ὁ ἄνθρωπος Γαλιλαῖός ἐστιν = "the man is Galilean".

For more details, see GGBB pages 263-265.

In the case of John 10:33 we have:

ὅτι σὺ ἄνθρωπος ὢν ποιεῖς σεαυτὸν Θεόν = because you being human, make yourself to be God.

Jesus is claiming divine qualities. Contrast the construction in V34 -

ὅτι Ἐγὼ εἶπα Θεοί ἐστε = because I said, "gods [you] are".

Here the subject, "you" is implied only in the verb. Further, quality cannot be expressed in the plural form (gods) because we do not say something like, "the car is reds", but must say, "the car is red".

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  • Aha! Do you think a translation like "declare yourself to be godly," or perhaps "declare yourself to have divine qualities," would be a straightforward translation that is also true to the Greek then? – One God the Father Apr 6 at 21:48
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    @AnthonyBurg - That works in English but not in the Greek - the Greek uses a noun, not an adverb (which modifies a noun). Here the predicate noun expresses a quality of the subject, like, "the car is red", not "the car is red-like". "godly" expresses 9in English) the idea that the subject is like God but not necessarily of the quality or substance of God. Jesus said that He was of the same quality and substance of God. – Dottard Apr 6 at 21:54
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    Minor note: the σὺ in 10:33 is singular you and Θεόν agrees with it in the singular, while the ἐστε in 10:34 is plural you are and Θεοί agrees with it in the plural. I do not see a special God/god & Gods/gods distinction in the Greek, but just grammatical agreement – Henry Apr 7 at 8:30
  • Really interested in your take on this hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/58671/… – One God the Father Apr 7 at 16:26
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    @AnthonyBurg - I will see If I can provide an answer today. – Dottard Apr 7 at 20:31
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It is grammar or theology that causes translators to typically translate John 10:33 as “declare Yourself to be God” as opposed to “a god”?

The Emphatic Diaglott New Testament (1942) John 10:33

  1. Answered him the Jews saying: Concerning a good work not we stone thee, but concerning blasphemy, and that thou, a man being, makest thyself a god.

NWT John 10:33

The Jews answered him: “We are stoning you, not for a fine work, but for blasphemy;+ for you, although being a man, make yourself a god.

False charge of blasphemy.

Because of Jesus’ references to God as his Father, certain opposing Jews leveled the charge of blasphemy against him, saying, “You, although being a man, make yourself a god.” (Joh 10:33) Most translations here say “God The Emphatic Diaglott says “a god.” Support for the rendering “a god” is found principally in Jesus’ own answer, in which he quoted from Psalm 82:1-7. As can be seen, this text did not refer to persons as being called “God,” but “gods” and “sons of the Most High.”

https://classic.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm%2082%3A1-76&version=NASB;NET;NRSV;RSVCE;MOUNCE

According to the context, those whom God called “gods” and “sons of the Most High” in this psalm were Israelite judges who had been practicing injustice, requiring that God himself now judge ‘in the middle of such gods.’ (Ps 82:1-6, 8) Since Jehovah applied these terms to those men, Jesus was certainly guilty of no blasphemy in saying, “I am God’s Son.” Whereas the works of those judicial “gods” belied their being “sons of the Most High,” Jesus’ works consistently proved him to be in union, in harmonious accord and relationship, with his Father.​

John 10:34-38 (NABRE)

34 [a]Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, “You are gods”’? 35 If it calls them gods to whom the word of God came, and scripture cannot be set aside, 36 can you say that the one whom the Father has consecrated[b] and sent into the world blasphemes because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? 37 If I do not perform my Father’s works, do not believe me; 38 but if I perform them, even if you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may realize [and understand] that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”

From the Book Truth In Translation by Jason David BeDuhn

Quote:

Harner says that to an English-speaking reader, if "the" is used with these predicate nouns, the qualitative sense will be lost. . The use of "a" conveys that qualitative sense.

For example, in John 4:19 we must translate "You are a prophet" not " You are the prophet". In john 8:48 it is "You are a Samaritan", not "Your are the Samaritan".In John 9:24 the translation is "This man is a sinner", not "This man is the sinner".In john 1:26 it must be "He was a thief", not he was the thief". Notice that this is not the case of how we say things in English dictating the meaning of the GreeK, but a matter of choosing the English that best communicates what the Greek means. So, for example, in English, we say "You are a disciple of that man", or "you are the disciple of that man", but the Greek of John:28 uses the indefinite, and so should we. "The disciple" would an identification "a disciple" is a characterization, and that's what Harner means by the "qualitative" function of such expression.

Harner states that the anarthrous predicate noun before the verb cannot be definite in John 1:14, 2:9, 3:4, 3:6 (twice), 4:9, 6:63, 7:12, 8:31, 8:44 (twice), 8:48, 9:8, 9:24, 9;24-31,( 5 times) 10:1, 10:8, 10:33-34 (twice) 12:6, 12:36,18:26, 18:35. The very last verse in this long list is a good place for us to start exploring sentences structured like John 1:1c and the meaning they are meant to convey. The setting is Pilate's exchange with Jesus...........

Unquote;

Conclusion

In the Greek text, there are many cases of a singular anarthrous predicate noun preceding the verb, such as in Mr 6:49; 11:32; Joh 4:19; 6:70; 8:44; 9:17; 10:1, 13, 33; 12:6. In these places, translators insert the indefinite article “a” before the predicate noun in order to bring out the quality or characteristic of the subject. Since the indefinite article is inserted before the predicate noun in such texts, with equal justification the indefinite article “a” should be inserted before the anarthrous θεός in 10:33-34 (twice)

It is theological bias that causes translators to typically translate John 10:33 as “declare Yourself to be God” as opposed to “a god”. Support for the rendering “a god” is found principally in Jesus’ own answer, in which he quoted from Psalm 82:1-7

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  • I agree that the context seems to make more sense with something like 'a god'. Do you think the translation 'a god' is more a paraphrase than a literal translation - grammatically it isn't equivalent to the Greek, but it captures the basic thrust of the charge against Jesus better than the translation using 'God' nonetheless? – One God the Father Apr 6 at 23:21
  • Theological bias? 1) Since the concept of an indefinite article did not exist at the time or in the Greek, Aramaic, or Hebrew language, any insertion of an indefinite article is interpretive. 2) Interesting how on one side of this issue NWT and other similar argue for exclusive monotheism: there is only one God. Yet on this issue the same people who believe there is only one God, act as if "gods" was commonly accepted. – Revelation Lad Apr 7 at 3:26
  • (Romans 1:23 NASB) Paul says: "And they exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible mankind, of birds, four-footed animals, and [a]crawling creatures."Thus mythical gods existed then with the Romans ,Greeks, Egyptians, Babylonians, and others, and even to this day "gods" are commonly accepted by many none Christian people. So what? – Ozzie Ozzie Apr 7 at 6:23
  • You should offer evidence that a concept which cannot be articulated because the language had no word to express it, is a reasonable translation. The simple linguistic fact is neither Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic had an indefinite article. Therefore all translations which have "God" are literal and all which have "a God/god" are interpretative. It doesn't mean the interpretation is wrong, but it is nonsense to say the literal one is based on theology and the interpretive one is grounded in the actual language. – Revelation Lad Apr 7 at 15:15
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    Revelation Lad: Appreciate your comments and have added evidence that the indefinite article "a" must be inserted as in all other similar cases with the same grammar and syntax. – Ozzie Ozzie Apr 8 at 17:10
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It is definitely "theology/context." Before getting to John 10:33 "specifically," lets look at what happened before Jesus quoted Psalm 82:6.

So let me pose this question? What did Jesus say to cause the Jews to want to accuse Him of blasphemy resulting in His death on that cross?

John 5:16, "And for this reason the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because (or why?) He was doing things on the Sabbath." He healed a man on the Sabbath and the Jews did not like it.

At John 5:17 Jesus says, "My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working." At John 5:18 the Jews "react" to what Jesus stated. "For this cause therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because (or why?) He not only was breaking the Sabbath but also was calling God His onw Father, MAKING HIMSELF EQUAL WITH GOD."

The Jews absolutely knew that Jesus was not saying He is "a god," no, but equal to THE God. Then at John 8:56 Jesus says, "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw and was glad." John 8:57, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham."

John 8:58, "Jesus said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, "I am." How do the Jews react to what Jesus stated? "Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself, and went out of the temple." Here again, "What did Jesus say to tick off the Jews?" Did they understand Jesus to be stating He is "a god?"

The context before we get to John 10:33 is extremely important. At John 10:24 the Jews gather around Jesus. And they were saying to Him, "How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly."

John 10:25, "I told you and you do not believe; the works I do in My Fathers name, these bear witness of Me." Jesus says, "My sheep hear My voice and I give them eternal life etc. Vs29, "My Father who has given them to Me is greater than all; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand."

Now for John 10:30 that really ticks the Jews off. "I and the Father are one." John 10:31, "The Jews took up stones again to stone Him." The power of the Son is equal to that of the Father, although much more is implied with what Jesus stated. Yes, it's a given that Jesus and the Father are one in purpose as it relates to the sheep but the Jews understood Jesus meant much more.

At John 10:30 Jesus is asserting the essential unity of the Father and the Son in the word "one" (hen). It is a neuter number to indicate EQUALITY of essence, attributes, design, will, and work.

Jesus distinguishes the "I" from the "Father" and uses the plural verb "are" denoting "we are." Thus these words separate the persons within the Godhead, but "one" asserts their unity of essence or nature as identical. Remember, at vs24 the Jews asked Jesus to tell them plainly, who He was. John 10:30 is plain, He does not say "I am Christ," but "I and my Father are one"--God!

When Jesus ask the Jews vs32, "Why are you stoning Me?" The Jews say at vs33, "For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out God." Not "a god." Now Jesus brings up Psalm 82:6, why?

What Jesus is doing is taking the Jew's statement about Him blaspheming to its logical conclusion to show that they are being inconsistent. In effect, Jesus is saying, "If you say that I am blaspheming, you must also hold that God is blaspheming because He said to those by whom the word of God came, "ye are gods."

Jesus clearly draws a clear distinction (vs36) between Himself and those by whom the Word of God came when He says that He was sanctified and sent into the world by God.

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It is important to note that John 10:33 was spoken by Jesus' opponents (New International Version):

"We are not stoning you for any good work," they replied, "but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God."

God.
Θεόν (Theon)
Noun - Accusative Masculine Singular
Strong's Greek 2316: A deity, especially the supreme Divinity; figuratively, a magistrate; by Hebraism, very.

There is no definite article here. It is an anarthrous Greek noun. The accusers wanted to stress the notion of deity and not a particular god. According to the grammar and sementics, there is no need to translate Θεόν as "a god". Indeed, all 29 versions translate it as "God". No theological justification is necessary.

John 10:34

Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your Law, 'I have said you are "gods"'?

gods’?
Θεοί (Theoi)
Noun - Nominative Masculine Plural
Strong's Greek 2316: A deity, especially the supreme Divinity; figuratively, a magistrate; by Hebraism, very.

The original Greek is plural. The English is plural. No controversy in translation here.

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  • "According to the grammar and sementics, there is no need to translate Θεόν as "a god"." Can you say a bit more about this? No one is claiming it is necessary to translate it as 'a god'. The question is whether the decision to translate it one way or the other is primarily grammatical or theological. – One God the Father Apr 7 at 16:24
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    I answered that question as well. – Tony Chan Apr 7 at 16:58
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The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.” (John 10:33 ESV)

ἀπεκρίθησαν αὐτῷ οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι περὶ καλοῦ ἔργου οὐ λιθάζομέν σε ἀλλὰ περὶ βλασφημίας καὶ ὅτι σὺ ἄνθρωπος ὢν ποιεῖς σεαυτὸν θεόν

The answer is straight forward. The Greek language of that period lacked an indefinite article and so translations which render the phrase "make yourself God" are simply conveying the literal text. Moreover, in this particular case, the phrase was spoken by the Jews, and, as neither Hebrew or Aramaic of the period had an indefinite article, it would have been impossible for those who were speaking to make the statement "a God" (if they were not speaking in the Greek language).

One may also reasonably ask if people of the period could conceive of a concept for which no word existed, much less bring a legal accusation which in this case could lead to the death penalty. Furthermore, if the people thought Jesus was making Himself to be "a" god, then clearly that was not a violation of the Law. In other words, only if they believed He made Himself to be [the] God, would a violation which required the death penalty be invoked.

Therefore, a translation which has make yourself God accurately renders the actual text and one which inserts an indefinite article (i.e. make yourself a God or make yourself a god) is one which reflects a translator's interpretation of the actual text. The reasoning behind the interpretation should be determined from specific notes or the translation philosophy.

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  • "The Greek language of that period lacked an indefinite article and so translations which render the phrase "make yourself God" are simply conveying the literal text" Can you say more about this, since it seems to be the key to your answer? When translating to a language with indefinite articles, doesn't the translator have to make his best guess as to whether the original Greek was intended to be definite or indefinite? Otherwise, it seems you're going to get a lot of weird translations. – One God the Father Apr 7 at 16:10
  • If you think they meant "a" God/god, then the period correct understanding would be "a" God/god of something. For example, if a one wanted rain, one would invoke the rain god. There is no ability to conceive of invoking "a" god for rain. If people believed in more than one god, the multiple gods were not "gods" in a generic sense; rather they were specific gods with specific characteristics or attributes . Hence it would be impossible to invoke "a" god of rain (for example) because the god of rain controlled that aspect or had that characteristic. – Revelation Lad Apr 7 at 17:18
  • In this context, wouldn't it be 'a' god as in Psalm 82? – One God the Father Apr 7 at 17:29
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    There is no indefinite article in Hebrew. The literal interpretation would be God/god. – Revelation Lad Apr 7 at 18:33
  • Interested in your views on this hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/58671/… – One God the Father Apr 7 at 18:44

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