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At John 5:18,

"Because of this, the Jews tried all the harder to kill Him. Not only was He breaking the Sabbath, but He was even calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God."

The Jews at John 5:18 considered it something deserving death to call God 'His own Father'.

Yet, the well-known Messianic Psalm 2:7 says

"You are My Son; today I have become Your Father."

in reference to the coming Messiah. If someone was the Messiah, that person would be the Son of the Father. You see this pairing clearly with Nathanael at John 1:49.

"“Rabbi,” Nathanael answered, “You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”"

How do we reconcile John 5:18 and Psalm 2:7 - why did the Jews at John 5:18 consider it impermissible to claim God was one's own Father given Psalm 2:7?

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    You have to imagine these prideful elitists found it unfathomable that God would send His Son into the world and they not be shown any special attention. Clearly Jesus had to be an imposter, they were too important and righteous to be ignored by God Himself May 12 at 17:05
  • Generally speaking, Christ's (re)interpretation of the Jewish scriptures was frequently at odds with that of His contemporaries; it is thus unclear why the case of Psalm 2:7 would be any different.
    – Lucian
    May 12 at 18:18
  • @Lucian You say its is not unclear why they disagreed?- in fact it’s very clear. They didn’t believe Torah. The whole problem with the Jews (Pharisees/Sadducees) is that they didn’t believe Torah/Tanahk. They were experts, they knew the word - but they simply just didn’t believe it. Else they would have accepted their Messiah - the signs were clear!
    – Dave
    May 12 at 18:27
  • @One God the Father. Can you kindly explain to me what John 5:18 has to do with Psalm 2:7? What is your point because I don't see a connection? So what's the connection or what's your point? Thank You!
    – Mr. Bond
    May 12 at 20:50
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    question ends as objection against trinity. They actually charged him for claiming to be equal to God. They knew that the Messiah /son of God was divine,(Matt 26:64-65), why they charged him for blasphemy was bec they rejected him as a false Messiah. There's no death penalty on claiming to be the Messiah technically but there's one for claiming to be God (depends on whether the leaders support the supposed Messiah) Messiah claim is indirectly deity-claim. Also John 5:18 is John's own words not the Jews misinterpretation. Also John 10:33 their charge was correct that he claimed to be God.
    – Michael16
    May 13 at 4:37
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The dialogue between the Jews and Jesus that starts in John 5 continues (with a few breaks) right through to John 10. The answer to the OP's question is found later in John 10:33 -

“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.”

Thus, I fully agree that the well-versed Jews were familiar with Ps 2:7 as applying to Messiah. However, and here is the crux of the matter, they believed Jesus was a mere man, a human, who could not be God.

That is, the Jews did not understand two vital points:

  • the incarnation
  • the kenosis of Phil 2:5-8

That is, God came in human form (Matt 1:23 - Μεθ’ ἡμῶν ὁ Θεός = "with us, The God") by "emptying Himself" - He put aside His divine prerogatives and privileges to be a human for a time to provide an example of dependence of the Father, as should we.

By contrast, Nathaniel understood this and had no trouble declaring Jesus the Messiah and king of Israel.

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  • To clarify, are you claiming the Jews thought the Messiah wouldn't be a man? May 12 at 21:32
  • @OneGodtheFather - it is difficult to know exactly who they thought Messiah would be, but is clear from John 5 and 10 that they believed that an ordinary human could not be Messiah. As Jesus often showed, the Jewish theology of the leaders was often inconsistent and contradictory because Jesus could so easily confound them.
    – Dottard
    May 12 at 21:34
  • I think I agree with this to an extent - they weren't expecting a man like Jesus to be the Messiah. But I have not read anywhere else that they weren't expecting a man to be the Messiah. Do you have references for this outside of your reading of John 5 and 10? May 12 at 21:45
  • @OneGodtheFather - I do not believe the theology of the Jews was any more uniform than is modern Chrstianity - there were numerous factions with deep divisions such as the Pharisees vs Sadducees, etc. It is apparent from these two references in John that the people with whom Jesus was discussing clearly did not believe that a mere human could be Messiah. Obviously Nathaniel was not such a person.
    – Dottard
    May 12 at 21:49
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John 5:

16So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him. 17In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” 18For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

These were not just any Jews but the Jewish leaders, the Sadducees and Pharisees. Nathanael wasn't one of them. According to the leaders, Psalm 2:7 does not say that the Son equals the Father:

"You are My Son; today I have become Your Father."

Their complaint was also described in the Sanhedrin trial in Mark 14:

61But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer.

Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”

62“I am,” said Jesus.

Why did the high priest think someone being the Messiah was committing blasphemy?

That was not their thinking. Jesus claimed not only being the Messiah but also the unique Son of God that equals God Himself.

“And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Now Jesus alluded to Psalm 110:1

The LORD said to my Lord: "Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet."

At this, the high priest completely lost it. This was a direct personal insult to him. He saw himself as Jesus' enemy and becoming a footstool for the feet of Jesus.

63The high priest tore his clothes. “Why do we need any more witnesses?” he asked. 64“You have heard the blasphemy.

According to the Jewish leaders, Jesus committed blasphemy by claiming that He was the Son of God that equals God Himself.

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  • Great reference to Mark 14. Yet, I don't think this answers the question - just makes it more puzzling. Why did the high priest think someone being the Messiah was committing blasphemy - certainly that was the point of the whole prophecy? May 12 at 16:55
  • Good question. I added.
    – Tony Chan
    May 12 at 17:23
  • 2
    So you're saying the problem wasn't Jesus claiming to be the Son of God, but claiming to be the Son of God in a way that they viewed as claiming equality also? Right.
    – Tony Chan
    May 12 at 17:27
  • 1
    So if Jesus had said "I am" and left it at that, he would have been acquitted? I don't know.
    – Tony Chan
    May 12 at 17:28
  • 1
    Great question! I added.
    – Tony Chan
    May 12 at 17:49
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The first key to the answer is to note the Jews were incorrect in asserting Jesus was claiming equality at John 5:18. Jesus disabuses them of this notion immediately after.

"So Jesus replied, “Truly, truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing by Himself, unless He sees the Father doing it." (John 5:19)

Jesus is not equal to the Father, because the Son can do nothing by himself. That's the first error the Jews here were making, and the basic one.

Yet, the error is compounded by a second error, and so the claim about Jesus at 5:18 is a composite error. The second key, then, is to note they were making an error in thinking that Jesus wasn't just inappropriately claiming equality (perhaps informed by, for ex., doing what he wanted to on the Sabbath), but was committing blasphemy by simply claiming to be 'the Son of God' ("but He was even calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God").

'The Son of God' was a way of referring to the Messiah. Consider not just John 1:49, where Nathanael uses the term and pairs it with the 'King of Israel', and Psalm 2:17 where the Son of God is described similarly, but the high priest at Mark 14:61.

"But Jesus remained silent and made no reply. Again the high priest questioned Him, “Are You the Christ [i.e., the Messiah], the Son of the Blessed One?”

To claim to be 'the Son of God' was to claim to be the Messiah. This would be blasphemy, except in one case. They believed Jesus claiming to be 'the Son of God' was blasphemy because Jesus could not be the Messiah. Again, they were simply wrong - they misunderstood the prophecies about the Messiah and thought they would recognize the Messiah when he came. The Messiah couldn't be a son of a carpenter from Galilee, much less someone who would be critical of themselves! Rather, he was a great King, who would conquer their enemies - not judge the Jewish elite themselves!

Indeed, this is what does it for the high priest at Mark 14:62, after Jesus has been asked if he is the Messiah.

"“I am,” said Jesus, “and you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power and coming with the clouds of heaven.” 63 At this, the high priest tore his clothes and declared, “Why do we need any more witnesses? 64 You have heard the blasphemy. What is your verdict?” And they all condemned Him as deserving of death."

The claim to be sitting at the right hand of Power is judgment language, drawing on Psalm 110 (the clouds language draws on Daniel 7, a Messianic prophecy).

"“Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.”"

Who was Jesus' enemy at that moment? The high priest. So Jesus here is saying to the high priest that not only is He the Messiah, the eternal King and Son of God, but that He would soon be sitting in judgment of the high priest and the others judging Jesus. This is highly blasphemous (unless, of course, it's true). (Jesus here is not claiming to be God, nor does the high priest's charge of blasphemy require that. To claim to sit at the right hand of God is not to claim to be God. The basic logic of the sentence makes that clear. If you are at the right hand of someone, you are not that someone. Compare Mark 15:10 - Jesus was handed over to the Roman authorities by the Jewish authorities because of envy. They were envious of a man gaining popular support as the Messiah - not as God.)

Putting this all together, the Jews Jesus was talking with throughout John made various mistakes. They thought Jesus was claiming to be equal to God (he wasn't - he could do nothing by himself), thought he couldn't be the Messiah (he was), thought he was 'declaring himself to be God' (John 10:33) when he was declaring himself to be an icon of God (or God's representative who had been sent by God, John 10:34-36), and thought they themselves couldn't be the ones who would be judged (they were).

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  • "They thought Jesus was claiming to be equal to God (he wasn't - he could do nothing by himself)" - then why didn't Jesus ever correct them for getting it wrong? May 12 at 18:22
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    @OneGodtheFather: That still does not make them less human, though.
    – Lucian
    May 12 at 18:44
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    @HoldToTheRod Great question! I've bookmarked it. From the 3 instances you mention there, as well as Nathanael's at John 1:49, it seems at least to many people these concepts were closely tied together. The obvious source would be Psalm 2. May 12 at 22:15
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    @One God the Father thanks, and thanks for again fixing my typo. Maybe I won't fat finger the numbers so often if I stop posting so much from my phone =) May 12 at 22:22
  • 1
    @OneGodtheFather - you inspired to ask this question: hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/60219/… May 12 at 22:50
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We reconcile the two by trusting Jesus' words and the report and commentary that the Holy Spirit gives us through John.

It is not that claiming to be the "Son of God" in the way that humans typically used and understood the term, and as in often used and understood from scripture. For instance,

Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. - Job 1:6

“You are the sons of the LORD your God. You shall not cut yourselves or make any baldness on your foreheads for the dead. - Deuteronomy 14:1

These, and verses like them, indicate an authority relationship between Creator and created. Adam is listed in Luke's genealogy as the son of God (3:38) and we know for a fact that Adam was created by God.

What Jesus claimed, and what the Jews understood, is that God is his personal, individual Father. What Jesus said was "Until now the Father of me works and I too work".

What John makes clear is that by "the Father of me" the Jews understood that Jesus was claiming to be equal (isos) with God:

The familiar adjective ισος (isos) means alike or equal, and is the source of the many "iso-" words in English (isobar, isograph), whose second part is usually Greek. They also often come with a Latin equivalent (or isodynamic, if you will), which starts with the Latin equivalent "equi-" and is followed by a Latin verb. Neither the Greek nor the Latin have an clear etymology but appear related to words meaning flat or level. Specifically, our adjective ισος (isos) predominantly describes alignment in countable and measurable qualities, whereas the somewhat similar adjective ομοιος (homoios) specializes in alignment or lateral correspondence of abstract and uncountable qualities.

Thus we reconcile Psalm 2 and John 5, not by forcing John to obey the old understanding of Psalm 2 but by allowing Jesus, as reported through John, to enlighten and flesh out our understanding of Messiah the Son..."this day I have begotten you".

Messiah is not a created Son (human). He is begotten of God (deity) and born of woman (human).

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