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John 10:22-39 (ESV):

22 At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. 24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

31 The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. 32 Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” 33 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.” 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 came—and Scripture cannot be broken— 36 do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? 37 If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; 38 but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” 39 Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands.

If we attempt to formalize the Jews' reasoning in a deductive form, it would look something like this:

  1. Jesus claims to be the Christ (from v24 and v25).
  2. Jesus claims to be able to give eternal life to his sheep (from v27 and v28).
  3. Jesus claims that he and the Father are one (from v30).
  4. Therefore, the Jews conclude that Jesus, being a man, makes himself God, which is considered blasphemy (from v33).
  5. Jesus claims that God has called men gods in the past (from v34 and v35).
  6. Jesus claims to be the Son of God (from v36).
  7. Jesus claims that the Father is in him and he is in the Father (from v38).
  8. Therefore, the Jews conclude once again that Jesus is blaspheming and seek to arrest him (from v39).

The Jews concluded point 4 (I'm assuming deductively) from premises 1 through 3. However, I'm having a hard time following the logic. How does point 4 follow from the first three points?

Then we have point 8, which is informed by points 1 through 7. This time Jesus adds three additional premises: that God has called men gods in the past (point 5), that he claims to be the Son of God (point 6) and that the Father is in him and he is in the Father (point 7). Again, Jesus never explicitly claims to be God, yet the Jews arrive at that conclusion in point 8.

Question: Were the Jews using deductive reasoning? If so, are there implicit premises not stated in the text which may help us understand the logic that led them to conclude points 4 and 8?

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    @OneGodtheFather - done May 19 at 17:55
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    Quick take: I don't think deductive reasoning as linked was really being used in a strict sense. He said 'I and the Father are one' and their heads exploded. They didn't understand what he meant by this - they jumped to a conclusion. Jesus characterizes the Jews who want to kill him at John 8 as 'liars and murderers' - perhaps that is the root reason here as well. The theme of misunderstanding who Jesus is and what he's saying is throughout John. May 19 at 18:01
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    You ask hard questions =) . But insightful ones; upvoted +1 May 19 at 21:31
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    @OrangeDog Are the disciples Jesus? Same logic applies (they are in Jesus, Jesus is in them, John 14:20). May 20 at 16:26
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    @OrangeDog Jesus explains what he means at John 10:38. "so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I am in the Father." The Father and Jesus are one because the Father is in Jesus and Jesus is in the Father, just as the disciples will be in Jesus and Jesus in them. May 20 at 16:42
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+100

I agree that we do not have an explicit, valid deductive argument presented in the text--this leads me to suspect that at least one of the 3 following statements is true:

  • There is a valid deductive argument, but it relies upon additional premises implicitly known to the culture
  • The people misunderstood what Jesus was saying
  • Jesus did not directly answer the question that was asked of Him

Let’s examine each in turn.

--

A -- additional implicit premises

Any one of the three premises below would make 4 logically follow, and the first half of the argument would be valid:

  • Premise 1.5: The Messiah was expected to be God
  • Premise 2.5: only God can grant eternal life
  • Premise 3.5: Oneness with God is indicative of Deity

--

Premise 1.5: that the Messiah was expected to be God - does not appear to have strong enough contemporary support to be clearly implied. Rather, the expectation that the Messiah would be a military liberator seems much more prevalent in the period. In a separate question I inquired as to whether the Jews expected the Messiah to be the Son of God, and at best that looks like a maybe. Even if true, we’d still need another premise later, that the Son of God is God (see below).

Premise 1.5 doesn’t look extraordinarily promising for knowledge that was so generally and implicitly known that it need not be stated.

--

Premise 2.5: that only God can grant eternal life, is never explicitly stated in the Old Testament, but it is supported by strong implication in several places, such as Ezekiel 18:

21 But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die.

...

23 Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord God: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?

25 Yet ye say, The way of the Lord is not equal. Hear now, O house of Israel; Is not my way equal? are not your ways unequal?

30 Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord God. Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin.

The broader context of the chapter indicates that the life and death discussed here is of a spiritual nature (discussed further here)

Premise 2.5 looks like a reasonably promising case of implicit cultural knowledge (all the more so because John 10:28 says “they shall never perish” in the context of eternal life).

--

Premise 3.5: that oneness with God is indicative of Deity, is very open to interpretation. In its favor is the fact that Jesus’ declaration of oneness with the Father is what immediately precedes the attempted stoning (of course it follows very shortly after the promise of granting eternal life, so there may be something to be said for how long it took to rile up a mob). There may be some implicit knowledge here, but it is made all the more difficult to accept implicitly given the number of times Jesus spoke of His disciples being one with Him just like He was one with the Father (e.g. see posts here and here)

Premise 3.5 may not be off the table, but it looks less promising than premise 2.5.

--

If we can accept premise 2.5 (or one of the others), step 4 in the argument follows logically. Now let’s consider the latter half of the argument.

--

Deduction round 2

To deduce #8 we may not need any other premises--they already think He’s committed blasphemy, but the “therefore” in verse 39 at least suggests they think another blasphemy has been committed. We might not need any further premises for this one, but let’s at least take a look at what can be said for premises 5-7.

--

Premise 5: I don’t think implying blasphemy through the quotation of Psalms 82 is going to get us very far in the deductive argument. If anything, Jesus here would be showing that He’s claiming something for Himself very similar to what they claim about themselves. The passage could be read to say that He’s making a Divine claim about all of them, but their subsequent actions do not suggest this was how they took it.

--

Premise 6: The claim to be the Son of God is a potent one. Jesus clearly claimed God as His Father in a unique sense--were it not so, there would have been no point in the High Priest asking Him at His trial if He was the Son of God (see Matthew 26:63).

As Mr. Bond explained here:

The Jews have what is known as the "son of idiom" and it's throughout the Bible...the title "sons of the prophets" is used throughout 1 Kings 2: to declare and authenticate the fact that the "sons" were indeed real, honest-to-goodness prophets...

Other examples are "Sons of valor, 1 Samuel 14:52, simply a brave man. Sons of murder 2 Kings 6:32 denotes a murderer. The idiom can also be found in the New Testament. Son of peace at Luke 10:6 refers to a peaceful person. Sons of disobedience at Ephesians 2:2 are those characterized by disobedience. Who was the "Son of perdition?" John 17:12, that would be Judas, the lost one.

While I confess I may not draw precisely the same conclusions as Mr. Bond does, his insight on the idiom implying shared nature is profound. If Jesus is applying the “sons of” idiom scattered throughout scripture (and He’s definitely saying He was sanctified for this role), He is claiming a Divine nature (to be sure, I'm not making a claim of homoousios, that's nowhere to be found in the passage) and mission that would surely offend those who did not believe His claim

The irony here is pointed out by Talmage:

There could be no crime in the claim of Messiahship or divine Sonship, except that claim was false (Jesus the Christ p. 626)

That Jesus did not say what the religious leaders wanted Him to say, or do what He wanted them to do, gives ample explanation as to why they would be inclined to disbelieve--they didn’t want a Divine messenger or a Messiah who told them they were wrong.

I’m not going to delve into how this passage was interpreted in the fourth century; suffice it to say, premise 6 can reasonably be taken as the step in the process that led to a second charge of blasphemy. Perhaps for deductive clarity we could rewrite premise 6 in cultural context as “Jesus claims a Divine nature as the unique Son of God (from v36).”

(or we could keep premise 6 as is and add premise 6.5 that “the Son of God”--sanctified by the Father--implied a uniquely Divine nature in Jewish culture)

--

Premise 7: this passage has been so widely interpreted and reinterpreted over the years, there is a real risk of reading post-first-century theology into a first century text. Suffice it to say that Jesus Himself later taught:

21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.

22 And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:

23 I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. (John 17:21-23)

It is entirely possible (in fact I think likely) that the people did not understand what He was saying. Following closely upon His claim to be the Son of God, though, the religious leaders recognized He was making a claim of authority and position that threatened the legitimacy of their own.

Premise 7 may have been taken as blasphemous, though it seems more likely than anything to be a springboard towards arguing that the people didn’t understand what Jesus’ said.

--

B--they didn’t understand what Jesus was saying

This wouldn’t be the first time an audience failed to grasp the message of the Master Teacher. And verse 24 itself suggests some frustration that they didn’t understand:

How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly. (John 10:24)

In this case, we may not be able to discern what it was that the people understood and why they took it as blasphemy.

However, we are left then with the perplexing question: why did John include the story at all if there was no clear point to it? Clearly John expected His audience to understand what had happened here, otherwise the implicit cultural premises (discussed above) would have been included.

While I can’t rule out completely the possibility that this was all just a terrible misunderstanding, (a) the exalted claims John records about Jesus in other settings and (b) John’s overall stated thesis at the end of chapter 20 suggest that John was not trying to tie his readers in knots about what was said vs. what was meant vs. what was heard vs. what was understood.

But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name. (John 20:31)

Ergo, John is honest about the dialogue that took place but is not speaking in riddles.

--

C--Jesus did not directly answer the question that was asked of Him

It’s also possible that the request for clarity in verse 24 is intended as a trap, as were other questions asked of Him at other times (taxes for Caesar anyone?). The religious leaders may have been trying to solicit from Jesus a plain statement that they could use against Him, much as the High Priest indeed did later at Jesus’s trial.

  • If Jesus explicitly acknowledged Messiahship, the Sanhedrin could have Him arrested as a threat to Rome, since the prevailing belief at the time was that the Messiah would overthrow Roman rule.
  • If Jesus explicitly acknowledged Divinity, the Sanhedrin could have Him charged with blasphemy.

Such traps were laid on a number of occasions (such as discussed in this post), and Jesus proved effective at outsmarting them. If it wasn’t time for Him to be arrested, He wasn’t going to be arrested.

If C is true we should infer that Jesus did not explicitly affirm or deny on this occasion that He was the Messiah, He sidestepped the question and showed them the inconsistency of their own accusations. While possible, it does still leave the question we encountered in section B -- what then is John trying to tell us here if not “Jesus in the Messiah and the Son of God”?

--

Conclusion

I suggest B is the least likely (though not impossible) -- this was all a terrible misunderstanding. I think Jesus was an effective enough teacher to answer hard questions without putting His foot in His mouth, and to get a message across clearly when He wanted to.

I’ll leave C in the middle of the pack -- this could have been a trap. But John does seem to want to tell us a lot about Jesus in this passage, suggesting that John believes His readers will understand the leaps in logic being made.

That leads me to option A, which I think is the most likely. There is some form of deductive argument going on here. Since Jesus did not at this time explicitly answer the question put to Him, the people were connecting the dots in their heads. Using the premises discussed above we could construct several valid deductive arguments; here’s the one I find the most straightforward:

  1. (2 above) Jesus claims to be able to give eternal life to his sheep (from v27 and v28).
  2. (2.5 above) only God can grant eternal life
  3. (4 above) Therefore, the Jews conclude that Jesus, being a man, makes himself God, which is considered blasphemy (from v33).
  4. (6 above) Jesus claims to be the Son of God (from v36).
  5. (6.5 above) “the Son of God”--sanctified by the Father--implied a uniquely Divine nature in Jewish culture
  6. (8 above) Therefore, the Jews conclude once again that Jesus is blaspheming and seek to arrest him (from v39)

Other premises/statements can be added and doubtless played a role in the anger that led people to pick up stones, but we can get from point A to B deductively using just the 4 premises and 2 conclusions above.

Were the Jews using deductive reasoning? If so, are there implicit premises not stated in the text which may help us understand the logic that led them to conclude points 4 and 8?

Yes I believe they were, while acknowledging that:

  • Not every statement made in verses 22-39 is necessary to make the deduction
  • Not all cultural background necessary to make the deduction was explicitly written in verses 22-39 (this carries fascinating implications for John’s intended audience, but that’s a discussion for another question)
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    Incredibly detailed and thorough answer. Well-deserved upvote and check mark. May 21 at 5:49
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    I'm surprised that this answer has not received more upvotes. Anyways, a bounty is on its way to try to compensate for it :-) May 22 at 4:46
  • @SpiritRealmInvestigator Yep, this is an excellent answer. Don't agree with all of it, of course! ;) May 22 at 5:52
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    @SpiritRealmInvestigator thanks for the kind words and the bounty! Pondering your related question as well now. I've noticed an inverse correlation between my long posts and my posts with more than 2 or 3 votes--I probably wear people out and they stop reading =). There's a saying attributed to an anonymous preacher "I could write shorter sermons, but once I get going I'm too lazy to stop" =). May 22 at 5:55
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    @OneGodtheFather thanks - my comments under premise 7 were in fact inspired by thoughts you shared on another post. May 22 at 6:03
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This was not the first time Jesus had been accused of blasphemy - note the incident in 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.

Obviously, to call God one's personal (as distinct from generic or national) Father is a claim of equivalence. There was another instance in Matt 9:3 -

Just then some men brought to Him a paralytic lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven.” On seeing this, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming!”

Again, only God can forgive sins (Mark 2:7, Luke 5:21). Thus, Jesus was apparently well-known as a blasphemer - one who claimed equality with God. Matthew Poole observes in his comments about John 10:33 -

blasphemy; which is committed as well by arrogating to ourselves what is proper to God, as by imputing to God the natural or moral imperfections of the creature; and the blasphemer deserveth to be stoned, according to the law of God. By this it is manifest, that the Jews understood our Saviour, affirming that he and his Father were one, as asserting himself one in essence with his Father, not in will only.

In the discussion of John 10 with the Jews, Jesus made some truly "blasphemous" claims:

  • V25 - Jesus' previous claims to be Messiah were ignored and not believed and Jesus tells them as much
  • V28 - Jesus claims to be able to give eternal lufe
  • V30 - Jesus claims to be one with the Father (compare Deut 6:4 and the Shema)
  • V33 - the Jews confirm that they understood Jesus' "blasphemous" claims
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    "Again, only God can forgive sins (Mark 2:7, Luke 5:21)" Both of these references are to claims by scribes and Pharisees - people Jesus repeatedly criticizes! Indeed, he corrects them in both those instances - "The Son of Man has authority ..." They were wrong! May 19 at 23:43
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    "the Jews understood our Saviour, affirming that he and his Father were one, as asserting himself one in essence with his Father, not in will only" Poole very well may be correct in this assertion that this is what the Jews thought. But the Jews were wrong about all sorts of things - Jesus said they were liars and that they didn't understand him (!). Is it possible they were wrong in their understanding of his claim about him and the Father being one, too? May 20 at 0:14
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    @OneGodtheFather - in a word, "no".
    – Dottard
    May 20 at 0:18
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    @OneGodtheFather When an ordinary human says "I am God", they're blaspheming. When God says "I am God", He's not. The Pharisees thought that Jesus was an ordinary human, rather than God, so when Jesus truthfully claimed to be God, they thought he was a blasphemer.
    – nick012000
    May 20 at 3:07
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    @OneGodtheFather - that is a logical fallacy - the fact that someone is wrong about one thing does not make them wrong about everything. We are NOT in a court of law, but we are gathering evidence.
    – Dottard
    May 20 at 6:20
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Its worth noting, that in Judaism, the term "blasphemy" has a very specific and limited meaning. Condensing from the Jewish Encyclopedia, it refers to cursing/profaning the name of God, and actually using the name of God to do so.

The essence of the crime consists in the impious purpose in using the words.

The term "we-noḳeb shem Yhwh," used in verse 16 ("And he that blasphemeth the name of the Lord," A. V.), does not seem to signify that the mere pronunciation of the Ineffable Name was considered blasphemy, but that it was blasphemous to curse or revile the same. The later law, however, took the word "noḳeb" in the sense of "pronouncing," and declared that the Ineffable Name must have been pronounced before the offender could be subjected to the punishment provided by the Law.

Beyond the reference to cursing in the text of Leviticus, there is nothing in the Biblical laws to indicate what constitutes the crime, and nothing to show that, to prove blasphemy, it was required to prove that the blasphemer had uttered the name of God. The Mishnah, however, laying stress on the term "noḳeb," declares that the blasphemer is not guilty unless he pronounce the name of God (Mishnah Sanhedrin. vii. 5). The Gemara goes further and extends the crime to an impious use of any words which indicate the sacred attributes of God, such as "The Holy One" or "The Merciful One." As long as the Jewish courts exercised criminal jurisdiction, the death penalty was inflicted only upon the blasphemer who used the Ineffable Name; but the blasphemer of God's attributes was subjected to corporal punishment (Mishnah Sanhedrin 56a).

Even in taking testimony during the trial of a blasphemer, the witnesses who heard the blasphemy were not permitted to repeat the very words, but an arbitrary phrase was adopted to indicate the blasphemy. Thus, R. Joshua ben Ḳarḥah said: "Throughout the examination of the witnesses, 'Yosé' [Joseph] should be used for Yhwh, and they should say, 'Yosé shall strike Yosé,' to indicate the blasphemy" (Mishnah Sanhedrin ib.). At the conclusion of the trial, sentence of death could not be passed by such testimony only, and it thus became necessary for one of the witnesses to use once the very words which they had heard. The court directed all persons not immediately concerned in the trial to be removed, and the chief witness was then addressed thus: "State literally what you heard"; and when he repeated the blasphemous words the judges stood up and rent their garments, that being the common sign of mourning. And the rents were not sewed up again, indicating the profound degree of the mourning. After the first witness had thus testified, the second and the following witnesses were not called on to repeat the identical words; but were obliged to say, "I also heard it thus" (Mishnah Sanhedrin ib.).

Notes:

  1. Mishnah refers to Oral traditions believed to also be Gods word spoken to Moses, and equally revered as the Written Law (books of Moses/"Biblical Law"). Gemara is the early rabbinical commentary and traditions about how the Written and Oral law are interpreted. They and biblical (written) law are the cornerstones of Jewish law and later understandings by that religions rabbis. So "Mishnah Sanhedrin" would mean the section of Mishnah governing a Sanhedrin and its procedures.
  2. There were greater and lesser Sanhedrins, much like modern courts.
  3. A trial in Jewish Law requires 2 or more witnesses who personally saw the criminal act itself take place (Deut. 17:6 + 19:15, Matthew 18:16 confirms this was still current). That is, they saw the actual crime, and if required, the perpetrator planning it, not just circumstantial evidence of it.

So in Jewish Law, of the kind in use at the time, Jesus would only have been guilty of blasphemy, if he had 1) cursed, reviled or profaned God, and 2) actually pronounced the "Ineffable Name" to do so.

Of course a mob could feel otherwise, claim otherwise, and be furious anyway (I imagine mobs of the time were impulsive like mobs now), but that was the long established actual law applied by a Court such as the Sanhedrin.

He could have claimed himself to be God's son, claiming to be God or be part of God, or to be able to give life or perform matters that only God could do, and in Jewish Law that's totally irrelevant, those aren't and were never blasphemy. At most, to be blunt, those would indicate to a Court that someone was deluded or a lunatic. Not a criminal.

As no source seems to show Jesus doing the acts that comprise blasphemy in Jewish Law (claiming to be divine or related to God, or to be God, is not self-evidently "profaning"), we may conclude that whatever was claimed, it appears the reality is that Jesus did not commit blasphemy, and the court was either misinformed, or politically expedient, or had an understanding of the scope of blasphemy that is not documented in any other sources, or that some details available at the trial are unrecorded by those recording the Gospels.

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  • +1 thank you for the answer. "I am in" "we are one" are greek style you don't see this is any of the earlier gospels and Tanakh and John having been written in 90 to 100 gets stronger in the Christology.
    – Yeddu
    May 22 at 4:57
  • @Hold to the Rod I have to take issue with you saying, "I'm not making a claim of homoousios, that's nowhere to be found in the passage). It is at John 10:30. The power of the Son is equal to that of the Father. Jesus asserted the essential unity of the Father and the Son in the word "one" (hen). It's 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." These words separate the persons within the Godhead, "one" asserts the unity of essence or nature as identical.
    – Mr. Bond
    May 22 at 15:10
  • I think you meant to post that as a reply to.some other person or answer?
    – Stilez
    May 22 at 15:12
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    +1 for focusing on the term 'blasphemy'. A lot of weight here seems to rely on your interpretation of the term 'profaning', though. 'Profane' means "characterized by irreverence or contempt for God or sacred principles or things." Having said that, the term translated 'blasphemy' here is blasphēmias, Strong's 988: Abusive or scurrilous language, blasphemy. From blasphemos; vilification. Young's literal translates it as "The Jews answered him, saying, 'For a good work we do not stone thee, but for evil speaking, and because thou, being a man, dost make thyself God." ... May 22 at 17:28
  • My guess is the situation fits both the more technical term (Jesus is profaning God, according to the Jews) and the vaguer Greek word (they believe he is speaking in an evil manner). May 22 at 17:29
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The implicit premise you are missing is that (a) the Messiah is indeed God or God-man in nature, and (b) Jesus unambiguously claimed to be God [in their language].

Jews believed about the divine status of the Messiah, as we see from the Jewish sources like Talmud, Targum and commentaries etc. They recognized him as the Angel of the Covenant, and with the divine titles of God ascribed to him.

Rabbinic statements: “R. Yose the Galilean said: “The name of the Messiah is Peace, for it is said, Everlasting Father, Prince Peace” (Midrash Pereq Shalom, p. 101); “The Messiah is called by eight names: Yinnon [see Ps. 72:17], Tzemach [e.g., Jer. 23:5]; Pele [Wonderful, Isa. 9:6 (5)], Yo’etz [Counselor, Isa. 9:6 (5)], Mashaich [Messiah], El [god, Isa. 9:6 (5)], Gibbor (Hero, Isa. 9:6 (5)], and Avi’ Ad Shalom [Eternal Father of Peace, Isa. 9:6 (5)]; see Deuteronomy Rabbah 1:20.

What is the name of the King Messiah? R. Abba b. Kahana said: His name is "the Lord" (Midrash Rabbah, Lamentations 1:16)

On Malachi 3:1

  • Maimonides (writes to R. Jacob Alfajumi): First shall He (the Messiah) appear in the land of Israel, for in the land of Israel shall be the beginning of His revelation, because it says: “And suddenly cometh to his temple the Lord, whom ye seek; even the Angel of the covenant, whom ye delight in; behold, he cometh, saith the Lord of hosts”. (Malachi 3:1)

  • Aben Ezra: The Lord is both the Divine Majesty and the Angel of the covenant.

  • David Kimchi: The Lord is the King Messiah; He is also the Angel of the covenant.

"All the prophets prophesied only of the days of the Messiah." [Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 99a]

"A king shall come forth from the sons of Jesse, and the Messiah shall grow up from his sons’ sons." [Targum to Yesha'yahu 11:1 in the Tanakh]

"Thus says the L~rd of Hosts, saying, ‘Behold the Man whose name is the Messiah who shall be revealed.’" [Targum to Z'kharyah 6:12 in the Tanakh]

"Behold the days come says the L~rd that I will raise up unto David a righteous Messiah and he shall reign as King and understand." [Targum to Yirmeyahu 23:5 in the Tanakh]

"The world was created but only for the Messiah." [Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 98b]

It was more convenient for their plan to charge him for deity claim rather than mere Messianic claim, since that is more definitive, however we can see from the context that claims he made were the Messianic claims, and the Messiah is divine. Cf. Daniel 7:13-14.

[ESV Matthew 26:63-66] (63) But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” (64) Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (65) Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy. (66) What is your judgment?” They answered, “He deserves death.”

[ESV John 5:18-19] (18) This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. (19) So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.

Indirectly, the Sanhedrin's ruling implies that the Messiah is God in their contemporary interpretation. So, the claims themselves cannot be a heresy and blasphemy, since that would not allow the Messiah whoever he is to self-identify himself. His Messianic claims and works were legitimate according to the Law, but the reason for their charge was their rejection of him. In their arrogance, hatred and insecurity, they wanted to kill him because he did not fit into their particular expectation as of a political King who liberates from the enemies. They even brought false witnesses about temple destruction to strengthen their case, which shows the blasphemy charge was not so strong after all (Mark 14:56-58).

The Jews considered themselves as children of God, so claims of being a Son of God is not controversial (Ex 4:22; Ho 11:1; De 14:1-2; Isa 1:2,4; 30:1,9; 1Ch 22:10; 28:6; Ps 2:7) but, he was claiming to be the unique eternal Son of God. He claimed to be the Lord of Sabbath, claimed to have met with Abraham and being greater than Abraham (John 8:58), and the Son of Man who comes in the power and great glory of God. These were Messianic-deity claims. Son of God is of God, as in the idiomatic expressions- son of perdition John 17:12, sons of sin, seed of falsehood, sons of hell, cf. Isaiah 57:4; Isaiah 33:2; Matthew 23:15. He was making God his own father, in a unique sense as the Messiah is. They understood him accurately.

On the charge of claiming to be equal with God, he countered them with the example that you are called gods (Ps 82:6), which means technically it is not a blasphemy and heresy to claim to be God, when those were called Gods, then how much more does he deserve. They were falsely charging him for it which is a unique crime of cursing and abusing God himself (Lev 24:11). They had twisted the blasphemy of the Holy Name according to their convenience, because they had the power. Today, when Israel is not governed by the Sanhedrin, times have changed, many Jews realize that claims that say the Messiah is God, or the self claims of being God are not blasphemy according to the law and their tradition.

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This was the second conflict with Jewish leaders over the Shema. The first was In John 5:42 was Jesus' statement particularly offensive because it claimed they were not truthful when reciting the Shema?

This time it was over:

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. (Deut. 6:4, ESV)

See What was the probable original Hebrew statement spoken by Jesus in Jn 10:30?

The Jewish leaders recited the Shema regularly.

"I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30, ESV)

Note: Deut. 6:4 ends with יְהוָ֥ה׀ אֶחָֽד (YHWH is one), while John 10:30 ends with ἕν ἐσμεν (We are one, אֶחָד אֲנַחְנוּ).

The Jewish leaders took Jesus' statement in 10:30 as a blatant claim to be God; not the Father, but sharing his nature.

10:30. His hearers might think of the relation between Israel and God, but Jesus’ wording about his unity with the Father is too explicit for that: instead he echoes the basic confession of Judaism that God is one (Deut 6:4). For Jesus to be one with the Father (albeit distinct from him) is tantamount to a claim to deity. -- Keener, C. S. (1993). The IVP Bible background commentary: New Testament (Jn 10:30). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

One (ἑν [hen]). Neuter, not masculine (εἱς [heis]). Not one person (cf. εἱς [heis] in Gal. 3:28), but one essence or nature. By the plural συμυς [sumus] (separate persons) Sabellius is refuted, by ὐνυμ [unum] Arius. So Bengel rightly argues, though Jesus is not referring, of course, to either Sabellius or Arius. The Pharisees had accused Jesus of making himself equal with God as his own special Father (John 5:18). Jesus then admitted and proved this claim (5:19–30). Now he states it tersely in this great saying repeated later (17:11, 21). Note ἑν [hen] used in 1 Cor. 3:3 of the oneness in work of the planter and the waterer and in 17:11, 23 of the hoped for unity of Christ’s disciples. This crisp statement is the climax of Christ’s claims concerning the relation between the Father and himself (the Son). They stir the Pharisees to uncontrollable anger. -- Robertson, A. T. (1933). Word Pictures in the New Testament (John 10:30). Nashville, TN: Broadman Press.

10:30. The enormity of the statement, “I and the Father are one,” within the context of the Gospel of John is difficult to overstate. There are several reasons for this. First, this is a type of “I am” statement for Jesus, this time “we are.” There is a continued reference to the divine name of Jehovah God, I AM (see comments on 8:58). Second, there is a further divine claim in obvious allusion to the famous Shema of Deuteronomy 6:4, “Hear O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” This was the monotheistic bedrock of the Jewish religion, that there was only one God. Yet Jesus has now included himself in this monotheistic confession. He does not mean that he has achieved some type of mystical unity with God that might be more at home with Hinduism. He is speaking of the very essence of his relationship with the Father, that there is a sameness about them. The theological math here is that 1 + 1 = 1 (cf. 1:1). And yet a third element in this should be noted. Jesus does not say, “I am the Father.” Although he makes a mighty claim here, he continues to maintain a certain level of distinction between the Father and himself. -- Bryant, B. H., & Krause, M. S. (1998). John (John 10:30). Joplin, MO: College Press Pub. Co.

I and the Father are one, the same One as in the Sh˒ma: “Adonai, our God, Adonai is One” (Deuteronomy 6:4). Yeshua’s self-assertion of his own divinity is occasioned by his regard for his followers: “no one will snatch them from” Yeshua’s (v. 28) or the Father’s (v. 29) hands. -- Stern, D. H. (1996). Jewish New Testament Commentary : a companion volume to the Jewish New Testament (electronic ed., Jn 10:30). Clarksville: Jewish New Testament Publications.

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  • 1
    I think it helps to emphasize that in John 10:30 the Greek would read ”I and the Father, we are one(hen)” May 20 at 3:57
  • 2
    That's absolutely irrelevant and misguided logic. There was no debate against monotheism. Jesus was a Jew who recited and taught Shema. They wanted to kill him because he was making God his own father. idion patera. Jews knew the Messiah is one with the Father, and how he is the angel of the cov, he is word/memra of God, will judge the world and all. He did not surprise them with Messianic claims, but only bec they hated and rejected him.
    – Michael16
    May 20 at 13:51
  • Despite the enormity of the statement, for a human (other than Jesus) claiming to be God or have a nature or domain reserved for God, was never blasphemy in Jewish Court law of the era. We assume blasphemy then meant what it did in the Church, or now. It was totally different. My answer below may be of interest for this fairly common but profound mistake in understanding the Gospels and life of Jesus.
    – Stilez
    May 22 at 8:08
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Actually, the premises you are constructing (although even they are enough to draw the point of legitimacy of Jews considering Jesus to blaspheme), lack one important point in premise 2-3 (this point belongs to both of those premises), to wit, Jesus Christ asserts that His Messiahship and His Sonship and His Unity with God the Father is confirmed and witnessed by His deeds that are from the Father and can be only from the Father; furthermore, Jesus also simultaneously claims that Father's "hand" and His "hand" have one and the same feature: the Christians are un-snatchable either from the Father's or from the Son's hand, which simply implies the same authority of both "hands"; this by itself already can be considered as a blasphemy of asserting equality with the Father. But, now, what does it mean that "nobody can snatch them either from Father's or from the Son's hand?" It is the same as to say that nobody can snatch them from the mentioned "eternal life" which the Son claims to give to them (John 10:28). Now, if the preservation in the eternal life is the deed of both the Father's and the Son's hand, then introduction to and bestowing of this very life must be also the deed of both the Father and the Son. The Son asserting that He will give the eternal life, and also simultaneously asserting that He can do only those deeds which He sees Father is doing, in fact says nothing else than that His divine activity and the Father's divine activity is one and the same activity. This having been established, let us take a big breath (or a huge yawn if you prefer) and continue examination of this crucial point in the next paragraph.

Actually, Jesus' claim necessarily implies that not only He, Jesus, cannot do anything unless Father "shows" Him, but neither the Father can do anything unless the Son co-doing this with Him, the Father. That is why Jesus clearly says: "My Father has been working until now and I have been working" (John 5:17). And what does it mean that "the Son can do nothing by himself; He can do only what He sees His Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does" (John 5:19)? It will be a wrong interpretation to think that the "whatever" implies only a faction of the Father's deeds, or that the Father simply, out of free will, shares His deeds with the Son, while He in fact can do even without the Son those same deeds. No! The Father is perfectly impotent ontologically or theologically to do anything without the Son, just like the Son is perfectly impotent to do anything but with the Father. That's why He says that "I cannot do anything unless the Father shows to Me", and immediately He also says that "Father judges nobody but has given judgment to the Son" (John 5:22), which, taken at a face value, will be a contradiction of His own words that He is doing only those things that the Father "shews", i.e. does. Simply, "Father does not judge" here means that Father cannot judge unless the Son co-judging, and neither create the universe, unless the Son co-creating; just like the Son cannot act miracles unless the Father also acting, and that's why the very miraculous deed, in Jesus' words, is the sign of the Father's witnessing presence, for those miracles simply cannot be done without Father co-doing them with the Son (John 10:25).

As we have established the unity of divine activity of the Father and the Son, to the effect that we cannot, even in theory, disentangle the divine activity of the Father from that of the Son, for their mutual co-action is a theological necessity, then we can very smoothly and evenly understand the very un-smooth and uneven, or rather a murderous wrath of Jews for the blasphemy of Jesus Christ: if the Father is totally impotent to do anything without the Son, then Son is necessarily God with the Father God, for everything non-God is part of the created universe, whereas if the universe itself could be created by the Father only through the Son (cf. John 1:1-3), then the Son is necessarily outside the created universe, and as such, He is God, the co-Creator of this same universe with God-the-Father.

Thus Jews were very correct to consider Jesus as a blasphemer looking from their own intellectual platform that entailed a crude type of monotheism. Indeed, this platform itself was wrong, for Jesus did not challenge monotheism as such, but only the retro-type Jewish mono-personal monotheism, which later also Muslims embraced having failed to appreciate the mystery of Trinity.

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The issue your presenting can be explained in the form of question? What was it that Jesus "SAID" that caused them to say He was claiming to be God?

At John 5:17 Jesus says, "My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working." The reaction of the Jews at John 5:18, "For this cause therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because (or why?) He not only was breaking the Sabbath, (Jesus was not breaking the Sabbath, in fact at Luke 6:5, Jesus said, "The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath."

Continuing with John 5:18, "but was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God." Then there is John 8:56-58 where Jesus claims to have existed even before Abraham was born." At vs59 they picked up stones to throw at Him;"

You brought up John 10:22-39. The key verse in this exchange is vs30, "I and the Father We are one." Yes, the Father and the Son are one in purpose as attested in the previous verses, but this was not the point of vs30. When Jesus said He and His Father are one the Jews react at vs31, "The Jews took up stones AGAIN to stone Him." Why?

Vs33, "For a good work we do not stone you, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man make Yourself out God." Jesus then brings up Psalm 82:6, why? He did not bring it up to show the Jews that He was not claiming to be God. All Jesus had to do was simply deny the charge and say something like, "We are to worship and serve God alone," end of story.

He brought up the Psalm to show the Jews are being inconsistent. 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 says if you don't believe Me, believe the works which means the Father gives His Son credibility.

John 19:7. The Jews are appealing to Pilate and say, "We have a law, and by that law He ought to die because He made Himself out the Son of God." If the Jews misunderstood the things Jesus said or claimed, why did they bring up the Law at Leviticus 24:16?

And yes, I know it says, "The Son of God" but the Jews knew that meant the literal "Son of God" as in there are no others. Remember, Jesus claimed God to be His Father. John 3:16 claims that Jesus is the one and only literal Son of God as in there are no others.

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  • +1 for bringing in some important context. "one and only literal Son of God" Right, see Luke 1:31-35. He is literally the Son of God because he was conceived through the power of the Holy Spirit. May 20 at 0:09
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One or Two Reasons

ἀπεκρίθησαν αὐτῷ οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι περὶ καλοῦ ἔργου οὐ λιθάζομέν σε ἀλλὰ περὶ βλασφημίας καὶ ὅτι σὺ ἄνθρωπος ὢν ποιεῖς σεαυτὸν θεόν (mGNT 10:33)

Part of the difficulty here is determining the meaning of καὶ. If it is connective, then there are two reasons: blasphemy and a man making himself God. On the other hand if it is explicative, then there is one reason: blasphemy (which is to make oneself God). As the English translations show, translators are divided on the exact meaning. For example:

The Jews answered Him, “We are not stoning You for a good work, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.” (NASB)
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.” (ESV)

The Desire to Kill Jesus
The issue of wanting to kill Jesus begins earlier in the Gospel:

16 And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. 17 But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” 18 This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. (John 5 ESV)

This describes two actions: persecution (for healing on the Sabbath) and death (for making Himself equal to God). Death by stoning is not specifically stated, but it may reasonably be inferred. This incident serves as the basis for the reoccurring theme of desiring to take His life (cf. 7:1, 25, 30, 32) until an actual attempt is made:

8:58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” 8:59 So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.

In this attempt there are several reasons why blasphemy is the most likely the only reason underlying both the attempt and the method:

  • The narrative to this point describes an underlying animus to kill Jesus. While it is possible the statement, before Abraham was, I am could be understood as making Himself equal to God, that is something which requires a deductive process. The immediate attempt to stone describes an emotional reaction.
  • With respect to the issue of making oneself equal to God, the Gospel writer is careful to always cast that issue in terms of equality and oneness with the Father (cf. 5:17-18, 10:30-31).
  • In the discussion (8:31-59), Jesus describes His divine relationship mostly in terms of God. On the other hand, those who He is contending with and eventually take up stones to kill Him, refer to God as their Father (cf. 8:41).

Before the attempt to stone Him, Jesus makes His only mention of the Father:

Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ (8:54)

This could be taken as making himself equal to God, but as with before Abraham was, I am, that is not immediately obvious. The deductive reasoning element may lead to that conclusion, but not only would that take time, the ensuing dialog shows no indication those present understood the statement as such.

Conclusion
With the entire Gospel in view, killing Him for making Himself equal to God begins with the response to healing the invalid on the Sabbath. This is specifically stated as being a result of "calling God His own Father" (5:18) a statement which is repeated before the final attempt to stone Him (10:30). Therefore, the Gospel describes two separate reasons. First, making himself equal to God, which is always given in terms of equality and oneness with the Father. Second, blasphemy for which the penalty is stoning.

The Gospel describes an underlying desire to kill Jesus based on His statements about His relationship with the Father and an emotional response to "take matters into their own hands" by stoning Him when He says before Abraham was I am. The "deductive reasoning" of those who attempted to stone Him the second time, is found in their reaction to Jesus' defense:

Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands. (10:39)

Jesus argument from Scripture, citing from Psalm 82 turned their desire to stone Him on the spot into an attempt to arrest Him, no doubt to bring Him to trial before the Sanhedrin.

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