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I'm not a Biblical scholar. This question is prompted by listening to Michael Heiser, and I currently feel persuaded by his argument that the elohim in Psalm 82 are spiritual beings rather than Israelite judges. I have some Greek and virtually no Hebrew. I'm looking at an interlinear text in both languages on biblehub.com.

The Jews (οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι) ask Jesus if he is "the Christ" (ὁ Χριστός). Jesus replies, among other things, that "I and the father are one" (ἐγὼ καὶ ὁ Πατὴρ ἕν ἐσμεν). The Jews make to stone him, "for blasphemy, and because you, being a human, make yourself God" (περὶ βλασφημίας, καὶ ὅτι σὺ, ἄνθρωπος ὢν, ποιεῖς σεαυτὸν Θεόν). Jesus replies by quoting Psalm 82, "I [a singular elohim, presumably Yahweh] said you [the members of the divine congregation] are gods [plural elohim]", then asks how come they're telling him that "you [Jesus] blaspheme because I said I am the Son of God?" (Βλασφημεῖς, ὅτι εἶπον, Υἱὸς τοῦ Θεοῦ εἰμι).

The phrase "Son of God" (Υἱὸς τοῦ Θεοῦ) presumably corresponds to "children of the most high" (עֶלְי֣וֹן וּבְנֵ֖י) in Psalm 82. But then what's Jesus' point? If he's saying it's not blasphemous for him to call himself the Son of God because Hebrew scripture shows that there are such beings, how does that answer the Jews' charge of blasphemy? Surely to say "I and the Father are one" does indeed make himself God, and therefore makes arguments about the title "Son of God" and Psalm 82 redundant.

What have I missed?

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  • The point is that God intends humans to come to the revelation of being elohim Oct 10 at 4:04
  • @mjc The judges of the O/T - elders - made decisions based on the Law of God as His ambassadors on earth. How much more so, then, was Christ both a king, and a "judge" (considered "gods" over the people): Lk. 11:31b: "[The Queen of the South] came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here."? Solomon was king over Israel. Christ was a prophet, priest, and king, constituting the greatest authority of all: much greater than any of the ancient judges.
    – Xeno
    Oct 10 at 13:44

11 Answers 11

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What is Jesus' argument in John 10:34-36?

John 10:33-36

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 [a] 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 [or 'a'] Son of God’?

Psalms 82:6

6 I said, “You are gods,
sons of the Most High, all of you;

This was the first verse that caused me to rethink the Trinity and quickly thereafter reject it. Once one verse that I was taught supported the Trinity no longer seemed to support it, it was easy to begin questioning every other verse that I was told supported the Trinity.

First,
Saying "I and the Father are one" doesn't necessarily make you God. Consider how Jesus thinks of oneness:

22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, -John 17:22

The oneness that Jesus asserts he has with the Father is the type of oneness that the disciples can have with each other. It is a oneness of unity capable of being shared amongst multiple separate beings instead of a oneness only one unitary being can have.

Regarding John 10:34-36,
Jesus clearly seems to be saying that if scripturally calling other beings gods is not blasphemous, then why are they accusing Jesus of blasphemy for referring to himself as "[a] son of God."

It should be noted that Jesus generally uses a definite article with the title Son of God, but declines to do so in John 10. It seems as if he's is intentionally drawing parallels between the type of son of God he is and the type of sons of God the Psalms 82 gods are.

It also should be noted that the Jews weren't likely accusing Jesus of claiming to be God himself in verse 33, but "a god." Again the definite article is missing and Jesus's argumentation makes much more sense as a direct response to the charge of blasphemy for being "a god" in verse 33, by reminding them of those scripturally called gods, in verse 34, without it being blasphemous. It follows logically that if others can be called gods and sons of God and it not be blasphemy, then Jesus can be called a god and a son of God and it not be blasphemy. The logic is not so direct to say that because others could be called God's sons then Jesus could be God himself.

Either way, a straightforward reading of the text doesn't lead you to believe that Jesus argued to assert an ontological equivalency with God, the Father, but to make a technical argument to defend against the charge of blasphemy by referring to others in scripture also called gods. If he intended to make any sort of ontological equation (and I'm not certain he is) it would most naturally be to the other sons of God he referred to from Psalms 82.

By the way: I also have learned a lot from Michael Heiser and commend him greatly even though our theology differs a bit

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    +1 Do you know of any translations besides the NWT that gives that rendering of "a god"? Oct 10 at 9:43
  • 1
    Thanks, @MartinHemsley. We do have the NEB (1970): "...You, a mere man, claim to be a god."
    – Austin
    Oct 11 at 3:25
  • @Austin Denial of the Trinity is not a light matter, it is graver matter than to deny 2+2=4. The arguments you bring hardly suffice for that denial, and how can any argument suffice against truth? Even in your logic, the disciples’ unity is unity of those with the same, parallel, non-hierarchical dignity and honor, and you then are to necessarily conclude the same, parallel, non hierarchical dignity of the Father and the Son, and that’s Trinitarian theology. How otherwise could the Son demand the same honor, as He does? (John 5:23). Oct 14 at 4:04
  • "How can any argument suffice against truth?" It can't. That's why I don't believe in the Trinity :-) Simply claiming truth doesn't really advance the discussion. "Even in your logic..." My logic doesn't constrain the meaning of unity to imply hierarchy or no hierarchy. And this is my problem w/Trinitarian logic. It unnecessarily constrains the meaning of words to support the Trinity often excluding true meaning. For example, John 5:3, it's unnecissary to conclude that Jesus has exact same honor as God, but only it is equally important to honor Jesus. This is because Jesus is God's agent.
    – Austin
    Oct 14 at 7:36
  • @Austin Sorry, but that is called torturing of text at your wish. As Paul says it is impossible to glorify the Father without co-glorifying the Lordship of the Son (Phil. 2:11) and the Lordship of the Son is possible to confess but by Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:3). Also epistemologically: the Lord says that He knows the Father just as is known by the Latter (John 10:15), one should be a merciless tormentor of meaning and frankness not to understand that epistemological equality here necessarily implies equality in ontology also. Go forward to your previous right ways, best advice for you today. Oct 14 at 10:33
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There is context to this verse in question

Pay close attention to when they interrupt Jesus to determine what they were offended by and what didn’t offend them

“I and the Father are one.” John‬ ‭10:30

Jesus says that He and the Father are one, obviously not numerically one, He just distinguished Himself from the Father, that makes two persons. He doesn’t say, “I and the Father are one and the same” for example.

The Greek here is hen, as opposed to monos which can only mean one numerically. The word hen can mean numerically one but it is used in the same way we in English use one when speaking about ‘one people’. It doesn’t mean one person but a group of people acting in unison.

Jesus was saying that He and the Father are united/unified. He and the Father have the exact same goals, move in the exact same direction, and overall are in agreement about all things.

The religious leaders understood what Jesus said and immediately accused Him of blasphemy. Notice they reacted right away

“The Jews picked up stones again to stone him.” ‭‭John‬ ‭10:31‬ ‭

Jesus asks for which of the works from the Father are they stoning Him?

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 ‭

It is clear that they had a problem with Him claiming to be at one with God. Not in the sense that He agrees with God but that He is on the same level with God in His agreement. Because as far as they were concerned they were one with God too when it came to agreeing with God but they never would have claimed to be one with God, for God is other and no one compares to Him.

Jesus proceeds to clarify (to us) what was it that offended them?

  • were they upset that He mentioned other gods?
  • or were they upset that He claimed equality with God?

To do this He quotes psalm 82 which speaks about the benei ha’Elohim or the sons of God. [No one at the time of Jesus understood sons of God to be men in the OT, there are no examples of human elohim, Moses was LIKE an elohim to Pharoah, and the passages translated judges are mistranslations or incorrect interpretations. Men being elohim is a 2nd century AD idea that would be popularized later in the 4th century by Augustine on theological grounds and not Scriptural reason]

“Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? 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’?” ‭‭John‬ ‭10:34, 36‬ ‭

Notice the question

Jesus is asking are you saying I’m blaspheming because I said I am a son of God? Is that why you’re offended? Obviously not because they were acutely aware of other gods throughout the OT and they say nothing, they don’t even interrupt Jesus but rather let Him speak. Jesus probes them by asking blatantly are you offended that I said I am the son of God?

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’?” ‭‭John‬ ‭10:36‬ ‭

Jesus proceeds with the alternative reason that might offend them

“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.”” ‭‭John‬ ‭10:38‬ ‭

It’s at this last phrase that

“Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands.” ‭‭John‬ ‭10:39‬ ‭

What pushed them over the edge this time? Claiming to be a god wasn’t the reason, they tolerated Him but when Jesus said “I am in the Father” this stirred them up

To say ‘God is in someone’ wasn’t offensive, because God could be over someone, in someone, working through someone, that wasn’t an issue to them. Of course in context God being in Him was not merely a positional statement, such as for example, I am in 17th place. It was an active position of power and authority. When a spirit was in a man, it could exercise authority over that person. When Jesus said that not only was God in Him but that He Jesus was in God, that was a statement of equality. No one can be in God, God is other, God is separate, God is Holy, God is superior.

Jesus just attested to not merely being a god but, to being part of the God head.

Jesus could have simply said I am one of the sons of God and they wouldn’t have argued with Him. It’s when He said I am in God that to them it was clear He was not merely claiming to be a heavenly being but ONE(unified) with God.

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    "When Jesus said that not only was God in Him but that He Jesus was in God, that was a statement of equality. No one can be in God, God is other, God is separate, God is Holy, God is superior." The apostle John flatly disagrees with you here: "Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him..." (1 John 3:24) Naturally, God is in Jesus differently than Jesus is in God. When God is in Jesus, His commands abide in Jesus. When Jesus abides in God, he abides within God's love, keeping His commands: "I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love." - John 15:10
    – Austin
    Oct 11 at 3:51
  • @Austin that’s not what 1 Jn3:24 says. That might be what your version of a translation says. Also “naturally” God is in Christ differently but again the text doesn’t say naturally we are in each other differently, rather because He claimed to be in the same way it is for this reason they wanted to kill him. Your precommitment to your personal creed may be redefining some of these words and so we seem to be struggling to understand each other. Thank you for the downvote. Oct 11 at 3:58
  • 1
    that’s not what 1 Jn3:24 says... If we disagree on the Greek pronouns maybe 1 John 4:16 will help: "God is love, and the one abiding in love abides in God, and God abides in him." You said, "No one can be in God." John refutes this. Why kill him? They killed him for claiming to be God's empowered son (Mat 26:63-65).
    – Austin
    Oct 11 at 4:25
  • @Austin your tone doesn’t seem to allow for a beneficial dialogue, and so I am choosing not to continue in it. You can keep your opinions and your misinterpretation of my words. Oct 11 at 4:43
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    @SteveTaylor, I didn't know you could do that. Thanks, in all sincerity for cleaning som of that up for us. Just curious, while you deleted a whole comment of mine, why did you maintain his dismissive and personal attacks against my tone and credal commitments which have nothing to do with the actual technical contention I have with his argument and don't advance the discussion even after you heavily edited our tone? I offered no creed and I quoted both him and the Bible without any desire to misconstrue in earnest concern for the truth.
    – Austin
    Oct 11 at 15:09
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OP:

The phrase "Son of God" (Υἱὸς τοῦ Θεοῦ) presumably corresponds to "children of the most high" (עֶלְי֣וֹן וּבְנֵ֖י) in Psalm 82. But then what's Jesus' point?

To avoid an assault at this point, Jesus was trying to soften his position from claiming to be God to claiming to be a son of God.

If he's saying it's not blasphemous for him to call himself the Son of God because Hebrew scripture shows that there are such beings, how does that answer the Jews' charge of blasphemy?

One could only blaspheme against God. If Jesus hadn't claim to be God, then he had not blasphemed.

Surely to say "I and the Father are one" does indeed makes himself God, and therefore makes arguments about the title "Son of God" and Psalm 82 redundant.

What have I missed?

Jesus wasn't denying that he was God. At this point of the crisis situation, he was trying to soften his position to be more modest one: just a son of God. But his enemies refused to listen to his logic:

39 Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp.

It showed their hardness of hearts. They wouldn't listen to reasons even when Jesus backed down somewhat.

What is Jesus' argument in John 10:34-36?

Jesus argued for a softer position, claiming to be a son of God. Yet, they wouldn't have it and insisted that he blasphemed by claiming to be God.

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I think Austin gives a good response. I would add that the people understood Jesus was not making himself out to be the Father(the only true God) or they would not have put their faith in him after his teaching. The whole point of the "ye are gods" argument was to show that Jesus was divine but not in a way that made him equal to the Father. The people understood what Jesus was saying and immediately afterward referred to him as a man and believed in him.

John 10 41 Many came to Him and were saying, “While John performed no sign, yet everything John said about this man was true.” 42Many believed in Him there.

Jesus also explained what he meant by "I and the Father are one".

36do you say of Him, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? 37“If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; 38but if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father.”

First of all, he called himself the Son of God who does the works of his Father which makes him subordinate to his Father. He then says that the Father is in him, and he is in the Father.

We are also in Jesus, and Jesus is in us.

John 17 23 I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.

Col 1 27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Finally, Jesus proved himself yet again to not be just some ordinary man claiming to be God, by easily eluding the grasp of the angry, uncomprehending mob of unbelieving Jews.

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Notice Jesus' use of his accusers' interpretation of Psalm 82:6 against them. "I said, Ye are gods, And all of you sons of the Most High" The judges and those serving as representatives of Jehovah/Yahweh are called gods. By his accusers' designation of "gods" in Psalm 82:6, he repudiates their charge of blasphemy. Jesus testified that his activities are done in his Father's name. Jesus explained that he was not wrong for claiming to be the son of God. Noticed to that he did not claim to be the only true God that he worships. John 17:3. Jesus explained that his accusers misunderstood him "whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world" John 10:36.

If Jesus is God, as others claim, then Jesus' statement in John 10:36 does not make sense, considering John 13:16 ASV Verily, verily, I say unto you, a servant is not greater than his lord; neither one that is sent greater than he that sent him. If Jesus is the only true God, there is no need for him to be sent. The charge of blasphemy against Jesus is false and is based on a false understanding of Jesus' statements like some who read a claim to equality to these statements, even though Jesus said "my father is greater than all in John 10:29, then Later in John 14:28 Jesus said "The Father is greater than I".

His accusers motives and character should be taken in to account if we are to accept their accusation as true, making Jesus statements false. His accusers claimed Jesus to be possessed by Beelzebub, Mark 3:22. They wanted Jesus dead John 18:14 and planned to kill him John 11:53, tried to entrap Jesus with his words, Mark 12:13 and they envy Jesus Mark 15:10. There is nothing in the context of the verse that substantiates Jesus' use of Psalm 82:6 here to refer to spirit beings.

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First of all I am well familiar with Michael Heisner's position regarding Psalm 82:6 and I disagree with his take. As a side note I do agree with his paper on "Who is the angel of the Lord in the Old Testament."

Now, at John 10:30, it literally says, "I and the Father, We are one." How are they one? It goes without saying they are one in purpose but this is not the point Jesus was making at John 10:30. John 10:31, "The Jews took up stone "AGAIN to stone Him." At vs32, "Jesus answered them, I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?" John 10:33, "The Jews answered Him, For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man make Yourself out God." I'm not aware of anybody being stoned for being one in purpose?

Please notice how Jesus answers them. What He says (and here Jesus is being His own commentary by quoting Psalm 82:6) "Has it not been written in you Law, "I said you are gods?" His answer has nothing to do with Him and the Father being one in purpose. John 10:35, "If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and Scripture cannot be broken), vs35, do you say of Him, whom the Father sanctified and SENT INTO THE WORLD, "You are blaspheming, because I said, "I am the Son of God?"

Verse 37, "If I do the works of My Father (notice again Jesus refers to "My Father), do not believe Me." Vs38, "but if I do them 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." So what was the point Jesus was making by Him quoting Psalm 82:6?

What Jesus is simply doing is taking the Jew's statement about Him blaspheming to its logical conclusion to show 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."

Or to put this another way, Jesus' usage of Psalms 82:6 was to imply that what the Scriptures call humans "allegorically," He was in actuality since He does what only God can do, hence John 10:38. So the point of what Jesus said at John 10:30 was to show Him and His Father are one in nature or essence, that's why no one can snatch the sheep out of His hands or the Father's, John 10:27-28.

Jesus had said that the sheep are equally safe in His hand and in His Father's hand. 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 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.

AT John 10:24 the Jews asked Jesus to tell them plainly who He was. This verse is plain. He does not say "I am Christ," but "I and my Father are one"--God!

The Jews, no matter what their motive understood Jesus correctly. There could be no mistake about His meaning. "Again" refers to John 8:59 at which time the Jews also attempted to stone Him for blasphemy intending to kill Him.

For more information regarding the Judges at Psalms 82:6 I post the following link of "Keil & Delhzsch" which I find very informative. Just scroll down to verses 5-7. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kdo/psalms-82.html

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  • I think it's fair to say that, if we can put theological arguments aside (not that I'm against theological arguments), Jesus gave the Jews the best, and perhaps the only, answer he could, given their lack of understanding and disbelief. Oct 16 at 3:19
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It was the Jewish religious leaders who falsly claimed he said something he didn't say.

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Michael Heiser himself answered your question in a paper he read at the 2012 regional meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature: Jesus' Quotation of Psalm 82:6 in John 10:34: A Different View of John's Theological Strategy (source: supplementary material for Chapter 4 of his Unseen Realm book, content discussion #2). This answer is based on his paper.

How Michael Heiser's understanding of Ps 82 is applied to interpreting John 10:22-42, especially verses 30-38.

  1. Dr. Heiser claims that Jesus's interlocutors ("the Jews") shared the view that the "gods" in Ps 82:6 are divine, not human.

  2. The purpose of Jesus's quoting Psalm 82 in v. 34-36 was NOT to equate his interlocutors with the sons of God but for Jesus himself to claim membership in the divine council. In other words, Jesus proposed that he was at least divine (non-human). But Jesus was not using John 10:34-36 to equate himself with the Father, only to take one step above mortal and not yet blasphemous.

  3. But in the enclosing v. 30 ("I and the Father are one") and v. 38 ("... the Father is in me and I am in the Father.") Jesus took one step further by equating himself with the Father, the unique lord of the council who is NOT in the same class with the other members of the council, but HIGHER. This is consistent with John's high Christology. In effect,

    he equates himself as co-regent to the lord of the council, Yahweh himself. The blasphemy charge now makes good sense.

From the paper's conclusion:

... Situated as it is between clear claims to be one with the Father, and that the Father is in Jesus (cp. Exod. 23:20-23, where the Name—the presence/essence of Yahweh (cp. Deut. 4:37)—is in the angel, who is therefore Yahweh in human form), John is both asserting Jesus is divine and distinct from other divine sons of God. In effect, Jesus is lord of the council.

This interpretation is consistent with: (1) Psalm 82 understood in its original ancient Near Eastern context; (2) other instances of “sons of God” being divine in the Hebrew Bible; and (3) John’s portrayal of Jesus as God in his gospel. No other view meets these criteria.

About your claim that referencing Ps 82 is redundant.

Dr. Heiser didn't discuss this point. This is my own speculation. Maybe it is a rhetorical strategy (two step claim) or to remind the Jews of a precedent that the Father himself had previously made certain beings immortal. Therefore, citing Ps 82 made Jesus's claim of equality with the Father a smaller, although still blasphemous, step.

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Jesus was arguing that God the Father had other children who were gods (Psalm 82:6 You are gods and children of the Most High) but that he, Jesus, was the unique divine Son so that he was not blaspheming but speaking of the truth:

John 10:33, 10:36 forms a chiastic structure (A-B-B-A):

For blasphemy, because you, being a man,

are making yourself God (v. 33)[1]

You say...I blaspheme because

I say I am God's son? (v. 36)

Jesus believed that he was set apart (separated from others) from the other divine sons, Jesus himself being the "only Son of his kind" i.e. unique Son (no other divine son is like Jesus) who was sent into the world:

You say of him whom God set apart and sent into the world (John 10:36) The only begotten Son/the Unique Son [2](monogenes huios) ...sent into the world (John 3:16-17)

In his prologue, John spoke of Jesus as monogenes theos: the "only God of his kind" i.e. the unique God (Jesus was unlike the gods in John 10:34; Psalm 82. Jesus is different from the other gods). Among the other Elohim, Jesus is unique Elohim exactly just as Yahweh is. Jesus was God even in the beginning, before all things came into being (John 1:1-3), which again sets him apart from other divine sons, as these were came into being but Jesus did not ("not one thing came into being without him" i.e. the Logos, referring to the pre-incarnate Christ) (John 1:3b).

θεος in John 10:33 is anarthrous (i.e. without the definite article). The context shows that Jesus Christ claimed to be one with the Father in the sense of having the same abilities (v. 28-30).

  • Christ gives eternal life and no one snatches the people from his hand in the same way that;
  • No one statches them from the Father

It is in this way Jesus and the Father are one (John 10:29-30).Giving of life and having a powerful hand were Yahweh's prerogatives in Deuteronomy 32:39. Thus, θεος in v. 33 should be rendered as "God", because Jesus was claiming to be equal with Yahweh.

Jesus was claiming he and the Father possess same abilities, Jesus essentially equating himself with the Father (see also John 5:18). The Jews thought of Jesus as blaspheming because he, being a man (hon anthropos), was making himself God (theos), referring to Yahweh. The contrast between anthropos and theos in v. 33 shows that the Jews understood that Jesus was claiming to be a heavenly being. The Jews mistakenly thought that Jesus was a mere mortal whose claim of being equal with God was blasphemous ("no mortal should think he was equal with God", 2 Macc. 9:12).The Jews thought correctly that Jesus was claiming to be God but Jesus wasn't blaspheming because he was truly God. Jesus was God (ho theos) (John 20:28).


notes

  1. Another meaning of μονογεμης is "only begotten/uniquely begotten". *unique -the only one of its kind, class, category. Jesus' begetting was unique (only one of its kind) because he was begotten before all things (cf. John 1:1, 1:3, 1:18)
  2. Jesus and the Father are one and this oneness (i.e. uniqueness) was shared to and is to be reflected by the disciples. Jesus stated the purpose of this oneness: so that they will be "complety united/in unity" (i.e. not divided, having factions), not that they will share in the divine attributes as in the case of John 10:28-30 (cf. Deuteronomy 32:39). That is, the church should be unique, set apart from the world as the Father and the Son are not of this world (John 17:22-23).
  3. μονογενής (monogenēs) having two primary definitions: (i) pertaining to being the only one of its kind within a specific relationship and. (ii) pertaining to being the only one of its kind or class, unique in kind" (Source: Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (BAGD, 3rd Edition)).
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    That’s an interesting nuance you picked up on which I didn’t appreciate the first time I read your post, “only son of his kind”. Already voted Oct 10 at 17:50
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    @Nihil Sine Deo, i got it from a Greek Lexicon :) μονογενής (monogenēs) having two primary definitions: (i) pertaining to being the only one of its kind within a specific relationship and. (ii) pertaining to being the only one of its kind or class, unique in kind" (Source: Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (BAGD, 3rd Edition)).
    – Radz Brown
    Oct 10 at 19:39
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    I think we should be careful with interpreting monogenes as the only one of its kind or class, unique in kind, especially if we're thinking kind in terms of ontology. Recall that Isaac was referred to as Abraham's monogenes in Hebrews 11:17. He was not ontologically different from Ishmael or any other of Abraham's children.
    – Austin
    Oct 11 at 7:49
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    @Austin Perhaps you'll be interested in Heiser's comment on this, which is (if I state it right) that Isaac is indeed unique in a sense analogous to Jesus's uniqueness, since Isaac was the son of God's promise to Abraham to give him a child despite Sarah's age (my comment: perhaps by means related to those God used to impregnate Mary). Therefore 'monogoneis' used with respect to Isaac actually foreshadows its use with respect to Jesus (my comment: and the unique son who embodied the first covenant is recalled by the unique son who embodies the second).
    – mjc
    Oct 12 at 15:46
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    @mjc, I think that is one of the more conservative ways to interpret monogenes, cross-referencing established Biblical usage of the term.
    – Austin
    Oct 13 at 3:40
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Just mind the fact that the Lord clearly differentiates and disentangles Himself from those "gods", for He says that they are not gods per se (which would be impossible in the context of the Hebrew monotheism and would amount to a polytheist idolatry), but through receiving divine word. Thus, the word of God is their deifier or god-maker. But the Lord sets a gap between Himself and them. The sentence has the conditional structure of "if... then...", like in a sentence: "If even amateur boxers can defeat a pro-karate master, how much more Muhammad Ali, the all-time great pro-boxer can do it!" - in this sentence, you see, Ali is clearly set apart from the amateur boxers, like the Lord clearly sets Himself apart from the "gods" who are such only by participation in the word of God, that is to say, derivatively.

Therefore, the a) "whom God has sanctified", which refers to the Lord Jesus Christ is absolutely differentiated from the b) "to whom word of God came", which refers to the human persons (for it is so that the Lord interprets this Psalmic verse, and also it is logical, because, i) it urges those persons to do just judgment to the poor and orphans, which cannot be addressed to angels, who, first of all are not judges, and moreover are not ever slackened in doing any good thing assigned to them due to becoming corrupt, accepting bribes, or becoming lazy and ii) the Psalm clearly reprimands the men for seeing not in their mission of making just judgment a dimension of participation in divine feature - His word, and not regarding themselves through this very participation as more than just simple humans and dying as such; in contrast, angels do not die at all (neither do demons), so "you die as men" can apply only to mortal men and not angels who are exempt from mortality).

I will not dwell long into the semantics of what the "sanctified" means, but it is clear that it cannot mean the same as sanctifying somebody by the word of God, for then there will be no difference between the mentioned a) and b) which is plain wrong, for the difference is drawn very clearly and unambiguously. This "sanctified" does not of course mean that the Lord possessed some deficiency - not to say impurity - from which He was "sanctified", any more than the "your name be sanctified" (ἁγιασθήτω) (Matthew 6:9) in the Lord's prayer to the Father means that the Father has some imperfection or impurity and needs to be sanctified; and in John 10:36 the same verb (ἡγίασεν) is used for the "sanctified" as in the Lord's Prayer. It is the same, when Psalm 115:1 says God giving glory to His name, it does not surely mean that He gives to His name something His name lacks, which would be absurd.

Since the derivative deification is possible only through acceptance of God's word and since the Lord Jesus Christ is not to be enlisted among those derivative "gods", then we must out of necessity conclude that His Godhead is not derivative and therefore, given the strict monotheism of Hebrew nation, He is one with God, as He indeed unequivocally affirms. In fact, He tells Philip that "seeing Him is the same to see the Father, because They are one" (John 14:8-10), which means that all deeds of the Father are the deeds of the Son as well, for otherwise seeing of the Son (i.e. the Son's deeds), would not amount to seeing the Father (i.e. the Father's deeds), to the effect that it is to be concluded that the Father not only does not, but ontologically cannot do anything without the Son, Their action being the same and always common action (cf. John 5:17), like a punching action of a boxer and that of his fist is the same action, or to use a better, patristic, image - the sun's and its rays' activity is one and the same activity, for the sun sheds light but by and through its rays.

Thus, to give a helpful scheme of hierarchy of the mentioned three:

a) God

b) The Lord Jesus Christ who is sanctified by God and


c) The "sons of God" who are "gods" through receiving divine word.

Given that receiving divine word is the only possibility of getting a derivative "god"-ness and given that the Lord Jesus Christ is not in this category while claiming the term "god" for Himself, we can safely conclude that His divinity is not derivative. Now, given that non derivative divinity in Jewish religion is one and only, then we can also safely conclude that the Father and the Son are equally God and that They are "one" in this very sense (cf. John 10:30). Thus, in the scheme above I drew a line between a)/b) and c), in order to disentangle the uncreated, deity-proper level (a)/b) from the created, derivative "god"-ness level - c).

This identification of Himself with God was immediately perceived by Jews as a blasphemy, but by those who believed Him, as the only correct theology, for glorification of the Father is only possible by acknowledging the Lordship and Godhead of the Lord Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:3 and Phil. 2:11).

Therefore, the gist of the Lord Jesus Christ’s argument is to differentiate and disentangle Himself from saintly men who possess derivative god-ness in virtue of acceptance of and participation in divine word, and by this to claim His own non-derivative, per se Godhead.

Thus, His argument can be stated like that: "If the term "god" can be applied even to men, in so far as they participate in the divine word, how much more the term "god" is applicable to Him, who possesses the claim of this title not through acceptance of and participation in divine word, but per se, being sanctified by Father just as the Father sanctifies Himself (cf. Ezekiel 36:23).

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I’m quite surprised that Austin's interpretation of John 10 is getting so much praise here in the forum. I for one find such an interpretation quite problematic, for which just one of those reasons GratefulDisciple briefly touches on: To interpret John 10:34-36 (cf. Ps. 82:6) in such a way, dethrones Jesus from that lofty position — where He dwells on high (ἐν ὑψηλοῖς, Hebrews 1:3) at the right hand of the Father (a place of glory He formerly resided prior to the incarnation, John 17:5) — and places Him on a par with other “sons of God,” something that is in direct conflict with the overall message of the NT (i.e., Hebrews 1, 1 Timothy 5).

The tendency among Unitarian types is to interpret θεόν (John 10:33) as either definite or indefinite — and depending on which semantic force that particular Unitarian adheres — will dictate how they interpret the remainder of the discourse. Some Unitarians take θεόν to carry with it a definite semantic force, arguing that the Jews had simply misunderstood Jesus’ words — or yet, were even lying through their teeth — and in the passages that follow (vv. 34-36) Jesus works to correct them. Undergirding this view is the idea that the Jews accused Jesus of claiming to be someone He is not (i.e., “God”), and Jesus then works to correct their misunderstanding (vv. 34-36). Other Unitarians would suggest that θεόν is indefinite. But this latter approach then uproots and undermines the former interpretation (that the Jews “misunderstood” Jesus) — the two do not mesh — as the Jews would have then correctly understood Jesus as claiming to be “a god.” And sometimes, when you have a really confused Unitarian who can’t seem to make heads or tails of it (or even a really deceptive one), they will flip flop between the two interpretations, not recognizing — or better yet, hoping that you won’t recognize — that as they switch between the two semantic forces, they are ultimately train wrecking the very narrative they were originally espousing in the first place. I mention this, because I believe we actually see an example of this at play here on this very forum. Hence, notice ACME's response:

“It was the Jewish religious leaders who falsely claimed he said something he didn't say.”

This response assumes the definite rendering of θεόν. Yet, it would appear as if this same user would then go on to upvote Austin’s response (showing some agreement with it). But there’s a problem: Which narrative is it, ACME? Only one can be correct, and by upvoting Austin’s answer (if you did) only undermines the very point you were originally trying to establish (i.e., the Jews were accusing Jesus of claiming to be God, something He never claimed). Either the Jews were wrongly accusing Jesus of being God, or they rightly understood Him as claiming to be “a god.” It can’t be both. Perhaps this is something you should rethink, least you be founded of bearing false witness (and of those who bear false witness). Why exactly would Jesus want to place Himself on an equal footing with the “sons of God,” especially if those sons of God are “corrupt” sons of God?

It’s quite interesting that Austin begins his exegesis of John 10, starting only at John 10:30. Because if we are to understand John 10:33 accurately then one must ask: What did Jesus say in the preceding context that would lead the Jews to claim Jesus was “a god”? Austin follows a faulty line of reasoning: John 10:33 must mean that Jesus is “a god” in light of the verses that follow (vv. 34-36). However, it really should be the verses that precede 10:33 that dictate our understanding of v. 33, and subsequently vv. 34-36. Up to v. 33, what is it that Jesus said that would prompt such a reaction by the Jews?

Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father’s name, these testify of Me. But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. 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. I and the Father are one.” The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him. Jesus answered them, “I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?” The Jews answered Him, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.” (John 10:25-33, NASB)

The words that Jesus utters in vv. 27–28 — “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand” — are of particular interest. For not only do these words echo that of Psalm 95, but the contextual setting in which they apply run parallel to one another,

For He is our God,
And we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand.
Today, if you would hear His voice,
Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,
As in the day of Massah in the wilderness,
“When your fathers tested Me, They tried Me, though they had seen My work.
“For forty years I loathed that generation, And said they are a people who err in their heart,
And they do not know My ways.
“Therefore I swore in My anger,
Truly they shall not enter into My rest.” (Psalm 95:7-11, NASB)

Make the connections: John 10:27 (“My sheep hear My voice”) parallels Ps. 95:7 (“Today, if you would hear His voice”). John 10:28 (“My sheep… no one will snatch them out of My hand”) also parallels Ps. 95:7 (“we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand”). John 10:28 also parallels Deuteronomy 32:39 (“there is none that can deliver out of My hand”) and Isaiah 43:13 (“none can deliver from My hand”). John 10:32 (“I showed you many good works”) parallels Ps. 95:9 (“They tried Me, though they had seen My work”).

Further along this line of thought, the precise language underlying John 10:28 parallels that of Isaiah 43:13 LXX and Deuteronomy 32:39 LXX,

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one can snatch them out of My hand (καὶ οὐχ ἁρπάσει τις αὐτὰ ἐκ τῆς χειρός μου) (John 10:27-28)

“Even from eternity I Am, and there is none who can deliver out of My hand (καὶ οὐχ ἔστιν ὁ ἐκ τῶν χειρῶν μου ἐξαιρούμενος); I act and who can reverse it?” (Isaiah 43:13 LXX)

It should be recognized that the verbiage found on the lips of Jesus comes from contexts (i.e., Isaiah 43:13, Deut. 32:39), which speak of YHWH alone being God. And so on this point, it does not seem likely that Jesus would then place Himself on a plain equivocal with the other “sons of God,” when in fact, He uses language distinctly found on the lips of YHWH:

Behold, behold that I am (ἐγώ εἰμι),
And there is no god besides Me.
I kill, and I will make alive;
I will smite, and I will heal;
And there is no one who shall deliver out of My hand (καὶ οὐκ ἔστιν ὃς ἐξελεῖται ἐκ τῶν χειρῶν μου). (Deut. 32:29 LXX)

Moreover, notice that the very thing that YHWH claims to do in Deut. 32:39 (“I kill, and I will make alive [καὶ ζῆν ποιήσω πατάξω κἀγὼ]”) is also the very thing Jesus claims to do in John 10:28 (“and I give eternal life to them [κἀγὼ δίδωμι αὐτοῖς ζωὴν αἰώνιον]”).

Such use of Deut. 32 should not be altogether surprising since Jesus is elsewhere depicted as occupying, and fulfilling the role of “the Lord” in such theologically rich contexts wherein Israel is warned not to abandon YHWH for any other god (Deut. 31:24–30). Hence, the author of the Book of Hebrews picks up on this very theme in v. 6 (cf. Deut. 32:43 LXX) when speaking of the worship due to Jesus:

καὶ προσκυνησάτωσαν αὐτῷ πάντες ἄγγελοι θεοῦ (Deut. 32:43 LXX)

καὶ προσκυνησάτωσαν αὐτῷ πάντες ἄγγελοι θεοῦ (Hebrews 1:6)

Furthermore, the association with the Feast of Tabernacles and the Feast of Dedication (also known as “Second Tabernacles”) provides us with some context to Jesus’ statements. Jesus’ run in with the Jews unfolds at the heel of the Feast of Tabernacles (John 7:1-10:21); the very occasion Ps. 95 and Deut. 32 would have been sung by the congregations of Israel (Deut. 31:21-32:43). And so Jesus' use of these texts is intended to mimic songs of praise to YHWH that would have been sang on the very evening of.

The point of mentioning all of this is simple: The OT reality in which the Jews of ancient, who tested and tried the Lord after witnessing His work for forty years in the wilderness (Ps. 95:8–9), had found itself once more resurfacing in the NT witness (John 10:32). Just as their forefathers before them, the Jews of Jesus’ day, had likewise hardened their hearts even after witnessing the many miracles of the Lord Jesus.

Jesus uses this OT language to speak about His union with the Father in power — that no one can snatch those that the Father has given Him from His hands — and that He gives eternal life to His sheep. Jesus then repeats this statement once more, but this time, it is the Father who is “greater than all,” which retains them. And it is in this context that Jesus says, “I and the Father, we are one.” It is because of these nuances which elicit the Jewish reaction of picking up stones (v. 31). They hear Jesus using this language that is elsewhere used of YHWH, and whether they were aware of it or not, in a very similar setting in which they were originally used. The Jews are not stoning Jesus for His works, “but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God” (vv. 32-33).

Given the echoes of Ps. 95 and Deut. 32 in the John 10 discourse, might I suggest that the anarthrous θεὸν in v. 33 is probably best understood — by no means as indefinite — but as qualitative (i.e., “Who died and made you God?” or “Who made you [equal with] God?”), and therefore understood as a reference to Jesus’ equality with God (as in John 5:18), as Jesus claims to do the very prerogatives of God (as he does in John 5);

“My sheep hear my voice, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand...' For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be [equal with] God" (John 10:25–33)

In John 19:7, the Jews indicate that Jesus claimed to be “the Son of God” and for this reason, He deserved death. This alone should tell us about Jesus’ very own application of such title — “the Son of God.” But more to the point, this coincides with what is said earlier in John, as there is a direct correlation between the words spoken in John 19:7 and those in John 5:18 (“For 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”), and John 10:25-33.

Jesus’ application of the title “Son of God” carries with it its fair share of nuances, but might I suggest that one of the more prominent nuances in NT usage is an extremely Jewish one? What I mean by that, is that the “Son of God” epithet is used frequently of the Davidic King, who is God’s vicar, God’s “right hand man,” who mediates God’s presence, and is in that sense (by way of extension), “equal with God.” But I also understand that Jesus’ application of such title runs even deeper than that of the Davidic King motif, for even the Jews of Jesus’ day understood Jesus’ application (what I would consider a more personal application), as going beyond the scope of what any man could rightfully claim for themselves without the charge of blasphemy being brought against them (hence the, “you being a man make yourself out to be” tid bit).

In both, John 5 and John 10, Jesus acts as God acts — in inseparable union — “For this reason the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because He was doing these things on the Sabbath. But He answered them, ‘My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.’” Jesus uses the present middle indicative for the word “work,” which indicates a presence of past action still in progress. Just as the sustainer of all things (God the Father) continues to work (throughout history) and is thereby exempt from the rules of the Sabbath, in this same manner, Jesus too has been working (hence, 5:18). Jesus’ works are co-extensive with the Father’s. Thusly, Jesus’ application of “the Son of God” epithet of Himself, is intrinsically tied (in a facet of ways) to the idea of Him being “one with” and “equal to,” God. And as in John 5, it is this application in John 10 that leads His Jewish audience to react in such manner.

This is what sets the tone for what comes in vv. 34-39,

Jesus answered them, “Has it not been written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), do you say of Him, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father.” Therefore they were seeking again to seize Him, and He eluded their grasp. (John 10:34-46)

But notice carefully the way Jesus responds to the assertion of blasphemy. His use of Psalm 82:6 is provocative. The context of the Psalm 82 is about unjust rulers who are corrupting the earth, spreading evil, and oppressing the righteous and the marginalized. Jesus uses a common form of rabbinic argumentation known as “lesser to the greater” (cf. Deut. 31:27, John 6:61-62; John 7:23; 2 Corinthians 3:7-11; Matthew 6:26, 11:22), arguing that if unworthy men receive the divine title which little befits them; may not the unique Son of God (by nature) claim His divine title with infinitely greater appropriateness? Thusly, the import of Jesus’ words are as follows, “O hypocrites! What I say is not blasphemy. You know the law (Psalm 82:6). If these vile, wicked, and unjust rulers can be called gods and sons of the Most High, of whom God is going to destroy — and you would not dare accuse the Psalmist of blasphemy — how dare you accuse Me of such, when it is I, who am the very Son of God, and one with God (and the works I do prove it)? Hypocrites, every last one of you!”

Just as God stood in the midst of the divine council (“God stands in the divine assembly; he administers judgment in the midst of the gods,” Psalm 82:1), pronouncing judgment on the unjust rulers; here in John 10 we have Jesus (“The Jews then encircled Him,” John 10:24) using that precise text to pronounce judgement on the unjust. Jesus does in John 10 the very thing that God does in Ps. 82. And what’s even more remarkable is that Jesus indirectly refers to Himself as the Word of God — “If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), do you say of Him, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?” In v. 35, Jesus says that these “gods” are those to whom the Word of God came. In v. 36, He tells us that He, the Son, was sent into the world by the Father. In doing so, Jesus places Himself juxtapositionally with the Word of God in the OT; He is the Word of God who has been sent into the world (cf. John 1:1–14) to judge the world’s wicked rulers and authorities (cf. John 5:22). Thus, those whom Jesus’ words fall judgement on, they are like the “gods” of Psalm 82 who are judged by the Word of God, namely Jesus Himself.

The consistent testimony of Scripture, is that by Jesus claiming to be “the” Son of God, He was placing Himself on an equality with God, and the Jews recognized this, hence, Mark 14:61-64 (which by the way, in terms of chronology, takes place after the events in John 10),

But He kept silent and did not answer. Again the high priest was questioning Him, and saying to Him, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?” And Jesus said, “I am; and you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” Tearing his clothes, the high priest said, “What further need do we have of witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy; how does it seem to you?” And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death. (Mark 14:61-62)

When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they... Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, And the righteous scepter is the scepter of His kingdom. “You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of gladness above Your companions.” (Hebrews 1:3-4, 8-9)

Rise up, O God, judge the earth, because you shall inherit all the nations. (Psalm 82:8)

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  • Hey there, William, nice comparisons to Psalm 95 Isaiah 43. But I don’t think the Jews were doing a deep scriptural analysis to discover what Jesus was implying about his identity. They may have understood the Davidic king allusions, but they were primarily mad and jealous because he threatened their religious hegemony. He dared to break their precious Sabbath rules and the crowd loved it. According to your interpretation of Psalm 82, Jesus compared himself to earthly rulers, not God. He was not trying to help them gain a Hebrews 1 understanding of his nature. yesterday
  • Certainly the Jews were not aware of any Greek philosophy that could help them understand how the Son could be equal to the Father in the way you imply. The One whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world never claimed equality with the one true God. He always recognized the Father as greater than he, especially in his role as an earthly ruler. He derived his authority from the Father in all the benefits he offered as the Good Shepherd. And how does sitting at the right hand of the Father make him an equal? yesterday
  • @MartinHemsley, I'm a bit confused by your comments. It is not my position that the Jews did a "deep scriptural analysis to discover what Jesus was implying about his identity." (Continued...) yesterday
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    Hi William, I perceive that this is a topic that you are passionate about and that you have a lot to say. I also understand that you are a new member here and I’m happy to see you contributing. This site is really not intended for long debates though there is room for some clarification of views. As you saw, it is not the most convenient format. I had to break up my response to you in two boxes and you had to break yours into 10. The purpose is not to convert everyone to the way we see things but to state the biblical reasons and research for what we hold to be true... (Continued) 21 hours ago
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    and offer others the same opportunity. The standard for dialogue here is to be respectful of others and their opinions and not assume that they are not reading or understanding what seems so clear to us. There are many reasons that people hold the views they do and they may not have the time, space, or inclination to develop them here. So if you are willing to adhere to that BH code we can try to help each other understand our points of view for a round or two in a chat room, though we may end up having to agree to disagree. This is, after all, a debate that has raged for centuries. :) 21 hours ago

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