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.
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)