John 5:18 is

"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."

What follows in the rest of John 5 is Jesus' response, starting at John 5:19.

"So Jesus replied, “Truly, truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing by Himself [...]"

and then this response continues all the way to John 5:47, so 29 verses of a response.

At the end of this, John's Gospel simply says (John 6:1)

1 "After this, Jesus crossed to the other side of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias). 2 large crowd followed Him because they saw the signs He was performing on the sick."

There's no response recorded from the hostile Jewish elite, no picking up stones, and indeed, there is now a large crowd following him. Yet, at John 7:1 we find out

"After this, Jesus traveled throughout Galilee. He did not want to travel in Judea, because the Jews there were trying to kill Him."

Even though Jesus did not change the Jews' hearts who were trying to kill him in John 5, did he successfully address their charge in public that He was 'making himself equal with God' with his extended response at the end of John 5?

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    See my answer to your earlier question
    – Dottard
    Commented Jun 1, 2022 at 22:18
  • this is a duplicate hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/60219/… all of your questions seems to be exactly like this person's.
    – Michael16
    Commented Jun 9, 2022 at 14:24
  • @Michael16 Yes, I'm quite familiar with that question, having given an answer to it! But again, the questions are different. H SE has lots of space for questions on their servers! :) We don't have to knock down similar but distinct questions IMO. Commented Jun 9, 2022 at 15:55

5 Answers 5


Jesus continues on in John 5 to identify Himself as the "Son of God" eight more times. If the statement is that their identification of Him as equal to God (something repeated by Jesus' disciplines, e.g. Philippians 2:6) based on the declarations that He was the Son of God, He seems to intentionall confirm their suggestion.

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    Right, he confirmed that He was, indeed, claiming to be the Son of God. But did He confirm the underlying accusation there, that He was therefore making himself equal with God? Commented Jun 7, 2022 at 23:07

The question asks if Jesus successfully rebutted the charges made by the hostile Jews.

The definition of "rebuttal" is:

> a refutation or contradiction.

Jesus did refute and contradict the hostile Jews claim so according to the definition he was successful.

The question is restated in a different way later in the question:

Even though Jesus did not change the Jews' hearts who were trying to kill him in John 5, did he successfully address their charge in public that He was 'making himself equal with God' with his extended response at the end of John 5?

In order to answer the question we need to know what you mean by "successful".

You can't mean success to be changing the mind of the hostile Jews because you acknowledge that didn't happen.

Scripture does not record that he changed anyone's mind. If that's what you mean by success then the answer would be "no".

Does "successful" mean that Jesus provided a convincing argument for his own divinity? The answer to this question depends on who is answering the question. You may find something convincing when I do not - the answer is subjective.

In attempting to read between the lines of the question - always a dangerous thing to attempt - it may be that the question is:
"Does Jesus clearly confirm that he is divine in John 5?"

  1. The fact that they tried to kill Jesus when he claimed equality with God is clear in verse 18:

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.

It may not sound like Jesus claimed to be equal with God to our ears but they heard it clearly and responded strongly. Jesus never refutes their accusation, he does confirm it.

  1. Verse 23 is another clear claim of divinity:

23 that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.

Everyone is to honor the Son just as they honor the father.
Anyone who does not honor the Son fails to honor God.

So, if successful means a clear statement of Jesus own divinity then based on the response of the hostile Jews and based on Jesus own words it seems clear that Jesus did make a clear statement of his own divinity in John 5.

An objective reading of John must come to the conclusion that Jesus was God made flesh based on the words and the actions of Jesus.

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    It seems one can go 2 ways on this. Either 1. Jesus rebutted by showing how He wasn't making himself equal with God (for ex., by saying he can do nothing by himself (twice!)). Or, 2. Jesus rebutted by convincing them that it is appropriate to be making himself equal with God (perhaps because their wills are in alignment). Or, perhaps more likely, some kind of combination of 1. and 2., such that He shows He's not claiming certain kinds of equality, but is claiming others. So if you're taking 2., it's not just a statement that He's equal, but showing the crowd why they shouldn't kill him for it. Commented Jun 8, 2022 at 6:00
  • @OneGodtheFather Option 1 is a possible perspective if the meaning of the text is misunderstood.
    – David D
    Commented Jun 9, 2022 at 16:33

John 5:18 YLT says, because of this, then, were the Jews seeking the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the sabbath, but he also called God his own Father, making himself equal to God

Jesus enemies perceived Jesus to be claiming to have the authority to "change" God's Sabbath law, this made him appear to them to be claiming to be "equal" to God.

If by rebut the OP means disprove or refute .Jesus replied. Ἀπεκρίνατο (Apekrinato) Strong's 611: From apo and krino; to conclude for oneself, i.e. to respond; by Hebraism to begin to speak. Jesus rebutted as John 5:19 shows.

Jesus therefore responded and said to them, 'Verily, verily, I say to you, The Son is not able to do anything of himself, if he may not see the Father doing anything; for whatever things He may do, these also the Son in like manner doth;

Jesus' response in verse 19 tells us how he understood the Jewish charges. The Jews themselves called God their Father. But here Jesus is saying that his Father has been working until now and I have been working. This is what angered the Jews. To these Jews, Jesus appears to claim without justification, the authority to "change" God's Sabbath law, made him appear to them to be claiming to be "equal" to God.

Jesus response in verse 19 has the same topic on John 5:17 YLT And Jesus answered them, 'My Father till now doth work, and I work;'

Is it logical that the Almighty God of the universe will say that he could do nothing on his own initiative? Does Jesus response appear to confirm the accusations against him? My answer is no.


Both of the charges mentioned are John's own words which affirmatively describes him of doing those things. He was indeed doing those works on Sabbath, and saying those things. Though he was breaking the Sabbath but was not guilty of breaking it, since it was done for doing the more important works, and it was justified.

This means, they were not misunderstanding of the enemies for which Jesus could simply denounce those charges and could also avoid the death penalty in the Sanhedrin court about the blasphemy of the deity claims. However, Jesus's clarificational answer can indicate the actual understanding of the enemies about his words.

The fact that Jesus explained about the Son-Father relation, that he can't do anything of his own, he is merely subordinate to the Father and works in harmony with him, shows that the enemies accused him of trying to usurp the status of God, as a rival God. His answer shows he is a mere agent of God, and is not a rival to the Father. He goes on to affirm his equality, however, in v23 where he says, all should honour or the Son exactly as they should honour the Father. His answer about his subordination & unity with his father shows they were accusing him of being a different god.

In John's narrative, Jesus is often shown as clarifying the misunderstanding over the hard sayings, such as in the next chapter in Capernaum, about eating his flesh and blood. He clarified that it was figurative.

While the opponents were misconstruing the sense of his claims, as if he was being a rival to God, their charge about his equality with God was true, as this is the central agenda of John's narrative.

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    +1 How do you reconcile "their charge about his equality with God was true" with "he is merely subordinate to the Father", tho'? Simply because honour is due him? Why does honour being due him make him equal? Commented Jun 8, 2022 at 18:20
  • In my other ans I explained well about ontology vs economy. The father son relationship is merely roles for the salvation plan. There's only one God in nature and truth, without any hierarchy. The Son is the agent, our Lord. The Bible only focuses on what God is doing-in the economic sense.
    – Michael16
    Commented Jun 9, 2022 at 2:22
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    Well, I suppose I don't understand it then. 'Subordinate' is a contradiction of 'equal'. Are you articulating a modalist view here? Commented Jun 9, 2022 at 4:14
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    3 personas, not 3 persons, only 1 self? Is that the view? Commented Jun 9, 2022 at 6:02
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    Yes, the persons, or the compound nature could well be just economic, ie contingent. They multipersonality is not like the 3 headed dog, or a team and mixture of distinct persons.
    – Michael16
    Commented Jun 9, 2022 at 6:47

In John 5:18 the charge against Jesus was that he was calling God His own Father.” Such self-designation was understood to mean “making himself equal with God.”

18 For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.

Jesus made no effort to deny the charge that he was calling God his own father. On the contrary, he tried to explain the nature of their relationship.

19 Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself.”

There is more than one way to understand v 19. It could mean that the Son cannot do anything by himself. It could also mean that nothing the Son does is done by himself but always in union with the Father. Jesus’ words in the subsequent text and elsewhere in the gospel of John support both these interpretations.

19 the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in the same way.

Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. 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 in the Father. – Jn 10:37-38

The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own, but the Father, as He remains in Me, does His works. – Jn 14:10

Jesus does not claim equality with the Father (cf Phil 2:6). The word equal does not appear anywhere in his response. After all, sons are not said to be the equals of their fathers, but they may be said to be like their fathers. If Jesus is like the Father, it is the Father who has granted him to be so. The Son has life and authority through the Father, and the Father is honored through the Son.

26 For just as the Father has life in Himself, so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself; 27 and He gave Him authority to execute judgment

22 The one who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.

Rather than an equality, there is a reciprocity between the Father and the Son. Between them is a connection anchored on the one hand by the love of the Father and on the other by the obedience of the Son.

20 For the Father loves the Son and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing

30 My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of Him who sent Me.

What did Jesus’ audience make of his response? While the passage does not say, the charge against Jesus was that he was calling God his own father, a charge that Jesus does not refute. This claim was in and of itself unacceptable to his opponents, regardless of how Jesus might present their relationship. This charge alone would later form the basis of Jesus' conviction.

The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and by that law He ought to die, because He made Himself out to be the Son of God!” – Jn 19:7

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