In John 10:33, did Jesus claim to be God or the Son of God?

Purpose

The previous article asked: Is Jesus called God in John’ gospel?

John 10 records one of the angry disputes between Jesus and the Jews.  In response to His question, the Jews said,

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 10:33).

The purpose of the current article is to ask a related question, namely, did Jesus claim to be God?  The purpose of this article is still to answer this question from John’s gospel specifically, for the ultimate purpose is to understand the meaning of John 1:1c, where Jesus is identified as theos.

Jesus did not claim to be God.

Jesus did not claim to be God; He claimed to be the Son of God, as indicated by the following:

1. In response to the Jews’ accusation—quoted above—Jesus explicitly stated “I said, ‘I am the Son of God” (John 10:36).

2. John 5 records another heated interaction after Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath.  Jesus explained, “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.”  This made the Jews even more angry.  They said that Jesus “was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God” (John 5:16-18).  In other words, assuming that the Jews correctly understood what He said, Jesus did not claim to God; He called “God His own Father,” which is equivalent to claim, “I am the Son of God.

3. When the Jews accused Jesus before Pilate, they did not say that He claimed to be God.  They said, “We have a law, and by that law He ought to die because He made Himself out to be the Son of God” (John 19:7).

4. In the conclusion of his gospel John explains the purpose of his gospel as follows: “These have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” (John 20:31).

For similar statements in the other gospels, see Luke 22:69-70.

If Jesus claimed to be God, this fact would have been very important and would have been repeated frequently and clearly.  But Jesus never claimed to be “God.”  He claimed to be the Son of God.

The Jews did not say that He claim to be God.

It is further proposed that it is not correct to translate John 10:33 as “You … make Yourself out to be God.”  This is shown by Jesus’ response to the accusation in 10:33:

34Has it not been written in your Law, ‘I SAID, YOU ARE GODS’? 35 “If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came 36 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’?

Jesus’ defense is based on Psalm 82.  He interpreted that Psalm as saying that people, “to whom the word of God came,” are called “gods.”  To refer to people that are called “gods” would not have been a logical defense against an accusation that He made Himself out to be “God.

The Greek of John 10:33 simply reads theon, which is the same as theos, but with a different word ending.  Word endings do not change the meaning of words, but simply explain whether the word is the subject or object of the sentence.  Theon and theos can be translated as “God” or “god,” depending on further identification in the context.  It is proposed that the context required theon to be translated as “god” in this verse.

The Jews responded aggressively.

The Pharisees responded strongly to Jesus claim to be the Son of God:

The Jews answered him (Pilate), “We have a law, and by that law He ought to die because He made Himself out to be the Son of God.” (John 19:7)

They said that Jesus “was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God” (5:16-18).

Were the Jews exaggerating when they interpreted Jesus, calling “God His own Father,” as claiming to be equal to God?

The Son of God

Today we are quite used to Christians being called sons of God.  The people who will be resurrected from the dead (Luke 20:34-36; Romans 8:19), peacemakers (Mt. 5:9) and believers (John 1:12; Rom. 8:14, 16; Gal. 3:26; 4:6; 1 John 3:1-2; Phil. 2:15) are all called “sons of God:”

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matt. 5:9).

All who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (Rom. 8:14).

The anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God” (Rom. 8:19).

You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:26).

We therefore might find the strong reaction of the Jews strange.  However, Jesus did not claim to be a son of God; He claimed to be the Son of God.  As John wrote; “the only begotten Son of God” (3:18).  The NIV translates this as “the one and only Son of God.”

The devil tempted Jesus, saying to Him, “If You are the Son of God” (Mt. 4:3, 6; Luke 4:3, 9).

Whenever the unclean spirits saw Him, they would fall down before Him and shout, “You are the Son of God” (Mark 3:11; Luke 4:42)!

The Son of God is the Messiah.

The question is then, who did the Jews understand the Son of God to be?  The following verses identify the Son of God as the “Christ:”

Lazarus’ sister “said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world’” (John 11:27).

John concluded his gospel as follows: “these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” (John 20:31).

The high priest said to Him, “I adjure You by the living God, that You tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of God” (Mt. 26:63; cf. Mark 1:1).

“Christ” is the Greek translation of the Hebrew title Messiah, as also indicated by the following:

He found first his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which translated means Christ)” (John 1:41 ).

The Son of God is the King of Israel.

Nathaniel answered Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel” (John 1:49).

Tested unto death
Son of God

The chief priests also … were mocking Him and saying, He is the King of Israel let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe in Him. He trusts in God; let God rescue him now, if He delights in him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God” (Mt. 26:42-43).

The “magi from the east” asked, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?”  Herod then asked the chief priests and scribes “where the Messiah was to be born” (Mt. 2:1-5).  This confirms that the Messiah was understood to be the King of Israel.

This explains the strong reaction of the Jews; Jesus was claiming to be the King of Israel.  But at the same time He acted contrary to their expectations. As the two disciples walking to Emmaus said, they “were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel.”  They expected the Messiah to free Israel from the Roman dominion.  Contrary to their expectation, He worked to free Israel from its sin.  The Jews therefore concluded that He is not the Messiah, but an impostor, and told Pilate, “He ought to die because He made Himself out to be the Son of God

Conclusion

The constant message and purpose of John’s gospel is to announce Jesus as the Messiah; the Son of God.  Jesus did not claim to be God.

NEXT: Jesus and the Father are one.

Who confirms the covenant and put an end to sacrifice in Daniel 9:27; the Messiah or the prince?

It is either the Messiah that is killed or the prince who destroys Jerusalem.  The Poetic Pattern and the messianic nature of the prophecy indicates that it is the Messiah.  He is also the dominant figure in the previous verse, and as argued in the previous article, it is God’s covenant with Israel.  It cannot be the prince, for he is a supernatural being.

Verse 26 refers to two people: the Messiah that is “cut off” and “the prince that shall come”.  Verse 27 continues with a “he”:

“… he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week; and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease”

This article identifies of the “he” in verse 27.  Dispensationalism argues that “he” refers to the prince whose people destroyed the city in AD 70, and that this prince will reign during the last seven years before the return of Christ.

Poetic Pattern

Summary: The Poetic Pattern of the prophecy indicates that “he” in verse 27, who confirm the covenant for seven years, is the same as the Messiah who is cut off in verse 26.

Parallelism

parallelismThe prophecy in Daniel 9 uses much parallelism, where two related words or phrases are used together to emphasize a point, for instance:

Insight with understanding (v22);
Give heed to the message and gain understanding of the vision (v23);
Your people and your holy city (v24);
To finish the transgression, to make an end of sin (v24);
Know and discern (v25);
Restore and rebuild (v25);
Seven weeks and sixty-two weeks (v26);
The city and the sanctuary (v26); and
Sacrifice and grain offering.

We also find this repetition of thought in two adjacent verses:

I have now come forth to give you insight with understanding” (v22) and
I have come to tell you” (v23)

Two foci

Jesus in JerusalemBut perhaps the most important pattern in the prophecy is the way in which the focus shifts repeatedly back and forth between the two foci; Jerusalem and the Messiah:

25: from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem;
until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks;
it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress.
26: after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary.
27: he shall confirm the covenant …; and … cause the sacrifice … to cease … he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation …

Verses 25 and 26 explicitly shift the focus four times between Jerusalem and the Messiah.  The implication is that verse 27 continues this pattern.  Since verse 26 ends with a reference to Jerusalem, the first part of verse 27, describing the “he” who confirms the covenant for seven years, but “cause the sacrifice … to cease” in the middle of that week, should be the Messiah.

Similarly, the destruction in the last part of verse 27 should refer to Jerusalem.  Also see Daniel 9: Chronological sequence for a further discussion.

Messiah is the Dominant Figure

Summary: The dominant figure in verse 26 and in the entire prophecy is the “Messiah”.  He is therefore the appropriate antecedent for “he” in verse 27.

The prince whose people destroy the city is the last person mentioned in verse 26.  Dispensationalism therefore proposes that the “he” in verse 27 refers to this prince.

However, the “prince that shall come” is not the subject of that clause in verse 26.  It reads “people of the prince”, not “the prince of the people”.   The “prince” in verse 26 is a subordinate figure.  The dominant figure in the entire prophecy and in verse 26 is the “Messiah“.  The Messiah should therefore be preferred as the antecedent for the “he” in verse 27.

Supernatural Being

Summary: The prince in 9:26 is a supernatural being, representing the Roman nation, while the “he” of verse 27 is a human being, and therefore cannot refer to a supernatural being.  The proper antecedent for “he” is therefore the Messiah.

The prince in verse 26 is described as “the prince who is to come”.  A few verses later we read of a prince of Greece who also is “to come”:

Michael the archangel“I shall now return to fight against the prince of Persia; … the prince of Greece is about to come.  … Yet there is no one who stands firmly with me against these forces except Michael your prince.” (10:20, 21; see also 12:1)

Since this is a supernatural being that is speaking here (10:16, 18), the princes against whom he fights, and the prince Michael who stands with him, are also supernatural beings.  The NASB, quoted above, calls them “forces”. They are not human beings.  Each of the princes (of Persia, of Greece and “Michael your prince”) represent a nation.  Michael is the prince of the nation of Israel (12:1).

Since both the “prince of Greece” and the prince of Rome are “to come” (10:20; 9:26), it is implied that the prince of Rome in 9:26 is also a supernatural being.  The “he” in verse 27, who is a human being, therefore cannot refer back to the prince in verse 26.

Messianic Prophecy

Summary: According to Daniel 9 this world’s sin problem would be solved by the killing of the messiah, while an end will be made to the sacrificial system.  In the light of the New Testament these refer to Jesus, and the “he”, who makes an end to the sacrificial system, is the Messiah.

Daniel 9:27 indicates:

… in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering

antichrist last seven years

In Dispensationalism this is the work of the Antichrist during the seven years prior to the return of Christ.  He will destroy the sanctuary and its services.

In Dispensationalism the first 7+62 weeks (483 years) came to an end the Sunday prior to the Cross, while the 70th week is still in our future.  The Cross therefore does not fall within the 490 years and none of the goals set for the 490 years, as listed in verse 24, have been fulfilled through the Cross, but will only be fulfilled at the end of the future 70th week.

Context

However, this “put a stop to sacrifice” must be understood within its context:

make atonement for iniquityVerse 24 lists six goals to be attained through Daniel’s people during the 490 years, including “to make atonement for iniquity” and “to bring in everlasting righteousness”.

The goals must be fulfilled through seven events listed in 9:25-26, including the appearance (v25) and the killing of the Messiah (v26).

Verse 27, saying that a stop will be put to sacrifices in the middle of the final seven years, is the core and purpose of the 490 years.

The prophecy of Daniel 9 therefore implies that this world’s sin problem would be solved (9:24) through the appearance (v25) and killing of the messiah (v26), while “sacrifice and grain offering” will be stopped (9:27).

Fulfilled in Jesus

In the light of New Testament, this describes Jesus Christ:

He was “Jesus the Messiah” (Matt 1:1, cf. 1:16, 17; 2:4; John 1:41, 4:25).

He was killed.

He solved the sin problem of the world.  Through His death, He fulfilled the goals in verse 24 “to make atonement for iniquity” (John 1:29; Matt. 26:28; Hebr. 7:27, 9:26-28; Hebr. 9:12; 10:10, 12, 14) and “to bring in everlasting righteousness” (Heb. 9:12; Rom. 5:10, 11; Col. 1:20; 2Co 5:19; Col 1:22; Rom 5:18; John 3:17; Col 1:19-20).

His death caused sacrifice to cease.  Christ’s death did not cause the Jewish sacrifices to cease immediately.  The Jewish sacrifices continued until the destruction of Jerusalem forty years later.  But these sacrifices pointed forward to the ultimate sacrifice of Lamb of God.  When Jesus—the Lamb of God—died, He fulfilled the significance of those sacrifices.  The Jewish sacrifices were consequently terminated at the death of Christ in the sense of its loss of meaning.

The letter to the Hebrews states this explicitly.  When Jesus ascended to heaven and became High Priest (Heb. 6:20), the law changed (Heb. 7:12), including the sacrificial system (Heb. 7:19; 8:4; 9:22).  Jesus set “aside the first [sacrifices and offerings] to establish the second” (Heb. 10:9).  (See also Heb. 8:13 and Eph. 2:15.)  In this way His death caused “sacrifice and the oblation (NASB: grain offering) to cease” (Daniel 9:27).

Conclusion

The Daniel 9 prophecy is therefore thoroughly messianic in nature.  In this context the statement that “he will put a stop to sacrifice” in verse 27 must be understood as referring to the sacrifice at the Cross which made an end to all other sacrifices.  The “he” therefore refers to the Messiah.  To allocate verse 27 to an end time antichrist does injustice to the overall gist of the prophecy.

pierced through for our transgressionsThe prophecy, received 500 years before the cross, discloses a most profound aspect of the Messiah’s mission, namely that His death would be the true sacrifice for sin.  As also disclosed by Isaiah 53, He was “pierced through for our transgressions”.  This is not only another proof of the existence of the supernatural, but also it tells us much about the nature of the universe.  God knows where we are.  He sent His only begotten Son to die for our sins.  We cannot understand why and how, for His thoughts are as high above our thoughts as the stars are above the earth, but it is wonderful to understand that the Source of all power and love feels this way about us; undeserving sinners.

Repetition

But then questions may arise:

If the termination of the sacrifices and the killing of the messiah is the same event, why is the one described as “after the 62 sevens”, (9:26) and the other as in the “midst of” the last seven (9:27)?

And why is the destruction of Jerusalem mentioned between the killing of the Messiah and the stop that is made to sacrifices?

The answer to this question is found in the repetition (parallelism) of the prophecy, as described above in the section dealing with the poetic structure.  Since the prophecy so often repeats concepts, the repetition of the events of verse 26 by verse 27 is almost to be expected.  The prophecy consists of three divisions; each providing information relative to a different period of time:

490 yearsVerse 24 announces the 490 years and sets the goals for that period.
483 years – Verses 25 and 26 describe events relative to the first 483 years, including the killing of the Messiah and the consequential destruction of the city after the end of the 483 years.
Final 7 years – Verse 27 describes the same events, but relative to the final seven years.

Summary

The previous verse identifies two options; the Messiah that is “cut off” and “the prince that shall come”.  The previous article found that it is God’s covenant.  It must therefore be the Messiah.  In this article:

Poetic Pattern – The prophecy has a poetic pattern which shifts repeatedly back and forth between Jerusalem and the Messiah.  In this pattern the “he” is the Messiah.

Dominant Figure – The dominant figure in verse 26 and in the entire prophecy is the “Messiah”.  He is therefore the appropriate antecedent for “he” in verse 27.

Supernatural Being – Comparison with the princes in Daniel 10 shows that the prince in 9:26 is a supernatural being, representing the Roman nation, while the “he” of verse 27 is a human being, and therefore cannot refer to a supernatural being.

Messianic Prophecy – The purpose of the events predicted by the prophecy is to solve this world’s sin problem (v24) through the killing of the messiah (v26), while an end will be made to the sacrificial system (v27).  This is a prediction of Christ’s mission.  Since the Lamb of God caused sacrifices to cease, the “he”, who makes an end to the sacrificial system, is the Messiah.

NEXT:  Is the last week the last seven years before Christ returns?  Dispensationalism claims it is.  However, the desolations in the last part of verse 27 is the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, also described by verse 26.  This is indicated by the Poetic Pattern and the repetition of words.  The last week, described earlier in verse 27, must therefore be prior to AD 70.

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