Saturday, January 5, 2008

John 20:28 - My Lord and My God

apekrithee thwmas kai eipen autw ho kurios mou
061 2381 2532 1511_7 0846_5 3588 2962 1473_2
kai ho theos mou
2532 3588 2316 1473_2
John 20:28, Westcott & Hort Interlinear

Why is Jesus called Theos?

Did Thomas think he was addressing the Almighty Yahweh, standing before him the flesh? If Thomas was addressing Jesus as God Almighty, we should expect Jesus to have said something that would definitely clarify that he was the Almighty, but he doesn't. If Jesus was God Almighty in the flesh, he surely missed the opportunity to make such clear when Thomas made this expression. Instead, he simply answers: "Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen, and have believed." (John 20:29) Jesus emphasizes Thomas' belief that Jesus was really alive (and thus the risen Christ, the Son of God), which he doubted, and yet he doesn't say anything about Thomas' statement concerning his expression "ho theos mou" -- "the god of me". What belief is it that Jesus considered important? John answers in verse 31: "but these are written, that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name." By calling Jesus the Christ, this would mean that Jesus was anointed, but by whom? The scriptures answer that he was anointed by Yahweh, his Father. (Isaiah 61:1; Psalm 45:7) By calling Jesus the "Son of God", this certainly does not say that he is Yahweh, who is his Father, but rather that he is the Son of Yahweh, his Father.

In his prayer before his death, Jesus said to his Father: "This is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and him whom you sent, Jesus Christ." (John 17:3) Here Jesus recognizes his Father as the only true God, Supreme Being, and that he himself, instead of being any part of that only true Supreme Being, was sent by that Supreme Being. This is in harmony with John 3:16,17: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him," as well as many other scriptures. -- John 4:34; 5:23,24,30,37,38; 6:29,38,39,40,44,57; 7:16,18,28,29,33; 8:16,18,26,29,42; 9:4; 10:36; 11:42; 12:44,45,49,50; 13:20; 14:10,24; 15:21; 16:5; 17:3,18,21,23,25; 20:2

In John 20:28, "God" here is a translation of the Greek THEOS, which is defined by Dr. Young as "God, a god, object of worship." It is a general term in the New Testament, used frequently to denote the Heavenly Father (such as in Matthew 27:46, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me," and in many additional places). However, it is also used to depict other beings, whether good or bad. THEOS is used to describe "the god of this world" (2 Corinthians 4:4), the saints, "gods, sons of the Most High" (John 10:34, 35, from Ps. 82:6, RSV), idols, or fabricated "gods who will go before us" (Acts 7:40), and heathen gods, "the gods have come down to us in human form!" (Acts 14:11, 12). Hence, THEOS is quite general in its application in Scripture, and the fact that it is occasionally used of Jesus should not be taken as proof that he was God the Father. Such usage alone is not conclusive to warrant such a distinction.

It is not the general rule of any of Jesus' disciples to refer to Jesus as "THEOS". This word, with just a few exceptions, is almost always reserved for the "God and Father of the Lord Jesus." (Romans 15:6; 2 Corinthians 1:3; Ephesians 1:3; 1 Peter 1:3) There is only around ten instances where THEOS may be seen as being applied to Jesus: John 1:1,18; 20:28; Acts 20:28; Romans 9:5; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 1:8,9; 2 Peter 1:1; 1 John 5:20. We might also note that someone, at some time or another, has also come forth to challenge each and every scripture here as actually calling Jesus by the word "THEOS". (Some other scriptures sometimes listed include: John 5:18; Ephesians 5:5; Philippians 2:6,7; Colossians 2:9; 1 Timothy 3:16 and Revelation 1:8.

But more importantly, we need to keep in mind that the Bible writers were not Greeks, but Hebrews; Luke only is a likely exception. Their expressions, being under the guidance of the holy spirit, would reflect the same Hebraic tradition as found in what had been revealed through the holy spirit to the prophets of the Old Testament. Thus the expressions in the New Testament, though written in Greek, would carry the same line of thought of the Hebrew Scripture. Thus it would be imperative that we see how the Hebrews used the Hebrew words for "god", and see if such could be applicable to Thomas' exclamation.

Let us start by referring to a earlier incident where the Jewish leaders accused Jesus of blasphemy because, being a man, he made himself "God". (John 10:33) The claim is false, and Jesus denied that he was God by stating over and over that he was sent by God, could do nothing of his own self, everything he had was given to him by God, etc. In the immediate response to the accusation made the Jewish leaders, Jesus responded: "Isn't it written in your law, 'I said, you are gods?' If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture can't be broken), Do you say of him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, 'You blaspheme,' because I said, 'I am the Son of God?' " (John 10:34-36) Again, instead of claiming to God Almighty, Jesus very clearly clarified that he was sent by God, his Father, Yahweh, and that he was the Son of God -- not God Almighty Himself.
But the point we want from the above as applied to John 20:28, is Jesus' usage of the word *theoi* -- gods, which he applies to the "sons of God" -- men -- not God Almighty. John quotes Jesus in Greek as saying *theoi* -- the plural of *theos*. However, Jesus is quoting from the Hebrew Scriptures (commonly called the Old Testament) from Psalm 82:6, which of course was written in Hebrew, not Greek. What is the word that is used originally? It is the Hebrew elohim.

What we need to know is how the Hebrew word elohim (and its variations of el and eloah) are used in the Bible, and if this has any application to John 20:28. The Bible uses these words in many different ways, in applications to men, angels, and even inanimate objects. Thomas, being a Hebrew was no doubt aware of this. EL signifies strong or powerful. This word is Hebrew #410 in Strong's Hebrew and Chaldee Dictionary, which defines it as: "short. from 352; strength; as adj. mighty; espec. the Almighty (but used also of any deity)." Crosswalk's Online Hebrew Lexicon defines it similarly: "shortened from 0352 TWOT - 93a n m ; AV - God 213, god 16, power 4, mighty 5, goodly 1, great 1, idols 1, Immanuel + 06005 2, might 1, strong 1; 245; 1) god, god-like one, mighty one; 1a) mighty men, men of rank, mighty heroes; 1b) angels; 1c) god, false god, (demons, imaginations); 1d) God, the one true God, Jehovah; 2) mighty things in nature; 3) strength, power".

Other authorities give it the same or similar meanings. Consequently it is applicable to any powerful being and especially so of the most powerful - the Almighty Yahweh, and is thus used in relative terms applicable to those whom or what it is being applied. That the word is thus used may be readily seen by anyone who will carefully note the following texts from the King James Version, in which English translations of the Hebrew word El are in denoted by *..*: "It is in the *power* of my hand." (Genesis 31:29) "There shall be no *might* in thine hand." (Deuteronomy 28:32) "Neither is it in our *power*." (Nehemiah 5:5) "Like the *great* mountains." (Psalm 36:6) "In the *power* of thine hand to do it." (Proverbs 3:27) "Pray unto *a god* [mighty one] that cannot save." (Isaiah 45:20) "Who among the sons of the *mighty*." (Psalm 89:6) "God standeth in the congregation of the *mighty*." (Psalm 82:1) "Who is like unto thee, O Lord [Yahweh] among the *Gods* [mighty ones or ruling ones]?" (Exodus 15:11) "Give unto the Lord [Yahweh] of ye *mighty*." (Psalm 29:1) "The *mighty* God even the Lord [Yahweh]." (Psalm 50:1)

Notice the above texts carefully and critically; all will agree that the context in every case shows the meaning of the Hebrew word El to be powerful one. How clearly it is stated that Yahweh is the Supreme "El" and rules over all other ones called "el" - powerful ones. And it should be noted that Yahweh is the name applied to none other than the Supreme Being - our Father, and him whom Jesus called Father and God. (John 17:1,3: 20:17; Psalm 110:1; Matthew 22:43-45; 26:64; Mark 12:35-37; Luke 20:41-44; Acts 2:34; 7:55: Romans 8:34; Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 1:13; 10:12,13; 1 Peter 3:22)
Thus we read prophetically of Jesus: 'He shall be called the Mighty EL [Powerful (One)].' (Isaiah 9:6) And so he is, for to him the Father has given all power in earth and heaven. (Matthew 28:19, and 11:27) "He is Lord of all" - next to the Father for "The head of Christ is God." (1 Corinthians 11:3) They are one in mind, purpose, etc., because Jesus willingly submitted his own will to that of the Father (John 5:30) just as we also must submit our own will, mind, spirit to that of the Father if we would be made heirs and sons of God.
ELOHIM is the plural of EL and another Hebrew of the same word, ELOAH. Like EL, the usage of ELOHIM is not confined to that of the Almighty. We have already seen that it is applied to the "sons of god" -- men -- in Psalm 82:6,7. Additionally, we find that Moses is spoken of as *elohim* to Pharoah (Exodus 7:1) and also to Aaron (Exodus 4:16). Furthermore, the angels are also called *elohim*: Psalm 8:5 {compare Hebrews 2:9}; 86:6-8; 95:3; 50:1. Additionally, the judges of Israel are referred to as *elohim*: Exodus 21:6; 22:8,9,28 (See Acts 23:5).

Thus we ask concerning John 20:28: Did Thomas then believe something different than Jesus claimed for himself? If those to whom the word of God came were called "gods," what would be extraordinary about Thomas calling Jesus "My Lord and my God"?

This, undoubtedly, was a very emotional moment for Thomas and certainly not an attempt on his part to offer advanced theology. The fact that he says "the Lord of me" and "the God of me" seems appropriate to his emotional state wherein he accepts Jesus as his resurrected "the Lord" and "the God." His very Jewishness prohibits us from concluding the thought Jesus was the Almighty Yahweh. He could not possibly have fused Jesus and God the Father into one being. Jesus had been his "Lord" (or "Master"), and now, believing his resurrection, he accepts him as his "God" (or "mighty one"), recognizing the supreme power as given to Jesus by God. -- Matthew 28:18.

Additionally, John sums up his lesson covering these momentous events, saying, "But these are written, that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name." (John 20:31). The Apostle Thomas was a Jew who held to the view that "Yahweh our God is one Yahweh." To argue that he forsook his Jewish religious training at the moment in question and received Jesus as (the) God Yahweh is an unlikely scenario. John, who is aged and serene while writing his Gospel, summarizes this entire chapter saying, "Jesus is the Christ, the son of God." That’s a clear statement of what he wanted us to believe—and that’s what Thomas believed as well.

Additionally, we might note that Jesus is prefigured by Moses, who is also called elohim, as we wrote above. (Deuteronomy 18:18,19; Acts 3:19-23; Exodus 4:16; 7:1 -- The KJV adds the words "instead of" before "God" in Exodus 4:16, which words do not appear in the Hebrew.)

The scriptures concerning Moses, especially, indicate that elohim, although plural, is applied to the singular person, Moses (who is a type of Jesus). Moses is not more than one person, so why the plural usage here? It is plural used in a singular setting to denote supremacy (plural intensive), that is, to denote the supremacy of the power given to Moses by Yahweh over the power of Pharaoh and the gods of Pharaoh.

Elohim is also applied to Jesus as an individual being, again to show the supreme power given to Jesus in his kingdom as given to him by the Elohim over Jesus: Yahweh. (Psalm 45:6,7; See also Hebrews 1:8,9) The very fact that this power over his fellows is given to Jesus by Yahweh's anointing shows that Jesus is not equal to Yahweh. As the prophet like Moses (Deuteronomy 18:18,19; Acts 3:19-23), we should not find it too suprizing that this is the case, but like Moses, this would not make Jesus the Almighty.

In the above scriptures we see three individual beings who are called elohim: Yahweh, Jesus and Moses. Only Yahweh has the position of Supreme Being, however, since both Moses and Jesus receive their power from Yahweh. Thus in view of the above evidence, as gathered from the Hebrew background of the Old Testament, we should not think that Thomas had in mind that he was talking to the Almighty Yahweh as recorded by John in John 20:28. There is certainly no need to adopt an extra-Biblical philosophy of three persons in one being (or God expressed in three modes) in order to have the Bible harmonized in the above. It is much simpler and scriptural to rely on the Bible itself and let it explain itself.

The question has been raised concerning the usage of the definite article ho before theos. It has been claimed by some that since the definite article is used that Thomas was definitely calling Jesus God Almighty. Those who argue this usually assume that the expression ho theos always means God Almighty. Actually, this is not true. The expression ho theos is used of Satan the Devil in 2 Corinthians 4:4. As mentioned earlier, the definite article is used because of the possessive nature of pronoun. See #13 "with possessive pronouns"

One minority view is that the Greek is written in such a way that it implies that Thomas is referring to Jesus as his Lord and to the Father as his God. the Greek structure is such, that Granville Sharp makes an exception to his rule here in order to have God and Lord apply to one person rather than two. There is an article both before kyrios as well as theos, with kai in between; the article is used because of the possessive nature. However the expression "of me" is also after both kyrios and theos, whereas normally, if one person is referred to, then there would only be need for one article and one final "of me" after the last noun. Granville Sharp claimed John 20:20 as exception to his rules, because he believed it referred to one person, thus to satisfy his preconceived belief, he gave this as an exception.

However, by comparing the verse earlier:

John 20:17
legei autee ieesous mee mou haptou oupw gar
3004 0846 6 2424 3361 1473 2 0680 0681 3768 1063
anabebeeka pros ton patera poreuou de pros
0305 4314 3588 3962 4198 1161 4314
tous adelphous mou kai eipe autois anabainw
3588 0080 1473 2 2532 1511 7 0846 93 0305
pros ton patera mou kai patera humwn kai theon
4314 3588 3962 1473 2 2532 3962 4771 5 2532 2316
mou kai theon humwn
OF ME AND GOD OF YOU. 1473 2 2532 2316 4771 5

According to this line of argument, not only does this context show that Jesus is not the God who is his God, the entire phrase "the father of me and father of you and God of me and God of you" has only one article that is distributed for it's instances. Sharp's rules concerning this structure says that this indicates one person, and when the article does appear before each noun, that it indicates more than one person. I say "indicates" because he says that since John 20:28 is apparently speaking of one person and that this is an exception to the rule, even though the article appears before both kyrios and theos. But this reasoning seems to be to circular, saying in effect: since it is speaking of one person, it is an exception to the rule, and therefore proves that Thomas is referring to one person as both Lord and God.

We neither agree or disagree with the line of argument regarding Sharp's rule, but we provide it simply to show how that this could be true.

While scholars, including some trinitarian scholars, are divided over whether Thomas was referring to Jesus or his Father as "the God of me", if Thomas was actually calling Jesus his God here, then it must be in the sense that Moses, the judges, the angels, and the sons of God are called "gods" -- ones having special power, and not as God Almighty -- the only source of all power, for the context as well as the rest of the Bible indicates that Jesus is not God Almighty. -- Exodus 7:1; 21:6; 22:8,9,28 (compare Acts 23:5); Psalm 8:5 (compare Hebrews 2:9); 82:6,7 (see John 10:34-36); 86:6-8; 95:3; 50:1.

We will add there is nothing in John 20:28 about Jesus' being a person of God, nor is there anything about there being three persons in God. Thus, the trinitarian idea has to be read into what Thomas said.

Additionally, if John is actually referring to Jesus as his God in the same sense as Jesus refers to the Father as "my God" and "your God" in John 20:17, then this would make Jesus the Father. Of course, our trinitarian neighbors deny that Jesus is the Father, as do we; we simply show where this line of reasoning would lead. It should be noted that our Oneness friends do understand Jesus to be the Father. Again, this line of reasoning must be read into passage.

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