What on Earth is Jesus saying in John 10:34–36

It looks like the debate between me and Steve Hays over John 10:30–36 is still going on. He replied to my post which was a response to a response of  a criticism of an exegesis. I think this debate is important, not only for Christology—but also for how we do exegesis. You’ll see that both me and Steve Hays have different approaches to exegesis, it’s up to you do decide which one is more consistent and faithful to the text. In this response I’m going to focus on the issues of the Shema in John 10:30, and the actual exegesis of John 10:34–36, the rest of the post (John 1, the concept of messiahship, and so on) I’ll deal with in the comment section so as to keep this debate on subject.

On the Shema in John 10:30 Hays says:

That commits a genre confusion. If the writing in question was an epistle, then that observation would have some purchase, but in historical accounts, it is necessary to distinguish between the audience within the narrative and the audience for the book. The statements of Jesus in Jn 10 (and elsewhere) aren’t directed at the audience for John’s Gospel. Montero is confusing the reception history of the Gospel with the historical incident that John records. In the narrative, the Jewish opponents of Jesus constitute the original audience for this exchange.

It’s deeply confused for Montero to say Jn 10:30 wouldn’t trigger an association with the Shema because the narrator doesn’t use the wording of the LXX. For the frame of reference is the audience Jesus is addressing at that particular time and place, and not a reader outside that setting.

Montero is making the same blunder as people who discern sacramental references in Jn 3 & Jn 6. They disregard the historical setting for those statements, and act as though Jesus is speaking directly to a later reader who’s conditioned by subsequent developments in church history.

I don’t really understand your point here, why then do the gospel writers constantly use the LXX in regards to scripture quotations? Did John NOT know that Jesus was referring to the Shema? If he didn’t then what are we even talking about? If he did why didn’t he give some indication in the text that this is what Jesus was referring to? He certainly could have used the masculine form of “one”, he could have given some clues in the text. Jesus could have actually used words (other than one) that actually referred to the Shema.

John wrote his gospel, presumably, to be understood by people. Had Jesus referred to the Shema in verse 30 and John wanted people to know it, he would have done something to let people know; he didn’t.

I’m not disregarding the historical setting, what evidence is there that the Shema would be associated with the term “me and the Father”? I’m also not disregarding the fact that John wrote his gospel to be understood by people who read Greek and knew the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible.

As you said, Jesus didn’t speak in Greek, we don’t’ know the exact wording he used, all we know is what John wrote down for us, and John wasn’t an idiot, if Jesus referred to the Shema John would have made that clear in the text somehow, he didn’t.

Unless of course you just think anyone any form of the word “one” is used it’s a reference to the Shema, which I don’t think you do.

NT writers frequently deviate from the LXX.

Of course there isn’t just one LXX, but do you have ANY example of the Shema being written in Greek using ἕν? It can be in the New Testament as well … go ahead and show me, maybe I missed one.

Jesus isn’t quoting the Shema. Rather, Jesus is alluding to the Shema, but incorporating himself into the Shema. He reformulates the Shema.

The Bible typically uses the masculine gender when referring to God. But due to a shift from singular to plural in Jn 10:30, it’s natural to use the neuter gender instead since one function of the neuter gender is to express abstract ideas. Deut 6:4 refers to a concrete individual whereas two individuals as one (“I and the Father are one”) conveys an abstract concept.

Now this is confusing. Ok, let’s break this down, The Shema refers to one individual, yes, (by the way the masculine form can also be used for abstract concepts For example 1 Thess. 5:11, εἷς τὸν ἕνα, refers to a corporate group, and the feminine μία also often refers to concepts) but that’s the point? Now if Jesus changed it to the neuter to express and abstract idea, such as him and the father are one in some way (similar to the way the apostles are to be one in John 17), then we are no longer dealing with the Shema at all, the word “one” doesn’t mean the same thing—So then where is the connection to the Shema?

When I point out the same Language is used of the apostles in John 17 Hays replies;

Different context.

So what? A reference to the Shema is still a reference, in John 10:30 there was no context where the Shema should come up (the Shema isn’t a messianic verse), so if the language used by Jesus is a reference to the Shema (it isn’t), then why shouldn’t John 17 be? Saying “different context” doesn’t say that. When I point out that the apostles are one in the same way that Jesus and the father are one Hays says:

Where does Jn 17 say that?

Verse 11

And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.

Now let’s move on to Jesus’s reply in John 10:34–36

They accuse him of blasphemy. So they’re using “God” as a synonym for “Yahweh”.

They rightly sense that he’s not describing himself in that lesser sense.

They didn’t accuse him of making himself “a god”. So his accusers are using “God” as a synonym for “Yahweh”.


The same noun can have different meanings, viz. abstract noun, concrete noun, common noun, proper noun. I’ve discussed that before.

Once more, they didn’t accuse him of making himself “a god”. So his accusers are using “God” as a synonym for “Yahweh”.

How do you know? Blasphemy is not just “calling yourself Yahweh”, in fact I don’t think you can find precedent for that anywhere … There is NO indication that they are using Θεός (without the article mind you, had John wanted to make it clear that they were referring to Yahweh surely he would have included the article, especially given Jesus’s response) as a synonym for Yahweh. Just because they say it’s Blasphemy doesn’t necessarily mean that at all, the charge could refer to any number of things.

You don’t know that it is a synonym for “Yahweh”, you’d have to argue for it. I don’t know why you write off, a priori, the idea that Jesus is setting himself up as “a god” and that, to them, is blasphemy.

It makes sense as an a fortiori argument.

Explain the argument … maybe you do, let’s keep looking:

Actually, he did more than that. In v35, he mentions those whom the “word of God” came. Now if the “gods” in Ps 82 refer to human Jewish judges, the “word of God” would have reference to God’s verbal revelations to Israel.

However, many scholars think it’s either a sarcastic reference to heathen deities or else a reference to angels. But what event involving the “word of God” would correspond to that identification? On that identification, this is probably a flashback to the Prologue, where the divine Logos is the Creator God of Genesis. He made the angels.

The “word of God” also came to heavenly beings, that’s what Psalms 82 IS, it’s God’s word to these heavenly beings.

So let’s break down your argument … When talking about verse 30 you insist that we have to think about the text as Jesus talking to his interlockers (which gets you out of the obvious linguistic problems with your claim about the Shema) … Now you are saying Jesus, in response to a charge, is referring to something which his interlockers never could have possibly heard of, the prologue to John, which was written decades after this encounter? So basically Jesus was talking complete gibberish, it was nonsense. So his argument was “if you read the prologue of a Book that will be written decades later about my life you’ll read that I am the Logos, so I made the divine beings talked about in Psalms 82” …. Where are you getting any of that in the text?

So let’s compare exegesis’, here’s the text (NRSV)

 Jesus answered, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, you are gods’? If those to whom the word of God came were called ‘gods’—and the scripture cannot be annulled— can you say that the one whom the Father has sanctified and sent into the world is blaspheming because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? (John 10:34–36)

So here’s my exegesis:

Jesus is saying that in the scriptures God calls these divine beings “gods”, and it isn’t blasphemy (obviously since God called him gods, his word came to them, also it is found in scripture which cannot be annulled)—therefore how could it be blasphemy when the one who is sanctified and sent into the world is called “God’s son”?

And here is Hays’ (if I misrepresent your exegesis, please, by all means, clarify it):

Jesus is saying that these figures are called Gods, and the word came to them, in the form of the Logos, which (if you read the prologue of a book that hasn’t been written yet) is actually me, Jesus Christ, and if you read that prologue you would know that I created those divine figures, so I am Yahweh himself.

Which one of those exegesis’ actually make sense of the text? Let’s continue:

i) To begin with, does Montero reject messianic prophecy? Does he think these passages only refer to historical kings of Israel?

ii) In addition, Montero misses the point. The identification isn’t confined to the use of the word “father” or “son”, but related concepts of king and prince in royal succession. At the level of human analogies, the king/prince relation is typically a father/son relation. So there’s that specific equivalence, in that particular context. A prince/son who succeeds the king/father.

I don’t reject prophesy, they refer to the historical kings as well as the future messiah … But a typology only works if there is some similarity between the type and anti-type in function or form or something like that. These passages refer to the historical kings in their role as agents of God, subservient and obedient creatures of God … If that isn’t the same reference to Jesus then what is the point of that typology? It wouldn’t make any sense to use those references for Jesus if Jesus was Yahweh in the flesh.

The Father/son succession is your point, but when it comes to “God’s Son” in the old testament, that isn’t how it’s used, it isn’t used for succession at all, no angels called “Sons of God” are spoken of as succeeding Yahweh, no Kings are either, nor is the nation of Israel; that isn’t how the term is used. If you want to say that this is how Jesus uses it you’d have to prove it. It is used for people who rule oh behalf of God though, but that isn’t the same thing as succession.

How let’s look at how Hay’s talks about the term “Divine” he uses it as:

“Divine” in the same sense that Yahweh is divine.

In that case “son of God” is never used a divine title.

“Sonship” is used as a divine title in Isa 9:6, and it’s frequently used as a divine title in the NT.

This is the equivocation. Here is Isaiah 9:6 in context (NRSV):

For a child has been born for us,     a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,     Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His authority shall grow continually,     and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom.     He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness     from this time onward and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord (Yahweh) of hosts will do this. (Isiah (9:6–7).

How is “sonship” a divine title in the same way Yahweh is divine? It IS divine in the sense that the son is called “mighty god”, but it isn’t divine in the same that he is in the same camp as Yahweh; since this whole thing is accomplished by Yahweh himself (the giving of the son and the growing of his authority)—so no, it isn’t “divine” in the same way Yahweh is divine.

Either you argue that it is, or you’re just equivocating again.

He’s not including himself, but contrasting himself. Does Montero not know what an a fortiori argument is?

How is he contrasting himself? And in what way is that a reply to the charge? I mean we got the answer above really; but frankly, it’s so detached from the actual text that it can’t even be considered exegesis at all. You’re saying he’s making an a fortiori argument, but you have to demonstrate that from the text and show how it fits with any actual engagement with the charge.


So here’s what we are still left with.

  1. No actual evidence that John 10:30 is a reference to the Shema, it’s just a claim devoid of any textual evidence. Not only that, the fact that there is no textual evidence for it is an argument against it; given that John presumably wanted to convey Jesus’s thoughts.
  2. A reading of John 10:34–36 that has absolutely no basis in the text and relies on completely impossible premises (Jesus referencing a prologue to a book that hadn’t been written yet), as well as huge huge amounts of eisegesis; Even with that, we are still left empty with how that reading actually is a reply.
What on Earth is Jesus saying in John 10:34–36

2 thoughts on “What on Earth is Jesus saying in John 10:34–36

  1. Steve Hays to my point that the question was not about Jesus’s identity but rather whether or not he was the Messiah by saying:

    “False dichotomy. Questioning whether he’s the messiah is a question about his true identity.
    Ok, here is the problem; Questioning whether or not he is the messiah is merely a question about whether or not his identity includes the position of Messiah. The question was not “are you the Messiah, oh and what else are you?” It was only about his messiahship. Had Jesus responded, “I am God”, or “I am a human”, or “I am an angel”, or “I am an extraterrestrial alien”, he would not have been answering the questions; all of those would be answers to a question about his true identity, but not answers to the actual question at hand. The question is related to his identity, at least part of his identity, but it is not a question about his “true identity” in the broad sense, it was a question about his identity as Messiah.”

    The after I make a point about how “anointed one” is by definition not God; since the anointed on is anointed by God, Hays replies:

    “i) That commits a semantic fallacy. The conceptual meaning of “messiah” is a different issue from the etymological or idiomatic meaning of the word “messiah”. The concept of messiahship isn’t confined to occurrences of the word “messiah”. Rather, that’s a theological construct based on many OT motifs. For instance, many “messianic prophecies” don’t use the word “messiah”. But they contribute to the overall concept of messiahship.
    ii) ii) Moreover, the concept of messiahship will vary according to the speaker. The Jewish opponents of Christ may have a different idea of messiahship than Jesus or NT writers. They may fail to recognize the messianic significance of certain OT motifs or oracles.”

    Ok first of all, it isn’t a semantic fallacy. The concept of messiah (separate from the etymological or idiomatic meaning of the word) still includes the idea of the messiah being anointed by Yahweh for a special purpose. Of course we don’t need to stick to strick etymological definitions, we go off of the context from the Judaism of the time and the Hebrew bible … but all of those still leave us with a messiah whose meaning includes being anointed by Yahweh for a purpose, and thus not Yahweh.

    Second, If Jesus had a different concept of the messiah than his listeners did he would have made it clear, or there would be some indication. If me and you are talking about apple pie, and I’m using the word to mean something that it hasn’t meant in history, unless I clarify what I mean, we aren’t having a conversation, we’re just talking nonsense. Either Jesus meant what came with the concept of “messiah”, or he clarified it, or he was talking nonsense.

    “Begs the question.”

    Not really, can you give an example of a concept of the Messiah that identifies the Messiah as Yahweh outside the New Testament in Judaism?

    Let’s move on to John 1:1:

    “Montero is oblivious to context. Jn 1:1-5 is a studied allusion to the creation account in Gen 1. The Word was deity in the same sense that the Creator God in Gen 1 was deity. That’s the frame of reference. ”

    Not really, since the Word was the agent of creation, not the greator, thus the use of the term διά. This is a direct reference to the Logos theology of Philo and Platonism. Both of which have the Logos as the agent of creation.

    “Once again, that’s confused. In Jn 1:1, the second clause uses the articular rather than anarthrous construction because one function of the Greek definite article is to denote a proper name, and the narrator is using “God” in the second clause as a proper name for the Father.”

    Right, it’s identifying God, the God, Yahweh. The second θεὸς designates the type of being that the logos is, but it is not the same being as the God that the logos is with.

    “i) The Philonic Logos could never become Incarnate, pace the Johannine Logos (Jn 1:14).

    ii) In addition, that involves a Platonized Judaism which denies that God creates directly. There must be intermediaries between God and the world. So the Philonic Logos is a Demiurge to shield the transcendence of God. But that’s moves in a conceptual world quite alien to Biblical theism.

    iii) Assuming that “non-Jewish Christians” are John’s intended audience, there’s no reason to think they’d be familiar with Philonic Judaism, or take an interest in Philonic Judaism. At best, that would only resonate with some Diaspora Jews. ”

    Why could the Philonic Logos never become incarnate? Where are you getting that from?

    It’s actually not a concept alien to Biblical theism, because both the Pauline epistles and John use διά in reference to Jesus’s relationship to creation, things are created διά him.

    Philo wrote a lot for non-Jews (much like Josephus), which is why he used platonic language (as did John).

    “Montero doesn’t bother to explain how Dan 7 excludes the possibility that messiah is Yahweh.

    He approaches Yahweh, and receives things from Yahweh, which kind of excludes him from being Yahweh.”


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