A sampling of evangelical thought on John 10:30 (Part 4)

One in Purpose? One in Being? Or Both?  – John 10:30 (Part 4)


And yet Happy Hanukkah!  Because this is the kind of discussion that should take place every winter. 😉


“I and the Father are one.”  Here are three categories:


John 10:30 speaks of One in Purpose

1. R.V.G. Tasker (1960) – “This verse was much quoted in the Aryan controversy by the orthodox in support of the doctrine that Christ was of one substance with the Father.  The expression seems however mainly to imply that the Father and the Son are united in will and purpose” (p. 136).


2. Gerald Borchert(1996) – The first matter to note is that the word “one” here is neuter (hen) and not masculine (heis), so the text is not arguing for a oneness of personalities or personae (to use the Latin concept) but rather something akin to a oneness of purpose and will. . . . Having made this point, however, it must be stated immediately that there is not intention here of speaking about two separate gods or of asserting the Arian denial of Jesus as God” (p. 341).


3. George R. Beasley-Murray (1999) – “The setting of v 30 in relation to vv 28-29 shows that a functional unity of the Son and the Father in their care of the sheep is in mind. . . . The sentence in v 30 played an important role in the early Church controversies on Christology and the doctrine of the Trinity; these are reviewed by T. E. Pollard in his article “The Exegesis of John x.30 in the Early Trinitarian Controversies,” but it is evident that the conclusions drawn from the statement by many of the early Fathers were far from the mind of the Evangelist” (p. 174).


4. Gary Burge (2000) – “ ‘One’ in Greek is neuter and does not refer to ‘one person.’  Therefore, Jesus is affirming a unity of purpose and will.  The protection of the sheep results from the joint work of Father and Son.  However, we must quickly say that this is not a denial of the ontological unity of the Father and the Son, which is at the heart of John’s Christology.  From beginning (John 1:1) to end (when Thomas exclaims to Jesus, “My Lord and my God!” 20:28), this Gospel affirms more.  A suggestion of this may lie in the present passage.  This formulation of oneness is stronger than what we see elsewhere, and the response of the crowd in 10:31, 33 suggests that they hear something different too.  This is not a man who is saying he has joined his efforts with God; this is a man who is saying something dangerous, something more, something blasphemous” (p. 296).


5. Colin Kruse writes in John (2003), Tyndale Commentary series:  “Instead, he uses the neuter form (hen), suggesting that the oneness of Father and Son here is oneness in mission and purpose.  Father and Son are at one in their commitment to prevent anyone from snatching believers out of their hands.  Here the nature of oneness is functional; later in the Gospel it involves unity of being (17:21-23). [p. 242]


6. Craig Keener (2003) – “Calvin, John, 1:417 (on John 10:30) and 2:183 (on John 17:21), warns that the Fathers, opposing the Arians, interpreted all references to Christ’s oneness with the Father in terms of his essence, but this was not Jesus’ point.” (p. 825).


John 10:30 speaks of One in Being

1. B.F. Westcott(1881) – “It seems clear that the unity here spoken of cannot fall short of unity of essence. . . . The phrase was very commonly quoted in controversy from the time of Tertullian.  The following passages will repay to study:  Tertull. ‘adv. Prax.’ 22; Hippol. ‘c. Noet.” 7; Ambr. ‘de Spir. S.’ I. III, 116; August. ‘Coll. C. Max’ 14. . . . And again the words I and the Father are one, exclude the confusion of the divine persons and so suggest the thought of a Son of the same essence with the Father.


2. R.C.H. Lenski (1943) – “What is thus prepared is now pronounced in so many words:  I and the Father, we are one.  The equal power to protect the sheep is due to the equality of these two persons.  This makes the mighty acts of equal protection perfectly plain.  “We are one,” therefore, cannot be reduced to mean only one in purpose, will, and work.  This, however true it may be in itself, does not suffice; for the reference is to power, namely almighty power, against which no other being, however great his power may be, is able to rise.  To deny that equality of power is here expressed is to deny just what is asserted.  This denial resorts to the faulty reading meizon instead of meizon [I transliterated, long o for the second], and places the power in the sheep instead of in the Father.  Another way to reduce what Jesus says is to point to hen and to assert that, if identity is meant by “we are one,” we should have heis, a masculine instead of a neuter.  Augustine has answered that:  hen frees us from the Charybdis of Arianism, esmen from the Scylla of Sabellianism.  If we had heis, this would mean that the two are one and the same person, producing patripassionism and other extravagant fancies.  Jesus says, “we are hen,” “one thing, one being, one God, one Lord,” Luther.  The two persons are not mingled, for Jesus clearly distinguishes between ego and ho pater; but these two, while they are two in person, are hen, one, a unit substance, or, as a we prefer, a unit in essence.


It is fruitless to bring in analogies for hen in order to reduce this oneness to something with which our minds are conversant, which they are able to grasp intellectually.  Thus Paul says of himself and of Apollos, “He that planteth and he that watereth are one,” I Cor. 3:8.  Here, however, not persons as persons but their activities, planting and watering, make them one.  It is certainly unconvincing to point to I Cor. 12:12: one body composed of many members; and it is an actual descent into filth to think of I Cor. 6:16.  When Jesus prays that all who will come to believe through the word of the apostles (17:20) may be one, this is so manifestly the increasing oneness of conviction and confession regarding the one truth of the Word that it seems strange to adduce it in this connection.  Eph. 2:14 and 4:4, as well as Gal. 3:28 speak of the spiritual oneness of the Una Sancta or Communion of Saints, in which any number may be joined.  Acts 4:32 is merely the accord of thought and will.  Efforts will constantly be repeated to follow some such analogy in thinking of the oneness of the Father and the Son.  But all these human and earthly analogies are really not true analogies.  Among them all no oneness exists which can be placed beside this expression of Jesus, “We are one.”  Nor is this strange, for each of the different lower types of oneness is peculiar and unique in itself according to the subjects which it embraces.  The resemblances are only formal.  Once this is perceived, we shall drop the effort to classify the oneness of Jesus and the Father with some other oneness of which we know.


As high and as absolutely singular as are the Father and the Son, so high, so absolutely singular and unlike any other oneness is that of him who is the one eternal Father with him who is the one eternal Son.  One he who has sounded the depths of the godhead of this Father and this Son could grasp what their oneness actually is.  The ancient church defined the hen of Jesus by the great term homoousia, which retains the supreme credit of rising above all earthly categories to the actual numerical hen of the ousia (being or essence) eternal in the Son as in the Father.  No truer, higher, or more adequate term has ever been furnished by the mind of the church.  Unsatisfactory by comparison is the idea of a oneness of several joined merely in action or suffering (Zahn).  Paul wrote Col. 2:8, 9:  “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.  For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the godhead bodily.”  Before the divine oneness of these infinite persons we bow down in childlike adoration and worship.  As regards 14:28, this passage refers only to the human nature of Jesus (pp. 759-761).


3. Arthur W. Pink (1945) – “I and the Father are one” affirms Their unity of nature or essence, one in every Divine perfection (p. 553).


4. James Montgomery Boice (1985) – In theological terms, this is the same as saying that the Son is one in substance with the Father and that they are equal in power and glory (p. 790).


5. John Philips (1989) – “They are one in mind, thought, heart, will, purpose, and action.  True, but it goes beyond that. . . . He was not just the Christ of messianic expectation; he claimed identity of substance with God.  That was his answer to their question (p. 203).


6. John MacArthur (2006) – The Father and the Son jointly guarantee the eternal security of the believers because, as Jesus declared, “I and the Father are one” (the Greek word one is neuter, not masculine; it speaks of “one substance,” not “one person”).  Thus their unity of purpose and action in safeguarding believers is undergirded by their unity of nature and essence (p. 443).


7. Robert Kysar (2007) – So we may conclude that, at least at face value, the Fourth Gospel claims that the Father and Son are one in being and in action (p. 55, John: The Maverick Gospel, third edition)


8. Richard Bauckham (2007) – The second occasion on which the Jewish leaders take up stones to kill Jesus for blasphemy is in response to his statement, “I and the Father are one” (10:30).  Although, so far as I am aware, it has not been suggested by other scholars, it seems to me very probable that this saying of Jesus alludes to the Jewish confession of faith in the one God, the Shema: “YHWH our God, YHWH is one” (Deut. 6:4).  This was the most familiar of all monotheistic formulas, since devout Jews recited it daily.  It is frequently cited in Jewish literature in the abbreviated form:  “God is one” – a form in which it also appears in the New Testament (Rom. 3:30; Gal. 3:20; James 2:19).  It says nothing about the unitariness of God’s nature, but simply indicates that YHWH is the one and only God.  It is true that in all Greek echoes of the Shema the word for one is masculine (heis), as we should expect, whereas in John 10:30 it is neuter (hen).  But his is a necessary adaptation of language.  Jesus is not saying that he and the Father are a single person, but that together they are one God.  That the Fourth Evangelist should have in this way incorporated Jesus into the affirmation of one God in the Shema is not especially surprising, since Paul had already done the same thing in a different way in I Corinthians 8:6 (pp. 250-251, The Testimony of the Beloved Disciple).


9. Martin Hengel (2008 ) – John 1:1 corresponds to the key statement in the Gospel, “I and the Father are one,” 10:30.  Thus the Evangelist is on the way toward the Nicene Creed:  theon alethinon ek theou alethinou, gennethenta ou poiethenta, homoousion to patri [I crudely transliterated].  At the same time God’s Word is given an inalienable personality: it is with the Father, one with him in will and being, but not simply identical with him.  The Logos Christology that starts with the Prologue goes its way to Nicea between an unreflective Monarchianism and a Neoplatonic-oriented Arianism that wanted to make the Logos the first creature (pp. 272-73, The Gospel of John and Christian Theology).


John 10:30 speaks of One in Purpose with a Presupposition of One in Being


1. Leon Morris (1971) – It may be true that this ought not to be understood as a metaphysical statement, but it is also true that it means more than that Jesus’ will was one with the Father’s. . . . Augustine is often quoted in order to be refuted.  He comments “when He says, ‘I and the Father are one,’ hear both, both the one, unum, and are, sumus, and thou shall be delivered both from Charybdis and from Scylla.  In these two words, in that He said one, He delivers thee from Arius; in that He said are, He delivers thee from Sabellius.  If one, therefore not diverse; if are, therefore both Father and Son” (XXXVI. 9; p. 211).  It is, of course, true that our Lord was not speaking with respect to the controversies that excited the church in later times.  But it is also true that His words have implications, and it was natural for those embroiled in the controversies to seek out the implications (p. 523).


2. After five points of clarification, D.A. Carson (1991) writes, “In short, although the words I and the Father are one do not affirm complete identity, in the context of this book they certainly suggest more than that Jesus’ will was one with the will of his Father, at least in the weak sense that a human being may at time regulate his own will and deed by the will of God.  If instead Jesus’ will is exhaustively one with his Father’s will, some kind of metaphysical unity is presupposed, even if not articulated.” (p. 395)


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