In Part I of this series, I summarized three theologically distinct interpretations of John 10:30: that Jesus and the Father are one in person (the usual Oneness Pentecostal view), that they are one in power (the usual Trinitarian view), and that they are one in purpose (a view held by many anti-Trinitarians). I then critiqued the one in person view. In this post, I will present arguments in favor of the Trinitarian view that Jesus is claiming to be one in divine power indeed, one God with the Father.
I have summarized the contextual evidence in Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ (Kregel, 2007), authored with Ed Komoszewski:
In context, Jesus has just claimed to do his works in the name of the Father (v. 25), to be the Shepherd of the sheep (v. 26), to give eternal life to them (v. 27), and to prevent anyone from snatching them out of his hand, just as the Father does (vv. 28-29; cf. Deut. 32:39). He then concludes that in asserting these divine prerogatives, he is claiming, I and the Father are one (John 10:30) (p. 239).
It might help if I elaborate a bit on the argument here. First of all, in the immediate context of John 10:30, Jesus appropriates to himself a divine title (Shepherd ), claims to perform a divine work (namely, giving eternal life), and asserts that he has divine ability to prevent any hostile force from turning any of his people against him. In this short passage, we see three of the five kinds of evidence for the deity of Christ that Ed and I present in our book: the attributes, names, and deeds of God that Jesus shares. (That Jesus receives honors due to God is implicit in Jesus’ description of the sheep as those who believe and follow him, though this may not be as clear as the other elements.) It is the convergence or synergy of these elements applying to Jesus Christ in the same close context that makes such a strong case for regarding this passage as speaking of him as God. For example, although the title shepherd can apply to all sorts of creatures without implying any divinity (literal shepherds, of course, but also Israelite kings and other leaders), its use in this context of attributing to Jesus divine power and divine works carries it outside these more mundane categories of connotation.
What clinches the argument is the fact that Jesus makes these claims using language that clearly takes the words of YHWH, the LORD God, in the Old Testament, and applies them to himself:
“See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand” (Deut. 32:39 ESV).
“I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand” (John 10:28-29 ESV).
YHWH says, “make alive”; Jesus says, “I give eternal life.” YHWH says, “and there is none that can deliver out of my hand” ; Jesus says, “and no one will snatch them out of my hand . . . and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” The Hebrew word massil can be translated either “snatch” or “deliver”; in Deuteronomy 32:39, where YHWH emphasizes that he kills as well as makes alive, the word actually has both meanings. No one can snatch out of God’s hand those whom he chooses to make alive, and no one can deliver out of God’s hand those whom he chooses to kill. In John 10:28-29, Jesus is focusing strictly on his divine power to give life, and so John quotes him using the Greek word harpazein, “to snatch.” Thus, a close analysis of the two texts makes it clear that John 10:28-29 uses the wording of Deuteronomy 32:39 to express the claim that Jesus does what God does in preserving those whom he gives eternal life.
A standard strategy used by anti-Trinitarians to escape the force of passages like this one is to claim that it indicates merely that God is able to delegate responsibilities to his trusted, created agent. However, the allusion to Deuteronomy 32:39 precludes this explanation. The whole point of Deuteronomy 32:39 is that YHWH alone is able to kill and give life as he chooses; it is he alone from whose hand no one is able to snatch or deliver. “See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me.” This is an explicit affirmation of monotheism, a rejection of the notion that there is any divine being that can do what YHWH alone does. Indeed, this statement in Deuteronomy 32:39 is one of the most explicit and emphatic assertions of monotheism in the entire Pentateuch (see also Deut. 4:35, 39).
Now Jesus’ statement, “The Father and I are one,” comes into a shocking new focus. In verses 28-29 Jesus has just taken one of the most explicitly monotheistic statements from Deuteronomy and applied it to himself, including himself with the Father in its affirmation. Now, in verse 30, Jesus asserts, “I and the Father are one.” In light of what Jesus has just said, it is evident that he is here including himself with the Father in another Deuteronomic affirmation of monotheism, the famous Shema: “Hear, O Israel, YHWH is our God, YHWH is one“(Deut. 6:4). As I pointed out in Part I, John quotes Jesus’ statement using the neuter form hen instead of the masculine form heis (which is the form used in the Septuagint translation of Deuteronomy 6:4). In doing so, John wards off the possible misunderstanding that Jesus is claiming to be the same person as the Father. Yet the allusion to the Shema remains: Jesus has just claimed divine status in a deliberate allusion to one of the explicitly monotheistic statements of Deuteronomy, and in this context his assertion that he and the Father are one is clearly another claim that he is to be included in the identity of the God of Jewish monotheism.
Let me review. In John 10:25-30, Jesus claims at once a divine name or title (Shepherd), a divine prerogative or deed (to give eternal life as he chooses), and the divine attribute of the sovereign power to prevent anyone from snatching his people out of his hand. Jesus makes these claims using language taken from one of the most explicitly monotheistic texts of Deuteronomy. His claim to be one with the Father must be understood in this context as a claim to have the same divine name, perform the same divine deed, and possess the same divine power, as God himself. It is a claim that Jesus, the Son, is to be included in the identity of the one Lord God of Israel, while maintaining a personal distinction between himself and the Father.
In the remainder of this series, I will examine objections to this argument, specifically those objections that supposedly establish that Jesus is only claiming to be “one in purpose” with the Father.