Some Misunderstood Verses of the Bible Now Put Back Into Their Contexts
“I and the Father are one”
And Other Verses Commonly Misunderstood to Mean
That Jesus is God
“I and the Father are one”
John 10:30 is often quoted to show that Jesus is equal to God. But when you read the verse in its context you will find that the passage taken as a whole proves the opposite. People are often content to quote the verse in isolation to show that Jesus said “I and the Father are one” and then the Jews picked up stones to stone him because they understood him to mean that he is claiming to be God. It is only when you read the passage to see what comes before and after this verse that you will realise that the Jews misunderstood what Jesus was saying. In fact, Jesus tried to explain what he meant, and the explanation he gave is still in the Bible for everyone to see. It is surprising that so many people who say they love Jesus ignore his explanation and repeat the mistake which was made by the enemies of Jesus. Here is the passage as it appears in the New International Version of the Bible:
22It was winter, 23and Jesus was in the temple area, walking in Solomon’s Colonnade. 24The Jews gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”
25Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, 26but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 29My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30I and the Father are one.”
31Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, 32but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?”
33″We are not stoning you for any of these,” replied the Jews, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”
34Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, `I have said you are gods’? 35If he called them `gods’ to whom the word of God came — and the scripture cannot be broken — 36what about one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, `I am God’s Son’?” (John 10:22-36).
The passage when viewed as a whole shows clearly that Jesus is not God. Let us observe the following points:
1. The disbelieving Jews insisted that Jesus should tell them if indeed he is the Christ so they should not remain in suspense about his identity (verse 24). A Christ as the title is used in the Bible refers to a human being who is anointed as King of Israel. The title is used for other humans as well (eg. Isaiah 45:1, Cyrus the Persian is called God’s Christ). The Jews were expecting another Christ (Christ is a Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word Messiah, and the Arabic word Maseeh). So they asked Jesus whether he was the one they were waiting for. Jesus replied that he had already told them, and he even performed miracles in God’s name to prove his claim to be the Christ (verse 25), yet they do not believe him (verse 26) because they are not Jesus’ sheep (verse 26). Those whom the Father had given to Jesus, are Jesus’ sheep (followers), and they believe Jesus when he said that he is the Christ (verses 27-29).
2. The true followers of Jesus will never perish, because Jesus gives them eternal life. According to the same Gospel (John 17:3), eternal life means to believe that the Father is the only true God, and that Jesus is the Christ and messenger of that one true God. Jesus gives this knowledge to all those whom the Father has given to him (chapter 17:2). What Jesus was speaking, then, were the words which, if believed, will mean eternal life for all those who believe in them. This is why in the same Gospel, Peter is quoted as saying on behalf of the disciples to Jesus, “You have the words of eternal life. We know and believe that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68-69). So they believed that Jesus was not God, but the Holy One whom God sent (i.e. the Christ and Messenger of God). The Good News Bible makes this passage slightly plainer:
You have the words that give eternal life. And now we believe and know that you are the Holy One who has come from God. (John 6:68-69)
3. No one can snatch away the disciples from Jesus (verse 28), because they were given to him by the Father, and the Father is greater than all (verse 29). Since the Father is helping Jesus to keep his disciples, no one can snatch them out of Jesus’ hand just as they cannot snatch them out of the Father’s hand. When Jesus said that he and the Father are one, he means exactly this: that the Father is helping him to accomplish his tasks; and when he is busy trying to save his disciples from being snatched away by the evil one, the Father is making sure that not one of them will be lost except, of course, the one who was to betray him.
4. Jesus said that the Father is greater than all (verse 29), including Jesus. Anyone having any doubt about this can read John 14:28 where Jesus declares: “The Father is greater than I.” In spite of this clear statement of Jesus, many who claim to follow him insist that Jesus is equal to the Father. Whom should we believe — Jesus himself or those who claim to follow him? His true followers can be distinguished as the ones who stick to what Jesus himself said. Here is what Jesus directed his followers to do:
If you hold to my teaching you are really my disciples. Then you shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (John 8:31-32)
5. When Jesus said, “I and the Father are one” (chapter 10, verse 30) the Jews picked up stones to stone him (verse 31). Jesus could not understand their behaviour, because he had said nothing wrong. So he asked them what he had done wrong to make them want to stone him (verse 32). They replied that Jesus had committed blasphemy since he was only a man yet he claimed to be God (verse 33). But it is clear from the Bible passage above that Jesus did not claim to be God. He only claimed to be the Christ (verse 25). When did he say he was God? They were deliberately misquoting Jesus and putting words in his mouth which they will try to use later as false evidence against him so they could have an excuse to kill him.
6. Jesus admits that he said, “I am God’s Son” (verse 36). But he said that this means nothing more than the fact that God had set him apart as his very own and sent him into the world (verse 36). The fact that God set him apart means that God selected him for a task, set him apart from the rest. The Arabic title for a person like this is Mustafa (meaning The Chosen One). All of God’s Prophets deserve this title. The fact that God sent him into the world means that he is God’s Messenger. He is sent with a message from God. Obviously, the God who sent Jesus is not Jesus himself.
7. Jesus tried to explain to them that even if he said something which they misinterpreted as meaning that Jesus is claiming to be God, they should realise that some human beings were called ‘gods’ in the Bible, and the Jews do not disagree with this (verse 35), so they should not disagree with Jesus so quickly before he gets a chance to explain his words. To get a fuller understanding of what Jesus is saying here, let us refer to the Bible passage to which he called their attention. The passage is in the 82nd Psalm:
“I said, `You are “gods”;
you are all sons of the Most High.’
But you will die like mere men;
you will fall like every other ruler.”
The passage from the Psalms shows that God had honoured some humans by calling them “gods.” But of course they were not really gods. This is just a figurative expression used in the Bible. Jesus reminded the Jews of this so that they should understand that even if he says something that makes them think he is claiming to be God, they should take it as a figurative expression that does not mean what it sounds like. Furthermore Jesus clarified that what he actually said was that he was God’s Son (verse 36). He says that if others can be called “gods,” he does not see why they object to him calling himself God’s Son which means that God had selected him and sent him with a message for the people.
The clear meaning of the passage, then, is that Jesus is not God. He is one selected by God (i.e. he is Mustafa) and he is sent by God (i.e. he is God’s Messenger). When he calls himself God’s Son he means nothing more than that.
Yet, despite the detailed study of the passage as above, some will hold on to tradition and reject the explanation that Jesus provided in verses 34-36. They will insist on taking verse 30 out of its context and give it a meaning which Jesus said is the wrong meaning. They will then agree with what the Jews said and disagree with what Jesus said. This attitude leads to confusion, as we will presently see.
Even if verse 30 is taken in isolation to change its meaning from what Jesus meant, it does not solve anything. It only raises more problems. Jesus cannot be one and the same as the Father whereas he said himself that the Father is greater than he (John 14:28). Jesus said that he and the Father are in fact two (John 8:14-18). And no one had seen God at any time although they had already seen Jesus (1 John 4:12). The best solution for all this is to go back to the teachings of Jesus himself, then you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free (John 8:31-32).
Before Abraham was, I am
John 8:58 is one of the most misused verses of the Bible. Because Jesus in that verse says “Before Abraham was, I am,” two implications, one unnecessary, and the other false, are drawn from that verse. The unnecessary implication is that since Jesus existed before Abraham that means he existed always. This is a preconceived notion that people force into the text. “Before Abraham” does not mean “always”. Melchezidek in the Bible is shown to have existed before Abraham (Hebrews 7:3). Does that mean that Melchezidek is God? Obviously, we cannot take a created being as God.
The false implication is that Jesus by saying “I am” was uttering God’s name which God declared to Moses in Exodus 3:14-15.
The Bible is confusing on this point because it gives three versions of God’s calling Moses, and the three versions do not agree with each other. The best that can be said is that the name of God announced there is Yahweh. Compare the three versions below:
1. The Yahwist version (Exod 6:28 – 7:7) says nothing about the name of God being revealed because for the Yahwist editors the name Yahweh was already known among the Israelites. They say that this name was being used since the time of Enosh, the grandson of Adam (Genesis 4:26).
2. The priestly version (Exod 6:2-13) contradicts this by saying that this name was not known before (Exod 6:2). God’s command to Moses here is
So say to the Israelites, “I am Yahweh . . .” (Exod 6:6),
and Moses repeated this to them (6:9).
3. But in the Elohist version (Exod 3:13-22) God’s instruction to Moses is different:
This is what you are to say to the Israelites. “I am has sent me to you” (Exod 3:15).
It would appear from this that God’s name is “I am,” but it is clear upon careful study that in this passage the Elohist scribes substituted “I am” for “Yahweh” in the same instruction given in (Exod 6:6).
Even if God really did announce his name to be “I am” as in Exodus, chapter 3, verse 15, this still does not prove that Jesus applied the name “I am” to himself. Jesus never said his name is “I am”. He is quoted as saying “Before Abraham was I am” (John 8:58). If “I am” is Jesus’ name, then we should be able to replace the “I am” in this passage with “Jesus,” since these are both names of Jesus. The passage would then read as follows: “Before Abraham was, Jesus.” This, of course, makes no sense because the idea that Jesus called himself “I am” is not there in the text, but it is someone’s own interpretation forced into the text. Notice that we would have no difficulty replacing the “I am” in Exodus 3:15 with either “God” or “Yahweh”, as follows:
This is what you are to say to the Israelites. “God has sent me to you” (Exod 3:15).
This is what you are to say to the Israelites. “Yahweh has sent me to you” (Exod 3:15).
Another point worth paying attention to is this: the writer of the fourth gospel never believed Jesus to be God. This proves that Jesus never said he is God. Otherwise, how could it be possible that the author of the fourth gospel never knew it? He believed that the Father is the only true God, and that Jesus is the Christ and messenger of God (see John 17:3).
Furthermore, a distinction which is present in the Greek version of the Bible is lost from the English versions. In the Septuagint Greek version of the Old Testament, the phrase translated “I am” is “ho on” in the Greek. If the author of the fourth Gospel wanted to show his readers that Jesus repeated the phrase, he would no doubt have quoted Jesus as saying, “Before Abraham was, ho on.” But he did not. Instead, he quoted Jesus as saying, “Before Abraham was, ego eimi.” Readers of his Greek manuscript, then, would have seen that Jesus’ statement in John 8:58 is different from God’s statement in Exodus 3:15. And this, of course, is what the author of the fourth Gospel intended.
Furthermore, the Syriac Peshitta version of the Bible, one of the old versions of the Bible, reads in John 8:58, “Before Abraham was, I was.” Was this changed from what the author wrote? How can we know? Suppose this was the original phrase, then those who rest their case on the common rendering will be disappointed on the Day of Judgement. Why not rest our case on a much more plain verse of the Bible — one in which Jesus clearly differentiates between himself and God? Take this one for example, where Jesus says to his enemies:
You are determined to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God” (John 8:31).
Who is Jesus then? A man who told the truth which he heard from God. In other words, he was a messenger of God. When a clear statement like this is issued from the lips of Jesus, why wrangle with the passages that are not so clear, and try to twist them to mean the opposite of what Jesus has been saying in other clear verses all along?
Anyone who wishes to convince himself/herself that Jesus is God should look for clear evidence in the Bible to show that Jesus is God. But the clear evidence is to the contrary. The Bible teaches again and again that Jesus is not God, but a Servant of God (e.g. Matthew 12:18).
In the very next chapter of John, chapter 9, v.35, Jesus declares that he is the son of man (RSV). And anyone who knows the Bible as the Israelites to whom Jesus spoke will know that a son of man cannot be God. The Bible declares that God is neither a man nor a son of man (Numbers 23:19).
How can he be called clean that is born of a woman? Behold even the moon, and it shineth not; yea, the stars are not pure in his sight. How much less man, that is a worm? and the son of man, which is a worm? (Job 25:4-6)
A Virgin Will Give Birth
Isaiah 7:14 is one of the most misunderstood verses of the Bible. This passage in a defective translation reads: “a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” The word Immanuel means “God is with us” (see Good News Bible, p. 673). Now, because Matthew (ch.1, v. 23) applies this prophecy to Jesus, it is mistakenly believed that this proves Jesus is God.
First, Matthew never meant to portray Jesus as God. The belief in Jesus divinity was formulated long after Matthew’s gospel was written. Matthew’s gospel proves throughout that Jesus was a servant of God (e.g. Mt. 12:18; 24:36; 27:46).
Second, the name given to an individual in the Bible cannot prove that he is God. “Elijah” means “Jehovah God.” Does that prove that Elijah is Jehovah God? Absolutely Not. Similarly, the name Immanuel does not prove that Jesus is God with us. Neither does the name “Elihu” (meaning “God himself”) prove that the name Elihu is God himself (see I Sam 1:1).
Third, although the prophecy is taken, in Matthew 1:23 to refer indirectly to Jesus, the prophecy in Isaiah 7:14 actually refers directly to a child born during the lifetime of the prophet Isaiah. That child was called “Immanuel”, meaning “God is with us,” and he was God’s sign given to King Ahaz that God will help King Ahaz and his people. God’s promise to King Ahaz, in the 7th chapter of Isaiah, is that before the child is old enough to distinguish right from wrong the enemy kings will be defeated by God’s help. You have to read the entire chapter to get the full meaning. It is not right to pull one verse out of context and give it a different meaning. That child was indeed born, and God called him Immanuel (Isaiah 8:8). If King Ahaz had to wait seven hundred years for Jesus to be born before God’s help comes, he and his people would be long dead before God’s help comes. What, then, will be the significance of such a promise? The promise had a timely fulfillment. The prophecy referred not to Jesus who was to be born hundreds of years later, but to a child who was born in the time of King Ahaz.
A further point to notice is that the child spoken of in Isaiah will at first not be able to differentiate between good and evil. Those who say that Jesus was that child should not turn around and say that Jesus is God, because there has never been (and will never be) a time when God does not know the difference between good and evil.
Matthew mistakenly applied this prophecy to Jesus because Jesus was born of a virgin, and the text speaks of a virgin giving birth. Matthew was relying on the Greek Septuagint version of the Bible where in Isaiah 7:14 the Greek word “parthenos” meaning “virgin” is used. But the book of Isaiah was originally written in Hebrew. To find Isaiah’s meaning it is necessary to go back to the original language than to refer to a translation alone. The Hebrew manuscripts has instead of “virgin” the Hebrew word “almah” meaning “a young woman of marriageable age.” If the writer of Isaiah wanted to say “virgin” he would have used the Hebrew word “bethulah” meaning “virgin”. But he did not. This is why the Revised Standard Version of the Bible (and many other versions) read “young woman” instead of “virgin”.
Jesus was indeed born of a virgin; both the Bible and the Qur’an confirms that. But Isaiah chapter 7, verse 14, does not speak of a virgin birth, and does not refer to Jesus. Jesus is never called “Immanuel” in the Bible. The angel announced his name as “Jesus” (Luke 1:31).
Whoever has seen me has seen the Father
In John 14:9 Jesus (peace be upon him) is quoted as saying: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” This is often misunderstood to mean that Jesus is God. But Jesus clearly said that no one has seen God at any time (John 5:37). Those who say that Jesus is God, are disagreeing with what Jesus himself said. If Jesus was God why would he say to the people looking at him that they never saw God? And why would the author of the 1st Letter of John in the Bible, writing some seventy years after Jesus was taken up, say that no one had ever seen God (1John 4:12) although he knew that multitudes had already seen Jesus? The meaning of John 14:9 is not that Jesus is God, but that by knowing Jesus, one gets to know God, since Jesus teaches about God. This meaning is confirmed by John 1:18 where the writer says that no one had ever seen God, but Jesus had made God known to the people. In the 17th Chapter of the same Gospel, Jesus declared that eternal life means knowing that the Father whom Jesus worshipped is the only true God and that Jesus is the Messiah who was sent by God.
He was manifest in the flesh
1 Timothy 3:16 is often quoted to show that “God was manifest in the flesh.” This is how it appears in later manuscripts of the Bible. The earlier and more reliable manuscripts (Notably Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus) read “He was manifest in the flesh,” and “He” from the context clearly refers to Jesus. This passage does not show that Jesus was God. It reflects Paul’s doctrine that Jesus before he appeared in the flesh was a being higher than men but lower than God. “The head of every man is Christ, the head of every woman is her husband, and the head of Christ is God,” writes Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:3.
Mighty God, Everlasting Father
Isaiah 9:6 speaks of one whose name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. We are often told that this is a prophecy about Jesus, and that it proves that Jesus is God. But the problem this prophecy presents cannot be ignored by any honest person. If it is taken literally then Jesus is the “Everlasting Father.” But Jesus clearly taught that he was not the Everlasting Father. According to Matthew, while Jesus was on the earth he declared:
Do not call anyone on earth “father,” for you have one father, and he is in heaven. (Matthew 23:9, New International Version).
If Jesus was not the “Everlasting Father,” neither was he “Mighty God.” Either we take the passage literally in which case it contradicts the clear teaching of Jesus, or we take it figuratively, in which case “Everlasting Father” doesn’t really mean “Everlasting Father,” and “Mighty God” doesn’t really mean “Mighty God.”