p.ost

(how to tell the biblical story
in a way that makes a difference)

Why did the Jews accuse Jesus of making himself equal to God?

I think we have to allow that John’s Gospel differs from the Synoptic Gospels in this fundamental respect: it is not an attempt to remember the historical Jesus; it is an attempt to restate the significance of the historical Jesus from a later theological vantage point, shaped in particular by a bitter controversy with the Jews.

The Synoptic Gospels (and Acts) remember Jesus as the Son sent to the vineyard of Israel, who was rejected and killed, but who would become the cornerstone, the persecuted Son of Man who within a generation would be seen to be vindicated by events, and who would become Israel’s king.

From John’s perspective, however, Jesus was the creative word or wisdom of God, which had become flesh. Jesus was God doing something radically new. His own people, the Jews, rejected him (Jn. 1:11), so John affirms that Jesus was sent into the world, because God so loved the world, and his death was for the sins of the world (Jn. 1:29; 3:16-17). The story about Israel and the shocking prospect of Jerusalem’s destruction, which so preoccupied the Jesus of the Synoptic Gospels, has been superseded or transcended in John. He sees no prospect of Israel’s restoration as a nation.

But scratch the surface a bit, and we may be surprised to find that much of the older story is still there. A good example is Jesus’ defence of his actions when he is accused of breaking the Sabbath and making himself equal to God (Jn. 5:18-24).

The selfish and atheistical mind that thinks it is equal to God

The Jews are determined to kill Jesus because he healed a man by the Bethesda pool on the Sabbath. In response Jesus says, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” John then explains that this is why the Jews were seeking to kill him: not only was he breaking the Sabbath by healing a person, “he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God (ison… tōi theōi)” (Jn. 5:17-18).

An interesting parallel in Philo helps us to understand the connection between breaking the Sabbath, calling God his own Father, and making himself equal to God:

And some one may ask here, why, since it is a pious action to imitate the works of God, it is forbidden to me to plant a grove near the altar, and yet God plants a paradise? … But the selfish and atheistical (atheos) mind, thinking itself equal with God (isos… theōi) while it appears to be doing something, is found in reality to be rather suffering. (Philo Alleg. 1:48-49)

Philo does not mean, of course, that the selfish and ungodly mind makes itself equivalent to God or makes itself God or claims to be God. His point is rather that while it may be a pious action to imitate the works of God, it sometimes happens that a person presumes to transgress certain boundaries imposed by God. In this case it is forbidden to plant a grove near the altar. It looks like an act of pious imitation because God planted a paradise, but it is a good work that God has reserved for himself.

The same can be said of Jesus, more or less. Jesus claims to be imitating the works of the Father, but the Jews think that healing on the Sabbath, like planting a grove near the altar, is an act that God has reserved for himself. If God heals a person on the Sabbath, that’s his business, but woe betide the miracle-worker who dares to copy him. In arrogating this right for himself, Jesus has acted with a selfish and atheistical intention, making himself equal to God.

This is what the accusation about making God “his own Father” is getting at. He is actively redefining what it means to be in relationship with God as a son. For the pious Jew sonship meant not working on the Sabbath; for Jesus sonship meant faithfully doing the works of the Father, even if it got him into trouble.

So he tells them that the Son does nothing of his own accord, he only does what he sees the Father doing (Jn. 5:19). The Father heals, and the Son imitates him. The Father raises from the dead, and the Son imitates him (Jn. 5:20-21).

How is he able to do this, even on the Sabbath? Because the Father has “given all judgment to the Son, that all may honour the Son, just as they honour the Father”. He has “granted the Son also to have life in himself”; he has “given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man” (Jn. 5:22-24).

Authority given to the Son of Man

The interpretive background is to be found in Daniel, though no doubt it has come to John by way of the Synoptic traditions. Jesus is the Son of Man who has been given authority (Dan. 7:13-14, 27) to execute judgment and raise Israel’s dead, either to the life of the coming age or for condemnation and shame (Dan. 12:2-3). For, as Jesus says to the Jews, “an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live” (Jn. 5:25).

Given the context (Sabbath breaking), it seems to me unlikely that the Jews had in mind those pagan rulers who exalted themselves and made themselves equal to God (cf. Is. 14:12-14; Ezek. 28:2; Dan. 11:36-37). Paul’s argument in Philippians 2:6 is rather different: Jesus would not attain kingship by seizing the opportunity to make himself equal to God (isa theōi). But the comparison does show that making oneself equal to God had to do not with identity but with status. The divinised pagan ruler was not identified with the one true living God; he was accorded cultus as being on a par with God but he remained distinct from God.

Healing the man on the Sabbath, therefore, was a sign that Jesus was the Son who had been given the authority, as the “one like a son of man” of Daniel’s vision, to execute judgment and give life to those who believed in him.

This is not very different to the story of the healing of the paralysed man in the Synoptics. The scribes think that Jesus has blasphemed, arrogated to himself the authority of God, by proclaiming forgiveness of the man’s sins. He then heals the man as a sign that the Son of Man has been given authority on earth to forgive sins (Matt. 9:6-8; cf. Mk. 2:10; Lk. 5:24), presumably in anticipation of the restoration of Israel, when—this is the point that John brings out—many of Israel’s dead will be raised, some to the life of the age to come, so to eternal condemnation.

What John does not do is follow the prophetic-apocalyptic story through to the end. There is nothing equivalent to Jesus’ words to his disciples that the Son of Man will be seen “coming in clouds with great glory” before the current generation passes away (Mk. 13:26, 30), or to the high priest that the leaders of Israel will “see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven” (Mk. 14:62). John’s Son of Man is glorified when he is “lifted up” in death, not at a future parousia.

I said you are gods

On a later occasion the Jews threaten to stone Jesus because he said, “I and the Father are one” (Jn. 10:30-31). Again Jesus highlights the “good works from the Father” that he has done, and the Jews say, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God” (Jn. 10:33).

Jesus does not respond directly to the charge but asks them about a line in Psalm 82:

Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken—do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? (Jn. 10:34–36)

I don’t think that Jesus means that scripture says that the Jews are “gods”. The reference is to the members of a discredited divine council, to whom the word of God came: “How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked?” (Ps. 82:2). Whereas the gods received the word of God but failed to act upon it, Jesus is the consecrated Son, given authority as the Son of Man (cf. Jn. 5:22-24), who is one with the Father, who faithfully does what he has been sent to do. He defends his claim to be the “Son of God”, that is the agent of God’s will, by drawing attention to the “good works”—healing the sick, etc.—that he has been doing.

This is just about recognisable as the Jesus of the Synoptic Gospels, but he has been lifted out of the historical narrative and relocated in a myopic account of the failure of the Jews to recognise that Jesus was doing the work of God. It is this controversy, I rather think, which drives the intense focus in John’s Gospel on the oneness of Jesus with the Father.

Comments

I certainly agree that Jesus is redefining what it means to be in relationship with God. I may not have fully understood the short extract from Philo which you have presented, but I can’t see that it says anything different from Jesus in the meaning of “making yourself equal with God” as an identification with God. In Philo, such equivalence arises from foolish presumption. Only God can alter God’s prohibitions. But Jesus, who also “makes himself equal with God” (according to the Jews who confront him), provocatively goes much further in a whole list of ways in which he identifies himself with God - 5:19-26.

Granting all judgment to the son is only one way in which Jesus has become identified with God. Although it’s what the passage is leading up to, the other ways in which Jesus is identified with God are just as astonishing. The couching of the identification in Father/son language makes the identification more than one of status, which implies appointment more than relationship. The relationship is at the core of Jesus’s self-identification.

I’d also agree that the interpretive background is in Daniel 7:13-14 (though v.27 changes the son of man figure to “the saints”), and in Daniel 12:2-3. However, the two Daniel passages are not directly connected. There is no son of man agent in Daniel 12 bringing about the resurrection. The man in linen (I wonder who he was?) simply describes what happens, without any reference to agency. In John, the son has authority to judge, father and son are agents of the resurrection in verse 21, but the son takes a leading role in verse 24-25, which seems to include the life-giving words of Jesus now and at the resurrection.

I would say that there is a strong echo of the healing of the paralytic in the synoptic gospels of John 5. Both have a paralytic who is healed. Both address a sin issue. Both have the issue of blasphemy. It seems to me that John is deliberately taking the synoptic account of the healing of a paralytic much further, by emphasising the divine identification of Jesus in the ways listed in John 5:19-26.

Rather than failing to “follow the prophetic-apocalyptic story through to the end”, it seems to me that John is going beyond the prophetic-apocalyptic story of the synoptic gospels. It’s not a case of scratching beneath the surface to find that the older story is still there. I think John was well aware of the synoptic accounts, or at least how they were presenting the narrative. But John extends the outer frame of the story in describing the logos “who was with God and was God”, who brought about creation, and who identifies with his creation by now entering it in person. This is the outer frame of the synoptic apocalyptic narrative. The time for the new creation had arrived. That new creation was Jesus in person and in his resurrection, and in all who were loyal to him. Just as the gospel of the kingdom was “now”, the new creation was also “now”.

A new creation requires a creator. Only God can be the creator, and Jesus was that person.

The identification of Jesus with God is even clearer in the second example you give. The key verse for this is 10:33 - “We are stoning you not for any of these (miracles),” replied the Jews, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”

The meaning of the allusion to Psalm 82 is debatable. I personally think Jesus is comparing the ruling body of the Jews to a council of the gods, and making a savage criticism by doing so. Israel was “God’s son”. They may in this sense be like “gods”, but they have failed to protect the weak and fatherless, the poor and oppressed, and will die like mere men, while Jesus has done the very things they stand condemned for not doing. When Jesus asks why they then accuse him of blasphemy for saying “I am God’s son”, it’s a moment when he seems to take the phrase to mean more than ‘messiah’. It could also mean I am a true Israelite, but the context seems to go beyond that. The precise meaning of Jesus’s allusion to Psalm 82 does not alter the accusation of the Jews who confront him. They say he is claiming to be God.

Rather than John’s gospel having missed the point of the prophetic apocalyptic narrative through being written at a later time (though not according to some commentators), I suggest that it is the synoptic gospels that may be missing the point of the significance of Jesus in relation to the renewal of creation, and that John’s gospel makes good that omission.

Philo does not suggest at all that the person who makes himself or herself equal to God is claiming to be God.

If a minister acts in a way that exceeds her authority and claims to be equal to the prime minister, that does not mean that she is identified with the prime minister; she is not claiming to be the same person as the prime minister. It’s hard to think of a context in which we would say that a person claiming to be “equal to” another person is claiming to be that other person.

The only explicit explanation that Jesus gives for his seemingly presumptuous action is that he has been given the right to act in this way as the Son of Man. You assert that the “divine identification” of Jesus with God is apparent in John 5:19-26 but you provide no evidence for the claim. Daniel nowhere suggests that the “one like a son of man” is to be identified with the Ancient of Days.

The father-son relationship signifies difference, dependence and subordination (cf. 1 Cor. 15:24-28), not identification. Nothing in scripture leads us to the conclusion that the son can be the father.

Daniel 7 tells the same story as Daniel 11:1-12:3, only the literary idiom is different. But no, the idea that the Son of Man will judge goes beyond Daniel (cf. Matt. 25:31).

They may in this sense be like “gods”, but they have failed to protect the weak and fatherless, the poor and oppressed, and will die like mere men, while Jesus has done the very things they stand condemned for not doing.

That’s not a bad idea. But Jesus doesn’t say “like gods, and it certainly cannot be claimed that Jesus agrees with their claim that he was making himself God. He admits only to being the “Son of God” who does what he sees the Father doing. That is, he differentiates himself from God, he imitates the works of God; he speaks of himself only as the obedient Son who has been authorised to do the works of the Father because he is the Son of Man. As far as John is concerned, “Son of God” means “king of Israel” and “messiah” (Jn 1:49; 11:27; 19:7; 20:31).

It’s true that claiming to be equal does not mean claiming to be the same as. But that is not the accusation against Jesus.

The meaning of “equal with God” in the accusation of the Jews in John 5:18 is that Jesus was placing himself alongside God by callinging God his father. This is very different from a minister exceeding her authority claiming to be equal to the Prime Minister. Jesus was not, anyway, claiming to be the same person as God. He was claiming a relationship which was as close as father and son - and it was a relationship, not just a status.

The wording in the Philo extract seems to be a negative mirror image of this claim to equality, not in the sense of the accusation brought against Jesus, but in an inflated presumptuousness which assumes the right to break God’s prohibitions, which only God has the right to do.

In John 5, the accusation is not that Jesus was claiming to be son of God, but that he called God his own father - v.18. It’s the claimed relationship which causes the offence.

Jesus adds fuel to the flames in the verses following. The father and son are so closely united that the son only does what he sees his father doing - v.19; whatever the father does, the son does - v.19; the father raises the dead and gives life, the son gives life - v.21; the father judges no one, the son has been entrusted with all judgment - v.22 (a clear transfer of divine prerogative); the son is to be honoured “just as” the father is honoured - v.23 (an extraordinary sharing of divine honour); the son’s word confers eternal life and freedom from condemnation - v.24; the son’s voice causes the dead to live - v.25; the father has life in himself, the son has life in himself - v.26 (all other life is contingent, not self contained).

In context, these things are said not to assuage the Jews who have accused him of claiming equality with God by calling God his father, but to aggravate them further by claiming qualities which they would have associated with the same claim to equality which they saw in his father/son relationship claim.

I never said the son was the same as the father. I am saying (and so is John) that the accusations against Jesus were that he was claiming to be God, and that was in his relationship to the father, not in his displacement of the father.

It’s even clearer in John10 - the Jews actually accuse him of claiming to be God - v.33 (which you completely ignore). In choosing to quote Psalm 82 as his riposte, again Jesus pours fuel on the flames. Clearly the Jews themselves in whatever way they may have been related to”the gods” of the psalm were not gods. But Jesus seems not to make the distinction about himself: “If he called them gods to whom the word of God came - and the scripture cannot be broken - what about the one whom the father set apart as his very own and sent into the world?” In other words, the word of God came to the gods; the word of God came to Jesus. It’s a parallel with a contrast - and Jesus places himself in a heavenly council which has not become corrupt through injustice and oppression.

The Jews saw on this and other occasions that Jesus was making what to them were blasphemous claims about his relationship with God. It was not part of an ongoing strategy in the gospel to prove that he thought he was God. That is taken for granted from chapter 1. He was the logos who “in the beginning (of creation” was with God and was God, and who was now entering his own creation in person. The reason for this was to rescue the creation project which had become derailed with Israel’s failure. The historic evidence was pagan oppression and the non-delivery of exile return promises.

John is resetting the boundaries to include creation renewal as the fuller picture of exile return through the creation logos made flesh. John’s gospel complements the synoptic gospels, and is in its own way a commentary and a completion of them.

I was going to stay out of this exchange and just listen, but I feel like I had to say something about this:

But Jesus seems not to make the distinction about himself: “If he called them gods to whom the word of God came - and the scripture cannot be broken - what about the one whom the father set apart as his very own and sent into the world?”

Because you JUST accused Andrew of ignoring verse 33, and then you completely omitted the last part of verse 36. You quoted the first part of it and just stopped.

“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’? “

The last part of that verse is kind of important to understanding Jesus’ rejoinder, which is basically that if the ones to whom the word of God came can be called “gods,” how is it blasphemy to claim to be God’s Son?

Jesus does not defend himself by saying, “It isn’t blasphemy because it turns out I really am God,” he defends himself by pointing out that, if it isn’t blasphemy to call someone a god, it can’t be a blasphemy to claim to be the Son of God.

Now, maybe Jesus is making this argument with a knowing smirk, rhetorically trapping his opponents because he really IS God and is using their own logic against them. If Jesus is claiming to be God, there’s a lot of knowingly smirking in several of his similar statements like, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God.”

But I digress. The main reason I wanted to speak up is that I thought it was very bad form to accuse Andrew of ignoring verse 33 and then proceed to omit an entire phrase from verse 36 because it adds an inconvenient facet.

I haven’t ignored 20.36; I referred to it, and possibly a third meaning in my previous comment (before the one you have responded to). It’s all open and above board. The fact is that Andrew has bypassed verse 33 in his explanation of the meaning of this part of John 10. As far as the Jews are concerned, he is claiming to be God

I don’t think Jesus does knowing smirks. Also, in the end, we are trying to understand John’s interpretation of who Jesus was, just as in the synoptic gospels. So it’s unlikely everything said to have been spoken by Jesus was literally what he said. But the incident seems to capture his style of trapping his opponents by unanswerable takes on scripture.

Jesus was not, anyway, claiming to be the same person as God. He was claiming a relationship which was as close as father and son - and it was a relationship, not just a status.

I’m confused. You said: “But Jesus, who also “makes himself equal with God” (according to the Jews who confront him), provocatively goes much further in a whole list of ways in which he identifies himself with God.” How is it true that he identifies himself with God but not true that he claims to be the same person as God?

Also, what the Jews object to is that he calls God his “own” (idion) Father. There was nothing wrong with a first century Jew claiming that God was his Father: “Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us?” (Mal. 2:10). So presumably the idion points to the fact that they felt he was misappropriating the relationship in some way.

There is no difficulty with the thought that Jesus was claiming a unique and novel relationship with the Father as the Son of Man to whom authority had been given. But the distinction that you make between relationship and status is a false one. Sonship was precisely a statement about status in the ancient context: the “son” is a chosen people, the “son” is the servant anointed for a task, the “son” is the king, the “son” inherits the kingdom, the “son” is given the right to judge and rule over Israel and the nations.

The Jews are upset because Jesus seems to think he has the right to loosen (eluen) the Sabbath commandment, to do what only God was entitled to do. This is not a matter of relationship in the modern sense of personal intimacy. It has to do with whether he really has the right to do these things. Jesus thinks he does have the right, the authority, the status, because the Father “has given all judgment to the Son” (Jn. 5:22).

In response to your first paragraph, where you say: “How is it true that he identifies himself with God but not true that he claims to be the same person as God?”, I provide three statements from my post:

It’s true that claiming to be equal does not mean claiming to be the same as. But that is not the accusation against Jesus.

The meaning of “equal with God” in the accusation of the Jews in John 5:18 is that Jesus was placing himself alongside God by callinging God his father.

I never said the son was the same as the father. I am saying (and so is John) that the accusations against Jesus were that he was claiming to be God, and that was in his relationship to the father, not in his displacement of the father.

In John 5, the accusation is not that Jesus was claiming to be son of God, but that he called God his own father - v.18. It’s the claimed relationship which causes the offence.

In John 10:33, the offence caused by Jesus to the Jews is spelled out clearly: “you, mere man, claim to be God”. The accusation that Jesus claimed to be God in 10:33 arose from the same claimed relationship (and status) with the father (10:30) which Jesus had previously claimed for himself in 5:18, and which is spelled out as identification with God and God-like attributes in 5:19-26, compounded by the offence of overriding the fourth commandment in 5:18.

I disagree that this was a delegated status which made him less than God. If that was so clearly the case in the ancient world, the Jews would presumably have been able to make the distinction for themselves and concentrate solely on the issue of his messianic credentials. It was the claimed relationship which seems to have particularly offended them, especially in the phrase to which you draw attention – “he calls God his “own” (idion) Father”. How ironic that the Jews who confront Jesus also provide without realising it a new depth of meaning of God as a relationship of persons, in this case, the father-son relationship.

It’s not true to say that “Sonship was precisely a statement about status in the ancient context” as if this was an exclusive meaning. Israel is “God’s son” not simply as an expression of status, but also of God’s unique love for Israel, and the unique intimacy of God’s feelings for Israel, of which there is plenty of evidence in the OT. John 5:20 says that “The father loves the son (Jesus)”, repeating John 3:35. The “son” in relation to “the father” is a relationship of love, not just status.

The Jews are upset because Jesus seems to think he has the right to loosen (eluen) the Sabbath commandment, to do what only God was entitled to do.

I agree entirely. Especially with the final sentence!

I didn’t completely ignore John 10:33. I noted the accusation that he was making himself God and then said that “Jesus did not respond directly to the charge…”. But as Phil Ledgerwood notes, Jesus decisively shifts the terms of the conversation.

It seems to me likely that when Jesus speaks of the Son whom the Father “sanctified” (hēgiasen) and sent into the world, he is referring to his baptism. Jesus was consecrated by the descending Holy Spirit, and John says, “I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God” (Jn. 1:34).

Jesus identifies himself as the Son who has been sent to the Jews to do his Father’s will by—among other things—healing the sick and raising the dead.

Phil’s interpretation of Jesus’s response to the Jews who confront him doesn’t make sense to me. He explains Jesus as saying: “if the ones to whom the word of God came can be called “gods,” how is it blasphemy to claim to be God’s Son?”

But there is no connection between the two parts of the explanation, as fas as I can see. If Psalm 82 refers to a divine council of “the gods”, I cannot see a logical justification this might provide for Jesus not committing blasphemy by calling himself “Son of God”.

I can only infer that if there was a divine council of “gods”, then Jesus is taking the term “Son of God” to have a divine dimension, justified by there being plurality of “gods” in the divine coumcil.

I don’t think this can be what the passage is saying, but on the face of it, it is - otherwise we are left with a non sequitur in John’s explanation.

The explanation John gives makes no more sense if the divine council of the “gods” was no such thing - and that is of course an alternative provided by commentators, and by myself in a previous explanation. In that case, the human council has a godlike status, but actually it is no such thing, as proved by its corruption. That too would not be a justification for Jesus calling himself son of God - there is no connection or equivalence.

The problem is compounded by the fact that in the passage, Jesus was not being accused of blasphemy for saying he was the “son of God” as “messiah”. The context says it was because he claimed to be God on the basis of what he has just said about his relationship with the Father (10:30).

Which brings us back to the idea that “Son of God” in this context has rather more than an exclusively messianic meaning.

I suspect Jesus is using some highly creative interpretation of his own, just as he did when interpreting Psalm 110, but at the moment I can’t think what it is, and a meal is appearing on the table, so I shall have to leave it there.

” v.19; whatever the father does, the son does - v.19; the father raises the dead and gives life, the son gives life - v.21; the father judges no one, the son has been entrusted with all judgment - v.22 (a clear transfer of divine prerogative); the son is to be honoured “just as” the father is honoured - v.23 (an extraordinary sharing of divine honour); the son’s word confers eternal life and freedom from condemnation - v.24; the son’s voice causes the dead to live - v.25; the father has life in himself, the son has life in himself - v.26 (all other life is contingent, not self contained).”

but this shows that jesus is fully dependant on the father and he cannot do anything of his ownself,

By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.

For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken.

this means according to the verses i quoted, jesus according to john was a FULLY controlled person and father was FULLY independant of jesus, he COMMANDS and control jesus.

so your god needed authorization from god to say “i am”

huh? what?

You could take a look at my second comment in “Before Abraham was, I am” in response to this.

Andrew, you wrote, “[John] sees no prospect of Israel’s restoration as a nation.”

It seems to me that John sees no earthly millennial kingdom in the midst of the nations, but he does see a future post-judgment world with Jesus ruling Israel as king, his subjects being all who were resurrected to eternal life.

We see Jesus named as king of Israel both by Nathanael and the crowds at his Triumphal Entry.

That’s a good point. So how would we characterise Jesus’ vision for Israel according to John? What, for example, does this tell us about the expectations of John’s community?

Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” So the saying spread abroad among the brothers that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?” This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true. (Jn. 21:22–24)

It seems the author of John is teaching a spiritual reign of Jesus on earth prior to the worldwide resurrection and judgment, i.e. He is already reigning since he is with his people via the Spirit.

However, I do think the author expects Jesus to return and set all things right at the end of the age and his community suspects the end of the age (Jn 11:24) could happen in their lifetimes (Jn. 21:22–24).

We do see him hedging his bets in these verses you’ve cited, which makes a lot of sense since 65 years have passed since Jesus said he would return and with the destruction of Jerusalem, many Jews have given up on it ever happening.

(BTW, I can no longer comment using the Chrome browser. I get this message: There was a problem with your form submission. Please refresh the page and try again.)

What do you think of the concessive readings of the participle poion in 5:18? “But also he was calling God his own Father and yet making himself equal to God.” James McGrath argues for this reading in his article “A Rebellious Son.” He says that the Jews and Jesus basically disagree on the nature of sonship; the Jews believing that a son should not act as an equal of his father, and Jesus believing that a son must fully imitate the father. Jesus’ subsequent monologue explains that an obedient son must serve as his father’s agent/representative.

In another paper Craig Keener mentions that it was commonly believed that God did perform some actions on the Sabbath. So if that is the case, the Jews might here see Jesus as too closely imitating the Father and thus acting as a disobedient son—trying to usurp the father’s status as Sabbath-worker.

It just seems strange that the Jews would equate divine sonship with equality with God when elsewhere in the narrative they themselves claim to be sons of God (8:41).

I can see the sense in that reading, but it doesn’t account for the idion: “he was calling God is own Father”. Wouldn’t we expect: “he was calling God his Father (as all Jews do), and yet was making himself equal with God”? The line of thought runs: Jesus said “My Father is working…”; therefore, the Jews were seeking to kill him, because he was calling God his own Father, thus setting himself apart from the Jews and making himself equal to God.

Possibly we then have to understand that the Jews saw a presumption of equality with God specifically in the claim to be working alongside God on the Sabbath: ‘Jesus answered them, “My Father is working is working until now (presumably emphasising the present context), and I am working’ (Jn. 5:17).