Kreeft’s Case for the Divinity of Jesus – Part 7: More Quotes from the Gospel of John

WHERE WE ARE

For the sake of being able to evaluate the second DILEMMA in Kreeft and Tacelli’s series of four dilemmas, I am going to temporarily set aside the serious problem of the historical UNRELIABILITY of the Gospel of John, and pretend (assume for the sake of argument) that the historical Jesus actually spoke the words attributed to Jesus in quotations from the Gospel of John presented by Kreeft and Tacelli in support of the view that Jesus claimed to be God.

The question at issue concerning our evaluation of the second DILEMMA is thus whether Jesus meant these statements LITERALLY, and whether in making them he was LITERALLY claiming to be the eternal creator of the universe and the omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good ruler of the universe.

Here are the six verses from the Gospel of John that Kreeft and Tacelli quote in the opening pages of Chapter 7 of their Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter: HCA):

  • John 8:12
  • John 8:46
  • John 8:58
  • John 10:30
  • John 11:25
  • John 14:9

According to Kreeft and Tacelli, the statements Jesus makes in these passages imply that Jesus is claiming to LITERALLY be God, that is, claiming to LITERALLY be the eternal creator of the universe and the omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good ruler of the universe.

In Part 6 of this series, I argued that John 8:12, John 8:46, and John 8:58 FAIL to show that Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be God. In this current post, I will argue that the remaining three verses from the Gospel of John quoted by Kreeft and Tacelli also FAIL to show that Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be God.

EXAMINATION OF JOHN 10:30

Kreeft and Tacelli point out that Jesus called God his father:

Jesus called God his Father: “I and the Father are one” (Jn 10:30)…

(HCA, p.150)

Clearly, calling God one’s “father” is NOT a LITERAL statement. God does not have male sexual organs, because God, according to Christian theology, does not have a body. So, God cannot engage in sexual intercourse and God cannot ejaculate sperm in order to cause the fertilization of a human egg in a human female. Therefore, God CANNOT be a LITERAL father to anyone. (There are things that God CANNOT DO because God lacks a body. For example, God cannot eat a cheeseburger or cut his finger.) Calling God one’s “father” is necessarily a METAPHORICAL or SYMBOLIC statement that requires interpretation.

Kreeft and Tacelli seem to think that Jesus calling God his “father” means that Jesus was claiming to LITERALLY be God. This inference is clearly INVALID and ILLOGICAL because Jesus also said to his followers and disciples that God was THEIR father! Jesus did NOT believe that each one of his followers and disciples was LITERALLY God. So, calling God his “father” was NOT a claim to LITERALLY be God.

Kreeft and Tacelli, for some reason, FAIL to mention that Jesus frequently said to his followers and disciples that God was THEIR father. So, either Kreeft and Tacelli have never bothered to actually READ the Gospels, or they are IDIOTS. It is simply not possible for a person of normal intelligence to READ the Gospels and yet FAIL to notice that Jesus frequently says to his followers and disciples that God is THEIR father. Only an IDIOT would miss this constant refrain in the words of Jesus found in the Gospels:

25 “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.”

(Mark 11:25, New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition)

36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

(Luke 6:36, New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition)

2 So he said to them, “When you pray, say:
Father, may your name be revered as holy.
May your kingdom come.

(Luke 11:2, New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition)

29 And do not keep seeking what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying.
30 For it is the nations of the world that seek all these things, and your Father knows that you need them.
31 Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.
32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

(Luke 12:29-31, New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition)

16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

(Matthew 5:16, New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition)

44 But I say to you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
45 so that you may be children of your Father in heaven, for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.
46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?
47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the gentiles do the same?
48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

(Matthew 5:44-48, New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition)

If Kreeft or Tacelli had actually READ Chapter 6 of the Gospel of Matthew, they would have to be MORONS to fail to notice that Jesus repeatedly said to his followers and disciples that God was THEIR father:

1 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before others in order to be seen by them, for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.
2 “So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.
3 But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,
4 so that your alms may be done in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
5 “And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.
6 But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
7 “When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard because of their many words.
8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
9 “Pray, then, in this way:
Our Father in heaven,
may your name be revered as holy.
10 May your kingdom come.
May your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And do not bring us to the time of trial,
but rescue us from the evil one.
14 “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you,
15 but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
16 “And whenever you fast, do not look somber, like the hypocrites, for they mark their faces to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.
17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face,
18 so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

(Matthew 6:1-18, New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition)

Here is another passage from verses near the end of Chapter 6 of the Gospel of Matthew:

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?
26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
27 And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to your span of life?
28 And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin,
29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.
30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?
31 Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’
32 For it is the gentiles who seek all these things, and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.
33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

(Matthew 6:25-33, New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition)

Even in the Gospel of John, Jesus tells his followers that God is THEIR father:

17 Jesus said to her, “Do not touch me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ”

(John 20:17, New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition)

Once again, Kreeft and Tacelli have revealed their incredible ignorance about the contents of the Gospels. They have almost no ability to intelligently read and interpret the Gospels.

There is a second important point about John 10:30, which is that Jesus claimed to be “one” with God (“the Father”). Does this statement amount to a claim by Jesus to LITERALLY be God? It is fairly obvious that this is NOT a claim by Jesus to LITERALLY be God.

The idea of being “one” with God is VAGUE and UNCLEAR. It might mean that Jesus is the same person as Jehovah, the God of the Old Testament. But according to standard Christian theology, God is THREE PERSONS, not one person. Jesus is, supposedly, one person in the Trinity, and “the Father” is another person in the Trinity, so Christians reject the interpretation of this verse as Jesus claiming to be the SAME PERSON as Jehovah, the God of the Old Testament, because there are three different persons that constitute God (the Trinity). Most Christians reject the interpretation of John 10:30 as Jesus claiming to be the SAME PERSON as “the Father”, but they do so because this contradicts traditional Christian dogma.

Being “one” with God might also mean that Jesus was “one team” with God, meaning that they both worked together for the same purpose, according to the same plan. This interpretation fits well with the other things Jesus says in the same passage:

24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”
25 Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me,
26 but you do not believe because you do not belong to my sheep.
27 My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.
28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.
29 My Father, in regard to what he has given me, is greater than all, and no one can snatch them out of the Father’s hand.
30 The Father and I are one.”

(John 10:24-30, New Revised Standard Version, updated edition)

First, notice that Jesus asserts that “My Father…is greater than all…”. In this context, Jesus means that “God is more powerful than anyone else.” But this implies that “God is more powerful than I am.” If God is more powerful than Jesus, then that means that Jesus is NOT OMNIPOTENT, and if Jesus is NOT OMNIPOTENT, then Jesus CANNOT be God because omnipotence is one of the basic divine attributes. Only a person who is OMNIPOTENT can be God. Thus, in the verse immediately before John 10:30, Jesus makes a claim that clearly implies that he (Jesus) is NOT God. Somehow Kreeft and Tacelli failed to notice verse 29. Once again they reveal their inability to intelligently read and interpret the Gospels.

Second, Jesus clearly believes that he and God are both dedicated to working together to give eternal life to the followers of Jesus. They share that same goal and are both working to make sure that goal is achieved. Jesus is confident that he will be successful because he believes that God is on his side and that it is God’s goal, as well as Jesus’s goal, to give eternal life to the followers of Jesus: they are one team working for the same goal.

This interpretation of this passage from Chapter 10 of the Gospel of John is a PLAUSIBLE and REASONABLE interpretation, even if it is not the only plausible interpretation of this passage. But on this REASONABLE interpretation, John 10:30 does NOT amount to Jesus claiming to LITERALLY be God, to LITERALLY be the eternal creator of the universe, and the all-powerful, all-knowing, perfectly good ruler of the universe.

A third problem with the interpretation of Jesus’s claim to be “one” with God as meaning that Jesus was claiming to LITERALLY be God, is that Jesus also implied that his disciples would be “one” with him. So, if Jesus was in fact God, and his disciples were “one” with Jesus, then that implies that his disciples were ALSO “one with God”.

But according to the interpretation of Kreeft and Tacelli, being “one” with God MEANS LITERALLY being God. Thus, based on their reasoning, they would logically have to conclude that each of Jesus’s disciples was LITERALLY God. But Kreeft and Tacelli obviously REJECT the idea that each of Jesus’s disciples was LITERALLY God. To avoid this conclusion, one must either (a) reject the view that being “one with God” means being LITERALLY God, (b) reject the view that Jesus was LITERALLY God, or (c) reject the view that the disciples were (or would be) “one” with Jesus.

Being “one with the Father” or “one with God” is a VAGUE notion. What does Jesus mean by this? When Jesus asserts “The Father and I are one”, his Jewish audience becomes angry. Jesus then provides a big clue as to what he means by being “one with God”. He defends his claim by pointing to his (alleged) wonderful miracles (“good works”):

30 The Father and I are one.”
31 The Jews took up stones again to stone him.
32 Jesus replied, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these are you going to stone me?”
[…]
37 If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me.
38 But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.

(John 10:30-32 & 37-38, New Revised Standard Version, updated edition)

Notice that the reason Jesus points to his miracles is to persuade his audience that “the Father is in me and I am in the Father” (see verse 38). Jesus clearly believes that showing that God is in Jesus and that Jesus is in God amounts to showing that he (Jesus) is “one with God”.

Although Jesus does not directly and explicitly state that his disciples are “one with God”, he does imply this to be the case, or that it will be the case, by saying that his disciples will be in God and Jesus and that God and Jesus will be in them:

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.
[…]
20 “I ask not only on behalf of these but also on behalf of those who believe in me through their word,

21 that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
22 The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one,
23 I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

(John 17:11 & 20-23, New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition)

Jesus asks God to make sure that his disciples and followers will be “in us”, that is to say in God and Jesus. And Jesus also asks God to make sure that Jesus is “in them” and “you in me”, that is to say, God is in Jesus and Jesus is in his followers.

If God is in Jesus, and Jesus is in his followers, then that implies that God is in the followers of Jesus. Therefore, this alleged prayer of Jesus shows that Jesus believed that at some point in time Jesus and God would be “in his followers” and his followers would also be “in Jesus and God”. But that means that Jesus believed that at some point in time the followers of Jesus would be “one with Jesus”. Therefore, as explained above, based on the reasoning of Kreeft and Tacelli, they must logically conclude that each of the followers of Jesus is (or will become) LITERALLY God.

So, they either have to REJECT Jesus’ belief that his disciples would become “one” with Jesus, or they have to REJECT the view that Jesus is LITERALLY God, or they have to reject their own interpretation of what it means for a person to be “one with God”. There is clearly an ERROR or FALSE ASSUMPTION in their reasoning.

The most REASONABLE interpretation of Jesus’ belief that his disciples would be “one” with him, is that he meant they could be “one team” with him, that his disciples could work together with him to achieve a shared goal in accordance with a shared plan. That is the most REASONABLE interpretation of what Jesus was saying. So, given that it is very likely that Jesus spoke of his disciples being “one” with him, and meant this as being “one team” with him, it seems likely that when Jesus spoke of being “one” with God in Chapter 10 of the Gospel of John, that he also meant being “one team” with God, and did NOT mean a claim to LITERALLY be God.

Because there is a PLAUSIBLE and REASONABLE interpretation of John 10:30 in which Jesus does NOT claim to LITERALLY be God, John 10:30 FAILS to show that Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be the eternal creator of the universe and the omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good ruler of the universe. Because the reasoning that Kreeft and Tacelli use to conclude that Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be God in John 10:30 implies that Jesus also claimed that his followers would each LITERALLY become God, it is clear that there is an ERROR in their reasoning about this verse, so John 10:30 does NOT show that Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be God.

EXAMINATION OF JOHN 11:25

Kreeft and Tacelli provide another quote from the Gospel of John as proof that Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be God:

Jesus claimed to save us from sin and death. He said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will never die.”

(HCA, p.150)

The (alleged) words of Jesus here come from John 11:25. Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that Jesus really did say these words.

The statement “I am the resurrection and the life” is clearly NOT a LITERAL statement. It is a METAPHORICAL or SYMBOLIC statement. “The resurrection” is a dramatic worldwide event that many Jews in Jesus’ time believed would occur in the future. Most Christians have believed that “the resurrection” is a dramatic worldwide event that will occur in the future. But Jesus lived 2,000 years ago, and Jesus was NOT a dramatic worldwide event. So, this statement is clearly NOT a LITERAL statement.

However, the statement that “He who believes in me will never die” is a LITERAL statement that can be understood in a straightforward manner. This statement tells us that Jesus believed that one day there will be a resurrection of the dead and that when God raises people from the dead, some people will be granted eternal life because they believed in Jesus and were followers of Jesus. In other words, Jesus believed that God sent Jesus to provide a way for human beings to obtain eternal life. OK. But this has NOTHING to do with whether Jesus is the eternal creator of the universe. And this has NOTHING to do with whether Jesus is the omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good ruler of the universe.

Clearly, if God sent a particular person to provide a way for human beings to obtain eternal life, then that person whom God sent is a Very Important Person in God’s plans for human beings. So, if Jesus actually believed that God sent him to provide human beings with a way to obtain eternal life, then Jesus believed himself to be a Very Important Person in God’s plans for human beings. But there is an OBVIOUS difference between being a Very Important Person in God’s plans for human beings, on the one hand, and LITERALLY being God.

Clearly, one could be a Very Important Person in God’s plans for human beings, and yet NOT be the eternal creator of the universe and the omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good ruler of the universe. For example, Moses was a great prophet according to both Jews and Christians, so Moses was a Very Important Person in God’s plans for human beings, according to both Jews and Christians. But NOBODY believes that Moses was LITERALLY God. NOBODY believes that Moses was the eternal creator of the universe and the omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good ruler of the universe. Therefore, John 11:25 CLEARLY FAILS to show that Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be God.

EXAMINATION OF JOHN 14:9

Kreeft and Tacelli provide one more quote from the Gospel of John as proof that Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be God:

Jesus called God his Father: …”Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn 14:9).

(HCA, p.150)

As I pointed out in my examination of John 10:30, claiming that God is one’s “father” is NECESSARILY a METAPHORICAL or SYMBOLIC statement, not a LITERAL statement. So, this statement requires interpretation.

More importantly, Jesus repeatedly said to his disciples and followers that God was THEIR “father”. So, based on the reasoning of Kreeft and Tacelli, each of the disciples and followers of Jesus must LITERALLY be God! But, of course, Kreeft and Tacelli don’t believe that.

Furthermore, according to the Gospel of John, some Jews in the first century other than Jesus also spoke of God as being their “father”:

39 They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you are Abraham’s children, you would do what Abraham did,
40 but now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did.
41 You are indeed doing what your father does.” They said to him, “We are not illegitimate children; we have one Father, God himself.
42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God, and now I am here. I did not come on my own, but he sent me.

(John 8:39-42, New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition)

Since Jesus believed that God was the “father” of his disciples and followers, and since Jews in the first century other than Jesus sometimes referred to God as being their “father”, the fact that Jesus “called God his Father” FAILS to show that Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be God.

A second aspect of this verse is that Jesus says that seeing him amounts to seeing “the Father”, so Jesus asserted that seeing Jesus amounts to seeing God. This statement is also NOT a LITERAL statement. God has no body, and God is invisible and intangible according to Christian theology. Therefore, God CANNOT LITERALLY be “seen”. Invisible beings cannot be detected with physical eyes that rely upon light reflecting off of physical surfaces. So, this statement is also METAPHORICAL or SYMBOLIC and thus it requires interpretation.

If you read John 14:9 in context, Jesus gives us a big clue as to what he means by this:

8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.”
9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own, but the Father who dwells in me does his works.
11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, but if you do not, then believe because of the works themselves.

(John 14:8-11, New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition)

As when we looked at Chapter 10 of the Gospel of John, Jesus links his performance of miracles “because of the works themselves” with his being “in the Father” (i.e. “in God”) and with “the Father” being in him. So, what Jesus MEANS by saying that seeing him amounts to seeing “the Father” (i.e. “seeing God”) is that Jesus is “in God” and God is “in Jesus”. But, as we saw in our examination of John 10:30, Jesus also believed that his disciples and followers would be “in God” and that God would be “in them”. But Jesus did NOT believe that his disciples and followers were each LITERALLY God, so God being in a person, and that person being in God does NOT mean that the person in question is LITERALLY the eternal creator of the universe and the omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good ruler of the universe.

Therefore, when Jesus said “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” he was speaking METAPHORICALLY or SYMBOLICALLY not LITERALLY, and what he meant was that God was “in Jesus” and that Jesus was “in God” and this, as we have previously seen, does NOT MEAN that Jesus was claiming to LITERALLY be God.

CONCLUSION ABOUT KREEFT AND TACELLI QUOTES FROM JOHN

NONE of the six verses from the Gospel of John quoted by Kreeft and Tacelli (at the beginning of Chapter 7 of their Handbook of Christian Apologetics) as proof that Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be God actually show that Jesus made such a claim. Therefore, even if we assume for the sake of argument that the Gospel of John provides historically accurate information about the words and teachings of Jesus (it clearly does NOT do so), the evidence from the Gospel of John FAILS to show that Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be the eternal creator of the universe and the omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good ruler of the universe.

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