Is Jesus saying that he is God?This is one of the most important cases of mistranslation* and misinterpretation among Jesus' recorded statements. This single mistranslated statement has led to a great misunderstanding - not only about Jesus but about the Supreme Being.
This statement, taken out of context by some institutions and their teachers, has been interpreted to mean that Jesus is saying that he is God. Could this be true?
At issue here is the word "one," translated* from the Greek word εἷς (heis). Yes, this Greek word can mean "one," but it can also mean, according to Thayer's lexicon, "to be united most closely (in will, spirit)."
This means that the more appropriate translation would be:
"I and the Father are united."There is a significant difference between being united and becoming that person - as some teachers have tried to insist Jesus is saying.
Furthermore, this statement should not be taken out of the context of the Jesus sentence immediately preceding this one:
"My Father, who has given them [my sheep] to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand." (John 10:29)This precursory statement should be considered carefully: "My Father, who has given them to me..." This statement clearly indicates there are two persons involved here, God and Jesus. If Jesus was God, then he would have to be giving them to himself - which would be disingenuous.
The very fact that something has been given requires a 'giver' and a 'receiver.' This requires two individuals.
Jesus also clearly states at the same time, that "My Father..... is greater than all." So not only is God giving Jesus his sheep but that same person, Jesus' Father, is also greater than everyone, including Jesus.
And if Jesus were the Father, why would he refer to the Father as another person that is greater than everyone including himself? Why would he suggest that it is the Father that has given Jesus his followers if Jesus was the Supreme Being?
And who would Jesus be returning to in the below statement?
"Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, 'I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'" (John 20:17)This reference to God as another being occurs throughout Jesus' teachings. For example, who was Jesus praying to when he prayed:
"Abba, Father, everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will. Let the cup pass from me." (Mark 14:36)So now we find that not only does Jesus refer to the Supreme Being giving Jesus his followers, but that Jesus is asking the Father to take "this cup" from him. How could these exchanges occur if Jesus was the Supreme Being? And who in their right mind would pray to themselves!
Jesus said many other statements referring to the Supreme Being as a person separate from himself.
Why did Jesus say he and God are 'united'?The "oneness" - being united - that Jesus is referring to is a oneness of will. A oneness of desire. A oneness of purpose.
When two people have the same purpose, they have a oneness between them. When two people share the same desire, they are united. There is oneness between them.
This is not such an unusual thing. We commonly see this in the form of marriage and business partnerships. In these situations, there are two distinct individuals, but they share certain goals and desires. They do not lose their individuality, but there is still a oneness between them. Some refer to this as "being on the same sheet" with someone else.
This is even recognized legally, as either a business partner or spouse can sign on behalf of the other. This is because there is a recognized oneness between the two people in the business or marriage relationship. And why is that? It is because it is assumed that in order for the two to form this kind of legal partnership, the two people involved must share the same objectives and purpose.
In the case of Jesus and the Supreme Being, there is a oneness between Jesus and God because Jesus is the loving servant of the Supreme Being. Jesus is serving God, and thus doing God's will. This means that what God wants, Jesus also wants. Jesus knows what God wants and he is executing what God wants. This creates a oneness between them.
Jesus confirms this with other statements:
"I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me." (John 8:28)"I do nothing on my own" provides complete clarity. If Jesus were God he would be acting on his own. He would not be saying he does nothing on his own. This means that Jesus is acting on behalf of God.
"....but speak just what the Father has taught me"obviously refers to God as a separate entity. The fact that Jesus is speaking what the Supreme Being taught him indicates that he could not be God, because God is all-knowing. God does not need any teaching.
Does being 'united' mean there is a relationship?There is a relationship between Jesus and God. A loving relationship. Jesus is indicating that he is God's loving servant:
"For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother." (Matt. 12:50)The title of brother and sister indicates peerage, and the title of mother indicates superiority. This and Jesus' acts of praying to the Supreme Being, and doing "nothing" on his own all indicate that Jesus sees himself as being God's loving servant. A loving servant is someone whose will is non-different from the one they love and serve, in Jesus' case, the Supreme Being.
As to misunderstanding Jesus' statement, many have misinterpreted this statement. In fact, the temple officials gathered around Jesus also misinterpreted his statement. After Jesus’ statement above, a number of Jews picked up stones to stone Jesus, saying:
"We are not stoning you for any of these," replied the Jews, "but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God." (John 10:33)As we'll find in the succeeding verses, Jesus then counteracts this understanding. Even then it is doubtful that they misunderstood him.
Why have so many, even those in the crowd, misunderstood this statement? The verses quoted above confirm this: The only way to know Jesus' relationship with the Supreme Being is to also develop that relationship of loving service. If one accepts and understands their position as a servant of God, and strives to do God's will, that person will be able to see Jesus' position in relationship with God, because Jesus is the ultimate loving servant of God.
In fact, to take a position that Jesus is the Supreme Being, or even that Jesus is some sort of "God became man" is a position taken only by someone who does not know the Supreme Being and/or does not want to know the Supreme Being.
The fact is, there is a Supreme Being, and Jesus enjoys a relationship with Him. Pretending that Jesus is the Supreme Being is completely offensive to both Jesus and God. It is effectively saying that the Supreme Being does not exist as a separate individual. Who was Jesus praying to then? Who was Jesus trying to please? Who was Jesus loving and serving? And why would Jesus get upset when people worshiped him but didn't serve the Supreme Being?
“Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will come to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles? Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” (Matt. 7:21-23)This means that Jesus is offended when people try to worship Jesus as the Supreme Being, effectively ignoring his Beloved.
Was Jesus introducing us to God?The bottom line is that Jesus was trying to introduce those around him to the Supreme Being. He was trying to convince others to love the Supreme Being and serve the Supreme Being. That is because the Supreme Being is a Person. We cannot love a vague force or burning bush. It is like asking us to love the sky. Could we love the sky? Certainly not. Love requires a person to love. There must be a personality - a being who can be cared for.
God is the most lovable Person. He is not only the Supreme Being when it comes to His power and strength. God is also the greatest Beloved. He is the most caring, kind, gracious, smart, beautiful (and not with gray hair, as speculatively depicted in many renderings), thoughtful, funny, and giving Person. Jesus wants us to come to know, love, and lovingly serve God because this is what will fulfill us.
The Supreme Being is our long, lost Friend and Companion. He is the Soul Mate each of us looks for. And if we give the Supreme Being all our heart, and trust completely in Him, we will be happy. This is why Jesus said:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment.” (Matt. 22:37-38)
*Here is the translation of Jesus' statement according to the Lost Gospels of Jesus:
"The Creator and I are united.” (John 10:30)