John 20:28

John 20:28

Here I am going to respond to selections of Kel’s article.  The selections I have chosen are the ones I regard as embodying Kel’s main arguments; I have left out what I regard as repetitious or off the point.  If I have missed or misunderstood Kel’s arguments, anyone who reads this – including Kel – is welcome to bring that to my attention.

. . .

Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and My God.”

Argument:

“The Trinitarian interpretation is based on the notion that Thomas took this opportunity to declare Jesus is his God . . . . However, the entire point of the passage is that Thomas had finally believed Jesus had risen from the dead.”

Response:

Kel is right that the point of the passage is that Thomas finally believed Jesus had risen from the dead, but he would be wrong if he didn’t realize that Thomas was confessing who he believed had risen from the dead – his Lord and his God.

Argument:

“The Trinitarian interpretation is also based upon a very defective assumption. Trinitarians suppose that since Thomas said these words TO Jesus, then he must have taken this opportunity to declare that Jesus is his God. However, as the following passage demonstrates, this assumption is highly flawed.

From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” But Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God but upon the things of men.” – Matthew 16:21-23

If we interpreted the above passage in the very same manner as Trinitarians interpret John 20:28, we would then be required to conclude Peter is Satan himself. But this is obviously incorrect. Even though Jesus said these words directly TO Peter, we know it does not mean Peter is Satan himself. Hence, we must inquire whether a similar situation may be taking place at John 20:28.”

Response:

Jesus was identifying Peter as satan.  All agree that Jesus was not identifying Peter as the fallen angel Satan; however, in both Hebrew and Greek, “satan” can refer to any enemy and is not necessarily the same being as the fallen angel.  Thayer’s Lexicon of New Testament Greek gives one of the definitions for the word “Satan” as “a Satan-like man,” and references Jesus’ rebuke of Peter as its example.  Jesus was rebuking Peter for tempting him to avoid being put to death, so Peter was at that point an enemy to God’s plan.

Recognizing that it was not Satan who inspired Peter in Matthew 16:21-23 clears up the mystery of why Satan would try to tempt Jesus away from the cross when Satan wanted him to go to the cross.  If the princes of the world knew God’s plan, they would not have crucified Jesus (1 Cor 2:8).  Satan himself already knew that he could not tempt Jesus into disobeying God (Luke 4).  Satan is the god of this world; “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19), and Satan is not divided against Satan (Luke 11:18).  This means that the princes of this world (whether human or spirits) were obeying Satan.  Satan’s plan, at least after failing to tempt Christ into disobedience, was to put him to death.  So why would Satan try to argue Jesus out of going to the cross, which is what Peter was doing in Matthew 16:22?  I think the only possible answer is that Jesus was addressing Peter himself, not the devil.

Argument:

“The immediate context militates against the Trinitarian claim. In the preceding context, Jesus describes his Father as his God and Mary’s God rather than identifying himself as her God. In the following context, John indicates that he wrote this Gospel, including the account of Jesus and Thomas, not to tell us that Jesus is himself God but so that we might believe that Jesus is God’s son:  We have seen the Lord. (20:25). I ascend to my Father and your Father, and my God and your God. (20:17)  These things have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God and that believing you may have life in his name. (20:31). The Trinitarian interpretation of verse 28 disregards and defies these contextual facts.”

Response:

This is what I call a “silly” argument.  Trinitarians do not disregard these contextual facts at all.  John 20:31 also doesn’t say that John wrote his gospel to tell us who John the Baptist was, or to tell us anything about receiving the Holy Spirit or baptism or what Nicodemus said, yet it tells us all these things.  The fact that Jesus did not indicate he is God to Mary in John 20:17 is completely irrelevant to the question of whether he made such indications at other times.  And the fact that Jesus indicated that he is the son of God does not indicate he is not God any more than the fact that he is the son of man indicates he is not man.

Of course, Kel will think that argument is fallacious, because he is assuming that when Jesus said he is the son of God he meant the son of the Father who is the one and only person who is God.  However, I am assuming Jesus’ reference to the Father in John 20:17 could have meant that the Father is a person who is God, and under that assumption my argument is valid.  And, I believe that my assumption is better grounded in other biblical texts than Kel’s assumption is.

Argument:

“Thomas literally said to Jesus, ‘the Lord of me and the God of me.’ Now if Thomas had said, ‘the Lord and God of me,’ the Trinitarian claim would carry much more weight. The latter statement would be the kind of language you would normally use in Greek to refer to one person as both your Lord and your God. But this is not the language Thomas used. He used a language convention which Greek speakers would use when they wanted to refer to TWO persons, “the Lord of me and the God of me.”

Verse 17 is also highly significant here. Jesus says he will ascend to ‘the Father of you and Father of me and God of you and God of me.’ This is the kind of language a Greek speaker would use if he wanted to refer to just one person. He did not say he will ascend to, ‘the Father of you and the Father of me and the God of you and the God of me.’ This fact tells us that John was definitively selective about his language structures and would use the verse 17 language structure when he wanted to refer to one person. John did not use this ‘one person’ language structure when he wrote John 20:28. He does not record Thomas as saying, ‘the Lord and God of me.’ Rather, he used the language structure used by Greek speakers to refer to two persons, ‘the Lord of me and the God of me.’ Additionally, it is also significant that Thomas did not say, ‘the Lord and the God of me.’ Rather, he said, ‘the Lord of me and the God of of me.’”

Response:

Commenting on the first paragraph quoted above, my seminary professor friend stated the following:

“That’s just nonsense, a grasping at straws, and shows his lack of understanding of the Greek language.

It is well established that the two definite articles (i.e. “the”) before both Lord and God are basically required when a form of direct address is used with the nominative case rather than the expected vocative case. In other words, normally, when someone is speaking to another person by making a declaration (as opposed to regular conversation), the vocative case is used. However, sometimes the same vocative force is expressed by leaving the nouns in the nominative case (which is usually reserved for the subject of a sentence), BUT WITH THE ARTICLE (i.e. “the”) ATTACHED.

So, because both nouns “Lord” and “God” are clearly in the nominative case, yet Thomas is addressing Christ, the two “the’s” are required to give it vocative force. Why this stylistic difference? Likely to the Semitic influence, “for in Hebrew the vocative is expressed exclusively by the nominative with the article, to which in Aramaic there corresponds the emphatic state, e.g. Mk. 5:41 . . . ” Maximillian Zerwick, S. J., “Biblical Greek,” 11.

  1. A. Carson’s Commentary on John, p.659, also comments on this: “The overwhelming majority of grammarians rightly take the utterance as vocative address to Jesus: My Lord and My God!–the nouns being put not in the vocative case but in the nominative (as sometimes happens in vocatival address) to add a certain sonorous weight. The repeated pronoun my does not diminish the universality of Jesus’ lordship and deity, but it ensures that Thomas’ words are a personal confession of faith.” [italics his]

And again on p. 658:

“In any case, kyrios is an early post-resurrection title (e.g. Rom. 10:9; 1 Cor. 12:3, Phil. 2:9-11), and because it is used of God himself in the LXX, in many of its occurrences it cannot be considered less elevated than theos (‘God’).” [italics his]”

My analysis:  Kel’s point on John 20:17 is off the subject because Jesus is identifying the Father as God, not denying that he (Jesus) is also God.  Also, since each divine person is God to each other divine person, there is no reason to conclude that because the Father is Jesus’ God, Jesus cannot also be God.

Argument:

“Compare the following two verses. If the first verse below refers to two persons, what about the second?

This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. 1 Jn 2:22

Thomas answered and said to him, ‘the Lord of me and the God of me.’ Jn 20:28”

Response:

1 John 2:22 is irrelevant because it is talking about the Father and the Son, not to the Father or the Son.  As we have seen above, the two definite articles (i.e. “the”) before both Lord and God are basically required when a form of direct address is used with the nominative case. John 13:13-14, which Kel later cites, is off the point for the same reason; Jesus is talking about himself in that passage.

Also, consider this: in Psalm 35:23 David prays “Stir up Yourself, and awake to my right And to my cause, my God and my Lord” – NASB.   In the LXX or Septuagint translation of the Old Testament into Greek, the words “my God and my Lord” are identical to what Thomas said to Jesus in John 20:28 except that the position of the words Lord and God are reversed.

Psalm 35:23 Septuagint ὁ θεός μου καὶ ὁ κύριός μου (my God and my Lord)

John 20:28 ὁ κύριός μου καὶ ὁ θεός μου (my Lord and my God)

If the God and Lord David was praying to is one and the same Almighty in Psalm 35:23, how is it that Kel thinks the identical grammatical construction in John 20:28 must mean something different?  In Kel’s answer to Michael Burgos in which Burgos made this same point, Kel was mysteriously silent and apparently had no answer for this question.

Thinking that he has made a strong case for his argument from Greek grammar, Kel looks for still more evidence to support his case, so he embarks on a fruitless search for “additional information in the Scriptures which demonstrates that Thomas was referring to two persons.”

I summarize his argument this way: that since Jesus said to Thomas “because you have seen me you have believed” and since Jesus had also said “he who has seen me has seen the Father,” it is therefore true that to see Jesus is to see two persons, Jesus and the Father, and therefore when Thomas saw the risen Jesus and called him my Lord and my God, he meant his Lord Jesus and his God the Father.

To me this is not Kel’s additional evidence but his only evidence, since as we have seen all his other arguments fail.  And this “evidence” fails as well, for if Jesus had meant two persons John should have written Thomas answered and said to them, “My Lord and my God.”  But John wrote that Thomas answered and said to him “My Lord and my God,” using identical grammar to that which in the Greek translation of the Old Testament refers to one and the same God.

Kel’s Open Letter on John 20:28

In his open letter to Trinitarian apologists, Kel writes:

“As you are aware, Trinitarians love to insist that Granville Sharp’s First Rule indicates how we can tell when only one person is in view. Would you agree that this rule is meaningless unless it is also demonstrated how a Greek speaker would speak differently if he intended to refer to two persons (GS Sixth Rule)? If Thomas had intended to refer to two persons, what would the sentence structure look like in Greek? Would it just happen to look exactly like what Thomas said? Also, since the context of this verse is about seeing and believing, why would I want to deny that Thomas was affirming Jesus’ teaching at John 12:44-45 and John 14:9 where he teaches about seeing two persons in him, the Father and the Son, and not one?”

Response:

This question overlaps with the subject of this article.  As we have seen above Kel’s argument is weak because he doesn’t fully understand the Greek grammar (to which he appeals to make his argument). When Kel asks “If Thomas had intended to refer to two persons, what would the sentence structure look like in Greek?,” he is overlooking the fact that the issue of what Thomas intended is at least partly determined by the context John put Thomas’ word in, namely, that Thomas said both these things (“my Lord” and “my God”) TO Jesus.  If Thomas had intended two persons I think that John would not have prefaced Thomas’ words with the statement that Thomas was speaking to him (to Jesus).

An example in English of how the context can overrule the grammar might be if a mother called out her back door, “My football player and my baseball player, come in for dinner.”  In that case the grammar makes it probably that she was calling two children.  But if she had a son, and we read the words “His mother said to him, ‘my football player and my baseball player, come in for dinner,’” that would mean that the same boy was both a football player and a baseball player.  The issue is decided not only on the basis of the grammar, but on the fact that she was speaking to him.

When Jesus said “he who has seen me has seen the Father” in John 14:9, I don’t think the point is that when you see Jesus you see two persons, Jesus and the Father.  I think the point is that Jesus and the Father are exactly alike, and that therefore to see one is to see the other.

Conclusion

The majority of biblical scholars, both Trinitarian and non-Trinitarian, agree that in this verse Thomas was identifying the one who had risen from the dead as both Lord and God, and nothing stated in the Trinity Delusion article John 20:28 casts any real doubt on that conclusion.