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“Make Yourself God” - John 10:33 (Monday with Mounce 148)

Categories Mondays with Mounce

Monday with MounceSomeone sent me a blog post that says, “You don't need to be a Greek scholar to know that the Greek grammar of John 10:33 is the way one would say ‘make yourself a god’ in Greek.” (The writer does not believe in the deity of Christ, seeing “make” to mean something like “pretend.”) But the statement disproves itself; you apparently need at least a little Greek not to make an erroneous statement like this.

After his teaching on being the Good Shepherd, some of the Jews say, “If you are the Christ, tell us plainly” (10:24). Jesus replies that they don’t believe because they are not one of his sheep, given to him by the Father. He then says, “I and the Father are one” (10:30), and the Jews pick up stone to kill him (10:31).

The Jewish response shows clearly that Jesus was making a claim to be God, the God, Yahweh. “It is not for a noble work that we intend to stone you but for blasphemy;  it is because you, a mere man, are making yourself God.” The Greek of the last phrase reads, ὅτι σὺ ἄνθρωπος ὢν ποιεῖς σεαυτὸν θεόν.

First of all, “a god” is highly interpretive. Anyone who knows Greek knows that there is no indefinite article, “a.”

Secondly, these are Jews speaking, who do not have a concept of multiple “god[s]”; if Jesus claimed to be a pagan deity, one among many, we would expect a different response. But since they wanted to kill Jesus — the penalty for blasphemy, claiming to be God — there can be no question by anyone knowing anything about Greek or first century Jewish culture that they understood Jesus’ statement, “I and the Father are one,” to be a claim of equality with Yahweh. Therefore, the blog is simply wrong. This is how you say, “make yourself equal to God.”

Thirdly, while the semantic range of ποιέω is quite wide, I can’t find the idea of “pretend” or something like “make yourself out to be.”

Fourthly, “make yourself a god” (ποιεῖς σεαυτὸν θεόν) misses the rather obvious point that this is a double accusative construction. Wallace has a great discussion of double accusatives, and it is well worth reading. Double accusatives break down into two groups.

  • Person – Thing
  • Object – Complement

Our passage is the latter. Dan comments, “An object-complement double accusative is a construction in which one accusative substantive is the direct object of the verb and the other accusative (either noun, adjective, participle, or infinitive) complements the object in that it predicates something about it…. Occasionally, the construction is marked by the presence of εἰς or ὡς before the complement, or εἶναι between the two accusatives. Thus, in 1 Cor 4:1 Paul says, “let a person regard us as servants of Christ” (ἡμᾶς λογιζέσθω ἄνθρωπος ὡς ὑπηρέτας Χριστοῦ). Although such elements are usually lacking, one should normally translate the construction with “as,” “to be,” or “namely” between the two accusatives” [emphasis added]. See Wallace for parallel constructions.

So the default translation is, “make yourself to be God.”

Don Carson comments in his Pillar volume, “Cf. 5:18, where stoning as the means of execution is probably presupposed, and 8:59. In all three instances, the desire to execute Jesus sprang from the perception that he was claiming equality or oneness with God — which of course was correct, though certainly not as an additional deity.”

To the larger question (which prompted the original question for the blog), there is no question that Jesus and his followers claimed that Jesus was God, and the proof lies not in any one passage but in a wide selection of statements, arguments, and claims. If you want more details, see my commentary on the Pastorals on Titus 2:13, and also Murray Harris, Jesus as God: The New Testament’s Use of Theos in Reference to Jesus (Baker, 1992), and “Titus 2:13 and the Deity of Christ,” in Pauline Studies. FS F. F. Bruce, ed. D. A. Hagner and M. J. Harris (Eerdmans, 1980. 262–77).

People who aren’t Greek scholars shouldn’t make claims about Greek scholars.

MouncewWilliam D. [Bill] Mounce posts about the Greek language, exegesis, and related topics at Koinonia. He is the author of numerous books, including the bestselling Basics of Biblical Greek, and is the general editor for Mounce's Complete Expository Dictionary of the Old and New Testament Words. He served as the New Testament chair of the English Standard Version Bible translation, and is currently on the Committee for Bible Translation for the NIV. Learn more about Bill at BillMounce.com, and visit his other blog on spiritual growth, Life is a Journey, at BiblicalTraining.org.

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