One of the alleged direct proofs that is often offered for belief in the trinity and "oneness" doctrines is the unity of the Father and Son in John 10:30, where John records Jesus as saying: "I and my father are one one." We suppose if one is firmly convinced of the trinity, one could read "trinity" into John 10:30 (as well as many other scriptures) by means of presupposition. Of itself, there is nothing at all that hints of three persons in one God in John 10:30, or that Jesus and his Father are one God. As worded, if Jesus is one with his Father, he is one what? One God? One essence? One substance? One being? If in saying that he is one with his Father, Jesus is saying that he is Jehovah, then since Jehovah, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, is his God and Father, logically this would make Jesus his own Father. Of course, we realize that trinitarians do not believe that Jesus is the Father, although our neighbors who believe in the "oneness" doctrine do believe that Jesus is the Father.
The Greek word used for "one" in John 10:30 is hen (Strong's # 1520). This is neuter in Greek, not heis, masculine, or mia, feminine. The phrase that is often used in Greek to describe the trinity is "treis hypostaseis en mia ousia", ("three persons in one substance"), or "mia ousia, treis hypostaseis" ("One essence in three hypostases"). With this in mind let us see if this really applies in John 10:30.
Since the Greek word for 'one' here is 'hen,' and is neuter, the masculine word Theos (Greek, God) cannot be understood as related is usage, for the Greek word for one in that case would have to be heis (masculine for one). Nor can the Greek word for "being" (ousia, being, substance, essence) be understood, because ousia is feminine, which would require the feminine of one, mia. Thus we would have to realize that what is being understood has to be using a neuter noun, e.g., like pneuma (disposition). It could not be theos (God) or ousia (Being), which would respectively require the masculine heis and the feminine mia.
Additionally, we might say, if the logic were valid that the Father's and Son's oneness in John 10:30 must be that of "being", we could also say that Paul and Appolos were one being (1 Corinthians 3:6-8)! Of course they were two separate beings. Hen being used of them in 1 Corinthians 3:8 (not mia, which would be necessary to agree with the feminine ousia, being) proves that their oneness was not one of being but of spirit, disposition (Acts 4:32; 1 Corinthians 1:10; Ephesians 4:3-6,13; Philippians 1:27; 2:2; 4:2) Hence John 10:30 does not by the Greek word hen prove that the Father and Son are one being any more than 1 Corinthians 3:8 proves by the word hen that Paul and Apollos were one being; but the same word and form of that word, proving Paul and Apollos to one in heart, mind and will, gives evidence that the same word and form that word in John 10:30 proves the same of the Father and Son.
But we have even stronger evidence in the writings of John who records that Jesus prayed (John 17:11,21,22) that all of the saints may be one (hen, not heis, nor mia). He did not pray that they be all one being or substance, which would be nonsense, but that their unity may be one in mind, heart and will. Since the oneness for which He prayed for them was not a oneness of being, the oneness between Him and the Father cannot be that of being, because Jesus in John 17:11,22 prays that the oneness for which He prayed on their behalf be patterned after the oneness that exists between the Father and himself: "That they may be one *as we are*." Hence the oneness between the Father and Jesus is not one of being, but one of mind, heart and will. Moreover Jesus defines this oneness in verse 21 as follows: "that they all may be one, as thou, Father, art in me [Jehovah was in Jesus by his holy spirit, disposition], (John 14:17,20) and I in thee [Jesus was in the Father (John 14:10,11,20) by accepting and keeping the Father as his head, i.e,, by his being and remaining in the consecrated attitude. (1 Corinthians 3:23; 11:3 are passages that also strongly prove Jesus' inferiority to the Father, and the Father's being the Supreme Being; our trinitarian neighbors acknowledge a kind of superiority of Father over the Son, but do not realize that this would leave the son out of the Supreme Being as the words for God are used in Hebrew in the superlative sense)], that [thus the Father and the Son, by their spirit, disposition, being in them and they by their spirit of consecration, being in them (1 John 5:20; Colossians 3:3; 1 Corinthians 12:12,13] they also may be one in us . . . that they may be one, even as we are one." Thus these verses prove that the same kind of oneness as exists between the saints, also exists between the Father and Son and vice versa. Therefore, since the oneness that exists between the saints is not oneness of being, but one of heart, mind, and will, the oneness that exists between the Father and Son is not one of being, but one of will, heart, and mind.
Furthermore, if the Father and the Son were but one omniscient being, they could not be the two sentients bearing required witness, as John 8:17,18 says they were, since the law required at least two different beings to be witnesses sufficient to establish a matter. But since they gave sufficient witness, they must be two sentient beings, not two supposed persons sharing the same omnisciency. Therefore their oneness is not that of being -- for they are two beings. It must be that of mind, heart and will. Accordingly, John 10:30 does not prove the Son's equality with the Father. Rather, it proves the Son's relationship to the Father as separate sentiencies. John 17:21, which shows the kind of unity that exists between them to be connected with the Son's being in the Father, implies that the Father is the Son's head that the Son is His in the sense that believers are Christ's, in subordination to him. Thus Jesus must be subordinate to the Father (1 Corinthians 3:23; 11:3), even as the headship of Christ makes the Church subordinate to Christ (Colossians 1:18; Ephesians 1:22,23; 4:15; 5:23,24, compared with Colossians 3:19).
Some of the above was adapted from Paul S. L. Johnson's book entitled GOD, pages 477, 516,7,8.
Objection 1: The question is often asked, that if Jesus was not claiming to God Almighty, then why did the Jews wish to stone him? (verse 10:31):
This accusation that Jesus claimed to God (or equal to God) is untrue just as the accusation that Jesus violated the sabbath. -- John 5:18.
Jesus was pointing out the real reason they were seeking to kill him is John 10:32. Jesus was not the liar, but the Jewish leaders did lie. The accusation, then, that he claimed to be equal to God is false. The Jewish leaders were just using this as an excuse, for they had long been seeking an excuse to kill him. (Matthew 12:14; Mark 3:6; 11:18; Luke 4:28,29; 6:11; 19:47; John 5:18; 7:19,20; 8:37) In John 7:1 we read of one instance where it is stated that the Jewish leaders were seeking to kill him. When Jesus confronted them with this, they denied it, proving themselves liars. (John 7:19,20) He then shows that the real reason they were seeking to kill him was because of his works. (verse 21). Jesus had earlier shown that they did not believe because their heart was not right. Matthew 12:24-32; 15:3-12) In Luke 6:7 we find the Jewish leaders were watching him that they might find an accusation against him. In Luke 11:54, we see that they were lying in wait for him, and seeking to catch him in something he might say, that they might accuse him. Thus we have no reason to believe the accusation of these Jewish leaders that Jesus was making himself equal to the Supreme.
In John 10:33, the Jews denied that they were seeking to stone him because of his good work. Does this make their denial true? Hardly, they had earlier denied that they were even seeking to kill Jesus (John 7:19,20). To give credence to this idea would in fact be calling Jesus a liar as Jesus pointed out the real reasons why they wished to kill him.
Their false accusation that Jesus was making himself God [the Supreme Being] is not correct, but rather it was just such an excuse that they had been seeking that they might have cause to kill him. Jesus never claimed to be equal to the Father, the only true Supreme. Jesus denied that he was the Most High (Luke 1:32) many times. (John 5:19,30; 8:28; 12:49) His quoting of Psalm 82:6 only proves this, in that the sons of God referred to there are not equal to the Most High, even though they are called "gods" -- elohim. Only Jehovah has the "nature" of the Supreme Being over all, and Jesus denied that he was Jehovah, who is his Father, and the One who sent him. -- Deuteronomy 18:15,18; Luke 1:32; John 3:16,17; 17:1,3.
Objection 2a: An objection is raised that the use of John 17:11,21,22 to try to explain John 10:30 is a misuse of scripture, a strawman argument.
Nevertheless, we do not see anything presented that shows this to be a misuse of scripture, nor that it is a strawman argument. Jesus directly prays for the church to be one with the Father as he is one with the Father: "that they may be one, as we are" (John 17:11), "That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us" (John 17:21), "that they may be one, even as we are one." (John 17:22) It is simply a matter of using scripture in one place to show the meaning of scripture in another place, wherein the same terminology is used in both cases. If Jesus meant that by his oneness with the Father that he was God Almighty, and since he prays for his followers to share the same oneness he has with the Father, logically he would be praying for his followers to God Almighty. But this actually proves that Jesus does *not* mean by his oneness with the Father that he is God Almighty.
Objection 2b: We are told that the church is one Body of Christ with many members. (Romans 12:5) In other words, the unity of the members of the Body of Christ is an icon of the unity of the Trinity.
Those who claim belief in the trinity doctrine usually would hae it that the Father is not part of God, but fully (wholly) God; that the Son is not part of God, but fully (wholly) God; and the Holy Ghost is not part of God, but fully (wholly) God. This is not true of the members of the Body of Christ; each member is a part of the body of Christ, but no one member can be said to be fully (wholly) the body of Christ. The fact that no one member of the body of Christ is fully the body of Christ, as is claimed for the supposed members of the trinity, only proves that John 10:30 is not used in the sense trinitarians wish it to be used. There is nothing in the unity of the members of the Body of Christ that gives any support for the trinity.
However, Jesus did not say that the oneness of the church was to be merely an image of the oneness between him and his Father, he expressly says prays for his followers to be "one in us." -- John 10:38; 17:21.
Objection 3: Someone objects that John 10:30 by itself does not prove the trinity, but in view of John 1:1-18, the trinity is supported by John 10:30.
There is nothing at all about trinity (three persons in one being or three persons in one God) anywhere in John 1:1-18. Such a philosophy has to be added and read into the text. The Hebrew writers of the Old Testament (before the Greek influence) would not have seen anything in this chapter (as it appears in the Greek) that would lead them to believe that John was saying that the Logos was God Almighty, for they were familiar with the usages of EL and ELOHIM as applied to others than Jehovah.
Certainly the Logos is not Ho Theon with whom he was with in the beginning. *Theos* as applied to the Logos here should be read in the light of the Hebraic Old Testament background and usage, and in line with Jesus' usage of the Greek word *theoi* at John 10:34,35, not the later-developed trinitarian dogma with its unique but often vague definitions of terms, which definitions then have to read back into the scriptures, and then not applied consistently. There is a constant strain in explaining the trinitarian philosophy to bend the trinitarian definitions of words into the scriptures to make the scriptures seem to support the trinitarian dogma. We see no need to do this, for if one accepts the Hebraic background usage the scriptures are harmonious without all the additions.
Yet while we disagree with the doctrines, we can sympathize with most trinitarians as well as oneness believers, for the arguments in both cases seem very impressive, even awe-inspiring due to the mystical approaches utilized. We also realize that God is permitting the present obscurities for a time, so that the world may feel the full extent of the present vanity. (Ecclesiastes 1:2,13; Romans 8:20; Psalm 107:25-27; Isaiah 29:11,12; Revelation 12:9; 2 Corinthians 4:4) After Satan is bound, all of the obscurities and errors of this present age will be done away with and the light of glorious gospel and the knowledge of Jehovah will fill the earth; then all flesh will see the glory of Jehovah. -- Revelation 20:3,12; Isaiah 2:2-4; 11:9; 25:7; 29:24; 40:5.
Quotations and Other Comments:
"In the overall context of this passage, the oneness which Jesus shares with the Father grows out of his obedience to the Father, by which he is able to do the same deeds as the Father. Elsewhere in John's Gospel the oneness of nature or being that Christ shares with the Father is emphasized, but in the present context the emphasis seems to be that Christ reflects the Father in all that he says and does." -- Newman, Barcaly M., and Eugene A. Nida, A Translator's Handbook on the Gospel of John United Bible Societies, 1980, page 341. (Of course, we disagree with their statement that "elsewhere in John's Gospel the oneness of nature or being that Christ shares with the Father is emphasized", for in the texts where this is supposed to be emphasized, it has be read into what is being said.)
"A unity of fellowship, of will, and of purpose between the Father and the Son is a frequent theme in the Fourth Gospel...and it is tersely and powerfully expressed here [John 10:30] but to press the words so as to make them indicate identity of ousia [substance or, essence] is to introduce thoughts which were not present to the theologians of the first century." -- J. H. Bernard, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary of the Gospel According to St. John
"One translates the Greek neuter hen. This verse was much quoted in the Aryan controversy by the orthodox in support of the doctrine that Christ was of one substance with the Father. The expression seems however mainly to imply that the Father and the Son are united in will and purpose. Jesus prays in [John 17:11] that His followers may all be one(hen), i.e. united in purpose, as He and His Father are united." -- The Gospel According to St. John, Professor R.V.G.Tasker, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, 1960, p.136:
"Our language admits not of the precision of the original in this great saying, 'We (two Persons) are One (Thing).' Perhaps 'one interest' expresses nearly, though not quite, the purport of the saying." -- A Commentary: Critical, Experimental, and Practical on the Old and New Testaments Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible. "Commentary on John 10". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". Please note: JFB tries to show that this oneness is still demonstrative of the supposed one essence of the Father and Son by saying: "There seemed to be some contradiction between His saying they had been given by His Father into His own hands, out of which they could not be plucked, and then saying that none could pluck them out of His Father's hands, as if they had not been given out of them. 'Neither have they,' says He; 'though He has given them to Me, they are as much in His own almighty hands as ever--they cannot be, and when given to Me they are not, given away from Himself; for HE AND I HAVE ALL IN COMMON.' Thus it will be seen, that, though oneness of essence is not the precise thing here affirmed, that truth is the basis of what is affirmed, without which it would not be true. And AUGUSTINE was right in saying the 'We are' condemns the Sabellians (who denied the distinction of Persons in the Godhead), while the 'one' (as explained) condemns the Arians (who denied the unity of their essence)." Of course, in reality this simply reads something into what Jesus said in order to still have this come out in favor of the trinitarian dogma. Of course, Jesus and his Father do have the sheep in common, so to speak, but the sheep are actually given to Jesus by the Father; none of this has anything to do, however, with the supposed trinity doctrine.
"V. 30 does not affirm a metaphysical unity, but a moral, and we must not read the later creeds into the words" -- Abington Bible Commentary, p. 1079
This was originally posted on February 23, 2009; edited and updated 1/17/2014; 02/11/2015.