(Jn. 10:30) Does this passage invalidate the Trinity?

CLAIM: Jesus said, “I and the Father are one” (Jn. 10:30). Oneness Pentecostals claim that this passage supports modalism—the teaching that there is one God who represents himself in three separate persons. Oneness theologians Bernard and Stegall write, “Jesus is the father incarnate… Jesus said, ‘I and my Father are one,’ instead of ‘I am the Father,’ because He was both Father and Son, both invisible Spirit and visible flesh. Jesus said, ‘I am in the Father,’ because unlike any other man, His humanity was inseparably united and joined with the Spirit by the Incarnation.”[1]

RESPONSE: In the original Greek, Jesus uses a plural form for the expression “I am.” That is, he uses esmen, rather than eimi. Thus, this verse literally reads, “We are,” rather than, “I am.” Rhodes writes, “The verse literally reads from the Greek, ‘I and the Father we are one.’ If Jesus intended to say that He and the Father were one person, He would not have used the first person plural, which clearly implies two persons.”[2] Haenchen and Busse explain, “Jesus and the Father are not a single person—that would require eis—but one, so that Jesus does just what God does.”[3]

Later, Jesus uses this expression to refer to the essential unity of the church (Jn. 17:11, 22-23; cf. 1 Cor. 3:8). Jesus isn’t saying that he and the Father are one person. Morris writes, “‘One’ is neuter, ‘one thing’ and not ‘one person.’”[4] But they are one in unity. This passage discriminates the unity of purpose—not the unity of personhood.

What does Jesus mean by “one”? The word “one” (hen) is neuter—not masculine. This means that “the text is not arguing for a oneness of personalities or personae… but rather something akin to a oneness of purpose and will.”[5] If John had used the masculine form, this “would have suggested that Jesus and the Father are one person.”[6] Both the Father and the Son are protecting believers.

Does this passage support the deity of Christ? Yes. There would be nothing blasphemous to first-century Jews about a rabbi saying that he is in one purpose with God’s will. Yet the religious leaders considered Jesus to be making a far-reaching statement by claiming oneness with God’s purpose. In fact, they interpreted him to be claiming to be God (Jn. 10:33). After all, the context refers to the divine action of saving and protecting believers (Jn. 10:25-29).[7]

[1] David K. Bernard and Neil Stegall, A Study Guide for The Oneness of God (Tennessee: WAP, 1990), p.24.

[2] Rhodes, Ron. The Challenge of the Cults and New Religions: The Essential Guide to Their History, Their Doctrine, and Our Response. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2001. 265.

[3] Haenchen, E., Funk, R. W., & Busse, U. John: a commentary on the Gospel of John. Philadelphia: Fortress Press. 1984. 50.

[4] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.464.

[5] Gerald L. Borchert, John 1-11, vol. 25A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 341.

[6] See footnote. Andreas Köstenberger, John, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004), p.312.

[7] D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), p.395.