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§ 223. His Statement of the Proof of his Messiahship.—His Oneness with the Father.—He defends his Words from the Old Testament. (John, x., 22-39.)

IN the month of December Christ arrived at Jerusalem to attend the Feast of the Dedication. As he had not always alike openly declared himself to be Messiah, he was asked, while walking in Solomon’s Porch, by certain Jews, “How long wilt thou hold us in suspense? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly.” We do not know by whom, or in what spirit, this question was asked. In view of the prevalent notions of the Jews in respect to the nature of Messiah’s kingdom, we may readily imagine that persons not entirely hostile might complain of the uncertainty in which they were held. Probably, however, among those who put the question were some that had no other object than to use his answer to his disadvantage. Whoever they were, it is clear that they had no just ideas of Christ’s ministry or of his relations to mankind; and, therefore, no further explanation than that which his words and deeds had already afforded could have been of use to them.

He, therefore, replied, “I told you, and ye believed not. What use to repeat it? There is no need of telling you in express terms. You might have known it from the (objective) testimony of my works, had you been so disposed. The works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me. But you lack faith; and you lack it because you are not of my sheep (your spirit excludes you from my fellowship). My sheep604604   If this alludes to the parable of the Good Shepherd, and the words καθὼς εἶπον ὑμῖν (v. 26) are genuine, it might be inferred that this conversation took place shortly after the other, and, therefore, that the journey to Galilee and back could not have occurred between them. But it would not be at all decisive to that effect; Christ may have alluded to the parable frequently, and thus kept it fresh in the memory of his hearers. hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and 327I grant unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand (i. e., my protecting care, under which they will reach, in safety, the full enjoyment of eternal life). My Father, who gave them to me, is the Almighty; and no power of the world can pluck them from the hand of Omnipotence. Through me, they are united with the Almighty Father; I and the Father are one.”

We understand by the “oneness” here spoken of the oneness of Christ with the Father in will and works, in virtue of which his work is the work of the Father; but this was founded on the consciousness of his original and essential oneness with the Father, as is clear from his testimonies in other places as to his relations to God. In and of itself the language of Christ contained nothing that might not have been said from the stand-point of the Jewish idea of the Messiah. But the hostile spirits gladly seized the occasion to accuse him of blasphemy, and preparations were made to stone him.

The rigid, legal Monotheism of the Jews placed an infinite and impassable gulf between God and the creature; and they, therefore, took offence at Christ’s words, especially at the higher sense in which he was accustomed to call himself the Son of God. He then sought to prove to them, on their own ground, that Messiah might call himself in that higher sense the Son of God, and appropriate the titles founded thereon, without the slightest prejudice to the honour of God. “If,” said he, “in your own law (Ps. lxxxii., 6) persons who, in specific relations, represent God (e.g., judges and kings), are called gods (אֱלֹהִים); how much more, and in how far higher a sense, is the highest Theocratic King entitled to call himself the Son of God.” The Jews had not directly taken offence at his calling himself the Son of God, but at his saying, “I am one with the Father;” but Christ considered the latter claim as a necessary result of the former.605605   I cannot agree with the views of this argument which Strauss (3te. Aufl., i., 536) has adopted from Kern (Tübinger Zeitschrift, 1836, ii., 89): “Jesus used this line of argument to prove his right to style himself the Son of God to persons who did not admit his Messiahship, and who could not be convinced by passages in which Messiah was so called, that he had a right to apply the title to himself.” This is totally foreign to the connexion in which the argument is handed down to us. The Jews were not offended because Christ had appropriated a title to which none but Messiah had a right, but because they believed him to claim more than any creature could. It was not his Messiahship that was in question, but whether any human being could place himself in such relations to God without prejudice to the Divine honour. Christ’s concluding sentence (v. 36) implied that if any one could appropriate such a title, it was much more the privilege of one hallowed by God, and sent by him into the world, i. e., of the Messiah; thus presupposing his own Messiahship. The argument is, therefore, rather a conclusio a minori ad mojus than, as Kern thinks, an apagogic one. He concluded by saying, 328that, if they would not believe his words, they might, from his works, know and believe that He was in the Father, and the Father in Him.

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