The confession of Thomas, coming as it does at the climax of John’s Gospel, is perhaps the clearest affirmation of Christ’s deity in the Bible. It is clear, despite various theories to the contrary (see “Other views Considered,” below), that Thomas was speaking directly to Jesus. The phrase rendered “answered and said to him” is a rather common construction in the New Testament, and always precedes a direct address to the person referred to (“him,” in this case, who can only be Jesus). This verse occurs in the middle of a conversation between Thomas and Jesus, and suggestions that Thomas was addressing the Father, or crying out in surprise are not credible.
For a devout Jew in the first Century to address someone as “my God” could only mean one thing: The “God” being addressed occupied a unique position in the speaker’s devotion. For a Jew, this could only be YHWH. The phrase “my God” occurs over 135 times in the Bible, and when spoken by a Jew, always refers to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Thomas was disposed to believe in Jesus by his personal attachment to him, as he demonstrated previously by his resolute adherence in impending danger (11:16). Jesus may have felt that the faith of all the disciples was fragile, for he told them explicitly that the raising of Lazarus was designed to give them a solid basis for a continuing faith (11:15). Now, having been challenged to make a personal test of Jesus’ reality, Thomas expressed fullest faith in him. For a Jew to call another human associate “my Lord and my God” would be almost incredible. The Jewish law was strictly monotheistic; so the deification of any man would be regarded as blasphemy (10:33). Thomas, in the light of the Resurrection, applied to Jesus the titles of Lord (kyrios) and God (theos), both of which were titles of deity (EBC).
apekriqh QwmaV kai eipen autw,`O kurioV mou kai`o qeoV mou
APEKRITHÊ THÔMAS KAI EIPEN AUTWi, hO KURIOS MOU KAI hO THEOS MOU
Answered Thomas and said to him, the Lord of me and the God of me
OTHER VIEWS CONSIDERED
Stafford, Furuli and John 20:28
The way in which I will respond to Mr. Stafford and Mr. Furuli is built on the foundation of M. J. Harris’ forth chapter in his book Jesus as God. (You can order a copy of Harris’ book here). You need to have this chapter in order to make sense of the answers to Mr. Stafford and Mr. Furuli. This paper also assumes the reader has read the appropriate sections in Mr. Stafford’s and Mr. Furuli’s books. You need to know the context of the quotes. I will list by number Mr. Stafford’s and Mr. Furuli’s arguments from their books. I will then respond by a reference to M. J. Harris’ chapter that answers that argument or will respond myself if the argument is not addressed by Prof. Harris.
- Page 350, “The Logos as “a god”
- Page 351, “…it may be that Thomas never intended to call Jesus “God” at all, but merely directed his exclamation of praise to both Jesus and the Father, the latter being directly responsible for the resurrection of the Lord (compare Ga 1:2; 2Co 4:14; Heb 13:20), which is what Thomas doubted.”
- Page 351, note 116, “Unless, as we argue, they were doing so against the backdrop of the OT, which made it quite acceptable to refer to other inferior divine beings who served Jehovah. Again, see the discussion of biblical monotheism in Chapter 2.”
- Page 351, “…and Thomas’ reply was spoken to him …But was it directed to him?”
- Page 352, Quote by Margaret Davies “But it is perfectly appropriate for Thomas to respond to Jesus’ resurrection with a confession of faith both in Jesus as his Lord and in God who sent and raised Jesus…If we understand Thomas’ confession as an assertion that Jesus is God, this confession in 20.31 becomes an anti-climax.”
- Page 352, Thomas’ words are not recorded with “Lord” in its typical vocative (direct address) form (KURIE, kyrie); rather, the nominative form (KURIOS, kyrios) is used.”
- Page 353, In commenting on Psalm 35:23, he states, “But here “God” precedes “Lord.” This is the opposite of John 20:28…”
- Page 354, “This can be done in a manner patterned after the numerous references to angels as “God”…”
- Page 354, “Such a confession, as in the case of Thomas, is qualified not only by the context (Joh 20:17), but also by the whole of Scripture.”
- Page 355, “Here Jesus, in the same state Thomas addresses him, says that the Father is his God, again differentiating between the two in terms of theos, as well as acknowledging the Father’s superiority over him, as his God…Thomas had no concept of a consubstantial Trinity.”
Answers to Furuli
- See Harris pages 110-111, 3. Vocatival, Addressed to Jesus “In response Thomas said to him, ‘My Lord and My God!’” And pages 121-122, 2. The Meaning and Theological Significance of Thomas’s Cry.
First Mr. Furuli says, “…it is not possible to claim that the article has semantic importance…” Then he says, “There is of course a possibility that it has semantic importance…” So, is it ‘possible’ or ‘not possible?’ So what, if the article is grammatically required, John wrote this phrase on purpose this way. Like Mr. Furuli states in the next sentence, “Because the phrase has a possessive pronoun (“my”) the word theos must be definite…” So you would still say ‘the Lord and the God’ whether there is an article or not. The Straw Man that Mr. Furuli builds is when he states that Trinitarians try to make Jesus identical with ho theos of John 1:1. Which creed in the Church made that statement? What Trinitarian was he referring to? I don’t know of any official sources that teach that.
2. See Harris pages 107-108, b. Referring to Jesus: “Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord is also my God.’” As can be seen, it is not so strange.
3. This verse is not very hard to understand. The Aid to Bible Understanding on page 885 quotes the Imperial Bible Dictionary approvingly, “He (the Hebrew) says again and again my God…; but never my Jehovah, for when he says my God, He means Jehovah.” See also Rudolf Bultman’s (who does not believe Jesus is Deity) commentary on the Gospel of John, Westminster Press, 1971 pages 694-695 and footnotes, “Thomas is so overpowered that the confession springs to his lips, “My Lord and My God!” (v.28). That confession is wholly appropriate to him who has risen; going far beyond the earlier confession, “My Master” (v.16), it sees in Jesus God himself. “He who has seen me Has seen the Father,” Jesus had said in 14.9 (cp. 12.45) Thomas has now seen Jesus in the way that Jesus wills to be seen and ought to be seen. By means of these words HO THEOS MOU, the last confession spoken in the gospel makes it clear that Jesus, to whom it refers, is the Logos who has now returned to the place where he was before the Incarnation, and who is glorified with the glory that he had with the Father before the world was (17.5); he is now recognized as the THEOS that he was from the beginning (1:1).” If the man who thinks a supernatural Jesus is a myth can see this, why can’t Mr. Furuli? It is obvious that what is being done by Thomas in John 20:28, is the same thing being done in Rev. 4:11 by the twenty-four elders, “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power,…” This passage is pretty straight forward. Here is a list of scriptures: Psalms 34:23, 43:5, 63:1; Jer. 38:18; Zech. 13:9; Matt. 4:7, 10, 22:37, 27:46; Mk. 5:34,12:29; Lk. 1:78, 4:8, 12; Jn. 8:54, 20:17, 20:28; Acts 2:39; Ro. 1:8; 1Cor. 1:4, 6:11; 2Cor. 12:21; Php. 1:3; 1Thess. 2:2, 3:9; 2Thess. 1:11; Phm. 1:4; Heb. 1:9; Rev. 3:12, 4:11, 5:10, 7:3, 12:10, 19:1, 19:5, 21:3. Take a look at these scriptures and notice similar phrases such as- my God, your God, our God, and their God. Notice the continuity in meaning. The word God is used in various contexts- worship, affirmation, confession, and teaching. There are no quantitative levels of deity in any of these passages. Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that THEOS in Jn 20:28 means god but in a lesser sense. This is an equivocation on the word god based on the presupposition that god when applied to the Father means God and when applied to the son means god. There is no lexical evidence or contextual markers for this change. When he says we “…can’t know exactly…,” is he being philosophical as in we are finite? Or is he being historical such as we would have to talk to John to know for sure? And since we, “…can’t know exactly…,” why is it that the Trinitarian interpretation is ruled out? Why not the Arian? Could it be because he is Arian?
4. Again, Mr. Furuli builds a straw man. Does he quote a creed or an official Trinitarian? NO! The key point is that while John 1:1 would be Sabellianism had THEOS been articular (it being an equative phrase), Jn 20:28 emphatically is not. There is no equative verb here. Thomas is calling Jesus HIS God!
5. Mr. Furuli is begging the question here. Thomas’ words do add to our understanding of the word THEOS when used of Jesus in Jn 1:1 and 18. If one is a monotheist, this is an incredible confession. This would identify Jesus the One God. If you are a polytheist, it’s no big deal. Jesus is just one of the gods just like in Greek mythology.
Answers to Stafford
- This is a poor title for this section. There is no ‘a god’ in this passage. Regarding the ‘a god’ supposition, I’d be sure to mention that there are 135 occurrences of ‘my God’ in the Bible. When spoken by a Jew, it always refers to Yahweh (unless Jn 20:28 is an exception). Further, calling ‘a god’ MY God would break the first commandment (Ex 20:3). For how could a good 2nd temple Jew call another being His God, without placing that god before Yahweh? MOU is possessive – thus, Thomas is making a very personal statement – “my OWN God!” It simply is not credible that he could say this of any God but Yahwah.
2. It’s only a possibility if you are a deconstructionist. See Harris pages 106 –111. The scriptures that Mr. Stafford references are only a smoke screen. There is no comparison at all. None of those verses has Paul speaking to the Father or Jesus and directing it to the other.
3. I must refer to Sam Shamoun’s article on the Trinity Defended web-site called ‘Biblical Monotheism.’ It is a refutation of Mr. Stafford’s chapter ‘Understanding Biblical Monotheism.’ He demonstrates that Mr. Stafford’s ‘Biblical Monotheism’= Henotheism which is a sub-category of polytheism.
4. Again, I refer to Harris pages 106-111. Is there one example from Biblical or extra-Biblical of someone directing worship to Jehovah by speaking to another. Does Mr. Stafford speak worship to his brother/sister and directed it to Jehovah? APEDRITHE…EIPEN AUTW(i) is a common idiom in the New Testament. This idiom always precedes a statement directed to the referent of the dative AUTOS. There is no lexical support in any of the standard references (BAGD, M&M, and Louw & Nida) for a ‘relative address” with any of the words in question. There is no grammatical support in any of the standard grammars for a ‘relative address’ (spoken to another).
5. See Harris c. The Meaning of THEOS pages 124-127
6. See Harris pages 107-108 b. Referring to Jesus: “Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord is also my God.’”
7. See Harris pages 120-121 e. Experimental. At this point, I want to give a quote by A.T. Robertson in his grammar page 466 that responds to Abbott in this context, “In Rev. 4:11 we have also the vocative case in HO KURIOS KAI HO THEOS. In Jo. 20:28 Thomas addresses Jesus as HO KURIOS MOU KAI HO THEOS MOU, the vocative like those above. Yet, strange to say, Winer calls this exclamation rather than address, apparently to avoid the conclusion that Thomas was satisfied as to the deity of Jesus by his appearance to him after the resurrection. Dr. E.A. Abbott follows suit also in an extended argument to show that KURIE HO THEOS is the LXX way of addressing God, not HO KURIOS KAI HO THEOS. But after he had written he appends a note to p. 95 to the effect that “this is not quite satisfactory. For xiii 13, PHONEITE ME HO DIDASKALOS KAI HO KURIOS, and Rev. 4:11 AXIOS EI HO KURIOS KAI HO THEOS HEMON, ought to have been mentioned above.” This is a manly retraction, and he adds: “John may have used it here exceptionally.” Leave out “exceptionally” and the conclusion is just. If Thomas used Aramaic he certainly used the article. It is no more exceptional in Jo. 20:28 than in Rev. 4:11.”
8. Again I reference Sam Shamoun’s article.
9. John 20:17 is a great passage demonstrating that “My God” is this passage means the same semantic meaning as Jn 20:28. See Answers to Furuli note 3. If Jesus note God in Jn 20:28, then neither is the Father in 20:17!
10. A. Harnack (History of Dogma, 4:41-42) has an interesting evaluation of Arius that somewhat applies here: “A son who is no son, a Logos who is no logos, a monotheism which nevertheless does not exclude polytheism, two or three ousias which are to be revered, while yet only one of them is really distinct from the creatures, and indefinable being who first becomes God by becoming man and who is yet neither God nor man, and so on. In every single point we have apparent clearness while all is hollow and formal, a boyish enthusiasm for playing with husks and shells, and a childish self-satisfaction in the working out of empty syllogisms.” Whether Thomas had a concept of the Trinity or not is irrelevant. What is relevant is that Thomas (a true monotheistic Hebrew not a biblical monotheistic polytheist) worshiped Jesus as his God.