John makes Jesus teach blasphemy

Biblical Jesus taught a heresy

by Ibn Anwar, BHsc (Hons), MCoLLT

One of the verses that Trinitarians commonly use to prove Jesus’ divinity is John 14:9 which has Jesus saying, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” Accordingly, the Trinitarians contend that when taken literally what the verse shows is that Jesus is God like the Father is God. But is that really the meaning that one may glean from the verse when it is taken literally? When taken literally, what the verse actually says is that Jesus is, in fact, the Father. The verse says if a person sees Jesus then he has seen the Father and that can only mean that seeing Jesus means seeing the Father which must naturally mean that Jesus is actually the Father. Perhaps a simple analogy will illustrate the point clearer. James says, “If you have seen me then you have seen the chief of police.” What James is claiming, should we take his statement literally, is that he is as a matter of fact the chief of police because to see him means seeing the chief of police. What the statement certainly cannot mean when taken literally is that James is claiming to be a human being with a human nature. Likewise, when Jesus says seeing him equals seeing the Father, it cannot mean that he is claiming to have the essence of godhood but that he is actually the Father. As Jesus is claiming to be the Father here, according to standard Trinitarian theology, he is, in fact, committing a grievous ancient heresy forwarded by Sebellius called Patripassianism or Monarchianism or Sebellianism or Modalism. Patripassianism is a concept that stood in opposition to Trinitarianism in which the three persons of the godhead were thought to be just one person that reveals himself in three different modes. To confuse any of the persons of the Trinity with each other is to commit this modalistic heresy and apparently Jesus in John 14:9 does precisely that.

The verse in question has been used as the primary proof textby modalists since the time of Sebellius and Praxeas to prove their theology.

“Whoso hath seen me hath seen the Father also;”…
6. Yesterday we commanded it to your consideration, beloved, and said that the sentences of the Evangelist John, in which he narrates to us what he learned from the Lord, had not required to be discussed, were that possible, except the inventions of heretics had compelled us. Yesterday, then, we briefly intimated to you, beloved, that there are heretics who are called Patripassianism, or Sebellians after their founder: these say that the same is the Father who is the Son; the names different, but the person one. When He wills, say they, He is Father; when He wills, He is Son: still He is one.” [1]

Noted Church historian and theologian the late Philip Schaff writes:

“The first prominent advocate of the Patripassianism heresy was Parxeas of Asia Minor. He came to Rome under Marcus Aurelius with the renown of a confessor; procured there the condemnation of Montanism; and propounded his Patripassianism, to which he gained even the bishop Victor. Now Tertullian met him in vindication at once of Montanism and of hypostasianism with crushing logic, and sarcastically charged him with having executed at Rome two commissions of the devil: having driven away the Holy Spirit and having crucified the Father. Praxeas, constantly appealing to Is. 45:5; John 10:30 (“I and the Father are one”) and 14:9 (“He that has seen Me has seen the Father.”), as if the whole Bible consisted of these three passages, taught that the Father himself became man, hungered, thirsted. suffered, and died in Christ.” [2]

To many early Christians that were deemed by what became orthodoxy as heterodox or heretical such as the Sebellians, John 14:9 clearly teaches that Jesus is the Father and we would contend that insofar a literal reading of the plain text is concerned, they have a better case than their Trinitarian counterparts who have to extrapolate in their interpretation of the verse to arrive at a Trinitarian understanding.

The only way out for the Trinitarian is for him to stop claiming to read the verse literally because as we have demonstrated a literal reading of the text leads to a modalistic theology that Trinitarianism excommunicates as heretical. The best way to understand the text is by reading it together with verse 7 which says, “If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” The ‘seeing’ of verse 9 is not one that involves physical sight but one that has to do with the eye of the mind, i.e. understanding. Verse 7 makes it clear that to see the Father is to know him and knowing Jesus bring the person to knowledge of the Father. This is the only reasonable interpretation that one may cling to not only to avoid the Sebellianistic heresy but because as Jesus says elsewhere rather explicitly in John 6:46, “No one has seen the Father…” and Paul himself says that “no human eye has ever seen or can see” (NLT) God in 1 Timothy 6:16. As nobody has ever seen God according to Paul, one would be remiss to interpret John 14:7-9 as an instance of actually seeing with one’s physical sight the Father.

In the foregoing discussion we have seen that to follow the Trinitarian claim of reading the text literally results inadvertently to a modalistic view of God where the Father becomes conflated with Jesus. The only way to avoid such a conundrum is by taking the verse in a metaphorical sense in light of verse 7 as demonstrated above.

Notes:

[1] Augustine (2007). Gospel of John, First Epistle of John, and Soliliques. In Philip Schaff (ed), Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Volume VII. New York: Cosmo Classics. p. 215

[2] Schaff, P. (2011). History of the Christian Church Vol. II. USA: Revelation Insight Publishing. p. 459

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