Nature of the Divine Unity

Is the nature and unity of the Son and the Father clear from John 10:30?

By L. L. CAVINESS, Professor of Biblical Languages, Pacific Union College

Nature of the Divine Unity

In John 10:30 we read Christ's own words.

He said, "I and My Father are one." Careful reading of the text in the English shows that the word "my" is in italics, which in the Bible means that it is a supplied word and is not in the original. The nature of the unity of the Son and the Father is not clear in the English. As far as the English is concerned, it might mean that God the Father and God the Son are one person. Here is where the reading of the original Greek text is very helpful. The Greek has three genders: masculine, feminine, and neuter. If "one" were masculine in this text, we would have the form els (heir). But that is not the case. We find that we have the form iv (hen), which is the neuter. It is hard to show this difference in any English translation, but the effect is to make it plain that the Father and the Son are not one person. The unity is one of will and purpose, but not of person. Neither can the French and Spanish versions show this difference, for they have no neuter form for "one." But Luther could show it in the German version, where we read, "I and the Father are one (eins, neuter).

The same careful distinction is maintained in Greek in the account of Christ's prayer in the upper room just before He and His disciples went out to Gethsemane. In John 17:11, 21, 22, the word "one" is in each case neuter (iv, hen), and the unity between the Father and the Son is used to illustrate the unity that is to prevail among the believers. Of course it is here plain that the unity must be one of will and purpose, not of person.

Yet it is also true that when Philip said to Jesus, "Lord, show us the Father" (John 14:8), Jesus replied, "He that bath seen Me bath seen the Father." John 14:9. Yet in John 1:18 we read, "No man has seen God at any time." The explanation is found in Colossians 1:15 and in other scriptures, where the Son is said to be the image (e6iz6p, eikon) of God. The matter is carried a little farther in Hebrews 1:13, where the Son is said to be "the express image of His person" (charakter tes ha­postaseos) . This is the only occurrence of the Greek word (charakter) in the Bible, but one recognizes the origin of our English word "character." The first definition of "character" in Webster's dictionary is "a sign or token placed upon an object to indicate some special fact; as ownership or origin." On the other hand, 157007-cio-ews, (hupostaseos) occurs in some form in our English Bible five times, namely, "confidence," twice (2 Cor. 11:17; Heb. 3:14); "confident," once (2 Cor. 9:4) ; "sub­stance," once (Heb. 11:1) ; and "person," once (Heb. 1:3). The root meaning of the Greek word is that which stands under. In the papyri, the word  hupostasis occurs with the sense of that which lies under the ownership of property, namely, a title deed. The English translation of Hebrews 1:3 would be nearer the original etymology if it had read that the Son is "the character of His substance," substance being the Latin equivalent of the Greek hupostasis. An eikon (chaos), or image, has the appearance of the original, but may differ in nature; but the Son of God has the mark, or character, of the very essence of the Divine Being.

As to the relation between God and Christ, we read in "Ministry of Healing," pages 421 and 422:

"The Scriptures clearly indicate the relation between God and Christ, and they bring to view as clearly the personality and individuality of each. . . . The unity that exists between Christ and His disciples does not destroy the personal­ity of either. They are one in purpose, in mind, in character, but not in person. It is thus that God and Christ are one."


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By L. L. CAVINESS, Professor of Biblical Languages, Pacific Union College

May 1937

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