John 10:30 is a common proof-text for Trinitarians and others who assert Jesus' equality with the Father.

It is

"I and the Father are one."

at which the hostile Jews around him pick up stones to kill him, because they believe He is blaspheming and 'declaring himself God' (10:33).

Yet, just before 10:30, at 10:29 Jesus says

"My Father who has given them to Me is greater than all."

The 'all' seems to refer to everyone other than the Father, and suggests Jesus is not co-equal with the Father despite them being 'one' in at least some sense.

How do those who interpret John 10:30 as a claim to full divine equality by Jesus also interpret John 10:29 in which He says, in the previous sentence, that the Father is greater than all?

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    Well, they explained why they were stoning him and he didn't defend himself. Instead he said that if they were okay with the Scripture referring to the men that the word came to as gods how can they say that the sanctified one blasphemes by saying "I am the Son of God". Then he pointed to his works. He was separating himself from mere men in this encounter. Jun 8, 2022 at 0:08
  • @MikeBorden Right, he's saying he's more warranted to titles like 'gods' than those in Ps 82. But doesn't he defend himself when he says "How then can you accuse Me of blasphemy"? Jun 8, 2022 at 0:18
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    What I mean is that he doesn't deny their accusation "that thou, being a man, makest thyself God" but instead asks how they can consider it blasphemy given his works and what Scripture says. Jun 8, 2022 at 13:08
  • @MikeBorden "instead asks how they can consider it blasphemy" Consider what blasphemy? He re-characterizes their claim as a claim to be the Son of God. He neither denies nor confirms their statement about 'declaring yourself to be God/god/divine'. Jun 8, 2022 at 18:03
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    “I and the Father are one.” From John 10:30. Also seems related to John 17:21 “that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” So although they are all “one” or in unity, they are not all equal or equivalent. And also Mark 10:8 about a man and his wife “And the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh.” And still the man is the head of a wife (Ephesians 5:22-24, 1 Corinthians 11:3). Also here unity does not mean equality.
    – Hjan
    Jun 9, 2022 at 17:21

2 Answers 2


How do those who interpret John 10:30 as a claim to full divine equality by Jesus also interpret John 10:29, which says the Father is greater?

Jesus has two natures, one human and the other divine. Here he is speaking through his human nature.

Blessed be the holy Trinity and undivided Unity; we will give glory to him, because he has shown his mercy to us.

Trinity Sunday falls on the Sunday following the Feast of Pentecost (June 12 of this year 2022). That is this Sunday!

Trinity Sunday is celebrated in all the Western liturgical churches: Roman Catholicism , Anglicanism, Lutheranism, Presbyterianism, and others.

Why Does Jesus Say That the Father Is Greater Than He If the Members of the Trinity Are Equal?

A common question arising around the time of Trinity Sunday is rooted in this passage from John’s Gospel:

If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I (Jn 14:28).

This is somewhat puzzling because we are taught that each Divine Person of the Blessed Trinity fully possesses the nature of God and is equally to be adored and glorified. What, then, did Jesus mean when He said, “the Father is greater than I”?

The most common (and correct) answer is that in this passage Jesus was speaking in reference to His human nature, in which He is inferior to the Father; in His divine nature He is equal to the Father. Many of the Church Fathers spoke in this way. For example,

St Augustine said, Let us acknowledge then the twofold substance of Christ, the divine, which is equal to the Father, and the human, which is inferior. But Christ is both together, not two, but one Christ: else the Godhead is a quaternity, not a Trinity. Wherefore He says, If ye loved Me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go to the Father; for human nature should exult at being thus taken up by the Only Begotten Word, and made immortal in heaven; at earth being raised to heaven, and dust sitting incorruptible at the right hand of the Father. Who, that loves Christ, will not rejoice at this, seeing, as he doth, his own nature immortal in Christ, and hoping that He Himself will be so by Christ (Quoted in the Catena Aurea at John 14:28).

Didymus the Blind said, When he says “greater” he indicates that his divinity can be equaled to the Father, since he is of the same substance as him, but the Father is greater because the Son accepted a body…The Son’s nature is understood to be less than that of the Father inasmuch as the Son became man (Fragments on John at 14). Hilary of Poitiers said, By the birth of the Son the Father is constituted greater … in that the Son, born of the Father, after assuming an earthly body, is taken back to the glory of the Father (On the Trinity, 9:56).

Theodoret of Cyr had Jesus speak, saying, Sometimes therefore I, [Jesus] say that I am equal to the Father, and at other times say that the Father is greater than I. I am not contradicting myself, but I am showing that I am God and a human being … If you want to know how the Father is greater than I, I was talking from the flesh, not from the person of the Divinity (Dialogue 1:56).

Thus, the first answer is clear: As God, Jesus is equal to the Father, but as Man, He is inferior to the Father.

In a qualified way, however, it is also possible to speak of a particular greatness of the Father even within the Trinity. While all three persons of the Trinity are co-eternal, co-equal, and equally divine, the Father is the Principium Deitatis (the Source in the Deity). So, although the members of the Trinity are all equal in dignity, there are processions in the Trinity. The Father is the Principium, the Son eternally proceeds from Him and is eternally begotten by Him (Jn 8:42); the Holy Spirit eternally proceeds from the Father and the Son as from one principal (Jn 15:26).

Thus, even from the perspective of His divinity it is possible for Jesus to say, “I delight that the Father is the eternal principal of my being. Even though I have no origin in time, I do eternally proceed from Him.”

St. Thomas Aquinas speaks poetically of the Trinity in the familiar hymn “Tantum Ergo”:

Genitori, Genitoque … Procedenti ab utroque … compar sit laudautio.

(To the One Who Begets, and to the Begotten One, and to the One who proceeds from them both, be equal praise.)

So, although the Persons of the Trinity are equal, the processions within the Trinity do have an order. The Father is “greater” in the very qualified sense that He is the Principium Deitatis, the Principal of the Deity, but is co-eternal and equal in dignity to the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Devotionally, Jesus may also be speaking of the Father as greater in the sense that He always does what pleases His Father. Jesus loves His Father; He’s crazy about Him. He is always talking about Him and pointing to Him. By calling the Father “greater,” Jesus says (in effect), “I look to my Father for everything. I do what I see Him doing (Jn 5:19) and what I know pleases Him (Jn 5:30). As God, we share one will; as human, my human will and His will are one. What I will to do proceeds from Him. I do what I know accords with His will.”

  • +1 I like that you refer to John 14:28, which makes this idea a theme in John, and so it should probably be explained more generally and then applied to John 10:29. Mind-bending stuff! Jun 8, 2022 at 18:10

1. It's a paradoxical statement

Such a statement is constructed for effect, and careful consideration of whether you have a contradiction, or why one statement takes priority is mandated at such times. There should be no presumption of which statement takes priority.

2. The Reflexive Exception

Obviously, the Father is not greater than Himself. 'All' actually means 'All others', or 'All other beings'. The potential for equality would extend to any person who is the same God as Him. However, in this case, we don't argue this, because:

3. Jesus laid his glory by, as per Hebrews 2

Hebrews 2:7-9 speaks of Jesus having been made lower than the angels, emptied himself, etc as a temporary state of affairs. Argue the details how you like, while incarnated there was at least one sense in which he was less than his past and future glorious states, in which he is equal with the Father.

Note that this doesn't prove equality but it conclusively debunks any contradiction here; if y > x, and x < z, z = y is entirely possible. Let the incarnated, pre Resurrection Jesus be analagous to x, the Father analagous to y, and glorified Jesus analagous to z.

  • +1 I like this exploration of these possibilities. But Hebrews sure sounds like it isn't arguing Jesus = God Almighty (even Hebrews 1 where it possibly calls Jesus 'ho theos' has this theos in turn having a theos and being anointed by that theos - strange stuff if one is God Almighty), rather that he's simply higher than the angels. Sure, it's compatible with Trinitarianism in a general sense, but sure doesn't sound like what one would argue if one believed Trinitarianism. Instead, you'd cut straight to the chase, no? But that's another issue! Jun 8, 2022 at 18:17
  • @OneGodtheFather Anyone who just cut to the chase regarding the Trinity would end up spouting some big paradoxes....come to think of it, just like John 10! Or Hebrews 1, or John 1. I think you have it backwards; you can't even explain it directly without. PS Regarding scope, you ask about supposed problems, so I write answers relating specifically to those problems. Jun 8, 2022 at 20:30
  • "Anyone who just cut to the chase regarding the Trinity would end up spouting some big paradoxes....come to think of it, just like John 10! Or Hebrews 1, or John 1" Are you arguing Hebrews cuts to the chase or not, then? Jun 8, 2022 at 23:04
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    Less so than Jesus in John 10 or John in John 1, but sure, that's why it's upfront at the beginning. Have the last word; I'm not doing extended discussion in comments. Jun 8, 2022 at 23:15
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    Comments are made for man, not man for comments. ;) Jun 8, 2022 at 23:32

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