We see Jesus telling in John 14:10 the following:

Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me? The words I say to you, I do not speak on My own. Instead, it is the Father dwelling in Me, performing His works.

The statement of Jesus is not easy to comprehend. From the limits of perception that geometry allows us, if 'A' is in 'B' then 'B' needs to be larger than 'A', but then 'B' cannot be in 'A' for the very reason that 'B' is larger than 'A'. But, faith transcends geometry! Suppose the disciples wanted Jesus to explain the statement in simple terms, how would he oblige them? Unfortunately, the Gospels do not give us an explanatory statement. My question therefore, is: If a non-believer asks a Christian to explain John 14:10, how would the latter oblige? Inputs from any denomination are welcome.

  • 3
    I think that your question stems from the fundamentally flawed assumption that "in" means "entirely encompassed by", i.e. inside. That's not an inference that we can make in either English or Greek. Let's say that you put some peanut butter in some chocolate and mixed it a bit. The peanut butter could be in the chocolate as well as the chocolate in the peanut butter. If you mixed them up rather well, you could even say that both are "one". So, it's not a geometry problem but a grammatical misunderstanding.
    – DKing
    Commented Oct 27, 2022 at 13:24
  • We have a Biblical Hermeneutics site that deals with the interpretation of Bible passages. Commented Oct 27, 2022 at 15:35
  • I've made an edit because the way the Q stood, it could violate Stack requirements that answers have to be confined to an identified group, not just all Christians, all denominations. Roll back if you disagree, of course.
    – Anne
    Commented Oct 27, 2022 at 17:04
  • You are most welcome, Anne . Please feel free to modify the text of the Question also. Commented Oct 28, 2022 at 6:18
  • Can you please clarify what you mean by "a non-believer"? Do you mean someone who does not believe God exists, or that Jesus was the Son of God who came to earth? Or is this question aimed at explaining the meaning of John 14:10 to people of different faiths who do not understand the relationship between God the Father and His Son Christ Jesus?
    – Lesley
    Commented Oct 29, 2022 at 7:04

4 Answers 4


As a Trinitarian Christian, I have been asked just such a question, but my answer depends on who asked me, and why. A Muslim asking that question would need to have their own understanding of Jesus clarified by them first. If they said they believed what the 12 verses in the Qur'an say about Jesus, then I would know that they consider Trinitarian Christians to be kafirs - 'unbelievers, i.e. infidels'. Then I would need to prepare the ground for them understanding that I was a believer, and what Jesus meant by calling God his Father, as Muslims deprecate the idea that God is Father.

If the person asking me that question was a Jehovah's Witness or LDS, I would also need to prepare the ground first, by clarifying what Jesus' incarnation on earth, as a human, involved regarding being the representative of the Father and at that time being a little lower than the angels. Those who believe Jesus was created and had a starting point in time are not Trinitarians, with that belief being a huge impediment to them understanding Jesus' words, as in that verse.

If the person asking me that question was an atheist (unlikely, I know) there could likewise be no going straight into the verse. Also with a Hindu or a Buddhist asking that question. Their beliefs (or lack of belief) would be a huge barrier to them understanding the answer. Therefore, a few probing questions would need to be answered by them first, before I could decide on the best explanation of the text, so that they would have a good chance of understanding that explanation. When there are semantic difficulties involved, those have to be sorted out at the outset.

Really, the only way I could oblige with an answer to that question, with a non-believer, would be to first explore where they were 'coming from', religiously, and what might be preventing them understanding a Trinitarian answer that shows the supernatural unity of the Father and the Son. That would have to be cleared up first, then the text explored. Geometry and Set Theory just would not come into it, as far as I was concerned!

  • 1
    Up-voted +1. Excellent response. We do not testify in a vacuum. We always need to be sensitive to the spiritual progress and understanding (or otherwise) of the recipient. It is very noticeable that Jesus responded to the spiritual state of those who approached him and answered them accordingly.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Oct 28, 2022 at 19:18
  • Just to be sure - are you labelling JW's UNbelievers because they are not trinitarian?
    – steveowen
    Commented Oct 29, 2022 at 6:32
  • @steveowen No, I am saying that they are not Trinitarian Christians because they not only disbelieve the Trinity doctrine, but actively dispute it (which they are free to do). They do believe in God, and in Jesus Christ as the first of God's creation, and they claim they uphold the Bible (but all JWs must agree with their leaders interpretation of doctrine). It's an interesting exercise, comparing JW belief with orthodoxly Christian belief, which I've done over a few decades. There is, however, no question but that they deny being either Protestants or Catholics.
    – Anne
    Commented Oct 29, 2022 at 9:37
  • I don't think that was what the Q was about. Someomne who doesn't believe in God - period, is the focus. Not anyone who isn't trinitarian!
    – steveowen
    Commented Oct 29, 2022 at 10:09
  • 1
    @steveowen I would label them unbelievers and you as well not on the basis of being a trinitarian, but denying the deity of Jesus Christ. At Matthew 16:13 Jesus said to His disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" Peter replies at vs16, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus says, flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My father who is in heaven." Obviously the Father revealed to Peter that Jesus was the coming Messiah/the anointed One. But why did the Father reveal that Jesus was the Son of the living God? Hint: It has something to do with John 14:10.
    – Mr. Bond
    Commented Oct 29, 2022 at 23:15

By analogy in Set Theory:

Set A is a set that contains Set B

Set B is a set that contains Set A

In this case both sets are of size 1, however it does not matter as a set can contain sets of larger sizes

  • 1
    I think the point here is that "needs to be larger than" in the question is incorrect, and should be "needs to be not smaller than". As worded, the question eliminates, wihtout justification, the possibility of their being the same size. Commented Oct 28, 2022 at 2:00
  • @RayButterworth I'm formerly a mathematician type. It's actually understandable that a geometric analogy creates problems, and so set theory to the rescue Commented Oct 28, 2022 at 2:16

I am a mathematical dunce and have zero concept of geometry. To understand what Jesus meant, first we have to understand who, and what God the Father is.

I would explain (to a non-believer) that Jesus, the man born with flesh, blood and bones, was not physically “in” his Father. That’s because his Father, who is in heaven, is Spirit (John 4:24). Jesus was on earth.

To understand what Jesus meant, we need to go back to his words in John 10:30 where he told the unbelieving Jews that he and his Father are one. Not one physically, but one in perfect harmony, who live in perfect oneness. When Jesus spoke those words the Father was in heaven and the Son was on earth.

The Greek word translated here in English as “one” is neuter and means “one thing”, not “one person”.

The two are one in essence or nature, but they are not identical persons.

Jesus is referring to spiritual concepts, not physical materials. The application of geometrical principles is useless.


Going by the context you have Philip (vs8) asking Jesus to show him God the Father. Jesus at (vs9) was somewhat saddened by Philip's dullness, and His words imply it.

V10, "Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works." Vs11, "Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe on account of the works themselves."

What's interesting is the fact that Jesus had talked publicly about this very thing at John 10:7-38, "If I do not the works of My Father do not believe Me; vs38, but if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, (Why?) that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I am in the Father."

So on what basis or in what sense is the Father in Jesus and Jesus is in the Fater? It starts at John 10:30 when Jesus said, "I and the Father are one." The Jews reacted to this statement at vs31, "The Jews took up stones again to stone Him." At vs32, Jesus ask why? "I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?"

Vs33, "The Jews answered Him, "For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God."

Getting back to John 14, verse 9, Jesus says, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how do you say, "Show us the Father?" Jesus is NOT teaching He is God the Father here. The Father has no separate manifestation from the Son. The Son is the only manifestation and revelation of the Father. What is known of the Father is revealed through the Son.

To see the Son is to see the essence of the Father, (John 1:1,18; John 10:30. John 12:45, Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:30. Going back to John 10:30 the verse literally says, "I and the Father we are one." It is a neuter number to indicate equality of essence, attributes, design, will, work.

"One" (meaning "one thing," only excluding personal identity. Jesus distinguishes the "I" from these words, thus separating the persons within the Godhead. One asserts their unity of essence or nature as identical. It's already a given that the Father are one in purpose and work.

This is brought out at John 10:25-29 where Jesus explains that the sheep are safe in His hands and in the Father's hands. In short, the mutual indwelling of the Father and the Son are equal.

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