In this series of posts I will provide a thorough exegesis of John 17:3 in light of the immediate and overall contexts of the God-breathed Scriptures to show that, far from refuting Christ’s Deity, this text actually presupposes it. Here is the verse in question along with some of its immediate context:
“Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: ‘Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself/in Your own presence, with the glory which I had with You before the world was. I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word… Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.’” John 17:1-6, 24
Now that we have quoted the context of Jesus’ words we can begin exegeting the text.
Jesus – Sovereign Lord of all flesh
The first point to notice is that Jesus says that the Father has given him authority over all flesh which is a role normally attributed to God, just as the following Apocryphal source attests:
“And the king said to him, ‘Why do you not worship Bel?’ He answered, ‘Because I do not revere man-made idols, but the living God, who created heaven and earth and has dominion over all flesh.’” Bel and the Dragon 1:5
Jesus, therefore, shares in God’s exclusive rule over all mankind. More will be said on Jesus’ reign shortly.
Jesus – The Source of Life
Secondly, Jesus not only says that eternal life is dependent on knowing the Father and the Son, thereby making himself a necessary object of saving faith, he further asserts that the Father has permitted the Son to give eternal life to every single individual that the Father gives him. The Lord Jesus repeats this exact assertion throughout the Gospel, going so far as to say that he will personally resurrect the dead from their graves at the last day just by the sound of his voice!
“For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it… I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man. Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear HIS [the Son’s] voice and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned. John 5:21, 25-29
“And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day… Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” John 6:39-40, 54
“The Jews gathered around him, saying, ‘How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.’ Jesus answered, ‘I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.’ Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, ‘I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?’ ‘We are not stoning you for any of these,’ replied the Jews, ‘but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.’” John 10:24-33
Jesus further claims to be Life itself in contexts where he says that he is also the Truth and the Resurrection:
“Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha answered, ‘I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am the Resurrection and the Life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ she told him, ‘I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.’” John 11:23-27
Jesus answered, ‘I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” John 14:6
These statements are significant in that Jesus is ascribing to himself the very functions and characteristics which the OT ascribes to Yahweh (cf. Deut. 32:39; 1 Sam. 2:2, 6; Psalm 95:6-8; Isa. 25:6-9; 43:10-13; Ezek. 37:12-14).
In fact, even Islamic theology concurs that the titles “the Truth,” “the Resurrection,” and “the Life” are some of the names of Allah which cannot be attributed to any creature. In light of this Jesus is clearly affirming to be God while also personally distinguishing himself from the Father (as well as the Holy Spirit [cf. 14:16-17, 26; 15:26; 16:7-15; 20:22]).
Jesus – The Preexistent Lord of glory
The Lord Jesus also says in his prayer that he and the Father shared the same Divine glory together before the world came into being, thereby affirming his personal preexistence! In fact, Jesus could not pray in this manner if he did not believe that he was Yahweh himself and co-equal with the Father, since Yahweh emphatically states that he will not share his glory with anyone:
“For My own sake, for My own sake, I will act; For how can My name be profaned? And My glory I will not give to another.” Isaiah 48:11
The Scriptures further attest that there is no heavenly being like Yahweh, which implies that there are none that share Yahweh’s splendor and majesty:
“Among the gods there is none like You, O Lord; Nor are there any works like Your works. All nations whom You have made Shall come and worship before You, O Lord, And shall glorify Your name. For You are great, and do wondrous things; You alone are God.” Psalm 86:8-10
“The heavens praise your wonders, O Yahweh, your faithfulness too, in the assembly of the holy ones. For who in the skies above can compare with Yahweh? Who is like Yahweh among the sons of God? In the council of the holy ones God is greatly feared; he is more awesome than all who surround him. O Yahweh God of hosts, who is like you? You are mighty, O Yahweh, and your faithfulness surrounds you.” Psalm 89:5-8
And yet Jesus says that he had (and will once again have) the same Divine glory that the Father had before the world was created!
Thus, since both the Father and the Son share the same Divine glory they must both be Yahweh God. As Evangelical Scholar Craig S. Keener explains:
17:4-5. On finishing the work see 4:34 and 19:30. The Old Testament declared that God would not give his glory to another (Is 42:8; 48:11); Jesus’ sharing the Father’s glory in this sense is a claim that he is divine. Judaism did have a category in which to understand Jesus’ divine claim here: God’s Wisdom was related to and in some sense identified with his glory (Wisdom 7:25-29). John’s Jewish Christian readers may have understood Jesus’ identity in analogous (albeit superior) terms (see comments on 1:1-18). (Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament [InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Il. 1993], pp. 304-305; underline emphasis ours)
1:1-2. Beginning like Genesis 1:1, John alludes to the Old Testament and Jewish picture of God creating through his preexistent wisdom or word. According to standard Jewish doctrine in his day, wisdom existed before creation but was itself created [sic]. By declaring that the Word “was” in the beginning, and especially by calling the Word “God” (v. 1; also the most likely reading of 1:18), John goes beyond the common Jewish conception to imply that Jesus is not created (cf. Is 43:10-11). (Ibid., p. 264; underline emphasis ours)
The following early church father said it best:
THE WORD, GOD INCARNATE. CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA: The Son, therefore, certainly is God by nature; and how then did the Father give him that “name that is above every name”? To this we say that when he was flesh, that is, human like us, he took the name of a servant and assumed our poverty and low estate. But when he had finished the mystery of the dispensation in the flesh, he was raised to the glory that belonged to him by nature, not as to something unaccustomed or strange or accrued to him externally and was given him from another, but rather as to that which was his own. For he spoke to God the Father in heaven, “Father, glorify me with the glory I had with you before the world was.” For, existing before the ages and before the worlds, as one that was of God and was God, he was clothed with the glory that belongs to the Godhead; and when he became a man, as I said, he endured neither mutation nor change but continued rather in that state in which he had constantly existed and such as the Father was who begot him, that is to say, like him in everything. HOMILIES ON THE GOSPEL OF LUKE 128. (We Believe in One Lord Jesus Christ (Ancient Christian Doctrine), edited by John Anthony McGuckin, Thomas C. Oden (series editor) [IVP Academic, Downers Grove, Il (June 30, 2009)], Volume 2, p. 4; underline emphasis ours)
With the foregoing in perspective, we are ready to proceed to the second part of my exposition https://answeringallah.com/the-lord-of-glory-an-exposition-of-john-173-pt-2/