The Trinitarian Claim
Trinitarians claim that Thomas himself is identifying Jesus as "God."
The Claim vs. The Facts
The Scriptural facts show us that Thomas was confessing what Jesus had taught him - to see Jesus is to see the Father (14:10-11; 12:44-45). That human flesh named Jesus declares the Father (1:18). In fact, the entire point of the Gospel of John is to illustrate how the man Jesus made God the Father known.
The Problems with the Claim
1. What Thomas finally believed: Jesus had Risen from the dead
The Trinitarian interpretation is based on the notion that Thomas took this opportunity to declare Jesus is his God. However, this interpretation defies the context. The account is not about Thomas doubting who Jesus was but whether Jesus was alive from the dead. Thomas had doubted his Lord's resurrection and declared he would not believe he had risen until he had seen Jesus for himself. In verse 27, Jesus tells Thomas to see the wounds in his hand and side proving that he was indeed risen from the dead. Thomas' response to Jesus in verse 28 is based on finally believing that Jesus had indeed risen from the dead. Jesus then responds to Thomas in verse 29 saying that he was blessed to finally believe because he had seen him. Jesus' response refers to the fact that Thomas had finally believed he had risen from the dead. Trinitarians read verse 29 as if Jesus is blessing Thomas for believing he is his God. However, the entire point of the passage is that Thomas had finally believed Jesus had risen from the dead.
For some reason, this fact is completely lost on Trinitarians when they read the passage. They read verse 29 as if Jesus blessed Thomas for declaring he is God when the entire point of the passage is that Thomas finally believed Jesus rose from the dead. This disconnect is likely due to the fact that the typical Trinitarian has no idea why Thomas would say "My Lord and my God" in response to finally believing Jesus had risen from the dead. That fact alone demonstrates they simply do not know what is going on.
2. A Seriously Flawed Assumption
The Trinitarian interpretation is also based upon a very defective assumption. Trinitarians suppose that since Thomas said these words TO Jesus, then he must have taken this opportunity to declare that Jesus is his God ("my God"). However, as the following passage demonstrates, this assumption is highly flawed.
From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, "God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to you." But Jesus turned and said to Peter, "Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God but upon the things of men."
If we interpreted the above passage in the very same manner as Trinitarians interpret John 20:28, we would then be required to conclude Peter is Satan himself. But this is obviously incorrect. Even though Jesus said these words directly TO Peter, we know it does not mean Peter is Satan himself. Hence, we must inquire whether a similar situation may be taking place at John 20:28.
The text says Thomas said these words to Jesus. It does not say that Thomas "called" Jesus "God."
3. The Surrounding Context
The immediate context militates against the Trinitarian claim. In the preceding context, Jesus describes his Father as his God and Mary's God rather than identifying himself as her God. In the following context, John indicates that he wrote this Gospel, including the account of Jesus and Thomas, not to tell us that Jesus is himself God but so that we might believe that Jesus is God's son:
We have seen the Lord. (20:25).
I ascend to my Father and your Father, and my God and your God. (20:17)
These things have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God and that believing you may have life in his name. (20:31).
The Trinitarian interpretation of verse 28 disregards and defies these contextual facts.
4. The Significance of the Greek Grammar
Thomas literally said to Jesus, "the Lord of me and the God of me." Now if Thomas had said, "the Lord and God of me," the Trinitarian claim would carry much more weight. The latter statement would be the kind of language you would normally use in Greek to refer to one person as both your Lord and your God. But this is not the language Thomas used. He used a language convention which Greek speakers would use when they wanted to refer to TWO persons, "the Lord of me and the God of me."
Verse 17 is also highly significant here. Jesus says he will ascend to "the Father of you and Father of me and God of you and God of me." This is the kind of language a Greek speaker would use if he wanted to refer to just one person. He did not say he will ascend to, "the Father of you and the Father of me and the God of you and the God of me." This fact tells us that John was definitively selective about his language structures and would use the verse 17 language structure when he wanted to refer to one person. John did not use this "one person" language structure when he wrote John 20:28. He does not record Thomas as saying, "the Lord and God of me." Rather, he used the language structure used by Greek speakers to refer to two persons, "the Lord of me and the God of me." Additionally, it is also significant that Thomas did not say, "the Lord and the God of me." Rather, he said, "the Lord of me and the God of of me."
Compare the following two verses. If the first verse below refers to two persons, what about the second?
This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. 1 Jn 2:22
Thomas answered and said to him, "the Lord of me and the God of me." Jn 20:28
However, this language structure is occasionally used in Scripture when referring to one person. For example, it is sometimes used to draw a distinction between two different roles that one person might serve (see John 13:13-14). So even though this is the language construction used by Greek speakers to refer to more two persons, this fact alone does not make it certain. Therefore, we must ask ourselves if there is additional information in our Bible which demonstrates Thomas was referring to two persons. And the answer to that question is, "Yes, there is additional information in the Scriptures which demonstrates that Thomas was referring to two persons."
5. Thomas' God vs. Jesus Christ's God
Trinitarians here unwittingly betray themselves as polytheists. Their claim implicitly indicates the God of Thomas and the God of Jesus are not the same God. Thomas' God is Jesus but Jesus Christ's God is NOT Jesus but someone else (and in their own doctrine they admit the Father is not the Son and vice versa). But somehow, the obvious consequences of their claims never ever seem to occur to them.
Trinitarians seem to be completely blind to the fact that any mention of the true God is necessarily a reference to Jesus Christ's God. This is inescapable since there is only one God. So when Thomas says, "my God" he is necessarily referring to Jesus Christ's God, that is, the Father.
I ascend to my Father and your Father and my God and your God
That Thomas' God and Jesus Christ's God are identical and that he is necessarily referring to Jesus Christ's God when he says "my God" is an inescapable since there is only one God. And indeed, Jesus had just affirmed the fact of their common God at John 20:17. Therefore, Thomas is necessarily referring to the Father. And that fact speaks directly to what the entire Gospel of John is about - "He who has seen ME has seen the FATHER."
6. The Holy Spirit Proceeds from THE FATHER
at John 20:28, Jesus had risen from the dead but Thomas would not believe this unless he had seen Jesus for himself. Now, carefully compare these verses:
When the Paraclete comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of Truth which proceeds from THE FATHER John 15:26
And when Jesus had said this, he showed them hi hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced having seen the Lord. So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. Just as the Father has sent me, I also send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. John 20:21-22
In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in me, and I in you. John 14:20 (see 14:9-11).
Jesus breathed the Spirit out from himself yet he already promised them that it would be the Spirit which proceeds from THE FATHER. "In that day, you will know..." Thomas knew. Jesus was in the Father and the Father was in Jesus.
Analysis of the Facts
1. The Context: Seeing and Believing
But Thomas called Didymus, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” After eight days his disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see my hands and reach here and put your hand into my side and do not be unbelieving, but believing.” Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are they who do not see, and yet believe.” 20:24-29
The context of John 20:28 involves the theme of seeing and believing. The risen Jesus had already appeared to the disciples but Thomas was not present. So when they declared they had seen Jesus, Thomas declared he would not believe Jesus had risen until he had seen Jesus for himself complete with the wounds in his hands and side. Jesus then appeared to Thomas and said, "Reach here with your finger, and see my hands, and reach here your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believing." And after Thomas responded to him, Jesus responds back to Thomas, "Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are they who do not see, and yet believe." It is quite clear that seeing and believing is the point of this account.
2. Seeing and Believing: What Jesus had taught Thomas and the disciples
At the end of John 13, Jesus informs his disciples that he is going away and they become very troubled. But he tells them not to be troubled for they know they way. But they are still confused so Jesus explains:
And you know the way where I am going.” Thomas said to him, "Lord, we do not know where you are going, how do we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him." Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us." Jesus said to him, "Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father."
The context of John 20:28 is seeing and believing. Jesus had taught Thomas and his disciples about seeing and believing. To see Jesus was not to see just one person but two persons: (1) Jesus their Lord, and (2) their God and Father. Jesus also explained to them precisely HOW they had seen the Father. In the next breath, Jesus said, "the Father abiding in me does the works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, otherwise believe because of the works themselves." (14:10-11). At John 12:44-45, Jesus made a similar declaration to the Jews where he said that to see/believe him was to see/believe the One who sent him. To know Jesus was to know the Father; to believe in Jesus was to believe in the Father; to see Jesus was to see the Father. This is because Jesus was sent by the Father to speak and do works in his Father's name. And even moreso, it was the Father abiding in him that did the works. In this way, Jesus was the Father's Word of Truth. And in this way, Jesus explains, they had seen the Father when they had seen Jesus.
At John 1:18, John tells us that no one has ever seen God but the only begotten in the bosom of the Father declares/explains HIM. This is precisely what Jesus is talking about in John 14 when he teaches his disciples about seeing and believing. To see Jesus is to see the Father. To see Jesus is to see not just one person but two persons.
|Jesus Teaches about Seeing and Believing
|He who BELIEVES in ME
|[BELIEVES] in HIM who sent me.
| He who SEES ME
|SEES HIM who sent me
|He who has SEEN ME
|has SEEN THE FATHER.
The text says Thomas said these words to Jesus. The text does not say that Thomas "called" Jesus "God."
Why then would Thomas say these words to Jesus? We are explicitly told why by Jesus in the Gospel of John. To see Jesus was to see someone else: his Father. To see Jesus was to see not just one person but two. And that is precisely what Thomas is confessing at John 20:28.
3. In that Day you will know
Carefully compare these two teachings from Jesus:
He who has seen me has seen the Father; how can you say, "Show us the Father"? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in me? (14:9-10).
In that Day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. (14:20).
Jesus is telling us disciples that they would fully realize the truth of this matter "on that Day." That day is when he rose from the dead. "After a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you will live also. In that day you will know I am in my Father. (14:19-20). He also taught them that the Spirit would remind them of everything he had just taught them (14:26). On that Day, the disciples would know that Jesus was in the Father.
And again, Jesus had breathed the Spirit into his disciples, that same Spirit which he said proceeds from THE FATHER and which he would send to them. This happened because he was raised in the Spirit and glory of the Father when God raised him from the dead. The Lord IS the Spirit (2 Cor 3:17; 1 Cor 14:45) and for that reason, he could breathe the Spirit out from himself, the Spirit that proceeds from the Father.
When we put all these facts together, the answer is clear and undeniable. To see Jesus is to see the Father. To see Jesus was to see two persons, Jesus and the Father. Jesus taught Thomas and the disciples that they would know in that Day that Jesus was in the Father. The reason for Thomas' words is clearly explained in the Scriptures in this selfsame Gospel of John.
Since there is only one God, Thomas was necessarily referring to Jesus Christ's God when he said, "my God." When all the evidence is honestly weighed, there is simply no doubt that Thomas was affirming Jesus' earlier teaching to him, that to see and believe in Jesus was to see and believe in the Father, the God of Jesus, the God of Thomas (20:17). Jesus himself tells us in this Gospel that he declared/explained the Father in terms of everything he said and did. John tells us the same thing - Jesus came so that we might know the Father, the true God (1 John 5:20). He is the Way to the Father and through Him we know the Father. Jesus explained that they saw the Father when they saw Jesus because the Father abiding in him did the works (14:9-10). How much more then was the Father abiding in that dead body which had the Father had risen from the dead by the power of His Holy Spirit which proceeds from THE FATHER and which Jesus breathed into his disciples (see 20:21-22). Since seeing Jesus meant seeing the Father, Thomas said to Jesus, "My Lord and my God. Thomas is confessing what the entire Gospel of John is about. Jesus made the Father known to the people of the world. The only begotten declares/explains the Father. For that reason, to see Jesus is to see the Father. To see the Lord Jesus is to see the Father, our God, and Jesus Christ's God.
Blessed are you Thomas. Because you have seen, you have believed. John 20:29
He who believes in me, does not believe in me but in Him who sent me.
He who sees me sees Him who sent me. John 12:44-45
My Lord and my God.
Last Revision/Update: June 11, 2018