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John 5

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23 so that all will honor the Son, even as they honor the Father.  He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.

 

Commentary Jesus now reveals the reason that all judgment has been given to Him:  So that all will honor the Son just as they do the Father.  This statement must have taken the Jews' breath away.  No prophet or angel had ever uttered such words.  It seems inconceivable that any creature could ever do so.  Even a powerful angelic being or a lesser, created "god," sent to earth to represent the Father would never say that judgment had been given to him so that all would honor him equally with the Father.  Honor him, perhaps, but certainly not to the same degree as that rendered to the Almighty God who created him.  To claim equality of honor with the Father - indeed, to claim equality with the Father in any area whatsoever - is a tacit claim to equality with God.  It would be so in any context, but it is particularly cogent in one in which Jesus is answering the Jews' accusations of blasphemy (verse 18).

The claim that the Father has placed all judgment in the hands of the Son because the Father wishes all to honor the Son just as they honor Him places the Son well outside the role of a mere representative or functionary.  While ambassadors in ancient times were received as though they were the king they represented, they were not accorded equal honor, and certainly would have never claimed it for themselves.

The honor given the Son, however, does not detract from that given the Father.  The implication here is that honoring the Son also honors the Father - for while "every knee will bow" at the name of Jesus, it will be to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:9-11).  The loving unity of Father and Son, which Jesus has been explaining throughout this passage, points to the fundamental truth that the One God has revealed Himself completely in the person of His one and only Son, and this complete revelation is only possible because the Father and the Son are essentially One.  Thus, by giving all judgment to the Son, the Father wishes that all would honor the Son as they do Him - for the Father knows that His glory - which He will not share with another (Isaiah 42:8) - is not compromised when shared with His Divine Son.

This statement is followed by one even more breathtaking:  "He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him."  Jesus is making reverence of the Father dependent upon reverencing Him.  Those who would weaken the first half of this verse are still confronted by the second.  For regardless of how one might wish to understand "honor" or "even as," Jesus says here that those who do not honor Him fail to honor the Father.  We may consider whether one who honors the Father, but does not honor Abraham, or Moses, or even one of God's angels, could reasonably be said to fail to honor the Father.

In a theistic universe, such a statement belongs to one who is himself to be addressed as God (cf. 20:28) or to stark insanity.  The one who utters such things is to be dismissed with pity or scorn, or worshipped as Lord. If with much current scholarship we retreat to seeing in such material less the claims of the Son than the beliefs and witness of the Evangelist and his church, the same options confront us.  Either John is supremely deluded and must be dismissed as a fool, or his witness is true and Jesus is to be ascribed the honors due to God alone.  There is no rational middle ground (Carson, p. 255).

But all things now, and at the final judgment, are committed to the Son, purposely that all men might honour the Son, as they honour the Father; and every one who does not thus honour the Son, whatever he may think or pretend, does not honour the Father who sent him (Henry).

Grammatical Analysis `ina panteV timwsi ton`uion kathwV timwsi ton patera`o me timwn ton`uion ou tima ton patera ton pemfanta auton.

hINA PANTES TIM‘SI TON hUION KATH‘S TIM‘SI TON PATERA hO ME TIM‘N TON hUION OU TIMA TON PATERA TON PEMPHANTA AUTON.

So that all shall honor the Son just as they honor the Father.  The [one] honoring the Son honors not the Father the [one] having sent Him.

 

TIMSI

  • Honor, value (Vine).

  • To honor, to have in honor, to revere, to venerate (Thayer).

  • To honor, revere someone (BAGD).

KATH‘S 

  • According as, just as, even as (Thayer).

  • Indicating comparison, just as (BAGD).

  • Just as, in comparison to ... KATHWS hHGAPHSEN ME hO PATHR 'the same way the Father loved me' Jn 15.9 (Louw & Nida).

KATHS may have the meaning simply "as," when not followed by an explicit or implied hOUTS.  Thayer and BAGD both recognize am implied hOUTS in this verse, therefore taking the meanings indicated above.

Other Views Considered

Jehovah's Witnesses

objection:  An independent Jehovah's Witness website called The Trinity Exposed Website (TEW) wrote the following comments about this verse.  This website has since been removed, most likely in response to Watchtower guidelines regarding the Internet.  However, this argument is still current among some Witness apologists.

Beginning of TEW JOHN 5:23:

Some say that this verse implies that Jesus is Jehovah because we are instructed to "honor" the Son "just as" we honor the Father. Is this true? Because we are to honor the Son "just as" we honor the Father, does this make Jesus Jehovah? Some will say YES!! They even take it a step further. They say that the Greek word here rendered "just as" means "to the exact degree, perfectly the same." Is this true? Let's take a look.

First let it be said, that it does not say to "worship the Son just as we worship the Father." Yet , still some imagine it means this. The reality is though, that it says to "honor" the Son. What does this mean? The Greek word translated "honor" is "timao." It means to "hold in estimation, respect, honour, to revere." (The Analytical Greek Lexicon by Moulton pg. 405, Strong's Greek Dictionary pg. 72) It is also used at Matthew 15:4 of the way you should view your parents: "For example, God said, 'Honor your father and your mother'; and, 'Let him that reviles father or mother end up in death.'

Christians certainly are not to "worship" their parents are they?

Next, the Greek word translated "just as" is "kathos." Just what does this word mean? Does it mean to the "exact degree?" No. This word means "according as, in the manner that." ( Vines Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words pg. 385; The Analytical Greek Lexicon Revised 1978, by Moulton pg. 208) Notice it does not say to the same exact degree. We see proof that "kathos" literally cannot mean "to the same exact degree" in 1John 2:6 where it appears: "He that says he remains in union with him is under obligation himself also to go on walking just as that one walked."

This verse is telling us that Christians need to walk just as Christ, the perfect man walked. Now the question is: "Can anyone walk "exactly as, to the exact degree" that Jesus walked? Are we perfect? Better still, if Jesus is God, how can we walk "exactly to the same degree" as God? We cannot! Clearly then, to honor the son just as we honor the Father does not mean that Jesus is Jehovah.

End of TEW John 5:23 (copied September, 1999).

Response:  The first point raised, regarding TIMAW, is something of a red-herring.  I am unaware of any commentator of note who renders TIMAW "worship," or suggests that this verse teaches us to worship the Son just as we worship the Father (though other verses point us in that direction).  Most, however, rightly associate giving honor equally to the Father and Son as valuing, esteeming, or adoring the Father and Son equally, and thus Jesus is answering his accusers with yet another tacit claim to equality with God, though - once again - in such as way as to demonstrate His unity with the Father.  

The inseparability of the adoration of the Father from that of the Son prohibits any notion that 'next to' and 'besides' God as Father, the Son as 'a second party' must be honored as God.  For by giving all things into the hands of the Son, the Father does not retreat to a position behind the Son, but posits himself as present in the Son.  God is not two, but one (Ridderbos, p. 197).

The definitions of TIMAW provided by TEW are essentially correct, though TIMAW can carry the connotation of "valuing someone" (cf., Matthew 27:9; so Vine, Moulton & Milligan, Thayer, and BAGD).  Thus, in addition to honoring, esteeming, and reverencing the Son, it may also be that we are to value the Son just as we value the Father.  The key to interpreting the text, however, is in the term KATHWS, for if it does not mean "just as, to the same degree as," then even if TIMAW meant worship, it could still be argued that the Son is not equal with the Father.  On the other hand, if KATHWS does mean "just as, to the same degree as," then Jesus telling us to reverence the Son just as we reverence the Father is yet another proclamation of His essential equality with God.

Introducing Matthew 15:4 at this point really does nothing more that take attention away from the immediate context, for while we are indeed told to "honor" our parents, we are not told to do so "just as" we honor the Father.  Our parents do not "work" on the Sabbath, see everything their Father in Heaven is doing, do whatever the Father does, give life to whom they will, or claim all judgment has been given into their hands.  While TEW's point regarding Christians not worshipping their parents demonstrates that TIMAW does not literally mean "worship," it fails to address the difference in reverence and honor the Bible teaches us to render to our parents and that which we render to God.  We must reverence God above all others, as the Jews understood and believed; which is why Jesus' call to honor the Son just as the Father would have struck them as yet another claim to Deity.

The lexical evidence for KATHWS meaning "just as" has been presented in the Grammatical Analysis, above.  TEW's citation of Vine is incomplete, as Vine also lists "even as" under KATHWS.  Further the Watchtower's own New World Translation renders KATHWS as "just as" in both John 5:23 and 1 John 2:6.  Regarding TEW's comments on 1 John 2:6, Dave Sherrill writes: 

Our inability to attain perfection does not circumvent or short-circuit our obligation before God to strive for it. In such a situation, our sin magnifies our need for, and the glory of, our Savior. We need a Savior who can save us from our own "righteousnesses", tainted as they are by sin, as much as from our sin. Such a Savior is one we can truly honor "just as we honor the Father." Jesus Christ is such a Savior. He is the only Savior (Dave Sherrill, John 5:23, http://www.pionet.net/~cultrsch/trinityjohn.htm).

Throughout his first epistle, John exhorts us to live as Christ did.  John writes that if we are in Christ we will not continue to sin (3:6-7), we will keep His commandments (5:2), and that "love is perfected in us" (4:17).  Though we will never be completely like Christ, God promises us that He will complete the work He started in us (Philippians 1:6) and conform us to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29), so that we may - someday in Glory - live without sin, be perfect in love, and walk "just as" He walked."  Thus, KATHWS in 1 John 2:6 means precisely the same thing it does in this verse:  "Just as, even as."  Thayer and BAGD list both 1 John 2:6 and John 5:23 as examples of this meaning.

In an another book written by the Fourth Evangelist, we have a scene in which every creature renders the Father equal honor with the Son, and the context points clearly to that honor being a part of worship:

And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, "To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor [TIMH] and glory and dominion forever and ever." And the four living creatures kept saying, "Amen." And the elders fell down and worshiped (Rev 5:13-14).

We may note that in this passage, the Father and Son are distinguished from "every created thing" (PAN KTISMA - "that which is created [by God], creature [created by God] ... every creature in heaven Rv 5:13" [BAGD]).  If every creature 'created by God' honors the Father and the Son, the Son cannot be 'created by God,' as the Watchtower teaches.

Finally, the Watchtower itself teaches that both the Father and the Son should receive the "greatest honor:"

By reason of his being Creator, Jehovah God is worthy of the greatest honor from all his intelligent creatures. (Rev 4:11) ....  Whereas Jehovah God and his Son merit the greatest honor, there are relationships among humans that also call for honor (Insight 1, pp. 1135-36).  

Thus, it seems that the independent apologist who authored TEW's entry on this verse (as well as anyone who continues to advance the interpretation presented there) is somewhat out of step with the teaching of his Organization on this subject.  However, we may ask whether Witnesses who follow the Watchtower's teaching (rather than an  independent apologist) do in fact honor the Son equally with the Father, and if they do, how they reconcile giving the greatest honor to Jehovah God and to one of his creatures, given that the Watchtower says that Jehovah God is deserving of the greatest honor because He is the Creator.

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