A Look at Three Passages Oneness Pentecostals Use to Demonstrate Jesus is the Father
by Michael R. Burgos
Oneness Pentecostals have attempted to marshal evidence that “Jesus is the Father” by appealing to only a handful of biblical texts. This attempt itself divulges the weakness of the Oneness assertion since out of the entirety of the NT, Oneness Pentecostals can find less than half a dozen texts which teach the foundational assertion of their Christology. The classic text Oneness adherents point to is Isaiah 9:6. I have written on this text at length elsewhere,1 demonstrating that the phrase “eternal father” (Heb. avi ab) no more identifies the Messiah as God the Father than say, the biblical names Abijam (“father of light”) or Abigail (“father of joy”). Rather, the appellation “father of eternity” is intended to characterize the Son of God as having something Oneness Pentecostals deny, namely, an eternal existence.
The second most utilized of these “Jesus is the Father” texts is John 14:6-18. The difficulty Oneness adherents face with this text is twofold: First, in order to understand this passage to teach that Jesus is the Father, one would have to atomize the text and divorce it from the balance of the NT. Take for instance the parable of the wicked tenants in Luke 20:9-18; Matt. 21:33-46; Mark 12:1-12. In this parable Jesus depicts himself as one who is numerically and personally distinct both in terms of his sending and death. Second, in order to derive the notion that “Jesus is the Father” from John 14, one would have to omit those many portions of the chapter which explicitly depict Jesus as being personally distinct from the Father. For example, in v. 2 Jesus states that he will go and prepare a place for his disciples at his Father’s house, in v. 12 Jesus states again that he is going to his Father, in v. 13 Jesus states that the Father will be glorified in the Son, and in v. 16 Jesus states that he will ask the Father for another helper, namely, the precious Holy Spirit. How then do orthodox interpreters understand statements like, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (v. 9)? Historically, Christians have understood this text to indicate the fact that Jesus is the perfect and final Revealer of God. This is why John characterizes the Son as God the Word. So too, this is precisely the same reason why the author of Hebrews depicts the Son as God as the perfect revelation of God to man and the exact imprint of the Father’s nature.2 Hence, a consistent interpretation of John 14 indicates that Philip needed no other revelation of the Father since Jesus is the co-equal God who makes the Father known.3
The other main passage utilized by Oneness adherents is 1 John 3:1-5. V. 2 states, “Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” Similarly, v. 5 states, “You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.” Oneness interpreters argue that because the immediate antecedent is God the Father (vv. 1-2), this subsequently implies that the Father (i.e., Jesus) appeared to take away sins. However, the means by which one determines the subject of a pronoun is the pronoun’s antecedent or postcedent. The pronoun in 3:2 is linked topically and contextually to the pronouns in 2:28-29:
And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.
That the subject of 2:28-29 is Jesus the Son is clear since v. 18 begins a section on antichrists and those who deny Jesus Christ and by implication, deny the Father. The verb phaneroō occurs nine times in this epistle and every single time it refers to the Son.4 Additionally, the statement in v. 25, “And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life” undoubtedly refers to the many places wherein Jesus promised eternal life to those who believed in both himself and the one who sent him.5 Moreover, while the Son of God is the indirect antecedent in chapter 2, and he is the immediate postcedent in v. 8. In v. 8 phaneroō is again applied to the Son. Thus, a more consistent reading recognizes that John did not imply that Jesus is the Father, but that John assumed his readers would know better than to conflate the identity of the Father and Son.
In conclusion, the few NT passages Oneness Pentecostals call upon to demonstrate that “Jesus is the Father” demonstrate only a flawed hermeneutic. The only exegetical method which affords the Oneness reading of these texts is the one which presupposes Oneness Pentecostalism from the outset.
1 Against Oneness Pentecostalism: An Exegetical-Theological Critique, 2nd Ed., (Winchester: Church Militant Pub., 2016), 98-101.
2 Heb. 1:1-3.
3 John 5:28; 1:18 resp.
4 1 John 1:2; 2:19; 2:28; 3:2; 3:5; 3:8; 4:9.
5 John 3:15; 3:36; 5:24; 12:44; 20:31; cf. John 17:5; 1 John 5:9-13.