Are Christians Monotheists? The Answer of St. John's Gospel
James F. McGrath
I. The Importance of the Question
The question which we have taken for the focus of this lecture is one that seems to be of much interest to many people in different fields: not only New Testament scholars, but also Systematic Theologians, those engaged in inter-religious dialogue, and probably many others. When Christians meet with Jews and Muslims, the oneness of God is often a point of contention and debate. In fact, recently when I was browsing the internet I did a search for the keyword monotheism and found a large number of pages that illustrate this point. For example, there was a page describing a visit of the Pope to the Middle East: when he spoke of Christians' and Muslims' common belief in one God, the crowd responded with applause. Yet I also found pages by both Christians and Muslims which argued that belief in one God is not a point which Christians and Muslims share in common: on the one hand, most Muslims feel that belief in the Trinity is not really monotheism; and on the other hand many Christians feel that belief in one God as one person (that is, without the belief that Jesus is also God) is simply not good enough. Thus, although Christians claim to be monotheists, what Christians call monotheism looks quite different from what other religions call monotheism. It is usually to John's Gospel that Christians look when they want to understand whether they are closer to Jews and Muslims who believe in one God, or to Hindus who believe in a variety of divine beings, or whether their beliefs are different from both.
Closely related to the question which we have posed is the question of the relationship between the doctrines which are regarded as orthodox by Christians throughout the world, in particular the doctrine of the Trinity, and the teaching and self-understanding of Jesus himself. For most Christians, belief in the Trinity is fundamental, whereas in the eyes of many people today - including a number of New Testament scholars - this doctrine is an aberration, a departure from the monotheism of Jesus and his first followers, one which was perhaps made under the influence of pagan converts coming into the church. Thus the question of whether the author of the Fourth Gospel perverted Christian beliefs or preserved them is at the very least a question of interest, and will very probably be for many of us a question of some urgency.
To this question, two types of answer have for the most part been given: 'No' and 'Yes, but...' I suppose I fit into the latter category, but I think you will find - if you will excuse the pun - I think you will find that I have a much smaller 'but' (that's 'but' with one 't') than most other scholars in this category. I believe that, in terms of Jewish monotheism as it existed in the first century, John was completely, undeniably and without reservations a monotheist.
II. The Evidence
Well, I've let you know what I think, but the aim of this lecture is not simply to tell you what I think, but to look together at as much of the relevant evidence as we can in such a short lecture, so that you can make up your own minds. But how does one actually go about answering such a question? If we look only at the Gospel of John, some will point to the statement 'I and the Father are one,' others will point to the statement, "The Father is greater then I," and we can quote verses at one another until we are blue in the face without making a great deal of progress. Part of the problem is that the question which we are asking can be interpreted in more than one way. For example, we can ask "Are Christians monotheists in the same sense that Muslims and Jews are monotheists?" or we can ask "Does the concept of the Trinity, which says that it is possible to believe in one God as three persons, make sense?" We can also ask whether Christians are monotheists and in fact mean whether they should be monotheists: that is to say, one interpretation of the question might be: "Does the New Testament teach monotheism, and if so, what sort of monotheism is it?" These are all valid and important questions, but in my opinion, the real question which we should be asking, and the one that will be most helpful in leading us to better understand the enigmatic Gospel of John, is how John relates to monotheism as it was understood by Jews (and also by Christians) in the first century. Only by looking at John in his own context in history will we be able to decide whether John is disagreeing with his Jewish contemporaries on the subject of monotheism, or whether he in fact would have seen eye to eye with them on this subject, if not on others.
A. First Century Jewish Monotheism
Thus before we can answer the question "Are Christians monotheists?", or even the question "Was John a monotheist?", we have to ask first "What is monotheism?" - that is, "What does a monotheist look like?" To use a metaphor from police investigations, John has been accused, by some modern readers of his Gospel, of abandoning monotheism. Before we can piece together the evidence of John's alleged crime, and decide whether he is guilty or innocent of abandoning monotheism, we first have to know what it is we are looking for. We need to interrogate some eye-witnesses and to form an 'identi-kit portrait' of what a first-century Jewish monotheist looks like, and then to see whether John matches the description.
And so, let us now turn to look at some of the evidence which is available to us concerning what many or most Jews believed about God in and around the time that John's Gospel was written. When we examine key passages in the Fourth Gospel slightly later on, we shall also consider a number of roughly contemporary Jewish writings and compare them with John's Gospel; but first, it will be helpful to see if we can get a broad overview of what first century Jews believed about God.
Today, Christians and Jews consider themselves monotheists, and monotheism means the belief that there is only one God. However, it is worth keeping in mind that the term 'monotheism' was coined relatively recently and did not exist in the first century. When first century Jews (and Christians) expressed their belief about God in their own terms, they used the phrase 'one God' or 'the only God'. What did they understand by these phrases? One thing that they certainly did not believe is that no other beings exist which might be called 'gods'. Already in the Old Testament, various figures, whether angelic heavenly beings, or human judges and kings, could be referred to as 'gods'. An excellent example of this is Ps. 82, since it is actually quoted in St. John's Gospel: It opens with the words, "God presides in the great assembly; he gives judgement among the gods." That even human beings could be called 'gods' in the Hebrew Scriptures is clear from Exodus chapters 21-22, where there are several occurrences of the Hebrew word elohim, which means 'gods.' In the New International Version, Exodus 22:8-9 reads:
If the thief is not found, the owner of the house must appear before the judges to determine whether he has laid his hands on the other man's property. In all cases of illegal possession of an ox, a donkey, a sheep, a garment, or any other lost property about which somebody says, 'This is mine,' both parties are to bring their cases before the judges. The one whom the judges declare guilty must pay back double to his neighbour.
Now I'm sure most of you are thinking, "What on earth do those verses have to do with anything?" That's a good question. What they have to do with our subject is that at the places where the New International Version, the King James Version and most modern versions translate 'judges', the Hebrew word there is elohim, which literally means 'gods.' Since the context seems to require 'judges' or 'rulers,' the translators rightly understood that here the term 'gods' refers to the judges or rulers of Israel. These are just a couple of examples, and there are many more. The term 'god' was not one that was used exclusively in the Old Testament: and so, while Israelites were commanded to worship only one God, there is clear evidence that they used the term 'god' or 'gods' to refer to other beings as well.
Judaism in the first century, which was when Christianity appeared, was no different: the term 'god' continued to be used in the same way that we saw it used in the Old Testament. In the Dead Sea Scrolls, for example, Psalm 82, which uses the Hebrew word Elohim (which, as we have already mentioned, means God or gods), is interpreted as a reference to Melchizedek, who is apparently thought of as a heavenly or angelic being. Similarly, Philo, a first century Jewish philosopher who lived in Alexandria, although he affirms adamantly that it is foolish to believe in more than one God, nonetheless refers to God's Word as a 'second God'. Thus belief in one God seems to have meant one God over all, who is unique and the source of all else that exists.
This means that the concept of God and of his relationship to the cosmos which was held by first century Jews was not entirely different from that of their pagan neighbours. Maximus of Tyre, writing in the second century, said: "In spite of all the dissension (on other matters), one finds in the whole world a unanimous opinion and doctrine that there is one God, the king and father of everything, and many gods, who are the co-regents of God. So says the Greek, so says the barbarian." Thus everyone in the ancient world, if Maximus is to be believed, held that there is one God who is above all things and the source of all things, and that under him are numerous beings, whether they are called 'gods' or 'angels' or something else, who serve God and rule over the universe on his behalf.
Now of course the question which will be in everyone's mind is: weren't Jews different? Surely they would not have regarded themselves as different from other nations if nothingdistinguished their faith from others. Of course you are absolutely right to think that. Their worldview was different from that of other peoples and religions; but the thing which made it different was not the belief that there is one God who is above all at the top of the hierarchy. What made the Jews different was their belief that only 'the one true God' at the top of the hierarchy should be worshipped. This is in fact what Israel's most famous statement of monotheism demanded: that worship be given to only one God. The closest thing to a creed in ancient Judaism was a passage which is known as the Shema: Deuteronomy 6:4, which says, "Hear O Israel, Yahweh is our God, Yahweh alone" - or in a more familiar English translation "Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord." A few verses later the practical implications of this statement of faith are spelled out, in a verse which is quoted in the New Testament, near the beginning of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke: "Worship Yahweh your God and serve him only". Josephus, a Jewish historian who was a contemporary of Jesus and John, expresses the same viewpoint: he affirms both that only one God is to be worshipped, and yet also that the idea of the nature of God which Jews hold to is also that which is taught by Plato and Pythagorus and the Stoics. While Jews worship only one God, their belief about that God is in accord with what the best philosophers had to say about God. On this topic of worship, we should mention that, in particular, it was cultic worship - that is to say, worship through sacrifice - which was reserved for only the one God. This is one reason why Jewish authors often connected belief in one God with the fact that there is only one Temple: many temples corresponds to the worship of many gods, whereas Jews believed that only one God is worthy of worship, and thus have only one Temple.
The one true God at the top of the pile was also distinguished from others in that he was uncreated, whereas all other beings had come into existence. This might seem straightforward enough, but in fact we must remember that in the first century Jews and Christians did not believe in creation out of nothing. God was believed to have created out of 'non-being', but that 'non-being' was understood as unformed, shapeless, chaotic matter. This was the view of the world and of creation prevalent in the ancient world, and there is no evidence that Christians moved away from it prior to the second or third century. Thus God was believed to have created the world out of chaos, that is, out of formless matter, much as a sculptor takes the formless, shapeless raw material of clay or stone and proceeds to make it into something.
For the Jewish philosopher Philo, as for many philosophers of the time, God's Word or Logos bridged the gap between God and creation. In fact, Philo describes the Word as "neither created nor uncreated." This may sound like gibberish to us today, but for Philo, and probably for many others in his time, it made sense in terms of their worldview. The Word was part of God, since it existed within him before it came forth, and yet it was distinct from God and could come into contact with the material world. The Word bridged the gap between the transcendent God and the creation. And so, although certain religious practices, such as cultic worship, distinguished Israel's one God from all other beings, no clear separation was made, no hard and fast dividing line was drawn, between God and creation. The Word was the only boundary marker, but the edges were blurred, since the Word was "neither created nor uncreated", being both the Word of God himself, and yet also being described as if a separate being. There was thus, in the mind of first century Jews and non-Jews alike, a hierarchy of being, with God on top, then his Word or Wisdom or powers, then angels and heavenly beings, then humans, lions, slugs, mosquitoes, and whatever else, but without a clear-cut, sharply-drawn dividing line being drawn to distinguish God from creation or even different levels on the hierarchy from one another. In a sense, the Word was the dividing line, and as such stood on both sides of the gap between the transcendent God and his creation.
To sum up, then, first century Jews believed that there was one God who was above all, the creator of all, who was distinguished from other beings in being alone worthy of worship and in being the sole ruler of all things, whose will, ultimately, is always realized.
B. Johannine Monotheism
With these things in mind, we may now turn to St. John's Gospel, to compare it with the writings of some of his Jewish contemporaries. The best place to begin is usually at the beginning, and so in turning to John we may look first of all at the prologue, the hymn-like passage found in John 1:1-18. The opening line, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God," is obviously of crucial importance for answering the question which we are examining, namely the question: was the author of St. John's Gospel a monotheist, and is his portrait of Christ monotheistic? What is immediately striking, when we read the prologue of the Gospel of John, is the paradox which John asserts: he says both that the Word was with God and that the Word was God. This paradox is comparable to what Philo asserts concerning the Word: "neither created nor uncreated". This understanding of the Word is crucial to the role which the Word fulfils, as the one through whom the creation of all things takes place. God's transcendence was so emphasized in Hellenistic thought that it was felt to be inappropriate to suggest that God created directly, or came directly into contact with the material world. The idea of the Word thus made it possible both to regard God as creator, and at the same time to maintain his transcendence.
Thus Philo and John both speak of the Word as mediator of creation, as one who is part of the reality of God and yet distinct from and subordinate to God. Both refer to the Word as 'God', and yet both emphasize that the Word is subordinate or inferior to the one true God who is above all. Philo makes this point by referring to the Word as a 'second God', while John makes this point by portraying Jesus as calling the Father "the only true God" in John 17:3. For both, then, the Word is an expression of the reality of God himself, and yet distinct from and subordinate to God, in a way that can only be described as paradoxical. Yet in spite of this paradox, it is clear that if Philo fits our portrait of what a first-century Jewish monotheist looks like, then so also does John: both held that there was one God above all who was uniquely worthy of worship, who created all things through his Word. There is unambiguous evidence that Philo understood himself to be a monotheist: he wrote the following words: "Let us, then, engrave deep in our hearts this as the first and most sacred of commandments, to acknowledge and honour one God who is above all, and let the idea that gods are many never reach the ears of the man whose rule of life is to seek for truth in purity and goodness" (Decal. 65). This comes from the pen of the same Philo who speaks of the Word as a 'second God'! It thus becomes clear that both Philo and John - and many other Jews of their time - felt that belief in one God who is above all is compatible with belief in a second figure who reveals and represents God. John's belief was different from Philo's in that he identified this Word with Jesus, but on the question of the oneness of God, it seems that they would have both agreed.
A second passage of key importance for understanding the Fourth Gospel's portrait of Jesus, and the way St. John understood the relationship between Jesus and God, is chapter 5 of the Gospel. There Jesus is depicted as healing a paralyzed man on the Sabbath. The Jewish authorities object to this, and Jesus is presented as justifying his action by saying: "My Father is always at work even until this very day, and I too am working" (John 5:17). To understand this response, we need to know that Jewish tradition claimed that God continued to work even on the Sabbath, since it was clear that even on Saturdays someone was busy upholding the universe. This was explained in various ways by Philo and by the later rabbis, but it is clear that already in the first century it was thought that God worked on the Sabbath, and that this was a prerogative of God alone. For Jesus to claim to do what God alone does was for this reason understood as a claim to be 'equal to God.'
When we read this passage, we might be tempted to backtrack on the conclusion we reached when looking at the first chapter of John's Gospel: After all, if John had not abandoned monotheism, what was all this fuss and fighting about that we har about in John chapter 5? If John had believed in one God, why was it necessary for him to defend himself against the accusation that Jesus had 'made himself equal to God'?
In order to understand this, we need to understand that Jesus - and also the heavenly Word - were understood in terms of what we may call 'agency': these figures, like the Old Testament prophets, angels and many others, were 'agents' of God. Now when we use this term we don't mean that they sold houses for God or booked gigs for God to perform at local clubs on Saturday nights. When we speak of 'agency' we are speaking of what in Greek would have been called 'apostleship' - the situation in which someone is sent to represent someone else. In the days before mobile phones, fax machines, the internet and telecommunications, this was an essential part of life. If a king wanted to make peace with another nation, he did not go in person - or at least not in the first instance - but sent his ambassador. When a wealthy person wanted to arrange a property purchase or sale in another region, he sent a representative. When God wanted to address his people, he sent a prophet or an angel. Agency was an important part of everyday life in the ancient world.
Now there were certain basic rules or assumptions connected with agency in the ancient world. The most basic of all was that, in the words of later Jewish rabbis: "The one sent is like the one who sent him." Or, in words which are probably better known to those of us familiar with the New Testament, "He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives not me but the one who sent me." These are words which the Gospels record Jesus as saying to his apostles, and as I've already said, 'apostle' is simply the Greek word for 'one who is sent', an 'agent.' When someone sent an agent, the agent was given the full authority of the sender to speak and act on his behalf. If the agent made an agreement, it was completely binding; it was just as if the person who sent him had made it in person. Conversely, if someone rejected an agent, he rejected the one who sent him. The agent was thus functionally equal to the one who sent him, precisely because he was subordinate and obedient to, and submitted to the will of, him who sent him.
This helps us to understand what is at issue in John 5. The issue is not whether there is really only one God - John affirms explicitly that he believes that there is only one true God. Rather the debate centres around Jesus' relationship to the one God. Jesus claims to do what God does. If he is God's appointed agent, then there is no reason to regard this as illegitimate: it would not be the first time that God had appointed one of his agents to speak or act on his behalf, to proclaim his message and do his works. However, 'the Jews' as they are presented in the Gospel of John do not recognize Jesus as one who has been appointed by God. They thus accuse him of "making himself equal to God." That is to say, the problem is not 'equality with God' in and of itself, but whether Jesus acts in this way as God's agent. The issue is whether Jesus has been sent by God and is obedient to God, or whether he is a rebellious, glory-seeking upstart who claims divine prerogatives for himself. 'The Jews' accuse Jesus of making himself equal to God - that is to say, they accuse him of putting himself on the level of God, by claiming to do what God does when he has not in fact been appointed by God. They thus feel that Jesus has committed blasphemy: by making these claims, he is felt to have insulted God.
How is Jesus portrayed as responding to this charge? He adamantly denies it. Listen to the words which are used: "The Son can do nothing of himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing...By myself I can do nothing...I seek not to please myself but him who sent me" (John 5:19,30). Jesus is emphatically said to be God's obedient Son and agent. In the ancient near east, the eldest son was usually the principle agent of his father. A son was also expected to learn his father's trade, watching him carefully and learning to imitate his Father. John has this in mind when he uses this type of language to justify the actions and claims of Jesus: Jesus does what God does, and as one who shares in a Father-Son relationship with God, that is precisely what should be expected. Only if Jesus were a disobedientson would he not imitate his Father and do what he sees his Father doing. There is thus no problem of monotheism in John 5. The issue is about whether Jesus is putting himself on a par with God, seeking his own glory in a way that detracts from the glory and honour due to God alone. John emphasizes that Jesus is in fact God's appointed agent, and because this is the case there is nothing illegitimate about his behaviour: he does what God does not as a second co-equal God, but as God's obedient Son and agent whom he sent into the world.
The same applies to John 10:33, where the same sort of language is used: Jesus is accused of "making himself God." This would, in the view of his opponents, be blasphemy, precisely because they regard him as a rebellious upstart rather than as an appointed agent. Other figures had at times sought to claim divine prerogatives without being appointed by God: Adam grasped at equality with God; the king of Babylon in Isaiah's time was accused of blasphemy for exalting himself. Perhaps most relevant for John 10 is the figure of Antiochus Epiphanes. Antiochus Epiphanes was the king of Syria in the period when Israel was under the dominion of Syria - this was in the so-called 'intertestamental period.' If you want to find out more about Antiochus, the second half of the Book of Daniel has quite a bit to say about him, particularly in ch. 11, although he is not mentioned by name. Antiochus Epiphanes claimed to be 'god manifest,' and for various reasons which we can not go into now, he outlawed the observance of the Jewish law, and began a severe persecution of the Jewish people. The dialogue in John 10 is set at the feast of Dedication or Hanukkah, which celebrated the rededication of the temple after it had been desecrated by Antiochus. It is interesting to note that the books of the Maccabees, which describe the desecration of the temple by Antiochus and its subsequent rededication, contain more than a third of all the occurrences of the word 'blasphemy' in the Old Testament. The books of the Maccabees would have been part of John's Bible, since he appears to have used the Greek version which we know today as the Septuagint. Most striking of all is 2 Maccabees 9:12, where Antiochus Epiphanes is presented as repenting on his death bed, and asserting that "no mortal should think that he is equal to God," a phrase very reminiscent of the language used in John 10, and also in John 5:18. The issue once again is whether Jesus is a glory-seeking rebel against God's authority like Antiochus, or rather an obedient agent who does the will of him who sent him.
Finally, we may consider the dialogue with Jewish opponents depicted in John chapter 8. This part of John is famous because it presents Jesus as using the phrase 'I am' absolutely - Here (and in one or two other places in John), Jesus does not say "I am such and such" (for example, "I am the good shepherd" or "I am the light of the world"), but rather simply says "I am." Most scholars think that this use of 'I am' reflects the occurrence of this phrase in the Septuagint version of Isaiah as a name for God. This in turn appears to have been based on an interpretation of the name 'Yahweh' revealed to Moses in Exodus 3:14-15. So, even if everything we have said so far is true, someone will probably ask: surely when Jesus is presented as saying 'I am' the meaning is 'I am Yahweh,' and if that is the case then Jesus is clearly claiming to be none other than the God revealed in the Old Testament, and is thus redefining monotheism.
This logic would be convincing except for one crucial problem. As C. K. Barrett has rightly pointed out, it is simply intolerable to suggest that John presents Jesus as saying "I am Yahweh, the God of the Old Testament, and as such I do exactly what I am told". Yet the Johannine Jesus says in John 8:28: "When you have 'lifted up' (that is to say, "When you have crucified") the Son of Man, then you will know that I am, and that I do nothing of myself, but speak just what the Father has taught me." Thus, whereas the king of Babylon is accused in Isa. 47:8 of blasphemously claiming "I am, and there is no other," Jesus claims something very different: "I am, and I do nothing of myself, but only the will of him who sent me." Jesus' use of 'I am' thus appears to be connected with him being the agent who has been sent by God, and there are contemporary Jewish writings which can help use to understand a little bit of what is going on here.
In a first century Jewish writing entitled "The Apocalypse of Abraham," Abraham is described as being granted a visit to heaven, in much the same way that John is said to have done in the New Testament's "Apocalypse" or "Book of Revelation." Sent to guide him on his heavenly visit is an angel, who identifies himself as "Yaoel." The name Yaoel is made up of the two main names for God in the Old Testament, "Yah" or "Yahweh" (rendered in some English versions as "Jehovah") and "El." The angel thus has the same name as God. This is not because that angel is really God himself or is confused with God. No; it is because God has given his name to the angel in order to empower him. This is explicitly stated in the book itself. This is thus one of a number of examples from Jewish thought of God's agent being given God's name in order to empower him for his mission. In later times, the Samaritans made much the same sort of claims for Moses. The early Christians applied these ideas to Jesus. The clearest example of this is in the quotation from an early Christian hymn preserved in Paul's letter to the Philippians (2:6-11), which says Jesus "humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross; Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Lord here is thought of as God's name, since the name "Yahweh" was for the most part not actually pronounced by Jews in this period, and in the Septuagint translation they translated the Hebrew name of God with the Greek word for Lord. This practice has been followed by most modern English versions of the Bible, which is why the name "Yahweh," which occurs so frequently throughout the Jewish Scriptures, is not found there: it has been replaced by LORD in capital letters. At any rate, here once again we see Jesus exalted to heaven to a place second only to God himself, and given God's very own name. This was a way that, in this period of Jewish history, God was believed to honour and empower his agents, and it is a continuation and development of this idea that is found in John. This is particularly clear in John chapter 17, where Jesus prays for his disciples saying, "Father, protect them by the power of your name - the name you gave me - so that they may be one as we are one." The name 'I am' which Jesus bears is the Father's name, and the Father gave it to him because he is the Father's agent. Seeing as these ideas were so widespread in first century Judaism, there is no reason to think that John was any less a Jewish monotheist than others of his Jewish contemporaries.
Thus, in answer to the question which we posed, if John was asked in his day and age, "Are Christians monotheists?" I think he would have answered with an unhesitating "Yes." However, in the centuries after John wrote, other issues arose, and when it was felt necessary to draw a firmer and clearer line between God and creation, it also became necessary to place God's Word clearly on one side or the other of that line. It was thus the development of the doctrine of 'creation out of nothing' which was largely responsible for what is today considered orthodox Christian belief. Of course, we would love to know what John would have said if he had lived in that time, when it became necessary to choose between equality and subordination, between continuity with God and distinction from God. But it is somewhat unfair to ask John questions which only arose quite some time after he had lived and died. John doesn't answer these questions that are so important to us, and were so important to the early Church, because in his worldview, it was still possible to hold that the Word was "neither uncreated nor created" or - in John's terms - both 'God' and 'with God.' As we have said, it was only after significant changes in worldview had taken place, and the doctrine of creation out of nothing developed, that suddenly it became urgent to sort out exactly where the dividing line between God and creation should be drawn. Arius said: between God and the Logos; Athanasius said: between the Logos and creation. I personally think that if John had been confronted with this question he would have chose the latter option: for John, Jesus is not the revelation of a lesser god who does not even himself really know the one true God, but rather he is the revelation of God himself. Yet as we have already said, to expect John to answer a question that was only raised later is somewhat unfair. Yet it was this very question which led to the redefinition of monotheism by Christians in the trinitarian terms we are familiar with today, and by others in monistic terms. Prior to this there was no problem. Justin Martyr, a Christian from the second century, describes a conversation which he had with a Jewish man named Trypho. Here too we find no debate about monotheism; in fact, one of Trypho's companions who was himself Jewish agrees with Justin, just as Philo and many other Jews would have, that there is a second figure, who is called by God's name and who appeared in the Jewish Scriptures. Even for some time after John, monotheism was not an issue of controversy between Jews and Christians.
Thus, to conclude, John, in his own day and age, did not feel that there was any conflict between Christian belief in Jesus and Jewish monotheism. I suppose the problem which faces us is that John gives us a clear answer to the question, "Were Christians monotheists?" but not to the question "Are Christians today monotheists?" - that is a question which we have to answer for ourselves. So, in concluding this brief study of St. John's Gospel, the question which we must continue to wrestle with is: To what extent do Christians today believe the same things that John and other New Testament authors believed? And inasmuch as our worldview has changed and we have had to answer new questions, have we done justice to the monotheism which was maintained by John and by other New Testament authors, and even by Jesus himself?