Gospel of John 17:3 – Jesus Christ in the Third Person

I found these words from N.T. Wright fascinating even though I am not sure I agree. He is talking about the start of Jesus’ lengthy prayer in John 17 where Jesus refers to himself in the third person as “Jesus the Messiah”:

“Nor, we may suppose, is John remembering it all without having prayed through it himself, over and over again. The mention of ‘Jesus the Messiah’ in verse 3 sounds very strange from Jesus himself; perhaps here, and maybe elsewhere too, John the praying teacher, in order to make the prayer his own and pass it on to his own followers, has turned phrases round so that they become (so to speak) prayable by the continuing community. –John for Everyone: Chapters 11-21, 91-92

I don’t think I wholly agree that these words did not come out of the mouth of Jesus as recorded in John’s Gospel. If John recorded his own “prayer time version” of what some have properly called “The Lord’s Prayer” wouldn’t it make sense that he would have then changed more of the pronouns in the prayer to fit coming from his own lips in subsequent prayers? Why not change the “they’s” to “our’s” throughout? It is not uncommon for Jesus to refer to himself in the third person in the Gospels. But it is an interesting thing to wonder about. Did John pray this prayer in later years? Or is that our own presuppositions of years of Christian groups praying verbatim prayers from scripture stretching that out over the text and missing the plain meaning of Jesus’ own words?

4 Responses to Gospel of John 17:3 – Jesus Christ in the Third Person

  1. Hank says:

    interesting

  2. Royce says:

    I agree with you.

    It seems to this observer that Wright is off track often. I have never quite understood the fascination with Bishop Wright.

    Reading the John 17 passage while applying Wright’s conclusion seems very odd and uncomfortable. Chapter 17 has been a favorite of mine for over 40 years and I have written about, taught it, and preached from it scores of times and never had a thought that Jesus wasn’t speaking.

    Agape,
    Royce

  3. pelonero1 says:

    Here’s what you are missing!!! Jesus (the Son of God) speaks of He Jesus (Son of Man) in reference to messianic and prophetic announcements through out the Gospels. Thus the Divine Jesus addresses the Human Jesus! Search “the Son of man shall” in Bible search engines and see the examples. I believe there are at least 10!
    In Christ,
    John Pelonero, PhD

  4. FaithMechanic says:

    I totally agree with Pelonero1. John Chapter 5 is fascinating. In verses 19 through 29 Jesus refers ‘the Son’ in the third person. He says, “…the Son can do nothing of his own accord.” Then in verses 30 and 31 He speaks of Himself in the first person. He says, “I can do nothing on my own.” Jesus very seldom talked about Himself in the first person.

    In this instance I think it is the Son of Man talking about the Son of God (vs 19-29) in the third person, and then He refers to Himself as the Son of Man (vs 30, 31) in the first person.

    How does one talk about them self when they have two natures and roles. In verse 31, Jesus says, “If I (Son of Man) alone testify about Myself (Son of God), My (Son of Man) testimony is not true.” Fascinating.

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