Saturday, August 20, 2016

This is the True God

Muslims are fond of citing John 17:3 in an effort to deny the Trinity and the deity of Christ. Since their own exegetical abilities are quickly taxed upon being challenged, they often appeal to various unitarian scholars in the hopes that they will be able to prop up their tottering position. One person often cited in this connection is Sir Anthony Buzzard, a contemporary advocate of the Socinian heresy. Since I was recently drawn into a discussion with Buzzard by a Muslim who solicited his help, I am providing some of my thoughts on the issue here so that others might also benefit from them.

In my conversation with Buzzard he repeatedly made the claim that John 17:3 identifies “the Father alone as the only true God,” and since Jesus is not the Father, Buzzard concludes that Jesus cannot be the only true God. In response to this I made two points:

1) The text does not say, as Buzzard did, “the Father alone is the only true God”; rather, it says, “This is eternal life, that they might know you, the only true God…” The difference here is significant. On the former reading, which adds the word alone to the English translation even though it does not exist in the Greek text, one could conclude that Jesus is asserting unitarianism; on the latter reading, which is based squarely on the Greek text, all one can conclude is that the Father is the only true God, which comports perfectly well with the Trinitarian position. According to Trinitarianism the Father IS the only true God, not a false god. Indeed, this affirmation is a critical plank in the Trinitarian position.

2) What is said about the Father being the only true God in John 17:3 is complemented in 1 John 5:20 where Jesus is also referred to as the true God:

“And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.”

οἴδαμεν δὲ ὅτι ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ ἥκει καὶ δέδωκεν ἡμῖν διάνοιαν, ἵνα γινώσκωμεν τὸν ἀληθινόν, καὶ ἐσμὲν ἐν τῷ ἀληθινῷ, ἐν τῷ υἱῷ αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦ Χριστῷ. οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ ἀληθινὸς θεὸς καὶ ζωὴ αἰώνιος. (1 Jn. 5:20 NA28)

Since there is only one true God, it follows from John 17:3 and 1 John 5:20 that both the Father and the Son are the only true God.

In response to the first point I raised Buzzard simply repeated his terribly inaccurate paraphrase, which adds the word “alone” to the text. This maneuver – really, propaganda technique –can be ignored for obvious reasons.

In response to my second point, Buzzard asserted that 1 John 5:20 is not referring to Jesus but to the Father. But note the following reasons for concluding that 1 John 5:20 does, in fact, refer to the Lord Jesus Christ:

[Nota Bene: 1 John 5:20 is clearly relevant here for at least three reasons: 1) Both passages were written by the same author, the apostle John; 2) both passages use the phrase aleithinos theos, "true God"; and 3) these two passages are the only passages where this phrase occurs in the entire New Testament.]

1) If John is referring to the Father in the latter phrase, then the verse results in a redundancy: “…and we are in [God] who is true…he is the true God.” In other words, John would then be saying what he just said…what he just said. Pardon the redundancy.

2) Ordinarily in the Greek New Testament the near demonstrative οὗτός [houtos], “this [one],” refers back to the nearest antecedent, which in this case is “Jesus Christ.” An example of this can be seen in this very chapter: “Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? THIS is the One who came by water and blood…(1 John 5:5-6).” Since this is the ordinary usage — one exemplified in this very context— it also ought to be the assumed usage in 1 John 5:20 unless some necessary reason for thinking otherwise can be supplied from the context. To my knowledge no anti-Trinitarian has ever supplied any contextual reason(s) why we should depart from ordinary usage here.

3) Moreover, as Greek professor Daniel Wallace has pointed out, “The demonstrative pronoun, οὗτός, in the Gospel and Epistles of John seems to be used in a theologically rich manner. Specifically, of the approximately seventy instances in which οὗτός has a personal referent, as many as forty-four of them (almost two-thirds of the instances) refer to the Son. Of the remainder, most imply some sort of positive connection with the Son. What is most significant is that never is the Father the referent.” (Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, p. 327; emphasis original.)

4) Furthermore, both ἀλήθεια [alētheia], “truth,” and ζωή [zōē], “life,” are used for Christ elsewhere, most notably in John’s writings (e.g. John 14:6). In fact, while John uses the latter term in his writings for Jesus (q.v. John 11:25, 14:6, etc.), he never uses the term for the Father.

5) Finally, 1 John 5:20 not only identifies “this [one]” as “the true God” but also as “eternal life”: “This is the true God AND ETERNAL LIFE.” This title is one that John has already used in this epistle for Jesus: “What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life-- and the Life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the Eternal Life, which was WITH the Father and was manifested to us--” (1 John 1:1-2). By opening and closing this epistle in this way John has created an inclusio, a literary device where both statements are mutually interpretative and reinforce one another. Anyone who reads John’s First Epistle who does not come away knowing that John has identified Jesus as the true God and Eternal Life has missed John’s point from beginning to end.

I have invited Anthony Buzzard over to continue the dialogue in the comments section. For the sake of Muslims who are counting on him, I hope he accepts the invitation.

30 comments:

Mari Kaimo said...

Thank you, Bro Tony, for giving us another very well written article with which to defend the faith. God bless you and continue to prosper you in all things, brother!

Reg Singh said...

If the early Christians including Paul had taught that a contemporary human being was the only true God then how did the Jews allow them to worship in the Temple? Would this have not been for the Jews the ultimate blasphemy? And why did the debate over the Trinity, which is raging between Muslims and Christians today, not rage between the Jews and early Christians? Do we find anything even resembling such a debate in the New Testament?

Muslims often ask where in the Gospels does Jesus ever say "I am God". Can Muslims then tell us where in the Gospels does Jesus ever say "the Torah is corrupt"? The Torah of the first century which Jesus accepted as Holy Scripture condemns Muhammad as a fake on every page. If Jesus had dared to blaspheme the Torah he would not have survived five minutes in Jerusalem let alone the Temple.

B.Wayan said...

Hi In the natural a father is greater then the son. Jesus must talk to himself alot if he is also God. I am no theologian just an ordinary Christian but even blind freddie can see that the father, the son Jesus are seperate. See Psalms 110:1. The LORDsaid to my Lord...... Kjv.

Biblical CSI said...

I hope he comes. I'll be waiting for his response..

The Burwell Family Travels said...

Doesn't John 17:5 overthrow Buzzard's positon as well? 17:5 And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was. If the Father is the only true God and the only true God will not give His glory to another as we read in Isaiah 42:8 I am the Lord: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images. and Isaiah 48:11 For mine own sake, even for mine own sake, will I do it: for how should my name be polluted? and I will not give my glory unto another.
If the Father is the only true God and the Son shared in the same Glory as the Father before the world was and God will not give His glory to another then doesn't that force upon us the conclusion that Jesus is God in the flesh?

Anthony Rogers said...

@Mari, thank you, kind sir. It is always a pleasure serving you. And may the Lord prosper you as well.

@Reg, You might want to read through the New Testament again. This time pay close attention to passages like Mark 14:60-64, esp. v. 62.

@B.Wayan, If you do not believe that Jesus is God, then you are not an ordinary Christian. Christians are those who believe in and call upon Jesus as Lord/Yahweh (q.v. 1 Cor 1:2; cf. Gen 4:26; Joel 2:32).

@CSI, I hope so as well.

@TBFT, I would agree.

Royal Son said...

Great Article Brother Anthony. Funny that Muslims jump on this passage and the interpretation they bring when, since Allah is not a Father to anyone, it would make Allah a false God by default since "the only true God is the Father" would exclude Allah.

Grace to you always, dear Brother.

steve said...

A while back I emailed Don Carson and Stanley Porter on the grammatical referent of 1 Jn 5:20. Both of them said it probably refers to Jesus. Carson has been working on a major commentary on 1 John for years, while Porter is, among other things, a noted NT Greek grammarian.

John said...

It may be off topic, but it is important to be announced: In favor for the release of Asia Bibi a petition to the EU parliament is being prepared, "Neuer Versuch für die Rettung von Asia Bibi" (New attempt to rescue Asia Bibi). If possible, please support the petition. Link (in German): http://citizengo.org/de/pr/36279-neuer-versuch-fuer-die-rettung-von-asia-bibi?tc=ty&tcid=26157082
- Thank you so much.

Reg Singh said...

Jesus' statement im Mark 14:62 caused the High priest to tear his clothes and everyone in the Sanhedrin considered him to be worthy of death. The Jewish reaction here to such a statement is absolutely credible. What is absolutely NOT credible is that early Christians preached the same “clothes tearing and death deserving” message found in the above verse, and yet were allowed by the Jews to worship in the Temple. If the early Christians had preached the divinity of Jesus then the Jews would have reacted to this “blasphemous” teaching with the same anger and fury as did the High priest and the rest of the Jews in the Sanhedrin. The lethal Jewish outrage in Mark 14 shows that the Jews would not have allowed into the Temple anyone who preached such "blasphemy". The punishment for blasphemers, as indicated in Mark 14, was not welcoming them to the Temple, but death by stoning. Does Mark 14 not just reinforce the point I was making.

Andrew said...

Dear B Wayan, I'm curious. John 1:1 Seems pretty definitive. Also Jesus claimed to be able to forgive sins and would one day judge the whole of humanity. He is either creator or liar. You are clearly no Christian. Are you a JW or muslim?

Andrew said...

Thank you Anthony. Your logical, well set out, well argued articles are always a treat.

I note PW didn't even try to respond to your demolition of the Koran in relation to Josephus and the Messiah.

Anthony Rogers said...

Steve, thanks for the info and the heads-up. I will be watching for Carson's book.

Anthony Rogers said...

Red Singh said: "If the early Christians had preached the divinity of Jesus then the Jews would have reacted to this “blasphemous” teaching with the same anger and fury as did the High priest and the rest of the Jews in the Sanhedrin." (Emphasis mine)

My reply: "54 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the quick, and they began gnashing their teeth at him. 55 But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; 56 and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 But they cried out with a loud voice, and covered their ears and rushed at him with one impulse. 58 When they had driven him out of the city, they began stoning him; and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” 60 Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” Having said this, he fell asleep." (Acts 7)

If you would like more examples of this I would be happy to provide them. It might be easier if you just read the book of Acts and the book of Hebrews to see how Christians were treated by Jews in the first century.

Andrew said...

O dear Reg. Have you read the Acts of the Apostles? Ie the stoning of Stephen just to begin with. What do you think Saul of Tarsus was famous for before he became a Christian?

B.Wayan said...

Andrew!! I don't think anyone wants to comment because they have much more upbuilding spiritual things to do than debate with one eyed Trinitarian legalists like yourself... Your not defending the faith,my good man, all you are doing is promoting the confusion of the Constantine creed which turned true 1st century Christianity into a poisonous well of false doctrine and many are drinking from it .... Get well soon ! Ps.. The much respected Theologian, Anthony Buzzard's work speaks for itself.. Shame on you guy's for your prideful and arrogant stance ! Sayonara

foofy said...

Reg wants to know why Christians were allowed to worship in the temple. He may have in mind Acts 18:4
If you read 6, 12, you find that it is not as simple as just walking in, praying, and leaving. They were not always accepted by the city's Jewish population.
Acts - Chapter 14
.
1. And it came to pass in Iconium, that they went both together into the synagogue of the Jews, and so spake, that a great multitude both of the Jews and also of the Greeks believed.
2. But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles, and made their minds evil affected against the brethren.
4. But the multitude of the city was divided: and part held with the Jews, and part with the apostles

Reg, you should read Hebrews 13:10-14. It directly implies that Christians had to choose between the synagogue and Jesus.

Reg Singh said...

Anthony, please consider the following:

One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. –Acts 3:1

The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade. –Acts 5:12 (Solomon’s porch is part of the Temple)

But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out.“Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people all about this new life.”–Acts 5:21

Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah. –Acts 5:42

Is it credible that the Jews allowed the early Christians to worship in the Temple if they were preaching that Jesus is the only true God? Would this not have been for the Jews a clear violation of the First Commandment? Was not the penalty for such blasphemy death by stoning? Is it conceivable that the Jews knew that the early Christians were worshiping another god besides the God of Israel and yet still allowed them to worship in the Temple? Are we really to believe that the Jews allowed a contemporary human being to be worshiped in their Temple?

It is true that in Mark 14:62 and the story of Steven the Jews perceive blasphemy and their deadly reaction there is highly credible (as I admitted earlier) because they saw it as a violation of their monotheism. Does this not show that they would not have allowed the early Christians, if they were teaching and preaching this “garment tearing, death deserving and unbearable blasphemy”, to worship in the Temple?

Please note that I am not saying that the NT does not teach the divinity of Jesus anywhere.
Thanks.

Reg Singh said...

Please consider the following:

One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. –Acts 3:1

The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade. –Acts 5:12 (Solomon’s porch is part of the Temple)

But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out.“Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people all about this new life.”–Acts 5:21

Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah. –Acts 5:42

Is it credible that the Jews allowed the early Christians to worship in the Temple if they were preaching that Jesus is the only true God? Would this not have been for the Jews a clear violation of the First Commandment? Was not the penalty for such blasphemy death by stoning? Is it conceivable that the Jews knew that the early Christians were worshiping another god besides the God of Israel and yet still allowed them to worship in the Temple? Are we really to believe that the Jews allowed a contemporary human being to be worshiped in their Temple?

It is true that in Mark 14:62 and the story of Steven the Jews perceive blasphemy and their deadly reaction there is highly credible (as I admitted earlier) because they saw it as a violation of their monotheism. Does this not show that they would not have allowed the early Christians, if they were teaching and preaching this “garment tearing, death deserving and unbearable blasphemy”, to worship in the Temple?

Please note that I am not saying that the NT does not teach the divinity of Jesus anywhere.

Thanks.

Hezekiah said...

Reg,
Apostles were talking to Jews just as a Christian in our time would talk to Jews. When I present Jesus Christ to a Jews, I would show them first that Jesus is the Messiah. This is what early apostles did too. It would be a second step (after a Jew see Jesus as the Messiah) to show the deity of Jesus.
BTW, what is your belief. Are you a Muslim or a Hindu?

Andrew said...

Dear B Wayan. Your ad hominens are pretty puerile and pathetic. When Jesus called himself the I AM the Jews knew exactly what he was saying.

Your lack of scripture in your response speaks volumes.

Anthony Rogers said...

@Red Singh, (1 of 2)

When I suggested you read through the book of Acts I did not mean you should do a search for the word "temple". That would certainly turn up results that show the apostles and early Christians being active in the temple area, but it would not show how they were able (or not) to preach a message that would have been perceived as "garment tearing, death deserving and unbearable blasphemy." Here is what you find when you read the entire context of the passages you quoted from Acts 5:

12 At the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were taking place among the people; and they were all with one accord in Solomon’s portico. 13 But none of the rest dared to associate with them; however, the people held them in high esteem. 14 And all the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to their number, 15 to such an extent that they even carried the sick out into the streets and laid them on cots and pallets, so that when Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on any one of them. 16 Also the people from the cities in the vicinity of Jerusalem were coming together, bringing people who were sick or afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all being healed.

17 But the high priest rose up, along with all his associates (that is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with jealousy. 18 They laid hands on the apostles and put them in a public jail. 19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the gates of the prison, and taking them out he said, 20 “Go, stand and speak to the people in the temple the whole message of this Life.” 21 Upon hearing this, they entered into the temple about daybreak and began to teach.

Now when the high priest and his associates came, they called the Council together, even all the Senate of the sons of Israel, and sent orders to the prison house for them to be brought. 22 But the officers who came did not find them in the prison; and they returned and reported back, 23 saying, “We found the prison house locked quite securely and the guards standing at the doors; but when we had opened up, we found no one inside.” 24 Now when the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests heard these words, they were greatly perplexed about them as to what would come of this. 25 But someone came and reported to them, “The men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people!” 26 Then the captain went along with the officers and proceeded to bring them back without violence (for they were afraid of the people, that they might be stoned).

Anthony Rogers said...

@Red Singh, (2 of 2)

27 When they had brought them, they stood them before the Council. The high priest questioned them, 28 saying, “We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, and yet, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross. 31 He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.”

33 But when they heard this, they were cut to the quick and intended to kill them. 34 But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the Law, respected by all the people, stood up in the Council and gave orders to put the men outside for a short time. 35 And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you propose to do with these men. 36 For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a group of about four hundred men joined up with him. But he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. 37 After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census and drew away some people after him; he too perished, and all those who followed him were scattered. 38 So in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; 39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God.”

40 They took his advice; and after calling the apostles in, they flogged them and ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and then released them. 41 So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. 42 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.

I have provided the context for you and you should be able to cull the relevant facts from the passage without further comment from me. By the way, what I just did here is something you can duplicate. Biblegateway.com and other online sources allow you to access any passage you want in context.

Anthony Rogers said...

In an effort to explain why Anthony Buzzard has not replied, B. Wayan said:

"The much respected Theologian, Anthony Buzzard's work speaks for itself."

Are you referring here to his failure to know that the Greek word monos only occurs once in John 17:3, not twice?

Are you referring to his failure to realize that the only time monos occurs in the passage it does not modify "se" but "aleithinos theos"?

Are you referring to his failure to provide positive evidence for his assertion that houtos in 1 John 5:20 does not refer back to Jesus but to the Father?

Are you referring to his failure to refute the evidence I gave for why it does refer to Jesus?

Please explain what you mean.

Andrew said...

BTW, B Wayan, I'm a lawyer, so being called a "legalists" (sic) is actually a compliment.

You haven't answered my question whether you are a JW or muslim as you are clearly no Christian.

Danny_C said...

John 10:30 "I and the Father are one".

Reg Singh said...

If the Jews were persecuting and killing the early Christians for believing that Jesus was the only true God then how were they allowing these Christians to worship Jesus as the only true God in their Temple?

Amos "Mac" Townsend said...

St. John's Gospel itself contains St. John's direct realization, i.e. his direct witness to the Truth of the Triune God as he presents the Truth of the Triune God in the very first chapter.

The Church has proclaimed St John's witness extensively for centuries.

The Anaphora of St. John (Son of Thunder) is attributed to have been written by St John the apostle and is preserved and prayed by the Ethiopian catholics to this day in Divine Liturgy. It is a prayer extolling the Glories of the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

It is no mistake the the Roman Catholic Church for centuries concluded EVERY mass with the recitation of the "Last Gospel" which is a theological, doctrinal, and even scientific explanation of the Holy Trinity. I've included the "Last Gospel" below for your reference.

A SIMPLE PROOF of the Holy Trinity is as follows:

The Last Gospel - (St. John 1.1-14)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God.

COMMENTARY:
St John himself explains the the Word was the beginning yet was with and was God (before the beginning).

This is not hard to understand: What is in a man's heart appears in his mind and the thoughts of the mind exist before they reveals to others by the spoken word. The words are made manifest when spoken by the will of their "father".

Therefore your spoken word is one and the same as you yet it is simultaneously different. Your words are conveyed by your energy, when you speak them into existence to he HEARD by others.

Simple. So anyone who doubts the Trinity will be confronted directly by their own self, their very own existence. They cannot look into the mirror and see heart and mind existing apart from their words, actions, and their impact on others.

Please contemplate the rest of this Holy Gospel passage which clearly explains the Word cannot be heard but by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit made present to us by an encounter with St John the Baptist!

and ..
All things were made by Him: and without Him was made nothing that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the Light shineth in darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to give testimony of the Light, that all men might believe through Him. He was not the Light, but was to give testimony of the Light. That was the true Light, which enlighteneth every man that cometh into this world. He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not.

He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. But as many as received Him, He gave them power to be made the sons of God, to them that believe in His name. Who are born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (here all kneel) AND THE WORD WAS MADE FLESH AND DWELT AMONG US, and we saw His glory, the glory as it were of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth."

Thanks be to God.


All praises and glory be given to the Father, the Son Jesus, and the Holy Ghost, now and forever, the God Who Is Who Was and IS TO COME at the end of the ages. Alleluia !!!!


Anthony Rogers said...

@Reg Singh,

Are you under the impression that if you repeat the same question ad nauseum, then the answer I have already given twice, and which has been completely ignored, will magically go away?

foofy said...

Reg, do you understand Anthony's answer?

Many of higher-ups did not like Christians preaching in the temple, but they were popular with the people. That is why the Christians were tolerated temporarily, even though the priests tried to have them jailed.

Does this help? Read Anthony's answer for the verses.