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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Who is the "TRUE God"? If ANYONE Else is Called 'a god' in Scripture, Are They Always a False god?

Who is the "True God"?

John 4:24 tells us we must worship God in truth (aletheia in the Greek text). There can be no doubt what "truth" means here. It can be properly contrasted here with "falsity." If we are not worshiping God correctly (in truth), then we are worshiping him falsely. There are only two choices here. This is confirmed by John 17:3 and 2 Thess. 1:8, 9 where we are told that it means eternal life to us to know the true God and Jesus Christ, and, conversely, it means eternal destruction to not know God and obey Jesus. Obviously, if we "know" God and Christ falsely, we cannot worship them in truth. We must know them accurately!

But what about the word "true" [alethinos (contrasted with aletheia, 'truth')] in NT Greek? If something is true, does that mean all other things in that same category are necessarily false? Some trinitarians insist that this is so when the term "the true God" is used in Scripture. In other words they are insisting that if he is the true God, anyone else called 'a god' would necessarily be a false god! (And, therefore, Jesus cannot be called "a god" in scripture as JWs have translated.)

Well, alethinos "is unquestionably used sometimes in the Gospel and First Epistle [of John] to signify that a thing truly corresponds to the idea of the name given to it" - p. 819, Vol. 4, A Dictionary of the Bible, Hastings, Hendrickson Publishers, 1988 printing.

And respected NT Greek expert W. E. Vine tells us that alethinos

"denotes true in the sense of real, ideal, genuine; it is used (a) of God, John 7:28 ...; 17:3; I Thess. 1:9;...." - p. 1170, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, Nelson Publ., 1983 printing.

Therefore, if we should see, for example, someone being called the 'true prophet,' that should mean that the person so described is truly a prophet. In either case this certainly does not have to mean that all other prophets must be false! Even if it was said that this one was the "only true Prophet," we would probably consider him the only prophet in the highest sense of the word, but that still would not make all other prophets of God false prophets!

Or, since the Proverb quoted at 2 Peter 2:22 is "the true (alethous) Proverb," does that really mean that all other Proverbs must be false?

And at Heb. 8:2 we see Jesus as "a minister in the sanctuary [in heaven], and in the true (alethinos - Young's; Vine) tabernacle" - NASB. Here again, although the heavenly "tabernacle" is the "true tabernacle," that does not mean that the earthly tabernacle was a false tabernacle. As W. E. Vine puts it when discussing Heb. 8:2,

"not that the wilderness Tabernacle was false, but that it was a weak and earthly copy of the Heavenly [cf. Heb. 9:24]." - p. 1171, An Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1984.

Therefore, the heavenly tabernacle was the only true Tabernacle. There could be other, earthly, tabernacles which were still not false tabernacles. Or as Heb. 9:24 puts it:

"For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands [the earthly tabernacle], a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself" - NASB.

No, just because the heavenly tabernacle is the true one, does not make holy tabernacles on earth false tabernacles. They were merely tabernacles in a lesser sense of the word - "in the image of" the only true Tabernacle (in heaven)!

“Christ proclaims Himself [‘the bread the true’ - 'the true bread'] (John vi. 32), not suggesting thereby that the bread which Moses gave was not also ‘bread of heaven’ (Ps. cv. 40), but only that it was such in a secondary inferior degree; it was not food in the highest sense, inasmuch as it did not nourish up unto eternal life those that ate it (John vi. 49). He is [‘the vine the true’ - 'the true vine'] (John xv. I), not thereby denying that Israel also was God's vine (Ps. lxxx. 8; Jer. 21), but affirming that none except Himself realized this name, and all which this name implied, to the full (Hos. x. I; Deut. xxxii. 32)” - p. 29, Trench’s Synonyms of the New Testament.  [Thanks to 'Reality.']

Perhaps the best illustration of this would be the use of the term "Christ" (or 'Messiah' in Hebrew) ["christos, christou, christw, and christon in the original Greek]. As far as Christians are concerned there is only one "true Christ," our Savior, Jesus! We know that the Bible has also warned us about "false christs."

However, less well-known is the fact that God himself appointed King Saul (1 Sam. 24:7, christos) and King David (2 Sam. 23:1, christon), among many others, as His christ. "Christ" (or "Messiah" in Hebrew) simply means "anointed" or "anointed one," and those who properly bear that title are those who have been chosen by God for a special assignment. This included the high priests, prophets, and righteous kings of Israel. They all had the title "Christ" or "Christ of God" in the ancient Greek of the Septuagint Bible. Why, even the foreign king, Cyrus, was called the christ (christw) of God (Is. 45:1, Septuagint) because God chose him for a special assignment!

So, even though we would say that Jesus is the only true Christ and that there have been many false Christs who have arisen, it still would not be proper to insist that any person other than Jesus who is called "christ" or "a christ" must be a false christ! We would then be saying that King David, Moses, and innumerable others chosen by God to do his will were false christs!

What we are saying, then, is that Jesus is the only true Christ in that he is the only person who is God's anointed in the highest sense of the word! And all others called "christ" are either false christs or faithful servants of God in a lesser sense of the word (as compared to Jesus himself)!

So, for God to say that he is the true (alethinos) God does not demand that all others called 'god' or 'gods' are false gods as a few trinitarian apologists imply. The inspired scriptures when speaking of faithful angels, prophets, God-appointed judges, kings, and magistrates clearly calls them "gods" on occasion (see the BOWGOD and DEF studies). These are called "gods" in the sense of faithful servants of God, representing the true God.[1]

Of course "God" [theos] (the "Most High God" - Luke 8:28; Ps. 82:6; Luke 6:35[2] - and the "God of gods" - Deut. 10:17; Ps. 136:2) was distinguished from "a god" [theos] by the use of the definite article ("the") in the original languages - see the DEF and THEOS studies. (Also remember that capital letters were not used to distinguish things in the original manuscripts of the Bible as they are in modern English Bibles: God, Christ, etc.)

But let's examine the scriptural uses of the "true God" more closely.

Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible shows only 5 places where this is used in the entire Bible: (1) 2 Chron. 15:3; (2) Jer. 10:10; (3) 1 Thess. 1:9; (4) 1 John 5:20; and (5) John 17:3. Jehovah's Witnesses teach that Jehovah the God of the Bible is one person only (as his singular, masculine, personal name, "Jehovah" clearly shows): the Father in heaven. So does the term "the only true God" ever refer to the Son or the Holy Spirit or a 'multiple-person' God? Or do the JW's teach the truth about the knowledge of God that means our very eternal lives (Jn 17:3; 2 Thess. 1:8, 9)?

Here, then are all the uses of "the true God" to be found in the entire Holy Scriptures (according to Strong's; Young's; and the New American Standard Concordances):

(1) ---2 Chron. 15:3, 4 says:
"Now for a long season Israel was without the true (alethinos - Sept.) God, and without a teaching priest, and without law: but when in their distress they turned unto Jehovah, the God of Israel, and sought him, he was found of them." - American Standard Version (ASV).

(2) ---Jeremiah 10:10 says:
"But Jehovah is the true God; he is the living God, and an everlasting king..." - ASV. (This passage is not in the Septuagint.)

These two scriptures (the only two in the OT to use 'the true God' according to Young's; the New American Standard; and Strong's concordances) clearly identify the true God as Jehovah. And the only person to be identified as Jehovah in the entire OT is the Father alone! (Is. 63:16; 64:8, ASV; Deut. 32:6, ASV; Ps. 2:7 and 89:26, 27 {compare Heb. 1:5}.)

And, in fact, it is also clearly shown that the Messiah is not Jehovah! (Psalm 110:1, ASV {compare Acts 2:33-36 and Eph. 1:17, 20}; Micah 5:4, ASV; Psalm 2:1, 2, ASV {compare Acts 4:25-27}; Psalm 2:7, ASV {compare Acts 13:33; Heb. 5:5}; Is. 53:6, 10, ASV {most Christian churches recognize that all of Is. 53 refers to the Messiah}.)

But what about the New Testament? Is "the true [real] God" ever clearly identified here (in contradiction to the OT) as the Son? As the Holy Spirit? As a "multiple-person" God?

(3) ---1 Thess. 1:9, 10 -
"They tell how you [the Thessalonian congregation] turned to God from idols to serve the living and true [alethinos] God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead - Jesus..." - NIV.

Well, here again the true God is clearly the Father alone as context demands (and who has been identified as Jehovah alone above). And the Son, Jesus, is clearly differentiated from that 'true God"!

So what about the only two remaining references in the NT: 1 John 5:20 and John 17:3?

The only hope for the trinitarian argument that the "true God is Jesus" is found at 1 John 5:20.

(4) ---1 Jn 5:20 -
"We are in him that is true [alethinos], even in his Son, Jesus Christ. This [outos] is the true [alethinos] God, and eternal life." - KJV.

Some trinitarians actually insist that the word "this" (outos) here refers to Jesus. In other words, "[Jesus Christ] is the true God and eternal life." For example, Robert M. Bowman in his Jehovah's Witnesses, Jesus Christ, and the Gospel of John states that at 1 Jn 5:20 Jesus is called 'the true God and eternal life' "indisputably identifying Christ as the Almighty God of the Old Testament." - p. 41, Baker Book House, 1991 printing. I understand why some trinitarians are so desperate in their search for non-existent scriptural "evidence" that they have to make it up, but this is incredibly poor!

It is obvious that grammatically the word "this" (outos) could be referring to either the Father or Jesus in this particular scripture (see the footnote for 1 John 5:20 in the very trinitarian NIV Study Bible). But the fact that the true God (or "the true One") has just been identified as the Father of Jesus (1 Jn 5:20, TEV and GNB; and the footnote in the NIV Study Bible[3]) makes it highly probable that "this is the true God" refers to the Father, not Jesus. The highly trinitarian NT scholar Murray J. Harris sums up his 13-page analysis of this scripture as follows:

"Although it is certainly possible that outos refers back to Jesus Christ, several converging lines of evidence point to 'the true one,' God the Father, as the probable antecedent. This position, outos = God [Father], is held by many commentators, authors of general studies, and significantly, by those grammarians who express an opinion on the matter."[4] - p. 253, Jesus as God, Baker Book House, 1992.

Notice how this trinitarian scholar actually admits that the probability is that the Father (not Jesus) is being called the true God here. He even tells us (and cites examples in his footnotes) that New Testament grammarians and commentators (most of them trinitarian, of course) agree!

So this single "proof" that the "true God" is a title for anyone other than the Father alone is not proof at all. The grammar alone merely makes it a possibility. The immediate context makes it highly improbable since (as in all other uses of the term) the true God (or the true one) was just identified as the Father ("We are in the one who is true as we are in his Son, Jesus Christ. He is the true God and this is eternal life." - NJB; and "We know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we know the true God. We live in union with the true God - in union with his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and this is eternal life." - TEV "And we know that the Son of God has come, and he has given us understanding so that we can know the true God. And now we live in fellowship with the true God because we live in fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ. He is the only true God, and he is eternal life." - New Living Translation).

So the immediate context alone makes it probable that the true God is the Father in this scripture also. As we have seen, if we include the context of all the uses of the 'true God,' it is certain that He is the Father alone (whose personal name is Jehovah - Ps. 83:18, Ex. 3:15).

To clinch John's intended meaning at 1 John 5:20, let's look at his only other use of the term: John 17:1, 3, where, again (as in 1 Jn 5:20), he mentions Father, Son, and eternal life.

(5) ---At John 17:1, 3 Jesus prays to the Father:

"Father, .... this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent." - New International Version (NIV).

Here the Father alone is not only very clearly identified as the only true [alethinos] God, but Jesus Christ is again pointedly and specifically excluded from that identification ("AND Jesus Christ whom you [the only true God] have sent")!

Notice how this popular trinitarian Bible has rendered John 17:1, 3 - "Father,....This is eternal life: to know thee who alone art truly God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent." - New English Bible (NEB).

So, the title "the true God" does not have to mean that there are no others who may be called "gods" or "a god" in a subordinate but righteous sense. It is, however, an exclusive title for God, the Most High, only true God, Jehovah. And clearly it refers exclusively to the Father! No one else is the God or the True God! (Compare Ps. 86:10; 2 Kings 19:19; Is. 37:16.)

Therefore, the argument by certain trinitarian "guides" that the term 'true God' must mean that all others called 'gods' in the Scriptures are false gods is clearly false itself. Those who use it have not examined it with anything that could be called proper scholarship. They are either terribly misinformed (the fault of their spiritual "guides") or, in the case of the trinitarian authors, lecturers, and ministers who are aware of methods of proper research, Bible language grammar, etc., terribly dishonest ("deliberately-blind guides")! How does this fit with the command that we must worship God in truth (aletheia)- Jn 4:24? Or the warning that when the knowingly blind (false religious leaders) lead the blind (the ones following those leaders with blind faith) both will fall into the pit? Shouldn't we ALL carefully and diligently examine all sides of any essential, life-saving Bible teaching?


Some of the many trinitarian sources which admit that the Bible actually describes men who represent God (judges, Israelite kings, etc.) and God's angels as gods include:

1. Young's Analytical Concordance of the Bible, "Hints and Helps...," Eerdmans, 1978 reprint;

2. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, #430, Hebrew and Chaldee Dict., Abingdon, 1974;

3. New Bible Dictionary, p. 1133, Tyndale House Publ., 1984;

4. Today's Dictionary of the Bible, p. 208, Bethany House Publ., 1982;

5. Hastings' A Dictionary of the Bible, p. 217, Vol. 2;

6. The New Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew-English Lexicon, p. 43, Hendrickson publ.,1979;

7. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, #2316 (4.), Thayer, Baker Book House, 1984 printing;

8. The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, p. 132, Vol. 1; and p. 1265, Vol. 2, Eerdmans, 1984;

9. The NIV Study Bible, footnotes for Ps. 45:6; Ps. 82:1, 6; and Jn 10:34; Zondervan, 1985;

10. New American Bible, St. Joseph ed., footnote for Ps. 45:7, 1970 ed.;

11. A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures, Vol. 5, pp. 188-189;

12. William G. T. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, Vol. 1, pp. 317, 324, Nelson Publ., 1980 printing;

13. Murray J. Harris, Jesus As God, p. 202, Baker Book House, 1992;

14. William Barclay, The Gospel of John, V. 2, Daily Study Bible Series, pp. 77, 78, Westminster Press, 1975;

15. The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible (John 10:34 and Ps. 82:6);

16. The Fourfold Gospel (Note for John 10:35);

17. Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Jamieson, Fausset, Brown
(John 10:34-36);

18. Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible (Ps. 82:6-8 and John 10:35);

19. John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible (Ps. 82:1).

20. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament ('Little Kittel'), - p. 328, Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1985.

21. The Expositor's Greek Testament, pp. 794-795, Vol. 1, Eerdmans Publishing Co.

22. The Amplified Bible, Ps. 82:1, 6 and John 10:34, 35, Zondervan Publ., 1965.

23. Barnes' Notes on the New Testament, John 10:34, 35.

24. B. W. Johnson's People's New Testament, John 10:34-36.

(also John 10:34, 35 - CEV: TEV; GodsWord; The Message; NLT; NIRV; David Guzik -; Pastor Jon Courson, The Gospel According to John.)

And, of course the highly respected and highly popular Jewish writer, Philo, had the same understanding for "God"/"a god" about the same time the NT was written.

And many of the earliest Christians like the highly respected NT scholar Origen (and others including Tertullian; Justin Martyr; Hippolytus; Clement of Alexandria; Theophilus; the writer of "The Epistle to Diognetus" - Staniforth, p. 181; and even super-trinitarians Athanasius and St. Augustine) also had this understanding for "a god." And, as we saw above, many highly respected NT scholars of this century agree. (For example, Ernst Haenchen tells us in his commentary on the Gospel of John:

"It was quite possible in Jewish and Christian monotheism to speak of divine beings that existed alongside and under God but were not identical with him. Phil 2:6-10 proves that. In that passage Paul depicts just such a divine being, who later became man in Jesus Christ". - John 1, translated by R. W. Funk, 1984, pp. 109, 110, Fortress Press.)

"I say, 'You [human judges representing God] are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you'" - Ps. 82:6, RSV. Footnotes in NIVSB for Ps. 82:1, 6 say: "In the language of the OT ... rulers, and judges, as deputies [representatives] of the heavenly King, could be given the honorific title 'god' ... or be called 'son of God'...." God Himself (as Jesus noted in Jn 10:34) said these representatives of Him were gods!

"Jesus, Son of the Most High God" - Lk 8:28, RSV.

"you [Jesus' disciples] will be sons of the Most High" - Luke 6:35, RSV.

Just these three scriptures alone show who the "only true God" and "most high God" is and that other persons may be called "a god" and "son of God" or "son of the most high" in a subordinate but still proper (not "false") sense.

"5:20 him who is true. God the Father." And next, the same footnote admits: "He is the true God. [This] Could refer to EITHER God the Father OR God the Son." [Emphasis added - as usual]

4.Commentators who Professor Harris says support Jesus not being called "true God":
Huther, Alford, Haupt, Westcott, Holtzmann, Law, Brooke, Dodd, Preisker, Stott, Smalley, Grayston.

Authors of general studies who Dr. Harris says support Jesus not being called "true God": Findlay, Harnack, Dupont, W.F. Howeard, Wainwright, Taylor, Segond

Grammarians who Professor Harris says support Jesus not being called "true God":
Winer, Buttman, Schmiedel, A.T. Robertson, N. Turner, Zerwick, Grosvenor, see also BADG 37a, 340c


" is more likely that the word 'this' has a wider and vaguer reference. The writer is gathering together in his mind all that he has been saying about God- how He is light and love, how He is revealed as the Father through his Son Jesus Christ, and 'this', he adds, 'is the real God' ... For illustration of this we need only recall John 17:3." C. H. Dodd, Moffatt New Testament Commentary.

"[1 John] 5.20-21. Knowing the true God;... The Greek of 5:20 has only the true (one) and reads literally: we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding 'so that we know the true(one) and we are in the true (one)', in his Son Jesus Christ. 'This (one) is the true God and eternal life.' It is clear from this that 'the true (one)' is God throughout. Christ is his Son. In the final sentence this (one) most naturally refers still to God, not to Christ, as some have suggested. It is not unknown for Christ to be given God's name(Phil. 2:9-11) or even to be called 'God' (Heb. 1:8-9; John 1:1), but that would run contrary to the theme here, which is contrasting true and false understandings of God for which Christ's revelation is the criterion. 5:20 reminds us of Jesus' prayer according to John 17:3: 'This is eternal life: to know you the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent...."- William Loader, The Johannine Epistles, Epworth Commentaries, 1992, p.79.(This commentary uses the Revised English Bible (1989) for it's quotations.)

"The final sentence of verse 20 runs: This is the true God, and eternal life. To whom does this refer? Grammatically speaking, it would normally refer to the nearest preceding subject, namely his Son Jesus Christ. If so, this would be the most unequivocal statement of the deity of Jesus Christ in the New Testament, which the champions of orthodoxy were quick to exploit against the heresy of Arius. Luther and Calvin adopted this view. Certainly it is by no means an impossible interpretation. Nevertheless, 'the most natural reference'(Westcott) is to him that is true. In this way the three references to 'the true' are to the same Person, the Father, and the additional points made in the apparent final repetition are that this is this One, namely the God made known by Jesus Christ, who is the true God, and that, besides this, He is eternal life...."-The Epistles of John, An Introduction and Commentary by The Rev. J. R.W. Stott, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, Tyndale Press, London, 1st edition, July 1964, p.195, 196.

"Him that is true (ton alethinon). That is, God. Cf. 1:8. In him that is true (en to alethino). In God in contrast with the world 'in the evil one' (verse 19). See John 17:3. Even in his Son Jesus Christ (en to huio autou Iesou Christo). The autou refers clearly to en to alethino (God). Hence this clause is not in apposition with the preceding, but an explanation as to how we are 'in the True One' by being 'in his Son Jesus Christ.' This (houtos). Grammatically houtos [or outos] may refer to Jesus Christ or to 'the True One.' It is a bit tautological to refer it to God, but that is probably correct, God in Christ, at any rate. God is eternal life (John 5:26) and he gives it to us through Christ."-Robertson, A.T., p. 245, Vol. 6, Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament.

"As far as the grammatical construction of the sentence is concerned the pronoun [houtos, 'this one'] may refer to 'Him that is true' or to 'Jesus Christ'. The most natural reference however is to the subject not locally nearest but dominant in the mind of the apostle. (compare 1 John 2:22; 2 John 7; Acts 4:11; 7:19) This is obviously 'He that is true', further described by the addition of 'His Son.' Thus the pronoun gathers up the revelation indicated in the words which proceed."-Brooke Foss Westcott, The Epistles of St. John: The Greek Text with Notes and Essays, London, Macmillan and Co, 1883, p. 187.

"The KJV by adding here the word 'even,' implies that him that is true now refers to Christ...But the natural sense of the passage and the charecteristic thought of the epistle and the Gospels preclude this interpretation. It is through Christ that we are in God. This God so known is the true God. The thought centers in God from Vs. 18 on, and the contrast with the idols in the last verse confirms it."-The Interpreter's Bible, Vol. XII, p. 301.

"houtos ["this one"] in the Gospel and Epistles is not used merely to avoid the repetition of a name. It seems often to refer to the previous subject as previously described. Here (verses 18-20) God has been described as truly made known in Jesus Christ. The God who completely fulfills the highest conception of the Godhead is the God who has been revealed in Jesus Christ as contrasted with all false conceptions of God, against which the readers are warned in the next verse...Holtzman aptly quotes 2 John 7 as proof that in the Johannine writings houtos ["this one"] may refer to the subject of the preceeding sentence rather than to the name which has immediately preceded."- A. E. Brooke, The International Crititcal Commentary: A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Johannine Epsistles, p 152-153.

Also see:

If the Father is the "only true God" (John 17:3), does that mean that Jesus is a false god? (Search For Bible Truths)

God and gods (Examining the Trinity)

DEFinite John 1:1c (Examining the Trinity)

Who Is “the Only True God”? (g05 4/22 pp. 5-7; Watchtower Online Library)


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