Re: Wallace & 1 John 5:20

From: GregStffrd (
Date: Mon May 11 1998 - 11:40:42 EDT

Dear Jonathan:

Based on your last post I can see we have reached the end of our discussion on
this matter. I appreciate your time and thought, and I will make a few closing
comments of my own, regarding your latest reply.

In a message dated 98-05-11 10:52:42 EDT, you write:

<< >Jesus restricted the title hO MONOS ALHTHINOS THEOS to the Father, and
>John and those to whom he wrote were well aware of this, also.
> When I read the verse, it seems to say precisely what you tell me it may
 not mean ("es kann nicht sein was nicht sein darf"). And in light of John
 20:28, I really don't understand your objection to the notion that Jesus
 might be called God in the Johannine community.>

Well, first of all, I do not believe the case for John 20:28 is as solid as
you seem to think, in terms of applying both titles to Jesus. But if both
titles do apply to Jesus, the context shows such titles are used in a
qualified sense. (John 20:17) Also, I believe I already explained this matter
concerning the different concepts created by the semantic signal "God," when
applied to different persons in the first century. We are not talking about
calling someone "God," but the "true God." Jesus stated that only the Father
rightly bears this title. (John 17:3) The term "God" carries different
connotations depending on the person to whom it is applied. I gave, for
example, John 10:34. So, in my view, based on John 1:18, 17:3, 20:17, etc.,
the Johannine community would have no problem calling Jesus THEOS in a
qualified sense, but they would not call him THEOS with the connotation of
"the only true God," for they knew this description was restricted to the

Again, Jesus is not the same THEOS as the Father, for Jesus is the MONOGENHS
THEOS, and the Father is God over him. (John 1:18; 20:17) Thus, the Johannine
community, when and if they heard Jesus called THEOS, would never dream (in my
opinion) that he is the same God as the Father in view of the above, but also
in view of Jesus' clearly stated words in John 17:1-3. Even later theologians
like Origin understood the distinction Jesus made between the Father as "the
only true God" in John 17:3 and others who may properly be called "gods," in a
different sense:

"God on the one hand is Very God (Autotheos, God of Himself); and so the
Savior says in His prayer to the Father, `That they may know Thee the only
true God;' but that all beyond the Very God is made God by participation in
His divinity, and is not to be called simply God (with the article), but
rather God (without the article). And thus the first-born of all creation, who
is the first to be with God, and to attract to Himself divinity, is a being of
more exalted rank than the other gods beside Him, of whom God is the God, as
it is written, `The God of gods, the Lord, hath spoken and called the earth.'
[Ps. 136:2] It was by the offices of the first-born that they became gods, for
they drew from God in generous measure that they should be made gods, and He
communicated it to them according to His own bounty. The true God, then, is
`The God,' and those who are formed after him are gods, images, as it were, of
Him the prototype."---Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 10, Book 2, page 323.

I quote Origin here simply to show that Jesus' words in John 17:3 did indeed
impact the understanding others gave to the term "God," as applied to
different individuals.

 I'm not sure how to continue at this point. Frankly, the antecedent of
 hOUTOS in 1 John 5:20 seems quite clear to me. I've tried to read it as you
 do, following your points in careful detail, but the text just doesn't read
 that way to me. I'm not sure that it's useful to address each of your
 points, since I think I've already clearly expressed why I interpret the
 verse as I do, and responding again in detail wouldn't add much light to
 the topic. Perhaps it is time for us to agree to disagree on this.
 Jonathan >

And the antecedent seems clear to me, also. I have given careful thought to
your view, and I respectfully disagree.

Thanks again for the stimulating (and, I hope, enlightening) discussion!

Greg Stafford
University of Wisconsin

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