Thursday, April 20, 2017

John 17:3 - Did Jesus Really Say That the Father is the Only True God?


Jesus said these things, and lifting up his eyes to heaven, he said, “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may also glorify you.... This is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and him whom you sent, Jesus Christ.” -- John 17:1,3


Unless otherwise stated, all scriptural quotations are from the World English Bible translation.
There are those who claim that John 17:1,3 does not really say what we claim, that is, that the Father is the only true God, and that Jesus excludes himself from being that only true God. Indeed, some have even stated that we have twisted the scriptures in order to have it say what we want it to say: that only the Father is the only true God. In reality, it is the trinitarian (and some others) who have to distort what Jesus actually did say, and then add this and that, and read what has been added into, the verses, in order to make it appear that the Jesus was not denying that he is the only true God. Did Jesus really state that only the Father is the true God, thus excluding himself from being that only true God, but rather the one sent by that only true God?

ELOHIM AND EL

In our examination of this question, we remind the reader that the basic Hebrew word from which the English word “God” is transliterated is EL. Other forms of this word are often expressed as different words, but are actually simply inflections of the one word. These other Hebrew forms are built upon this basic word, and are also often translated as “God”, such as the forms often transliterated as ELOHIM and ELOAH. While technically ELOHIM is the plural of ELOAH, it appears that word was actually first used as the plural of EL, and then ELOAH was a form that developed from the use of ELOHIM. The basic meaning of the Hebrew word for "God" is “strength, power, might”, etc. (See Proverbs 3:17 and Micah 2:1, where the KJV translates EL as "in the power of ", and Psalm 82:1, where the KJV renders EL as "mighty"; see also Strong's Hebrew Dictionary for #410) ELOHIM as used of the Most High Jehovah, however, is used as what has been called the plural intensive, that is, it is used as a singular in an intensive, superior or superlative form.*
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*See our studies related to:
Elohim

The Hebrew forms EL and ELOHIM are not always used of Jehovah, the only true God. Remembering their basic meaning of “might, power or strength”, they are legitimately used of any to whom Jehovah has given special power or might. That the word EL is thus used may be readily seen by anyone who will carefully note the following texts from the King James Version, in which English translations of the Hebrew word El are in denoted by *..*: "It is in the *power* of my hand." (Genesis 31:29) "There shall be no *might* in thine hand." (Deuteronomy 28:32) "Neither is it in our *power*." (Nehemiah 5:5) "Like the *great* mountains." (Psalm 36:6) "In the *power* of thine hand to do it." (Proverbs 3:27) "Pray unto *a god* [mighty one] that cannot save." (Isaiah 45:20) "Who among the sons of the *mighty*." (Psalm 89:6) "God standeth in the congregation of the *mighty*." (Psalm 82:1) "Who is like unto thee, O Lord [Jehovah] among the *Gods* [mighty ones or ruling ones]?" (Exodus 15:11) "Give unto the Lord [Jehovah] of ye *mighty*." (Psalm 29:1) "The *mighty* God even the Lord [Jehovah]." -- Psalm 50:1.

One should note the above usages carefully, and the application given by the King James translators; all will agree that the context in most of these scriptures indicate the meaning of the Hebrew word El to be that of "might", "power", etc. How clearly it is stated that Jehovah is the Supreme "El" and rules over all other ones called "el/elohim" - powerful ones. In the absolute sense, there is no other EL – Might -- besides Jehovah (Isaiah 44:6; 45:5,21), since he is the Might -- the source of all power, all mightiness, and there is no power or might in the universe that does not originate from him. Even the demons have their power or might from Jehovah, although they do misuse their power. It is this special quality of mightiness that determines the “nature” of what is EL. Thus idols, having no power of their own, are by nature not gods. -- Galatians 4:8

How about the Hebrew word ELOHIM; is its usage only legitimately used of the Most High, Jehovah? No. Exodus 4:16 relates that Moses was made as ELOHIM [a mighty one] to Aaron. (Exodus 4:16) In Exodus 7:1, however, we find that Jehovah made Moses ELOHIM [one of superior might] to Pharoah. Man is a little lower than the angels who are ELOHIM. (Psalm 8:5 -- compare Hebrews 2:9). In Psalm 82:6,7 the “sons of God” -- while yet human -- are called ELOHIM – mighty ones. (See John 10:34,35; 1 John 3:2) The wicked spirit that impersonated Samuel is also called ELOHIM. (1 Samuel 28:13) And there are other scriptures that are possibly referring to angels or human rulers as ELOHIM: Psalm 86:6-8; 95:3; 50:1; Psalm 82:6,7.

It should be noted that Jehovah is the one holy name applied to the Supreme Being - our Father, and him whom Jesus called Father and God. -- John 17:1,3: 20:17; Psalm 110:1; Matthew 22:43-45; 26:64; Mark 12:35-37; Luke 20:41-44; Acts 2:34; 7:55: Romans 8:34; Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 1:13; 10:12,13; 1 Peter 3:22.

What does all of the above have to do with John 17:1,3? Just this: The Father is the only true God [Might, Power] from which all might and power is derived. Jesus, being sent by this only true God, is not the only true God who sent him. Jesus -- like Moses in Exodus 7:1, the angels in Psalm 8:5, and the sons of God (Psalm 82:6,7) -- receives his power and authority from the only true Supreme Being. Psalm 82:6,7 is the scripture Jesus referred to in his defense as recorded in John 10:34,35, and he there uses the Greek form often transliterated as THEOI [a plural form of the Greek often transliterated as THEOS] – gods -- as a translation of the Hebrew ELOHIM. By this reference, Jesus shows that the narrow definition that the Jews were giving the expression “Son of God” does not mean equal to God, any more than the Hebraic usage of ELOHIM when applied to the “sons of God to whom the Word came” means that these “sons of God” are equal to God. But as used in the strict, absolute sense of Supreme Power, the Supreme Being, Jesus states very straightforwardly in John 17:1-3 that his God, his Father, is the only true God [Supreme Being, hence the source of all might, power -- 1 Corinthians 8:6], and then excludes himself as being sent by that only true God.

Our trinitarian neighbors, as well as some others, have redefined the “nature” of what the Biblical "deity" is, by claiming that it means that such must have all the attributes of the Almighty, including never having been created, as well as being the Supreme Being. They do this by a series of misapplications of scripture, and with some imaginative redefining of the basic meanings of words as given in scripture.

We have been presented with the following quote from David A. Reed:

If Jesus’ reference to the Father as “the only true God” were meant to exclude the Son from deity, then the same principle of interpretation would have to apply to Jude 4, where Jesus Christ is called “our only Owner and Lord” (nwt, italics added). This would have to exclude the Father from Lordship and Ownership. Yet, Witnesses speak of the Father as “the Lord Jehovah,” even though Jude 4 calls Jesus our “only” Lord. And the Holy Spirit is called “Lord” at 2 Corinthians 3:17. Obviously, then, neither use of the word only is exclusive with reference to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ being called our “only” Lord does not rule out the Lordship of the Father and the Holy Spirit, and the Father’s being called the “only” true God does not exclude the Son and the Holy Spirit from deity. -- Reed, David A., Jehovah’s Witnesses Answered Verse by Verse, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House) 1998, c1986.
Of course, we do not believe that John 17:3 excludes Jesus from deity, as that term would be defined by Hebraic usage of the Hebrew words EL and ELOHIM, but it does exclude him from being the ultimate Power Source -- Supreme Being, the Most High, the One who sent him -- not from the power as deity {EL, ELOHIM, THEOS} that is given to Jesus by Jehovah, his Father.

For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. -- New American Standard Bible translation
Right away it should be plain that there is no contrast made in Jude 1:4, as in John 17:1,3. In John 17:1,3, we are directly told that the Father is the only true God, and that Jesus was sent by this only true God. In Jude 1:4 there is no contrast being made, nor is there any need to think that “only” as used Jude 1:4 negates the fact that Jesus was sent by the only true God as shown in John 17:3. This should be easy to understand, except for our trinitarian and possibly our “oneness” neighbors, who insist that Jesus is the only true God.

As we have shown elsewhere, Jesus is the Lord of those who accept him; Jesus is the "only Lord"-- through whom is all -- that Jehovah has appointed over the church. (1 Corinthians 8:6) We notice that in Isaiah 61:1, it is "The Spirit of the Lord Jehovah is on" the Messiah, the anointed one. Notice that it is "Lord Jehovah" who does the anointing of Jesus, and thus it is "Lord Jehovah" who has made Jesus both Christ (anointed one) and lord. (Acts 2:36; 10:38) The fact that the Lord Jehovah has made Jesus the only Lord over the church does not do away with the Lordship of Jehovah. The expression “only Master and Lord” used in Jude 1:4 as the one appointed over the church does not mean that there is not another who is Supreme Lord and Master over all. Let us liken this to a certain division or department in a large company. For instance, a worker in a cabinet factory may refer to only one boss over the door finishing line. This does not mean that the boss over the door finishing line does not have another boss who is over him. -- Acts 2:36, Ephesians 1:17.

If Jesus had to be made 'lord' (Acts 2:36), then this indicates that at one time Jesus was not the 'lord', or 'master', which he became, even as he became also “Christ” by the anointing of the one who is God over him. (Psalm 2:2; 45:7 [See also Hebrews 1:9]; Isaiah 61:1; Acts 2:36; 10:38) By being made “Lord” signifies that special powers or authority was given him. With this many scriptures agree that Jehovah, the only true God, has given to his Son special powers and authority. (Psalm 2:2,7,8; 110:1,2; Isaiah 9:6,7 [See Luke 1:32]; 11:1-4; 42:1; 61:1; Jeremiah 23:5; Daniel 7:13,14; Matthew 11:27; 28:18; John 3:35; 5:21-30; 13:3; Acts 2:36; 17:31; Romans 14:9; Ephesians 1:,3;17-23; Philippians 2:9-11; Hebrews 1:2,6,13; 1 Peter 3:22). The fact that these things are given to Jesus in itself shows that Jesus is not the Most High, else none of these would have to be “given” to him, for as being the Most High, he would already have these things. Of course, the One who made him "Lord" would be superior to him, and thus another Lord, a higher Lord. Thus when the scriptures say that all things have been given to him, it is evident that the Almighty One who has given him all these things is excluded. (1 Corinthians 15:27) It is with this in mind that Paul stated: “yet to us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we to him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and we through him.” (1 Corinthians 8:6) Only Jehovah is Most High. Never is Jesus referred as the Most High.

Nor does Jesus as the only Lord and Master of the church negate the fact that individuals of the church may work as servants of an employer, who, in effect would be a “lord” and “master” over them as long as they are employed as such. Likewise, in the first century, some of the Christians were actually slaves that were owned by a master or lord. Neither Paul nor Peter exhorted slaves to be free from their master or lord so as to have only one “Lord”. (Ephesians 6:5,9; Colossians 3:22; 4:1; Ephesians 6:1; Titus 2:9; 1 Peter 2:8) Thus we can see that Jesus as the “the only Lord” over the church is a specific office, an office given to Jesus by the only true God, his God, his Father, and yet there are still “many lords” that are properly so in other areas of life, while Jehovah is still Lord over all. -- Psalm 97:9; 135:5; John 10:29; 14:28.

Since Jesus was sent by the only true God to declare the only true God who had sent him (John 1:18), and since Jesus is the only way that we can know the only true God who sent him (Matthew 11:27; Luke 10:22; John 14:6; 1 John 5:20), and thus be reconciled to the only true God (2 Corinthians 5:18), it is imperative that we come to know the one whom the only true God sent, else we cannot actually know God.

Below we present quotes from various ones (or from various websites) who have presented objections to using John 17:3 to show that Jesus is not Jehovah and our response to these objections. The quotes are preceded with a bullet.

  • If the same principle of hermeneutics is applied to 2 Corinthians 11:31 as anti-Trinitarians wish to apply at John 17:3, God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ would necessarily be two different people, and the latter could not be God.
The distinction between John 17:3 and 2 Corinthians 11:31 should be apparent to all. The latter does not state that the Father is sent by the only true God, as we read of Jesus in John 17:3. Evidently the writer is emphasizing the Greek word “kai” meaning “and” and claiming that in John 17:3, the word “kai” is used as meaning inclusion, which it is, for both the only true God and the one sent by the only true God is included as objects of knowledge. We knowledge of both.
Nevertheless, our argument is not based simply on the usage of the word “kai” in John 17:3, but on the fact that Jesus is sent by the only true God, and is thus distinguishable from the only true God who sent him. While “kai” means in addition to what has just been spoken of, in the case of John 17:3, there are two who are being spoken of that one needs to know in order to live eternally. One needs to know the only true God, and one needs to know the one sent by that only true God. Jesus is only way by which we can be brought to God. (John 14:6; Acts 14:12; Ephesians 2:18; 1 Peter 3:18; 1 John 2:23; 2 John 1:9) Thus there are two who are included that we need to know in order to live eternally, the one being the only true God and the other being the one sent by the only true God.

  • The purpose of this statement [in John 17:3] was to deny polytheism, not to teach about Jesus' essential relationship to the Father. Note Jesus' statement in verse two about receiving "authority over all flesh." This all encompassing authority the Father could not give if He had rival gods (cp. 1Cor 8:4-6, and see comments on Matt 28:18).
However, the verse is discussing more than just denying polytheism. Jesus says that Father is the ONLY true God [Supreme Being], and he [Jesus] was sent by the ONLY true Supreme Being. And the Father is identified in the scriptures as Jehovah. -- Psalm 110:1; Matthew 22:43-45; 26:64; Mark 12:35-37; Luke 20:41-44; Acts 2:34; 7:55: Rom. 8:34; Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 1:13; 10:12,13; 1 Peter 3:22.
John 17:2 is referred to by a trinitarian, which states: “even as you gave him authority over all flesh, that to all whom you have given him, he will give eternal life.” According to the writer, this is supposed to prove that either Jesus is supposed would be a rival god or else that Jesus is the God who gave the authority to himself. In actuality this only proves that the only true God has given the authority to Jesus, whom he sent, nothing more, nothing less. Of course, the only true God was not authorizing Jesus to be a rival Supreme Being in the universe, nor do we know of anyone who teaches such. There is only one Supreme Power, and that is Jehovah, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus.

  • The very juxtaposition here of JESUS CHRIST with THE FATHER is a proof, by implication, of our Lord's Godhead. The knowledge of GOD AND A CREATURE could not be eternal life, and such an association of the one with the other would be inconceivable. (Henry Alford, quoted in Jamieson, p.1064; emphases in original; see Job 22:21; Isa 45:22; Joel 2:32; Acts 2:21, cp. Acts 4:12).
As best as we can determine, the author is stating something to effect that since God the Father and Jesus are mentioned together in John 17:1,3, this should be accepted as proof of the trinitarian idea of Godhead. Of course, there was and is a close relationship between the Father and his Son; this does not mean that they are the same being. As far as implying the godship of Jesus, John 17 certainly does imply such, for such power is given to Jesus by the only true source of all power. The God and Father of Jesus is the source of human life, and all human life is given through Jesus. And it is pure assumption that the knowledge of the Father and also of the Son as the firstborn creation of the Father could not mean eternal life.

  • Now you say that John 17:1,3 says that the Father is JHVH, but does it? It says that the Father isn't Jesus. It says that the Father is God. You still need to prove that "God" in John 17:3 is somehow different than "God" in John 20:28, or Titus 2:13, or anywhere else that "God" is used to refer to Jesus.
Jesus said more than just that the Father is God; Jesus plainly states that he was sent by his Father, the only true God, the only true Power. Jehovah, the God and Father is the only true Power because there is no power apart from him. Even the demons receive their power from Jehovah, although they misuse the power that they have. After stating that the Father is the only true God, Jesus then states that he was sent by this only true God, thus he is not this only true God who sent him.
Who is the only true God? Of course, the scriptures identify the true God as Jehovah, the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, and the prophets.This same God that spoke through the prophets also spoke through Jesus. (Exodus 3:15; Deuteronomy 18:15-19; Isaiah 61:1; Hebrews 1:1,2; Jeremiah 10:10; 42:5) Jesus identified the God he prayed to as the same God as that of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. (Luke 20:37; John 8:54; 17:1,3) Who sent the prophets? None other than Jehovah, the Father of Jesus. (Judges 6:8; 1 Samuel 3:20; 1 Kings 16:12; 2 Kings 14:25; 17:3; 2 Chronicles 25:15; Jeremiah 28:12; 37:2,6; 46:1; Ezekiel 14:4; Hosea 12:13; Haggai 1:3,12; 2:1,10; Zechariah 1:1; Acts 3:8) It is this same Jehovah -- the only true God, the God and Father of Jesus – who also sent Jesus, and who is therefore the God and Father of Jesus. -- Matthew 23:39; Mark 11:9,10; Luke 13:35; John 3:2,17; 5:19,43; 6:57; 7:16,28; 8:26,28,38; 10:25; 12:49,50; 14:10; 15:15; 17:8,26; Hebrews 1:1,2; Revelation 1:1.
See also our studies on Titus 2:13

  • You appear to be arguing that because the Father sent Jesus, Jesus can't be God. If that is the case, then wouldn't the same argument also mean that the Holy Spirit isn't God? John 14:26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. [KJV] That verse might be a bit "trinitarian" for you, what with the Father, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus all in one verse. What do you think it means?
It is not simply our argument that since the Father sent Jesus, that Jesus can't be God, but rather that since “the only true God” sent Jesus, Jesus is not the only true God who sent him. It is the plain statement that the “only true God” sent Jesus, and thus Jesus is not the only true God who sent him. Nor do we believe that the holy spirit is God Almighty himself, but rather that it is the personal power of God that he sends to accomplish his purposes. It is our further belief that the Bible is completely harmonious without adding the imaginative story of three persons in one God.
But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your memory all that I said to you. -- John 14:26
As for John 14:26, there is nothing there about three persons in one God, thus this verse has absolutely nothing at all “trinitarian”. It is nonsense to think that simply because all three might be mentioned together in some way that this is trinitarian. Of course, Jesus also mentions in context his followers, who are one with him and his God. (John 17:11,21,22) According to the reasoning given, we should conclude then the disciples are also God Almighty, since they are spoken of in the same verse with Jesus and his Father, and not only that -- they are to be one with Jesus and his Father, even as Jesus is one with the Father.
John 14:26 simply states that God will send the holy spirit as the comforter. This agrees with what Peter states in Acts 2:33: “Being therefore exalted by the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured forth this, which you now see and hear.” God gave the holy spirit to Jesus for a special purpose, that is to pour it forth upon his disciples. At present we haven't written much on the holy spirit, but one might read the following documents:
(Please note the the author of the above studies did not realize or understand that most proponents of the trinity do not claim to teach three gods in one god, or three persons in one person. This does not negate the rest of his arguments, however. Nevertheless, we do not necessarily agree with all conclusions of the above author.)

  • I've heard people say that in Greek, "and" means the same as "equal to". I wouldn't expect you to agree with this in the context of John 17:3, however, because you firmly believe that Jesus isn't God.
The Greek word that is translated “and” in John 17:3 is KAI. It means: and, also, even, indeed, but “and, also, even, indeed, but”. Some have argued that its usage as “even” means “equal to”, and that John 17:3 should be translated something like: “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, even [Greek, kai] Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” This kind of translation would in effect have Jesus as the only true God sending himself, which is nonsense. The Greek text however identifies kai directly with the one sent, with addition of identifying the one sent as Jesus, and distinguishing the one who did the sending as the "only true God". To see this, we present Jay Green's Interlinear: “And is everlasting life, that they may know You the only true God, and [Greek kai] whom you sent, Jesus Christ.”
Some try to apply Granville Sharp's first for the usage of kai to this verse in order to make it appear that the only true God is the one sent by the only true God, which, of course, is also nonsense. Sharp's first rule is that when there is a article-noun-kai-noun construction, then one person is being referred to. Sharp's purpose is doing a study in order to formulate this rule was for the very purpose of trying to prove the trinity by such a rule. However, to do so he had to come up with a list of exceptions to the rule: a) neither noun is impersonal; b) neither noun is plural; c) neither noun is a proper noun. The argument is that there is a definite article before “only true God” but none before the pronoun hon (whom), thus supposedly according to Sharp's rules one person is being spoken of. Sharp never discussed pronouns in association with his rule, nor did he ever try to apply his rule to John 17:1,3. If such a rule would be applied applied to John 17:1,3, then this would mean that Jesus is one person with the Father whom he describes as the only true God, the supposed official trinity dogma denies. However, the context itself plainly is showing that the one sent is not the one who did the sending. There is no reason to believe that Jesus in his prayer was trying to say that he was the only true God who sent him.

  • It is correct to say that the Father is the only true God, the Son is the only true God, or the Holy Spirit is the only true God. But it would be incorrect to say that the Father alone is the only true God, the Son alone is the only true God, or that the Holy Spirit alone is the only true God. Therefore, to say that the Father is the only true God no more disproves the Deity of Christ than saying that Jesus is the only true God disproves the Deity of the Father.
To someone who does not believe in the trinitarian doctrine, the above simply appears to be double-talk jargon. It assumes the trinity to be true, and thus filters John 17:3 to agree with the doctrine. It would be correct to say Father alone is the only true God, for that is in fact what Jesus was saying, for he disassociates himself from the only true God by stating that he was sent by the only true God.
Nevertheless, as we have stated many times, our effort is not to disprove the deity of Jesus, but rather to show that the deity of Jesus does not mean that Jesus is Jehovah or that Jesus is equal to the Almighty Jehovah.

  • John 17:3 is better understood including Christ's Divine Nature with the Father's in the term "God" and the phrase "and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent," as a reference to His human nature--since that was the only nature that was "sent." (The Divine nature being omnipresent -- John 3:13.)
This assumes the trinitarian doctrine of two “natures” -- two different planes of being -- at the same time, and then seeks to thwart what Jesus plainly says by reading this doctrine into the verse. The "dual nature" docrine, that is, that Jesus possessed two planes of being at once, has to be imagined, assumed, and then, based on what has been imagined and assumed, such imagined assumptions have to be added to, and read into, the scriptures. There is no reason to add the story that Jesus existed in two planes of being at once.

  • "And" is not a contrasting word. Since other verses clearly show that the Son has all the incommunicable attributes of the nature of God.
As already stated, our argument is not based on the word “and”, which is used in John 17:3 as the common word “and”, denoting a copulative in that the word “know” includes knowingboth the one true God and his Son. The contrast comes from the fact that the Son is sent by the first personage being spoken of, that is, “the only true God.”
While many have attempted to show that Jesus has some alleged incommunicable attributes of Almighty God, in reality all we have seen is many scriptures presented where such a thought is “read into” the scriptures. As shown earlier, the “nature” of godship is mightiness. Only Jehovah, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus has this nature in the Supreme sense in that only he is the source of all might. There is no source of power or might that is not derived from him.
While some claim that we are twisting John 17:3, it is actually the trinitarians that have to twist John 17:3, to make it appear that Jesus is Jehovah who sent him, for Jesus, by stating that he was sent by the only true God, plainly disassociates himself from being the only true God who sent him. And, it is the trinitarian that has to assume, and based on those assumption, add to the scripture so as to make what Jesus said appear to be in harmony with the trinitarian assumptions.
See also:
Below we present links to sites that present opposing viewpoints as represented by the numbers that follow. Of course, we do not agree with the conclusions being presented on these sites, and this one study does not address all of the conclusions given. However, most of the arguments presented have been discussed somewhere on this site.
1 * 2 * 3 * 4 * 5 * 6 * 7 * 8 * 9 * 10




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