dianoigo blog

Friday 5 January 2024

Jesus Christ as True God in 1 John 5:20

1. Introduction
2. Syntactical Considerations
3. Contextual Considerations
 3.1. The True God in Scripture
 3.2. Jesus as "true," "life," and "God" in Johannine Literature
 3.3. The Unity of Father and Son in Johannine Literature
4. Conclusion

1. Introduction 

20 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. He is the true God and eternal life. 21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols.

So reads 1 John 5:20-21 (NRSV). The final sentence of v. 20, however, immediately raises a question in the reader's mind: who is the true God and eternal life? The answer to this question is disputed among New Testament scholars. However, the majority view is that this statement is about Jesus. As Hills explains,
Considerations of grammar suggest that the οὗτος in 5:20f refers back to its immediate antecedent, i.e., to "Jesus Christ" in v 20e, and on this and other grounds the majority of modern scholars with more or less confidence holds that the statement "this is the true God and eternal life" is a christological affirmation.1
What are the considerations that lead most scholars to conclude that this statement is about Jesus? In this article we will look at the syntax of the verse and situate it against the broader context of 1 John and the other Johannine literature.

In Greek, following the NA28 critical text, 1 John 5:20 reads (with clause f in bold, and transliteration beneath),
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. 
oidamen de hoti ho huios tou theou hēkei kai dedōken hēmin dianoian, hina ginōskōmen ton alēthinon, kai esmen en tō alēthinō, en tō huiō autou Iēsou Christō. houtos estin ho alēthinos theos kai zōē aiōnios.
The one significant textual variant is in 1 John 5:20c, where some manuscripts read hina ginōskōmen ton alēthinon theon ("so that we may know the true God" instead of "so that we may know the true one").

The question we seek to answer in this article boils down to identifying the referent of οὗτός (houtos). This is the proximal demonstrative pronoun, equivalent to "this" in English. It can be contrasted with ἐκεῖνος (ekeinos), the distal demonstrative pronoun, equivalent to "that" in English. "This" (like οὗτός) points out something proximal (close to the speaker), while "that" (like ἐκεῖνος) points out something distal (away from the speaker).

Greek demonstrative pronouns contain more information than English ones. οὗτός has a case (nominative) and gender (masculine) that provide clues to its meaning. The nominative case indicates that οὗτός is the subject of the sentence. The masculine gender indicates that the referent is either a male person ("this one") or a masculine noun (which, in Greek, could denote an impersonal thing, such as κόσμος [kosmos, "world"]). There are no impersonal masculine nouns that occur explicitly in the immediate context to which οὗτός could plausibly refer, which leaves us with three possibilities: either οὗτός refers to "the true one" (NRSV: "him who is true"), or it refers to "his Son Jesus Christ," or it refers to some unspecified thing ("this"), in which case οὗτός is masculine so that it agrees in gender with ὁ ἀληθινὸς θεὸς.2 The third option is highly unlikely for two reasons: (i) it is unlikely that a monotheistic writer would be comfortable saying that any abstraction "is the true God," even if this is meant metaphorically (e.g., knowing the true one and his Son "is the true God"). (ii) Unlike the comparable statement in John 17:3, there is no explicit statement giving content to "this." Hence, we will limit our attention to the first two possibilities: that the subject of 1 John 5:20f is the Father or the Son.

It must be stressed either of these referents is possible, and therefore we have before us a syntactic ambiguity, which may have been deliberate or accidental on the author's part. That οὗτός is a proximal demonstrative supports the referent being the nearest antecedent, "his Son Jesus Christ" (as emphasised by Hills above). However, while the nearest antecedent of οὗτός is usually the referent (including in the Johannine writings), there are counterexamples. For instance, in John 4:47 ("This one, having heard that Jesus had come from Judea..."), οὗτός refers to a royal official, but its nearest antecedent is actually the official's ill son. 2 John 7 is another commonly cited counterexample.3 It should be noted that, in such counterexamples, the referent is generally made clear in the context.

In 1 John 5:20, "The Son of God" is also the subject of the preceding sentence ("And we know that the Son of God has come...") So the Son is more "proximal" with respect to the writer's use of οὗτός in two respects: he is the subject of the preceding sentence and he is the nearest antecedent noun.

Concerning the usage of οὗτός in Johannine literature, Greek grammarian Daniel B. Wallace points 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.4
It may be worth noting that, while God (the Father) is nowhere else referred to as "this one" (οὗτός) in the Gospel and Epistles of John, which Jesus commonly is, God is referred to several times using the distal demonstrative pronoun ἐκεῖνος ("that one": John 1:33; 5:19; 5:37; 5:38; 6:29; 8:42).5 This suggests that, due to the Father's transcendence, the writer may not be comfortable referring to the Father using a proximal demonstrative pronoun like οὗτός.

All biblical references to a "true God" (including 1 John 5:20-21) set this God in explicit or implicit contrast with idols or false gods. There are three such passages in the Greek Old Testament (2 Chronicles 15:3 cp. 15:8;6 Isaiah 65:15-16 LXX cp. 65:11;7 Wisdom of Solomon 12:27 cp. 12:24).8 This usage continues in the New Testament. Paul the Apostle commends the Thessalonian church, writing,
For the people of those regions report about us what kind of welcome we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God (θεῷ ζῶντι καὶ ἀληθινῷ), and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath that is coming. (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 NRSV)
Coming to the Johannine literature, in Jesus' "high-priestly prayer" in the Gospel of John, he addresses the Father as "the only true God":
And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God (τὸν μόνον ἀληθινὸν θεὸν), and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. (John 17:3 NRSV)
That Jesus refers to himself here in the third person as "Jesus Christ" (which is without parallel in the Gospels) may indicate that this statement reflects an confessional or liturgical formula used in the Johannine community.9 There is no explicit mention of idols or false gods in the context, but the word "only" (μόνος, monos) is an implicit polemic against any other claimants to deity. The adjective ἀληθινός (alēthinos) is also implicitly polemical; in the above passages, it probably means "genuine" or "real,"10 standing in contrast to other claimants to deity who are not genuine gods but counterfeits. The implicit polemic is similar to that in the more common biblical expression "living God."

Turning to the christological implications of the phrase "true God," both 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 and John 17:3 name Jesus alongside the true God as one distinct from him. However, the statement of John 17:3 also equates eternal life with knowing both the only true God and Jesus Christ, which is remarkable. Would it be contradictory or complementary for the Johannine writer to call Jesus "the true God and eternal life" in 1 John 5:20, given what is written in John 17:3? Answering this question requires a review of Johannine christology, focusing on the terms "true," "life," and "God."

Jesus is referred to repeatedly using the adjective ἀληθινός in the Gospel of John. He is "the true light" (1:9); "the true bread from heaven" (6:32); "the true vine" (15:1). In the Book of Revelation—which, admittedly, most NT scholars attribute to a different author than the Gospel and Epistles of John—Jesus refers to himself as "the true one" (ὁ ἀληθινός, ho alēthinos) in 3:7 and is later identified in a vision as one called "Faithful and True" (πιστὸς καὶ ἀληθινός, pistos kai alēthinos) in 19:11.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus is personally "the way and the truth and the life" (14:6) and "the resurrection and the life" (11:25). God is the ultimate source of life, but gave the Son to have life in himself and to give life to whomever he wishes (5:21; 5:26; 6:57). Jesus is the bread of life (6:48) and the living bread (6:51). In Revelation 1:18, Jesus identifies himself as "the living one" (ὁ ζῶν, ho zōn). Within 1 John, Jesus seems to be equated with "eternal life" in the somewhat oblique opening paragraph, which—in language reminiscent of John 1—says, "this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us" (1 John 1:2 NRSV).11 The Son is also identified with "life" in a kind of synonymous parallelism in 1 John 5:12: "Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life" (NRSV).

Finally, Jesus is repeatedly called "God" (θεός, theos) in the Gospel of John. The Word—who is to be identified as Christ throughout the Prologue—is called θεός in the Gospel's opening verse: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (John 1:1 NRSV). While θεός lacks the article here, its occurrence at the beginning of the clause (θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος, theos hēn ho logos) means that it should be understood emphatically (since word order in Greek is used for emphasis). The Word is God-with-God. The Word-Son is almost certainly called "God" again in John 1:18 (though there is a shadow of doubt on text-critical grounds). Jesus uses the stand-alone formula ἐγὼ εἰμί (egō eimi, "I am he") seven times in the Gospel (4:26; 6:20; 8:24; 8:28; 8:58; 13:19; 18:5-8). In light of the Isaianic background against which John frames these sayings (especially those in chapters 8 and 13), its meaning is tantamount to "I am God." This is because Jesus' use of this formula is modeled after God's use thereof in Isaiah 40-55 LXX, where God says "I am he" (ἐγὼ εἰμί) and "I am God" (ἐγὼ [εἰμί] ὁ θεὸς) interchangeably.12

Then, at the Gospel's climax, Thomas addresses the risen Jesus as "my Lord and my God" (John 20:28). This is probably meant to form an inclusio with the use of theos for the Word in John 1:1,13 so that the Gospel calls Christ "God" at the beginning and end of the Gospel.14 If so, the use of theos for Jesus in the Johannine literature is not incidental but a central theological claim. 

The magnitude of Thomas' confession is sometimes dulled in one of two ways: (i) it is claimed that theos is used here in an attenuated sense, or (ii) it is claimed that Thomas' words are not really addressed to Jesus as such but are a recognition that God is at work in him (cf. John 14:9-11).15 In favour of (i), it is pointed out that men are called "god/s" in Old Testament texts such as Exodus 7:1 and Psalm 82:6, the latter of which is cited by Jesus in this Gospel when defending himself against the charge of "making himself theos" (John 10:33-36). However, Jesus' argument in 10:34-36 is an a fortiori—if even mere men can be called "gods," how much more the Son of God—and thus does not imply an attenuation of theos as applied to Jesus. Furthermore, in these Old Testament texts it is God who assumes the prerogative to address men as "god/s." This is very different from a monotheistic Jew, Thomas, who knows that the Shema declares "the Lord our God, the Lord is one," addressing another man as "my God" (ὁ θεὸς μου, ho theos mou): literally, "the God of me." Interpretation (ii) is no more persuasive. Unlike John 14:9-11, where the declaration "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father" is immediately qualified in terms of mutual indwelling, the Gospel does not qualify Thomas' confession in any way. Moreover, Jesus has been referred to as "Lord" five times already in the resurrection narrative, including once as "my Lord" (John 20:2, 13, 18, 20, 25), so it is improbable that "my Lord" is now directed to the Father. The idea that "my Lord" is addressed to the Son and "my God" to the Father-in-the-Son is untenable once one recognises that "my Lord and my God" is a liturgical formula of the form "my X and my Y" used repeatedly in the psalms, where both nouns X and Y always address the same person, God.16

To summarise, Jesus is called theos multiple times in the Gospel of John, and a close examination of John 20:28 reveals that he is personally addressed here as ho theos in the fullest sense of that term. To describe Jesus as "the true God and eternal life" in 1 John 5:20, therefore, would be consonant with, and not at all at odds with, the theology of the Fourth Gospel. As I. Howard Marshall writes, "it is fitting that at the climax of the Epistle, as at the beginning and climax of the Gospel (Jn. 1:1; 20:28), full deity should be ascribed to Jesus."17

By comparison, to describe the Father as "the true God" in 1 John 5:20 would of course also be consonant with Johannine theology (since the Father is called "the only true God" in John 17:3), but would also be somewhat redundant given that the Father has been called "the true one" twice already in this verse.18 To identify the Father as "eternal life" would be theologically appropriate, but less in keeping with Johannine parlance than to identify the Son with "eternal life." The Father is the ultimate source of life, to be sure, but only the Son is explicitly called "life" elsewhere in the Johannine corpus.

Before concluding, it is necessary to comment on a conundrum that arises if we accept the conclusion to which the syntactical and contextual evidence is pointing us, namely that 1 John 5:20f calls Jesus "the true God." How is it that the Father is "the only true God" and yet the Son is also "the true God"?

Of course, providing a definitive, philosophically precise answer to this question would take the Church more than three centuries. This is not our purpose here; we seek only to determine whether there are any proto-Trinitarian hints in the Johannine writings whereby the Father and the Son are identified as in one sense indistinct (and thus one) and in another sense distinct (and thus two).

Firstly, concerning the Gospel of John, there is the famous saying in John 10:30, "I and the Father are one,"19 which prompts Jesus' opponents to want to stone him for blasphemy, specifically for "making himself theos" (10:33). Multiple recent studies have emphasised the literary relationship between the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4) and John 10:30.20 Lori A. Baron writes,
The significance of this declaration can hardly be overstated: the author invokes the word 'one' (ἕν [hen]) a key word in the Shema, explicitly locating Jesus's identity within the divine אחד [echad]... A potential objection to the idea that John has the Shema in mind here is that Deut 6:4 LXX uses the masculine εἷς [heis] to translate אחד [echad], whereas John employs the neuter ἕν [hen]. But this change is necessitated by grammatical considerations: in the Shema, εἷς [heis] is masculine singular as a predicate nominative of κύριος [kyrios]. εἷς [heis] would be awkward with a compound subject such as ἐγὼ καὶ ὁ πατὴρ [egō kai ho patēr], whereas ἕν [hen] is not awkward...The Evangelist...uses the neuter ἕν [hen], which expresses the idea of one entity. John 10:30 would thus be better translated: 'I and the Father are one thing,' a unity.21
She concludes that
While 'the Jews' understand Jesus’ words as a violation of the divine unity, which is embodied in the Shema, the Evangelist frames his Christology in a way that places Jesus within that unity.22
This notion that the Father and the Son, while distinct persons, are a unity—one God—explains why Jesus is repeatedly called "God" in the Gospel of John, but always in a way that distinguishes him from the Father and acknowledges the deity of the latter. The Word both was with God and was God (John 1:1). Jesus is the only-begotten God in the bosom of the Father (1:18). Thomas calls Jesus "my God" (20:28), but shortly before that, Jesus has described the Father to Mary Magdalene as "my God and your God" (20:17).

Coming to 1 John, scholars have identified a curious phenomenon whereby the author frequently uses verbs and pronouns that are either carelessly or deliberately ambiguous as to whether they are speaking about the Father or the Son.23 This likely means that, for the author, while the Father and the glorified Son remain distinct, they are "one" to such an extent that it is not important to clarify which one is in view at every turn.24 For Georg Strecker, "the Johannine idea of the unity of the Son with the Father" posited in John 10:30 "can be seen in 1 John in the interchangeability of the personal pronouns":25

For example, when the author says that "your sins are forgiven on account of his name" (1 John 2:12), is he referring to the name of God (last mentioned in v. 5) or that of Jesus Christ (last mentioned in v. 1)?26 Again, several pronouns in 3:1-6 and 3:16 seem to refer to Christ; however, Christ has not been mentioned explicitly since 2:24, while God is mentioned thrice in 3:1-2. Finally, in 1 John 5:14, the readers are instructed, "And this is the boldness we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us" (NRSV). This "he" who answers prayer and gives life (as described further in vv. 15-16) seems to be the Son of God, who was the subject of v. 13. On the other hand, it would be more in line with biblical tradition to identify God as the addressee of prayer.

The vagueness seen in references to the Father and the Son in 1 John seems to be a putting into practice of the close unity declared in John 10:30: "Jesus is not saying that he and the Father are a single person, but that together they are one God."27 This would explain how the Johannine literature is seemingly comfortable with calling Jesus "the true God" despite his Father being "the only true God."

In view of the foregoing syntactical and contextual considerations, and the wider Johannine theme of the Father and the Son being a unity, we can conclude with Brian J. Wright that 1 John 5:20 is one of the few New Testament texts that, with a "High Degree of Probability," calls Jesus theos.28

If we are not convinced by the evidence and instead adopt the minority position that ὁ ἀληθινὸς θεὸς refers to the Father, we must still concede that this verse contains a very significant instance of the epistle's famous ambiguous personal pronouns. This, in a letter that has christological heresy as a central concern (1 John 2:22-24; 4:1-3), suggests that the author is not concerned that his readers would fall into heresy if they identified Jesus as "the true God."

At the very least, the epistle declines to "walk back" the divine claims about Jesus that had been made in the Gospel of John. More likely, the letter has "doubled down" on the Gospel's divine christology by applying to Jesus the very term used to circumscribe the Father's unique deity in John 17:3, and has thus anticipated the formulation "true God from true God" that would later be used to express the orthodox position.

  • 1 Julian Hills, "'Little Children, Keep Yourselves from Idols: 1 John 5:21 Reconsidered," Catholic Biblical Quarterly 51 (1989): 301. This assessment of the communis opinio is now a bit dated, but none of the scholarship that I've consulted since then suggests that this is no longer the majority view.
  • 2 Compare αὕτη (hautē) in John 17:3, which is an impersonal proximal demonstrative pronoun that agrees in feminine gender with the noun ζωὴ (zoē): "This is eternal life."
  • 3 Here, οὗτός refers to deceivers who deny that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, but "Jesus Christ" is the nearest antecedent of οὗτός.
  • 4 Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 327.
  • 5 ἐκεῖνος is also used of the Son and the Holy Spirit in the Johannine literature.
  • 6 "And for many days it has been for Israel without a true god and without a teaching priest and without law. And he will return to the Lord, God of Israel, and he will be found to them... And when he heard these words and the prophecy of Adad the prophet, he was both encouraged and he removed the abominations from all the land of Ioudas and Beniamin and from the cities he had gained possession of in Mount Ephraim, and he renewed the Lord’s altar that was in front of the Lord’s shrine." (2 Chronicles 15:3-4, 8 NETS)
  • 7 But to those who are subject to him, a new name shall be called, which shall be blessed on the earth; for they shall bless the true God (τὸν θεὸν τὸν ἀληθινόν), and those who swear on the earth shall swear by the true God, for they shall forget their first affliction, and it shall not come up into their heart. (Isaiah 65:15cd-16 NETS)
  • 8 For they went astray on the paths of error, taking as gods the most despised and loathsome of animals... For through those animals at which in their suffering they became incensed, which they had thought to be gods, being punished by means of them, they saw and recognized as the true God (θεὸν ἀληθῆ) the one whom before they denied knowing; therefore the utmost condemnation came upon them. (Wisdom of Solomon 12:24ab, 27 NETS)
  • 9 "Although John has Jesus speak of himself in the third person, for example, as 'the Son,' it is anomalous that Jesus should call himself 'Jesus Christ.' Elsewhere in the Gospel the name occurs in the Prologue (i 17), a Christian hymn. This verse [John 17:3] is clearly an insertion into the text of Jesus' prayer, an insertion probably reflecting a confessional or liturgical formula of the Johannine church" (Raymond E. Brown, The Gospel according to John XIII-XXI [New York: Doubleday, 1970], 741) .
  • 10 "Of God in contrast to other deities, who are not real" (BDAG, 43).
  • 11 The opening verses of 1 John are a notorious crux interpretum, since their main subject is referred to with neuter relative pronouns, which cannot refer either to a person or to nouns that feature prominently such as logos (masculine) or zōē (feminine). It is clear that the Christ-event is being described, in some way. Raymond E. Brown describes the syntactical problem and concludes, "Overall, the explanation that best fits the evidence is that the 'what' is to be equated with no specific noun in the Prologue, but refers to the whole career of Jesus, with the neuter functioning comprehensively to cover the person, the words, and the works" (The Epistles of John [New York: Doubleday, 1982], 154).
  • 12 Compare Isaiah 43:10 to 43:11, 45:18-19 to 45:21-22; 46:4 to 46:9.
  • 13 Raymond E. Brown defends the translation "The Word was God" for John 1:1c, stating, "This reading is reinforced when one remembers that in the Gospel as it now stands, the affirmation of i 1 is almost certainly meant to form an inclusion with xx 28, where at the end of the Gospel Thomas confesses Jesus as "My God" (ho theos mou) (The Gospel according to John I-XII (New York: Doubleday, 1966), 5).
  • 14 Bear in mind that the epilogue in chapter 21 was probably added in a later edition of the Gospel.
  • 15 The latter interpretation seems to have support from Ernst Haenchen: "the Father is visible in Jesus for those who believe" (John 2: A Commentary on the Gospel of John Chapters 7-21 [trans. Robert W. Funk; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1984], 211).
  • 16 See "my God and my Lord" (Psalm 35:23); "my King and my God" (Psalm 5:2; 44:4; 84:3); "my God and my Saviour" (Psalm 61:3, 7 LXX).
  • 17 The Epistles of John (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978), 254 n. 47.)
  • 18 Raymond E. Brown agrees with Schnackenburg's earlier argument that "the second sentence of 5:20 has meaning only if it refers to Jesus; it would be tautological if it referred to God the Father" ("Does the New Testament Call Jesus God?", Theological Studies 26 [1965]: 558. The view that οὗτος refers to "the true One" "makes the text rather tautologous: 'we are in him who is true...He is the true God'" (Marshall, The Epistles of John, 254 n. 47.
  • 19 The NRSV has, "The Father and I are one," but the translation given here is truer to the Greek, which has ἐγὼ in the emphatic first position.
  • 20 Lori A. Baron, The Shema in John’s Gospel Against its Backgrounds in Second Temple Judaism (PhD Dissertation, Duke University, 2015), subsequently published as The Shema in John's Gospel (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2022); Brury Eko Saputra, The Shema and John 10: The Importance of the Shema Framework in Understanding the Oneness Language in John 10 (Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 2019).
  • 21 The Shema in John's Gospel, 349-50.
  • 22 The Shema in John's Gospel, 360.
  • 23 Brown, commenting on the specific case of 1 John 2:25, asks, "Does the 'he' (autos) who makes the promise refer to God or to Christ, or even (by intentional vagueness) to both? ... In a previous instance of ambiguity (2:3a) I opted for God, but each case must be decided on its own merits" (The Epistles of John, 358). Judith M. Lieu speaks of "the frequent ambiguity as to whether 'he' (autos) refers to God or to Jesus" (I, II & III John: A Commentary [Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2008], 215). Terry Griffith notes that "the use of pronouns in 1 John is often so ambiguous that commentators are frequently divided as to whether Jesus or God is the referent" (Keep Yourselves from Idols: A New Look at 1 John [London: Sheffield Academic, 2002], 75). According to D. Moody Smith, "in 1 John there is often a question of which, the Father or the Son, is the antecedent. This is a perennial and difficult problem" ("The Historical Figure of Jesus in 1 John," in J. Ross Wagner, C. Kavin Rowe & A. Katherine Grieb, eds., The Word leaps the Gap: Essays on Scripture and Theology in Honor of Richard B. Hays [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008], 313).
  • 24 "It is quite clear that for John the Father and Son are distinct beings, although they belong so closely together that on occasion, as we have seen, it is not clear to which of them he is referring." (Marshall, The Epistles of John, 255 n. 48).
  • 25 (The Johannine Letters: A Commentary on 1, 2, and 3 John [trans. Linda M. Maloney; Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 1996], 193 n. 44). He gives as examples 1 John 1:5, 6, 7, 10; 2:3-6, 25, 27-28; 3:24; 4:13, 19, 21; 5:6, 14, 15, 20. In similar fashion, he writes, "the author leaves the readers in a state of unclarity about the application of personal pronouns and words of attribution, because he cannot admit any alternative between christology and theology: God is in Christ!" (The Johannine Letters, 82).
  • 26 The notion that God will act mercifully for his name's sake is common in the Jewish Scriptures (e.g., 1 Kingdoms 12:22 LXX; Psalm 22:3 LXX; 105:8 LXX; Ezekiel 36:21-22); yet in the NT it is primarily the name of Jesus by which salvation occurs. Moreover, while "God" is the nearest antecedent that was named explicitly, Jesus seems to be in view in 2:6 ("whoever says, 'I abide in him,' ought to walk just as he walked.")
  • 27 Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the God of Israel: God Crucified and Other Studies on the New Testament's Christology of Divine Identity (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008), 104.
  • 28 Brian J. Wright, "Jesus as ΘΕΟΣ: A Textual Examination," in Revisiting the Corruption of the New Testament Manuscripts, Patristic, and Apocryphal Evidence, ed. Daniel B. Wallace (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2011), 266.

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