Who Is “the True God” in 1 John 5:20?

Later church fathers unanimously cited 1 John 5:20 as a primary text supporting their belief that Jesus Christ is God. It and the preceding verse reads as follows: “We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding, in order that we might 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.” (1 John 5:19-20)

The christological debate regarding 1 John 5:20 is about grammar. The question is what the pronoun, “This” (Gr. houtos), refers to? If houtos refers to the nearest antecedent, as it usually does in English, which is”Jesus Christ,” the verse indirectly calls him “God.” But if houtos refers to the subject of the previous clause, which is “Him who is true,” which refers to “God” the Father, the verse does not call Jesus “God.”

The view that houtos refers to “Jesus Christ” in 1 John 5:20, so that he is called “the true God,” has dominated biblical scholarship since the 4th century. The reasons given to support this view, with corresponding rebuttals, are as follows:

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Author: Kermit Zarley

Keywords: Trinity, Trinitarian, Trinitarianism, Modalism, Modalism heresy, Arianism, Arian, Arian heresy, Trinitarian heresy, Trinitarian heresies, Jesus is not God, Jesus created the world, Jesus as creator, Three gods in one, Three gods, Athanasian, Athanasian Creed, Athanasian trinity, Triplural, Triplurality, Tri-plural, Tri plurality, Three in one, Triunity, Tri unity, Johannine comma, Johanine comma, Johanine coma, Comma Johanneum, Johannine coma, John's coma, John's comma, Three witnesses, Father Son and Holy Spirit, Father Son and Holy Ghost, Blood and water, Water and spirit, Nicene Creed, Nicene, Nicean Creed, Nicean, one god in three persons, Homoousion, Homoousian, homoousios, houtos, true god

Bible reference(s): 1 John 5:20

Source: Kermit Zarley.

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