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Anti-Trinitarians such as Jehovah’s Witnesses love to cite the following words of our Lord Jesus concerning the Father:

“This means everlasting life, their coming to know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.” John 17:3

These groups interpret this text to mean that Jesus cannot be the only true God, but must be a creature that the one true God brought into existence.

The immediate problem with this interpretation is that this pits John against himself by making him contradict what he wrote elsewhere in his Gospel.

For instance, John begins his inspired writing by introducing Jesus as the prehuman Word of God who was as to his very nature God from even before the creation came into being:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (kai Theos een ho Logos)… And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth… No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son (monogenes Theos), who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.” John 1:1, 14, 18 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

John also records the Apostle Thomas worshiping the risen Son as his very own sovereign God, a confession which Christ blesses:

“Next he said to Thomas: ‘Put your finger here, and see my hands, and take your hand and stick it into my side, and stop doubting but believe.’ In answer Thomas said to him: ‘My Lord and my God (ho Kyrios mou kai ho Theos mou)!’ Jesus said to him: “Because you have seen me, have you believed? Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.’” John 20:27-29

Therefore, Jesus’ statements in John 17:3 cannot possibly be misused to deny John’s explicit affirmation that Jesus is truly God in essence, being essentially one with the Father.

Our Lord’s words are meant to contrast the Father as the only true God with those beings whom others wrongly worship as gods.

In other words, the Father is the only true God in contrast to the false gods of the nations, not to the exclusion of the Son and the Spirit.

This bears out from the way the inspired Scriptures employ the terms “true God,” e.g., in comparison with the idols and beings that the Gentiles worship:

“Now the spirit of God came upon Az·a·riʹah the son of Oʹded. So he went out to meet Aʹsa and said to him: ‘Hear me, O Aʹsa and all Judah and Benjamin! Jehovah is with you as long as you remain with him; and if you search for him, he will let himself be found by you, but if you abandon him, he will abandon you. For a long time Israel had been without the true God, without a priest teaching, and without law. But when in their distress they returned to Jehovah the God of Israel and searched for him, he let himself be found by them. In those times no one could travel safely, for there was much unrest among all the inhabitants of the lands. Nation was being crushed by nation and one city by another city, because God kept them in disorder with every sort of distress. But you, be strong and do not become discouraged, for your activity will be rewarded.’ As soon as Aʹsa heard these words and the prophecy of Oʹded the prophet, he took courage and removed the disgusting idols from all the land of Judah and Benjamin and from the cities that he had captured from the mountainous region of Eʹphra·im, and he restored Jehovah’s altar that was before the porch of Jehovah… Furthermore, they entered into a covenant to search for Jehovah the God of their forefathers with all their heart and with all their soul. Whoever would not search for Jehovah the God of Israel was to be put to death, whether small or great, man or woman… Aʹsa the king even removed Maʹa·cah his grandmother from her position as queen mother, because she had made an obscene idol for the worship of the sacred pole. Aʹsa cut down her obscene idol and pulverized it and burned it in the Kidʹron Valley. But the high places were not removed from Israel. Nevertheless, Aʹsa’s heart was complete all his life.” 2 Chronicles 15:1-8, 12-13, 16-17

“Hear the word that Jehovah has spoken against you, O house of Israel. This is what Jehovah says: ‘Do not learn the way of the nations, And do not be terrified by the signs of the heavens Because the nations are terrified by them. For the customs of the peoples are a delusion. It is just a tree of the forest that is cut down, Worked by the hands of the craftsman with his tool. They adorn it with silver and gold And fasten it with hammer and nails so that it will not fall over. Like a scarecrow in a cucumber field, they cannot speak; They have to be carried, for they cannot walk. Do not fear them, for they can do no harm, Nor can they do any good.’ No one is like you, O Jehovah. You are great, and your name is great and mighty. Who should not fear you, O King of the nations, for it is fitting; Because among all the wise ones of the nations and among all their kingdoms, There is no one at all like you. They are all unreasoning and stupid. Instruction from a tree is an utter delusion. Silver plates are imported from Tarʹshish and gold from Uʹphaz, The work of a craftsman, of the hands of a metalworker. Their clothing is blue thread and purple wool. They are all made by skilled workers. But Jehovah is truly God. He is the living God and the eternal King. Because of his indignation the earth will quake, And no nations will endure his denunciation. This is what you should say to them: ‘The gods that did not make the heavens and the earth Will perish from the earth and from under these heavens.’ He is the Maker of the earth by his power, The One who established the productive land by his wisdom And who stretched out the heavens by his understanding.” Jeremiah 10:1-12

“For they themselves keep reporting about our first contact with you and how you turned to God from your idols to slave for a living and true God, and to wait for his Son from the heavens, whom he raised up from the dead, namely, Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath that is coming.” 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10

“But we know that the Son of God has come, and he has given us insight so that we may gain the knowledge of the one who is true. And we are in union with the one who is true, by means of his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and life everlasting. Little children, guard yourselves from idols.” 1 John 5:20-21


Here is how noted Evangelical scholar and apologist Ron Rhodes puts it:

So, for example, you might begin by asking the Jehovah’s Witness how many true God’s there are according to John 17:3. Allow him to open his New World Translation and ask him to read it aloud: “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ” (NWT, italics added). Based on this verse, the Jehovah’s Witness will say that Jehovah (the Father) is the one true God.

Next, point out that according to John 1:1 in the New World Translation, Jesus is “a god.” Ask the Jehovah’s Witness if he or she agrees that Jesus is “a god.” They’ll say yes. Then ask whether Jesus is a “true” God or a “false” God. This will cause a dilemma for the Jehovah’s Witness. If he or she says Jesus is a false god, he is contradicting the New World Translation of Scripture (since John 1:1 in this version says Jesus is a god). If he says Jesus is a true God, he is also contradicting Scripture (since John 17:3 says there is only one true God—Jehovah).33 (Rhodes, Reasoning from the Scriptures with the Jehovah’s Witnesses [Harvest House Publishers; Updated and Expanded edition, 2009], Introduction, pp. 19-20; emphasis mine)


John 17:3—Jehovah: The “Only True God”

The Watchtower Teaching. According to the New World Translation, Jesus said in John 17:3: “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ” (italics added). Based on this verse, Watchtower literature argues that one’s eternal destiny hinges on knowing the true nature of God, and hence, one must ascertain whether or not the doctrine of the Trinity is true or false.28

The Watchtower Society points out that Jesus clearly distinguished himself from God, calling the Father “the only true God” (John 17:3). Reasoning from the Scriptures puts it this way: “He [the Father] cannot be ‘the only true God’…if there are two others who are God to the same degree as he is, can he?”29

The Watchtower publication Should You Believe in the Trinity? tells us that “time and again, Jesus showed that he was a creature separate from God and that he, Jesus, had a God above him, a God whom he worshiped, a God whom he called ‘Father.’ In prayer to God, that is, the Father, Jesus said, ‘You, the only true God’ (John 17:3).”30 Indeed, “since Jesus had a God, his Father, he could not at the same time be that God” (emphasis added).31

The Biblical Teaching. In discussing this verse with a Jehovah’s Witness, it is important to raise the issue: Is Jesus a true God or a false God?32 Obviously, if Jesus is a true God, then this forces the Jehovah’s Witness to believe in more than one true God (which is polytheism). If Jesus is not a true God, then he must be a false God. In a “Witnessing Tips” article in the Christian Research Journal entitled “Is Jesus a True or a False God,” Robert Bowman suggests the following line of logic in conversing with a Jehovah’s Witness:


Christian: According to John 17:3, how many true Gods are there?

JW: Only one: Jehovah the Father is “the only true God.”

Christian: Quite right. Now, would you agree that whatever is not true must be false?

JW: Yes, I suppose so.

Christian: Then, if there is only one true God, all other gods must be false gods, right?

JW: Yes, I can see that.

Christian: Now, according to John 1:1 in the New World Translation, Jesus is a god. Do you agree with that?

JW: Of course.

Christian: Well then, is Jesus a true god or a false god?

JW: Hmm…I don’t know.

Christian: He can’t be a false god, can he, since that would mean the apostle John was guilty of falsely honoring Jesus as a god? Therefore he must be a true God. But Jehovah is the only true God. Therefore, Jesus must be Jehovah.33

After making the above points, emphasize that the phrase only true (in “only true God”) in John 17:3—in both grammar and context—is not intended to contrast the Father and the Son, but rather to contrast the one true God’s nature with that of false gods.34 The Greek word for true in this verse carries the meaning “real” or “genuine.” Hence, Jesus in this verse is simply saying that the Father is the “only true God”—the only real or genuine God—as opposed to the many false gods and idols (see 1 Thess. 1:9; 1 John 5:20; Rev. 3:7; 2 Chron. 15:3; Isa. 65:16). This verse does not take away from Christ’s deity in any way. John firmly establishes Christ’s deity (as the true God) elsewhere in his gospel (John 1:1; 8:58; 20:28). (Ibid., 9– Trinity: Biblical Doctrine or Pagan Lie?, pp. 226-228)


There is one cult leader who thinks he has a refutation to the response provided by Trinitarians in respect to the proper exegesis and understanding of John 17:3

Arian cultist and polemicist Greg Stafford writes this in regards to Rhode’s explanation:

Rhodes’ reasoning is also misleading in that it assumes that “true” (as used by Jesus in John 17:3) has the meaning of “right” or “correct,” with its opposite meaning being “false” or “wrong.” But there are good reasons for believing that what Jesus said about his Father being “the only true God” has nothing to do with Rhodes’ understanding of “true.” Before considering the biblical meaning of the word “true” in John 17:3, it should be noted that Trinitarians are not really in a position to ask the kind of question Rhodes’ asks, namely, “Is Jesus a true God or a false god?”Indeed, they put themselves in a very precarious position because they do not recognize the scriptural teaching that Jah’s “S/sons” can rightly be considered “gods.” Since Jesus himself says that the Father is “the only true God,” then Trinitarians would have to conclude that Jesus is a false god. Of course, they do not conclude any such thing. Instead they assume Trinitarianism and then they are able to turn the biblical Father from the “only true God” to a “person” of the true God, which “God” then becomes the very thing assumed in the first place: the Trinity!

In light of John 17:3, the questions Trinitarians should ask, indeed, that we should all ask are: 1) Since the Father is “the only true God,” what kind of “G/god” is Jesus? or 2) Since the Father is “the only true God” in what sense can Jesus and God’s other “sons” be “true G/gods”? To this point I have already presented much information about how the “one God’s” “S/sons” are “gods.” But more about these “S/sons”’ relationship to God as “gods” can be learned from the Greek word “true” used in John 17:3, namely, alethinos. This word can have one of several meanings depending on the context and on the demonstrated usage of the author or in the document under discussion. According to BAGD, alethinos can mean, “genuine, real … Of God in contrast to other gods, who are not real … true in the sense of the reality possessed only by the archetype, not by its copies.”

Though BAGD does not attribute the ‘archetypal’ meaning to alethinos in John 17:3, I believe this sense best fits the use of “true” in this account because it reflects what is accurately taught in the Bible about the “one God” and about his “sons.” Arguing as Trinitarians argue, namely, that “true” as used of the Father in John 17:3 means that all real “gods” are false,” contradicts what the Bible teaches about God’s “sons” and it also would then mean that Jesus is a false “G-god,” which like the Trinity is not taught anywhere in the Bible. On the other hand, Jesus is explicitly said to be a “copy” of God’s “being” (Hebrews 1:3), which fits perfectly with the definitions “archetype” and “copy” that are given for alethinos in BAGD.

To illustrate the meaning of a “reality possessed only by the archetype, not by its copies” for “true” in texts other than John 17:3, consider John 1:9. Here John says concerning Jesus, “The true light [Greek: to phos to alethinon] that gives light to every sort of man was about to come into the world” (compare 1 John 2:8). Clearly, this does not require that we understand Jesus’ disciples (Matthew 5:14) as “false” lights! Rather, the disciples are presented in the Bible as “lights” that reflect Jesus’ light by their devotion to him. Similarly, Jesus is a “reflection of God’s glory” and as such he remains completely devoted to his God.–Hebrews 1:3; Revelation 3:12.

Consider also the account where Jesus “the true bread from heaven [Greek: ton arton ek tou ouranou ton alethinon],” contrasted himself with the manna that God gave the Israelites (John 6:32-33). Obviously, the manna was real food. But Jesus was the true food, the greater manna from heaven that would give life everlasting to those who eat it (John 6:51, 54-56). The manna and other earthly foods are only copies of the real, true food that God gives. Note also how in Hebrews 8:2 the “true tent” (Greek: tes skenes tes alethines) is compared with the typical tent God commanded Moses to make (Hebrews 8:5; 9:9). Moses’ tent was not a “false” tent, but a copy of the heavenly one.

In all these texts alethinos is not contrasted with something that is “false.” Instead it is used to describe that which is the archetype in comparison to what is a copy of the original… (Stafford, Jehovah’s Witnesses Defended: An Answer to Scholars and Critics [Elihu Books, LLC., Murrieta, CA, Third edition, 2009], Chapter 4 – Jesus as “God and as a “god”. The truth about the only true god, pp. 354-356; bold emphasis mine)


It is ironic that Stafford references John 1:9 and 1 John 2:8 where Jesus is described as the true light, but fails to see just how significant these texts are in exposing the unbiblical and heretical nature of his arian Christology.

Since Stafford correctly takes the archetypal meaning of alethinos in these particular texts referring to Christ as the light,he is now faced with the fact of Jehovah being a copy of Jesus who derives his light or illuminating qualities from the Son himself!

In other words, Stafford’s point leaves him with the embarrassing conclusion that Jesus is the true light in a sense that Jehovah is not, since the latter merely reflects the light of Christ, who is the Source and Origin of all the light that others possess by virtue of their union with him.

Note, for example, what the sacred writings proclaim concerning Jehovah’s light, whom Stafford identifies as the Father:

Jehovah is my light and my salvation. Whom should I fear? Jehovah is the stronghold of my life. Whom should I dread?” Psalm 27:1

“With you is the source of life; By your light we can see light.” Psalm 36:9

“For you the sun will no longer be a light by day, Nor will the shining of the moon give you light, For Jehovah will become to you an eternal light, And your God will be your beauty. No more will your sun set, Nor will your moon wane, For Jehovah will become for you an eternal light, And the days of your mourning will have ended.” Isaiah 60:19-20

“Do not rejoice over me, O my enemy. Although I have fallen, I will rise up; Although I dwell in the darkness, Jehovah will be my light. The wrath of Jehovah I will bear—For I have sinned against him—Until he pleads my legal case and brings about justice for me. He will bring me out to the light; I will look upon his righteousness.” Micah 7:8-9

“Every good gift and every perfect present is from above, coming down from the Father of the celestial lights, who does not vary or change like the shifting shadows.” James 1:17

“This is the message that we heard from him and are announcing to you: God is light, and there is no darkness at all in him… However, if we are walking in the light as he himself is in the light, we do have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” 1 John 1:5, 7

Jehovah is the light of believers who receive all their enlightenment from his spiritual illumination, seeing that he is the Cause of life.

And now contrast this with the biblical statements, which plainly state that Christ is the Source of all life and the Originator of all spiritual enlightenment:

All things came into existence through him, and apart from him not even one thing came into existence. What has come into existence by means of him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light is shining in the darkness, but the darkness has not overpowered it… He was not that light, but he was meant to bear witness about that light. The TRUE light that gives light to every sort of man was about to come into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into existence through him, but the world did not know him.” John 1:3-5, 8-10

“For just as the Father raises the dead up and makes them alive, so the Son also makes alive whomever he wants to… Most truly I say to you, the hour is coming, and it is now, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who have paid attention will live. For just as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted also to the Son to have life in himself… Do not be amazed at this, for the hour is coming in which all those in the memorial tombs will hear his [the Son’s] voice and come out, those who did good things to a resurrection of life, and those who practiced vile things to a resurrection of judgment.” John 5:21, 25-29

“‘All those whom the Father gives me will come to me, and I will never drive away the one who comes to me; for I have come down from heaven to do, not my own will, but the will of him who sent me. This is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose none out of all those whom he has given me, but that I should resurrect them on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who recognizes the Son and exercises faith in him should have everlasting life, and I will resurrect him on the last day.’ Then the Jews began to murmur about him because he had said: ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven.’ And they began saying: ‘Is this not Jesus the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven”?’ In response Jesus said to them: ‘Stop murmuring among yourselves. No man can come to me unless the Father, who sent me, draws him, and I will resurrect him on the last day.’… So Jesus said to them: ‘Most truly I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in yourselves. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has everlasting life, and I will resurrect him on the last day;’” John 6:37-44, 53-54

“Then Jesus spoke again to them, saying: ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will by no means walk in darkness, but will possess the light of life.’” John 8:12

“We must do the works of the One who sent me while it is day; the night is coming when no man can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the world’s light.” John 9:4-5

“Jesus said to her: ‘Your brother will rise.’ Martha said to him: ‘I know he will rise in the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus said to her: ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who exercises faith in me, even though he dies, will come to life; and everyone who is living and exercises faith in me will never die at all. Do you believe this?’ She said to him: “Yes, Lord, I have believed that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.’” John 11:23-27

“So Jesus said to them: ‘The light will be among you a little while longer. Walk while you still have the light, so that darkness does not overpower you; whoever walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the light, exercise faith in the light, so that you may become sons of light.’ Jesus said these things and went off and hid from them… However, Jesus called out and said: ‘Whoever puts faith in me puts faith not only in me but also in him who sent me; and whoever sees me sees also the One who sent me. I have come as a light into the world, so that everyone putting faith in me may not remain in the darkness.’” John 12:35-36, 44-46

“Jesus said to him: ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” John 14:6

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have observed and our hands have felt, concerning THE WORD OF LIFE, (yes, THE LIFE was made manifest, and we have seen and are bearing witness and reporting to you THE EVERLASTING LIFE that was with the Father and was made manifest to us), that which we have seen and heard we are reporting also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us. And this fellowship of ours is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.” 1 John 1:1-3

“And this is the witness, that God gave us everlasting life, and this life is in his Son. The one who has the Son has this life; the one who does not have the Son of God does not have this life. I write you these things so that you may know that you have life everlasting, you who put your faith in the name of the Son of God. And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that no matter what we ask according to his will, he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us concerning whatever we are asking, we know that we are to have the things we ask for, since we have asked them of him.” 1 John 5:11-15

The God-breathed Scriptures even describe Jesus as that very great light who is the Mighty God that humbled himself to become a human baby:

“However, the gloom will not be as when the land had distress, as in former times when the land of Zebʹu·lun and the land of Naphʹta·li were treated with contempt. But at a later time He will cause it to be honored—the way by the sea, in the region of the Jordan, Galʹi·lee of the nations. The people who were walking in the darkness Have seen a great light. As for those dwelling in the land of deep shadow, Light has shone on them… For a child has been born to us, A son has been given to us; And the rulership will rest on his shoulder. His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. To the increase of his rulership And to peace, there will be no end, On the throne of David and on his kingdom In order to establish it firmly and to sustain it Through justice and righteousness, From now on and forever. The zeal of Jehovah of armies will do this.” Isaiah 9:1-2, 6-7

“Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galʹi·lee. Further, after leaving Nazʹa·reth, he came and took up residence in Ca·perʹna·um beside the sea in the districts of Zebʹu·lun and Naphʹta·li, so as to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet, who said: ‘O land of Zebʹu·lun and land of Naphʹta·li, along the road of the sea, on the other side of the Jordan, Galʹi·lee of the nations! The people sitting in darkness saw a great light, and as for those sitting in a region of deathly shadow, light rose on them.’” Matthew 4:12-16

What makes this all the more remarkable is that the prophet Isaiah identifies Jehovah as the Mighty God in the very next chapter!

“In that day those remaining of Israel And the survivors of the house of Jacob Will no longer support themselves on the one who struck them; But they will support themselves on Jehovah, The Holy One of Israel, with faithfulness. Only a remnant will return, The remnant of Jacob, to the Mighty God.” Isaiah 10:20-21

Stafford now faces a dilemma due to his erroneous, unbiblical belief that Jesus is a god whom Jehovah produced as the first of all his creatures.

I will break this down step by step so that the readers can see how and why this is.

  1. Jesus is the true and great light who is the Mighty God that humbled himself to become flesh.
  2. As a result of being the true light, Jesus is the Source and Origin of all spiritual illumination.
  3. This means that Jesus possesses light in a sense that no one else does.
  4. This further implies that the light that anyone else possesses is derived from Jesus’ light. These others are merely reflecting the light of Christ which shines in and through them.
  5. Jehovah is said to be the light and the Mighty God.
  6. And yet Jehovah is not Jesus, but the Father of Christ.
  7. Jehovah God the Father is never described as the true light. Only Jesus is.
  8. This shows that Jehovah’s light, mightiness and Godhood are all derived from Jesus, making the Son the Source and Cause of Jehovah’s spiritual qualities.
  9. As such, Jehovah God the Father is nothing more than a copy of a creature, and is dependent on a finite, temporal being for his Godship.

A Trinitarian, on the other hand, has no problem with what the Holy Bible teaches but can easily harmonize all these biblical statements.

After all, the Son is not a creature but the eternal Word of the Father who eternally and completely shares in the Father’s very own infinite, uncreated substance. As such, Jesus is the one true and great light, and the Source of all life, not to the exclusion of, or independently from, the Father, but rather in perfect, inseparable union with his Father:

“In the beginning the Word existed; and the Word was face to face with God; yea, the Word was God Himself. He is the One who was face to face with God in the beginning. It was through Him that EVERYTHING came into existence, and apart from Him not a single thing came into existence. It was by Him that life began to exist, and that life was the light of mankind… The real light, which sheds light upon everyone, was just coming into the world. He came into the world, and though the world through Him began to exist, it did not recognize Him.” John 1:1-4, 9-10 Charles B. Williams(i) New Testament

“Seeing this man lying there and being aware that he had already been sick for a long time, Jesus said to him: ‘Do you want to get well?’ The sick man answered him: ‘Sir, I do not have anyone to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am on my way, another steps down ahead of me.’ Jesus said to him: ‘Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.’ And the man immediately got well, and he picked up his mat and began to walk. That day was the Sabbath. So the Jews began to say to the cured man: ‘It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to carry the mat.’ But he answered them: ‘The same one who made me well said to me, “Pick up your mat and walk.”’ They asked him: ‘Who is the man who told you, “Pick it up and walk”?’ But the healed man did not know who he was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there. After this Jesus found him in the temple and said to him: ‘See, you have become well. Do not sin anymore, so that something worse does not happen to you.’ The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. For this reason the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things during the Sabbath. But he answered them: ‘My Father has kept working until now, and I keep working.’ This is why the Jews began seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath but he was also calling God his own Father, making himself equal to God.Therefore, in response Jesus said to them: ‘Most truly I say to you, the Son cannot do a single thing of his own initiative, but ONLY what he sees the Father doing. For WHATEVER things that One does, these things THE SON DOES ALSO in like manner. For the Father has affection for the Son and shows him all the things he himself does, and he will show him works greater than these, so that you may marvel. For just as the Father raises the dead up and makes them alive, so the Son also makes alive whomever he wants to.’” John 5:6-21

“My sheep listen to my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them everlasting life, and they will by no means ever be destroyed, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is something greater than all other things, and no one can snatch them out of the hand of the Father. I and the Father are one.” John 10:27-30

“who delivered you out of the jurisdiction of darkness and transferred you into the kingdom of the Son of his love, in whom we have redemption, the pardon of sins,— Who is image of the invisible God, firstborn of all creation, because IN HIM EVERYTHING was created in the heavens and on earth, the visible and the invisible, be it thrones or lordships or governments or dominions—everything has been created THROUGH HIM and to come TO HIM, AND BEFORE EVERYTHING HE IS, and IN HIM EVERYTHING holds together. And he is the head of the body, the church, he who is the beginning, the firstborn out of the dead, in order that he may take the first place in every respect,” Colossians 1:13-18 The Bible in Living English (BYINGTON)

“Look to it that there be not somebody who carries you off by philosophy and empty deceit along the line of human tradition, of the world’s elements and not of Christ, because in him all the fullness of deity is resident in bodily form, and it is in him you have been brought to fullness, him who is the head of every government and dominion;” Colossians 2:8-10 BYINGTON

“Long ago God spoke to our forefathers by means of the prophets on many occasions and in many ways.Now at the end of these days he has spoken to us by means of a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the systems of things. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the EXACT REPRESENTATION of his very being, and he sustains all things by the word of his power. And after he had made a purification for our sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” Hebrews 1:1-3

In a similar fashion, the Father is not the only true God to the exclusion of his beloved Son and his eternal Spirit, but in perfect, inseparable union with them.

“so go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the NAME of the Father AND the Son AND the Holy Spirit,” Matthew 28:19 BYINGTON

It is the spirit that is life-giving; the flesh is of no use at all. The sayings that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.” John 6:63

“However, when that one comes, the spirit of the truth, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak of his own initiative, but what he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things to come.” John 16:13

“who has indeed adequately qualified us to be ministers of a new covenant, not of a written code, but of spirit; for the written code condemns to death, but the spirit makes alive… Now Jehovah is the Spirit, and where the spirit of Jehovah is, there is freedom. And all of us, while we with unveiled faces reflect like mirrors the glory of Jehovah, are transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another, exactly as it is done by Jehovah the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:6, 17-18

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” 2 Corinthians 13:14 BYINGTON

“how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish unto God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” Hebrews 9:14 American Standard Version (ASV)

“according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, to obedience and sprinkling of Jesus Christ’s blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance.” 1 Peter 1:2 BYINGTON

“What from the first there was, what we have heard, what we have seen with our own eyes, what we have gazed upon and our hands have handled, about the Word of life—and the life made its appearance, and we have seen and are testifying and reporting to you the eternal life which was where the Father is and made its appearance to us—what we have seen and heard we are reporting to you too in order that you too may have solidarity with us. And, too, our solidarity is with the Father and with his son Jesus Christ.” 1 John 1:1-3 BYINGTON

Therefore, Rhodes is absolutely correct and it is Stafford who is forced to misinterpret the Holy Bible’s teaching on the nature of God. Stafford also has to misuse and misapply what the Greek lexicons state in respect to the meaning of true in order to justify his false, heretical arian beliefs.

With that in mind, I conclude with the words of Evangelical scholar Robert M. Bowman Jr. who does a fine job of putting Stafford’s “archetypal” argument to rest:

  1. Antitrinitarians sometimes argue that the word translated “true” in John 17:3 (alêthinos) actually means “archetypal,” referring to the Father as the archetypal or original God, thus allowing Christ to be designated “God” in a derivative or secondary sense.
  2. Even if this interpretation were possible for John 17:3, it is not for the OT texts, since the Hebrew word for “true” (‘emet) never means “archetypal.”
  3. Elsewhere, the expression “the true God” in context contrasts this God with idols or false gods, not with genuine though derivative gods:
  4. 2 Chron. 15:3—Just as Israel was for many days “without the true God” but then turned back to him (vv. 3-6), so Asa turned to him by first removing all the idols from the land (v. 7).
  5. Jer. 10:10—Israel not to fear the gods of the nations, worshiped in idols (10:1-9); the true God is the living God (v. 10) and the Creator of the world (vv. 11-12).
  6. 1 Thess. 1:9—the Thessalonians turned from idols to serve the living and true God.
  7. 1 John 5:20-21—We are in the true God and eternal life (v. 20b), and should guard ourselves from idols (v. 21).
  8. We should read the expression “the true God” in John 17:3 in light of its use elsewhere in the Bible as well as in its immediate context in John. Jesus’ point is not that the Father is the archetypal God from whom all other Gods are derived, but that God is only truly known in the Father whom Jesus his Son came to glorify. That God the Father cannot be known apart from the Son is a major theme in John’s writings (e.g., John 1:18; 8:19; 14:6-7, 9, 23; 17:25-26; 1 John 2:23; 5:20). The parallel with 1 John 5:20 is especially significant: eternal life consists in knowing the Father as the true God and Jesus Christ (John 17:3); we know the true one in his Son Jesus Christ, and this is the true God and eternal life (1 John 5:20).
  9. Ironically, critics of the Trinity often lean hard on John 17:3 to try to prove that Jesus cannot be God because the text says that the Father, as distinct from Jesus Christ, is the only true God. But this argument backfires when the “archetypal” understanding of John 17:3 is refuted, because John explicitly identifies Jesus as God (John 1:1, 18; 20:28; see IV. A.2-4 below). Although Christ humbly honors the Father in this statement as the only true God, his statement does not necessarily mean that he (Jesus) is not also God—and the explicit statements in the same Gospel prove this was not his meaning. (The Biblical Basis of the Doctrine of the Trinity: An Outline StudyI. There is one God.; bold emphasis mine) Unless noted otherwise, scriptural references taken from the 2013 revision of the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (Study Edition).

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