Famed New Testament scholar and manuscript expert, Daniel Wallace, recently appeared in the healing xJWs radio program. He made quite a few arguments regarding the Trinity–especially on John 17:3, 1 Cor. 8:6, Rom. 9:5, and 1 John 5:20. If you would like to listen to the show, click here (the interview starts at about 5 minutes in). Below is a written response by Patrick Navas, author of Divine Truth or Human Tradition, explaining the reasons why Wallace’s arguments fail to convince.
BTR Interview Greek Scholar Dr. Daniel Wallace
A Review by Patrick Navas (2013)
Daniel Wallace is a widely-respected professor from Dallas Theological Seminary who works at the cutting edge of New Testament scholarship. He is probably best known for his Greek Grammar, Beyond the Basics, his work as senior editor of the New English Translation of the Bible, and for his work in textual criticism in association with the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts. Recently, Dr. Wallace appeared on a radio program called “Healing XJWs” to discuss several biblical texts relating to the non-trinitarian beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Though I am not, and have never been, a member of the “Jehovah’s Witnesses” religion and their associated “Watchtower Bible & Tract Society,” as a Christian who believes that the “one God” of the Bible is “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” I continue to hold a special interest in the Trinitarian-Non-Trinitarian debates that continue among professing Christians to this day.
As I was listening to the program I noticed that, in spite of his remarkable credentials and impressive scholarly accomplishments, Wallace made several outstanding errors in relationship to the foregoing texts, and thus felt compelled to address them in a short review. The first text discussed on the program was 1 John 5:20 which I will address in the final part of the review.
Wallace on John 17:3
According to John 17:3 Jesus said: “And this is eternal life, their knowing you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”
On the program, Wallace went as far as to say that this verse, “if taken in isolation,” is “problematic for Trinitarians.”
In order to blunt the “problematic” force of John 17:3, where Jesus himself explicitly portrays “the only true God” as a figure distinct from himself, Wallace, speaking in defense of the Trinity, attempted to appeal to the larger “context” of John 17 by calling attention to verse 5 where Jesus says to the Father, “glorify me with the glory I had with you before the world was”—as if this statement somehow showed or suggested that Jesus is himself, along with the Father, “the only true God,” or a member of a multi-personal “Godhead.”
What Wallace apparently fails to realize is that John 17:5 only reinforces the problem for Trinitarians, simply because, although Jesus does state that he had glory “with” God before the world was, Jesus is, nevertheless, still portraying himself as a distinct figure from “the only true God,” given that he had glory “with” Him.
Simply put, in John 17:5, Jesus plainly speaks of himself as an individual who had glory “with” or alongside “the only true God,” not as “the only true God” Himself. Logically, one wonders, why would anyone conclude that Jesus is “the only true God” if Jesus so plainly distinguishes himself from “the only true God” when he said that he had glory “with” him?—“the glory I had with you [i.e., ‘the only true God’] before the world was.”
Wallace went on to argue that, when Jesus said he had glory “with” God, that this is essentially the same as saying that Jesus was at God’s “right hand,” in the same way that the promised Messiah is spoken about in Psalm 110:1.
One major problem with Wallace’s appeal is that, just as in the case of John 17:3-5, Psalm 110:1 represents yet another text where the Messiah (David’s ‘Lord’) is portrayed as a distinct figure from God. Psalm 110—the most often quoted and alluded to OT text in the NT—does not, in fact, portray David’s Lord, the Messiah, as Jehovah, but explicitly portrays the Messiah as a distinct figure from Jehovah, seen in the fact that Jehovah is the very one speaking to him: “Jehovah says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” But Wallace claims:
Now what’s key here is he says ‘Glorify me at your side.’ That’s referring to Jesus sitting at the right hand of God. In fact, Psalm 110, which is used more than any verse in the entire NT, is speaking about sitting at the right hand of God…Martin Hengel…wrote a book called Early Issues in Christology…and what he demonstrated in that book is that to sit at the right hand of someone is to sit on the same throne as that person; and therefore that person shares the same attributes and the same authority. He showed archeologically some images of people sitting at the right hand of another king on inscriptions and things like this, and they’re actually sitting on the same throne…so when Jesus says, ‘glorify me at your side,’ he’s saying, ‘reinstate me on your throne at your right side so that my glory is going to be unveiled again so that everyone will see that I have the same attributes and the same authority as you’…this is in the context; so everything around verse 3 is telling us that it would be inappropriate to see Jesus speaking only of the Father as God. Rather God is monotheistic and the prayer is acknowledging that.
A simple comparison of what Jesus actually said in John 17:5 with what Wallace claims Jesus meant demonstrates the extent to which Wallace superimposes his “Trinitarian” belief system onto Jesus’ words. Jesus said:
“…glorify me with the glory I had with you before the world was.”
Yet for Wallace this comes out to meaning:
“…reinstate me on your throne at your right side so that my glory is going to be unveiled again so that everyone will see that I have the same attributes and the same authority as you.”
It is clear that in this case Wallace is going a good deal beyond what Jesus himself said. How does one, after all, logically go from “glorify-me-with-the-glory-I-had-with-you-before-the-world-was” to “my-glory-is-going-to-be-unveiled-again” and “I-have-the same-attributes-and-authority-as-you”?
Evidently, Wallace wants us to accept that “sitting-at-the-right-hand-of-God” means that both Jesus and the Father are one-and-the-same-being (homoousious), or members of the same “Godhead,” since, although they may not be the same “person,” they nevertheless have the same “attributes,” according to Wallace, i.e, the “attributes” that make one “the only true God.”
Unfortunately, the conclusion Wallace puts forward is entirely contrived and unnecessary. First, consider the very nature of the biblical expressions ‘Jesus sits at the right hand of God’ or ‘the glory I had with you [the only true God] before the world was.’ The very language itself communicates to us, not that Jesus is himself God, but that Jesus is “with” God or right next to God, at God’s right hand. There is nothing in the language that naturally or logically leads one to believe that Jesus is the God that he is with or sits next to. In fact, the very opposite is the case.
I agree that ‘sitting-at-God’s-right-hand’ implies that Jesus sits on God’s throne. However, we don’t need Hengel’s studies in archeology to demonstrate this, for the Scriptures themselves reveal this to be true on their own. Notice, however, that in the book of Revelation, Jesus speaks about sitting on his throne and on God’s throne in the following way:
“The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, just as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne” (Rev. 3:21).
The problem with Wallace’s argument becomes obvious in light of this text. Does the fact that Jesus will grant others to sit with him on his throne mean that these individuals “share-his-attributes” or that they “share-the-attributes-of-deity” (eternality, omnipotence, etc.), or that they are “of one substance” with the Father and Son? Of course not. Therefore, neither does the fact that Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father, or that he sits on the Father’s throne, mean, or necessarily imply, that he posesses every attribute that the Father has (the ‘attributes’ of ‘deity’), as Wallace tries to argue.
The NT teaching that Jesus sits at “the right hand of God,” in fact, says nothing to us about Jesus having every attribute God has, but makes clear that (1) Jesus is not the “God” he sits next to, and that (2) God has exalted Jesus to a position of supreme authority and power, right next to him, which precisely explains the reason why Christians recognize not only “one God” (the Father) but “one Lord,” Jesus Christ, the “one Lord” who was exalted and given supreme authority from the hand of the one God. The following texts say it all:
“All things have been handed over to me by my Father” (Matt. 11:27)
“you have given him authority over all flesh” (John 17:2)
“I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth” (Matt. 28:18)
“Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands” (John 13:3) “For ‘God has put all things in subjection under his feet.’” (1 Cor. 15:27)
“And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the congregation” (Eph. 1:22)
“God left nothing that is not subject to him” (Heb. 2:8)
These points are all confirmed, for example, in Philippians 2:9, where Paul does not merely say that Jesus has been “exalted” by God but that “God has highly exalted him… (Gk. hyperypsōsen)” or “super-exalted him…” or “hyper-exalted him…” God himself was pleased to “super-exalt” his Son, even to the extent of sitting him at his right hand on his own throne, giving him “all authority in heaven and on earth.” From the NT perspective, however, this has nothing to do with Jesus being “of-the-same-substance-as-the-Father,” or with him being the same God as his Father, but has everything to do with what the “one God” has gladly and graciously given to the Son he loves, based on the Son’s obedient life and sacrificial death (Phil. 2:8-9).
Another text that helps to underscore the fallaciousness of Wallace’s reasoning is found in 1 Chronicles 29:3 which says:
“Then Solomon sat on the throne of the Jehovah as king in place of David his father. And he prospered, and all Israel obeyed him.”
Here Solomon is portrayed as one who “sat on the throne of Jehovah as king.” Does this text imply that Solomon therefore “shares all the attributes of Jehovah,” or that Solomon is ontologically “Jehovah,” or that he is a member of the “Godhead”? No. It simply means that Solomon occupied a position of supreme/royal authority over the people of Israel as Jehovah’s agent or representative. To sit on Jehovah’s throne does not make one ontologically Jehovah (or one who has all of Jehovah’s attributes as Wallace wrongly implies), but makes one an individual whom Jehovah has invested with kingly authority as his appointed and ruling representative. Solomon sat down on Jehovah’s earthly throne in Jerusalem. Following his resurrection, the supremely exalted Messiah, Jesus, sat down “at the right hand of the majesty on high”—in heaven itself, with all things in subjection to him, with the obvious exception of God himself (Heb. 1:3; 1 Cor. 15:27).
Wallace on 1 Corinthians 8:6
Paul says, ‘Yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we live, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live’ …What Paul does…I call it a primitive binitarian viewpoint. It’s not even quite trinitarian…I should probably clarify this for the listeners. I think there’s a progressive understanding in the New Testament about who Jesus is; and when Paul writes 1 Corinthians in the early 50s, I think he’s very clearly binitarian. I don’t know yet if he has understood the Trinity. My guess is he probably does not and those things get revealed a little bit later on. But here’s the thing.
Comments like these, of course, only serve to strengthen the conclusion that the doctrine of the Trinity is a later, post-biblical development, not an apostolic teaching or conviction. Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 8:6 is not merely “not even quite trinitarian,” as Wallace states. Paul’s statement is, in fact, not trinitarian at all.
Wallace further errs when he claims that Paul’s statement represents a “binitarian viewpoint,” as if Paul had actually said or implied that the “one God” is the Father and Son simultaneously. For Paul, in 1 Corinthians 8:6, the “one God” was “the Father,” and the “one Lord, Jesus” was a distinct figure from the “one God,” as a simple reading of the text reveals as obvious. Of course, Paul likewise preserves the same distinction of identity in texts like 1 Tim. 2:5 and 1 Thess. 1:9-10, which only reinforces the same truth. And if Paul has not yet understood “the Trinity” at this point, one wonders, where in any of his writings did Paul go on to articulate an understanding of such? And if Paul in fact never expressed an understanding of the Trinity (the same ‘Trinity’ defined by the latter creeds), does not Wallace’s statement imply that he and modern Trinitarians have a more accurate understanding of God’s identity and nature than the apostle himself?
He’s looking at the Shema: ‘Here O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.’ And you’ve got ‘God’ and ‘Lord.’ And then you’ve got, in 1 Corinthians 8:6, he calls the Father ‘God’ and calls Jesus ‘the Lord.’ Well, calling the Father God, based on the Shema, is saying, the Father is elohim, and Jesus is Yahweh. Or…Jesus is Jehovah. That’s what Paul is saying in 1 Corinthians 8:6, and I suspect that in John 17:3 something very similar to that is going on.
Whether Paul did or did not have the shema of Deuteronomy 6:4 specifically in mind in 1 Corinthians 8:6 is really irrelevant to the actual point. If Paul did have the shema in mind it does nothing to advance the cause of trinitarianism, or even Wallace’s “primitive binitarianism.” Why not? Because, contrary to what Richard Baukham and others have strangely tried to claim, Paul’s creed in 1 Corinthians 8:6 in no way merges the Father and Jesus into the category/identity of the “one God.” In fact, this is precisely what Paul does not do. Neither does Paul identify Jesus as the God of the shema, but explicitly presents the “one Lord, Jesus” as a distinct figure from the “one God” of the shema—exactly as Jesus is portrayed as being in intimate association with, yet nevertheless distinguished from, “the only true God/the one God/Jehovah” in texts like John 17:3; 14:1, Ps. 110:1, 1 Tim. 2:5, and 1 Thess. 1:9-10, and others. In this way the portrayal presented in Scripture is perfectly consistent.
Thus, the picture of God and Jesus that Paul presents to us in 1 Corinthians 8:6 is exactly the same picture presented in Psalm 110:1—namely, that of the “one God” (‘the Father/Jehovah’), and that of the exalted messianic “Lord” who is seated at the right hand of the “one God,” ruling with the authority/lordship that the “one God” has conferred upon him. Trinitarians at large have unfortunately ignored the fact that, in 1 Corinthians 8:6, Paul identifies the “one God” as “the Father” (not as ‘Father, Son, and Holy Spirit’), and they have also ignored the fact that when Paul goes on to speak about Jesus as the “one Lord” in this text, he is no longer speaking about the “one God,” but about the one “Lord” whom we know, biblically speaking, has received his “Lordship” (ruling authority) from the “one God.” Any attempt to merge the Father and Jesus Christ into the same identity (as the ‘one God’ of the shema) based on 1 Corinthians 8:6 is to simply ignore, and to twist, the transparent distinction that exists in the Pauline creed.
Wallace errs further when he claims that calling Jesus “Lord” is equivalent to calling him “Jehovah.” The term “Lord” in this case is not equivalent to the personal name of God but is, rather, a special and honorific title of authority, meaning “Lord” or “Master.” To argue, as does Wallace, that Paul actually said or meant, “there is one God, the Father…and one Jehovah, Jesus Christ” is, simply, to argue for what is unintelligible and non-sensical. There is one Jehovah, Jesus Christ? Does Wallace really think that this is what Paul meant?
In this instance Wallace overlooks the careful contrast Paul makes between the “many gods” and “many lords” of the world. Paul’s point is that although there are “many gods” and “many lords” for those in the non-Christian world, to Christians (‘for us’) there is only “one” from each category. While the world might recognize “many gods,” Christians only have “one God,” and that “one God,” according to Paul, is “the Father.” And while the world may have and recognize “many lords,” Christians recognize only “one Lord, Jesus Christ.”
Paul is, of course, not saying something like, “although there may be many Gods and many Jehovahs, for us there is one God, the Father…and one Jehovah, Jesus Christ”—which is, essentially, what Paul would have had to have said in order to match the structure of the argument Wallace attempts to advance in this case (‘there is one Jehovah, Jesus Christ’—which is a non-sensical statement anyway).
Wallace likewise overlooks the obvious, namely, that Jesus is “Lord” in the same precise sense that the foretold Messiah is portrayed as “Lord” in David’s Psalm, a “Lord” who is a distinct figure from the one God Jehovah (given that he is told by Jehovah to sit at Jehovah’s right hand), and a “Lord” who has been seated next to God ruling with the authority that God gladly granted to him. In perfect harmony, the apostle Peter tells us that Jesus is “Lord,” not because he is ontologically ‘Jehovah God’ (at least not according to him or Scripture), but because God, the same God of 1 Corinthians 8:6, has “made” him both “Lord” and “Messiah” (Acts 2:36). In others words, the authority and status Jesus possesses as “Lord,” according to the Scriptures, represents an authority and status that God has been pleased to give to him. Yet the one God, the Father, is, and always remains, “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 15:6; Eph. 1:3; 17; 1 Pet. 1:3; 2 Cor. 1:3)—an expression which decisively demonstrates that calling Jesus “Lord” in 1 Corinthians 8:6 is not equivalent to calling him “Jehovah,” as many Trinitarians, including Wallace, have erroneously asserted. Or will Wallace and other Trinitarians claim that the Father is “the God of our Jehovah Jesus Christ”? Does this make any sense? Does “Jehovah” have a God?
Wallace on Colossians 1:15-16
I have no quarrel with Wallace’s contention that “firstborn of creation” might represent a “genitive of subordination,” like “king of creation” or “Lord of creation.” Grammatically, the expression can also be “partitive genitive,” which means that “firstborn” is a member of the group—in this case, “creation.” In my estimation, Wallace’s view is possible but falls short of being verifiable. I’m more inclined to agree with Bowman’s and Komoszewski’s view that “firstborn of all creation” essentially means “heir of all creation” in harmony with Hebrews 1:2 (‘whom [God] appointed heir of all things’) (Putting Jesus in His Place, pgs 105-106).
Where Wallace definitely errs is when he claims the following regarding verse 16:
‘…for all things in heaven and on earth were created by him…All things were created through him and for him.’ This is as strong as language as you can possibly have to say that Jesus Christ is the Creator of all things.
The first point is that, contrary to Wallace, Paul doesn’t exactly say that all things were created “by” Christ, as if Paul were portraying Jesus as the source or direct creator of what is in view in Colossians 1. As N.T. Wright points out in the Tyndale Commentaries: “All that God made, he made by means of him. Paul actually says ‘in him,’ and, though the word en can mean ‘by’ as well as ‘in,’ it is better to retain the literal translation than to paraphrase as NIV has done. Not only is there an intended parallel with verse 19, which would otherwise be lost: the passive ‘were created’ indicates, in a typically Jewish fashion, the activity of God the Father, working in the Son. To say ‘by’, here and at the end of verse 16, could imply, not that Christ is the Father’s agent, but that he was alone responsible for creation.”
Wallace is verifiably wrong when he claims of Colossians 1:16: “This is as strong as language as you can possibly have to say that Jesus Christ is the Creator of all things (emphasis mine).” This is very similar to apologist James White’s erroneous claim that in Colossians 1:16 Paul “exhausts the number of prepositions he could use to say that Jesus is the Creator” (Roger Perkins debate).
Why are both Wallace and White wrong on this point? Because Paul did not in fact “exhaust the number of prepositions he could use to say that Jesus is the Creator,” and because there is, contrary to Wallace, stronger language Paul could have used to make that point clear if that was his intention.
In reference to Christ’s creative role in Colossians 1:16, Paul does use the prepositions “in,” “through” and “for,” but Paul does not say that “all things” were created “by (Gk. hupo)” or “from/out of (Gk. ek),” Christ. These prepositions, which Paul did not use, are in fact the strongest terms Paul could have used to teach that “Jesus Christ is the Creator” of what is in view. Instead, Paul purposely uses language that reveals the Son to be the very one “in/through” and “for” whom God created the “all things” in the context of Colossians 1.
Simply put, Paul does not present Christ as the source, the actual Creator, of the “all things” in Colossians 1, but as the agency through whom the created things in Colossians 1 came into existence.
Wallace on Romans 9:5
Trinitarians like Wallace are free to argue that Romans 9:5 calls Jesus “God over all.” This is grammatically possible and many English translations have adopted this interpretation. But Wallace is wrong when he claims that a translation that takes the final part of Romans 9:5 as an independent ascription of praise to God the Father is a translation that “make absolutely no sense in the context.”
It is true, as Wallace points out, that in the beginning of Romans chapter 9, Paul is “lamenting” the fact that Israel as a whole has not accepted the Messiah. Because of this Paul has “great sorrow” and “unceasing anguish” in his heart. However, Paul does not stop there, but goes on to describe the glorious and privileged role of Israel to whom, according to Paul, belong “the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises…the patriarchs”—and, further, how Israel is, most importantly, the nation through whom the Savior-Messiah sprang forth. In this light, contrary to Wallace, it would have made perfect sense for Paul to have broken out with a heartfelt expression of praise for the God who is the sovereign source of all such blessings. In other words, if Paul is praising God the Father, it is not as if he is saying something like,
“I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart because Israel has not accepted its Messiah. Praise God [the Father] who is overall all. Amen.” (Wallace’s portrayal, which would, of course, make little sense)
But is saying something more like,
“…to the Israelites belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the law, the worship, the promises, the patriarchs, and from them came the Messiah according to the flesh. May the one who is over all, God, be blessed forever [i.e., in light of these blessings]. Amen.”
F. F. Bruce who, like Wallace, preferred the translation that applies theos to Christ, nevertheless pointed out:
It is, on the other hand, impermissible to charge those who prefer to treat the words as an independent doxology with Christological unorthodoxy. The words can indeed be so treated, and the decision about their construction involves a delicate assessment of the balance of probability this way and that.
The truth is that Romans 9:5 is grammatically ambiguous and it is difficult to say with certainty what the true interpretation is. However, one point of evidence rarely discussed is the fourth-century Codex Vaitcanus 1209 (B) which actually has a punctuation mark, representing a full break or stop, after the word “flesh,” and which can be properly translated, “…and from them came the Messiah (I speak of his human origins). Blessed forever be God who is over all! Amen.” The same is true of the fifth-century Codex Alexandrinus (A) which likewise contains a punctuation mark indicating a full stop, along with a noticeable space, after the word “flesh.”
Thus, some of the earliest and most credible witnesses of the NT contain punctuation marks that clearly favor the interpretation that Paul is praising the Father as the “God” who is “over all” in Romans 9:5.
However, even if Paul did describe Jesus as “God over all” in this case, which is certainly possible, this would be a long way from saying, or meaning, “God the Son, the Second Person of the Trinity.” From the biblical perspective there would be no problem in Jesus being described as “God over all” in light of the supreme authority and power that has been conferred upon him by his Father, the Most High God.
Wallace On 1 John 5:20
In the beginning of the program the host asked Wallace about the statement in 1 John 5:20 (‘This is the true God and eternal life’). The host noted that a 2004 October 15th Watchtower article quoted Wallace to support the contention that “this is the true God and eternal life” refers not to “Jesus Christ” but to “him who is true” (i.e., the Father).
The author of the WT article cited several biblical examples where the demonstrative pronoun (houtos) does not, in fact, refer to the nearest preceding subject. After the article goes on to say: “Such passages confirm the observation made by Greek scholar Daniel Wallace, who says that for Greek demonstratives, ‘what might be the nearest antecedent contextually might not be the nearest antecedent in the author’s mind.’”
The interviewer wanted to know if Wallace was being quoted out of context by the WT article but he was clearly not. The WT’s citation of Wallace was perfectly legitimate because they were in fact arguing that the nearest antecedent noun does not always have to be the intended referent in the mind of the author, exactly what Wallace himself points out in his grammar. Of course, the WT article did not say or imply that Wallace agreed with the Witness interpretation of 1 John 5:20 but only cited the principle to confirm the legitimacy of their point.
Grammatically, “this [one] is the true God and eternal life” can refer back to the nearest contextual antecedent, “his Son Jesus Christ” (Wallace’s and other Trinitarians’ view). Or, it could refer back to “him who is true,” i.e., the Father (the JW view as presented in the WT article).
The problem with this text in the debate between Trinitarians and non-Trinitarians is that both views are grammatically possible, and both sides can cite some reason to support their interpretation. The real problem, however, for Trinitarian supporters is that the text simply doesn’t say what they want it to say with certainty; and most Trinitarian apologists do not realize that a considerable number of respected Trinitarian scholars and commentators themselves actually agree with the conclusion that “the true God and eternal life” is a reference to the Father (‘Him who is true’) and not to Jesus Christ. Some of the more noteworthy Trinitarian scholars who disagree with Wallace include the renowned grammarian A.T. Robertson in his Word Pictures in the New Testament, NT scholar Murray Harris in Jesus as God, B. F. Westcott in his Epistle of St. John notes, the Rev. J. R. W. Scott in the Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, and William Loader in the Epworth Commentary series.
Jesus is consistently portrayed as a distinct figure from “the only true God/the one God” in the Scriptures. Thus, for non-Trinitarians, and even for many Trinitarian Bible commentators, it seems far more probable that “the true God and eternal life” is a reference to the Father. Wallace’s correct observation to the effect that “what might be the nearest antecedent contextually might not be the nearest antecedent in the author’s mind” only helps to underscore the legitimacy of the point. One obvious case is found in the very same letter, where John wrote: “Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son” (1 John 2:22). It is clear from this example that “This” does not refer back to the closest noun, “Christ,” but to “the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ…the one who denies the Father and the Son.” Thus the same principle could very easily apply in the case of 1 John 5:20, with all the more reason given that Jesus is consistently distinguished from the “true God” throughout the NT documents.
1 John 5:20, in fact, only helps to clarify the fundamental problem with a Trinitarian doctrine of God. That is, not only is an explicit doctrine of the Trinity absent from the biblical record, the formulation itself is entirely dependent on a scattered series of proof-texts, like 1 John 5:20 and others, whose meanings, upon careful scrutiny, are always found to be ambiguous in the interests of Trinitarianism, i.e., subject to alternative, non-trinitarian interpretations that many Trinitarians scholars themselves have actually confirmed in their commentaries. If one holds to the Trinitarian formulation, one would like to think, given the absence of direct biblical teaching on such an allegedly central and important matter of faith, that at least the series of verses used to support the doctrine would plainly mean what Trinitarian theology “needs” them to mean, but they don’t.
Contrary to Wallace, 1 John 5:20 is not a “good text” to show that Jesus Christ is called “the true God and eternal life,” because the expression just as easily refers to the Father (‘him who is true’) and harmonizes perfectly with the distinction so plainly and so consistently presented in the Old and New Testaments (See, for example, John 14:1; 17:3; Psalm 110:1; 1 Tim. 2:5; 1 Cor. 8:6; 1 Thess. 1:9-10).