The Only True God and the Deity of Christ: Why Translations Matter

In this post I am going to show how the particular translation one employs will have a direct impact on how one goes about defending and/or refuting specific objections leveled against the core, essential doctrines of the Christian faith. I will be using the English Standard Version as a case study, specifically in relation to defending the Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ.

According to John’s Gospel, the Father of the Lord Jesus is depicted as the only God,

“I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God (tou monou theou)?” John 5:43-44

And the only true God,

“And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God (ton monon alethinon theon), and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” John 17:3

Who is the God of both Jesus and his disciples:

“Jesus said to her, ‘Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”’” John 20:17

A surface reading of these texts may give the misleading impression that Jesus is not truly God, but a creature who was brought into being by the Father. After all, since the Father is the only true God, and since Jesus isn’t the Father, but the Father’s beloved Son, then Jesus cannot be the only true God, and therefore must be a creature.

The problem with this logic, however, is that this same Gospel goes out of its way to identify Christ as the unique, divine Son of God who is coequal with the Father, and therefore essentially one with the only true God.

And depending on the translation of the Holy Bible one reads, Jesus himself is said to be the only God there is:

“No one has ever seen God; the only God (monogenes theos), who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” John 1:18

Obviously, this does not mean that Jesus is the only God to the exclusion of the Father or the Holy Spirit, but rather in union with both of them.

Christ is further described as the one and only Master and Lord of all believers:

“For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ (ton monon despoten kai kyrion hemon Iesoun Christon). Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe… It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, ‘Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.’… keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.” Jude 1:4-5, 14-15, 21

Astonishingly, Jude identifies Christ as the very One who both delivered the nation of Israel at the time of Moses, and who then subsequently punished them in the wilderness for their rebellion. He further describes Christ as the very Lord who comes with his thousands of holy ones to judge the wicked, a function which the Hebrew Bible ascribes to the Lord God Jehovah!

“Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.” Isaiah 40:10

““I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” Jeremiah 17:10

“Then the LORD will go out and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle. On that day HIS FEET shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley, so that one half of the Mount shall move northward, and the other half southward. And you shall flee to the valley of my mountains, for the valley of the mountains shall reach to Azal. And you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the LORD my God will come, and all the holy ones with him.” Zechariah 14:3-5

James also identifies Jesus as the Lord Jehovah, since he not only calls Christ the Lord who is the Glory,

“James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion: Greetings.” James 1:1

“My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.” James 2:1

But he also claims that Jesus is the one and only Lawgiver and Judge, who can save or destroy,

There is ONLY ONE lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?” James 4:12

Being the very Lord of hosts who comes to judge mankind:

“Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you. Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.” James 5:4-9

In fact, the unanimous teaching of the inspired Christian Scriptures is that Jesus is the Judge of the whole earth whom all the nations must face on the day he comes to judge all creation:

“For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of HIS Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.” Matthew 16:27

“‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by MY Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.” Then the righteous will answer him, saying, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” Then he will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” Then they also will answer, saying, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?” Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.’ When Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said to his disciples, ‘You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.’” Matthew 25:31-46, 26:1-2

“For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day. But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.” Luke 17:24-25

“And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory… But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”” Luke 21:27, 36

“For the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son… And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man.” John 5:22, 27

“And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead.” Acts 10:42

“The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” Acts 17:30-31

“on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.” Romans 2:16

“For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.’ So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.” Romans 14:8-12

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” 2 Corinthians 5:10

“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom… Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing… At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” 2 Timothy 4:1, 8, 16-18

What makes Paul’s comments all the more remarkable is that he break out in praise of the Lord Jesus.

Even more remarkable is what this blessed servant of the risen Christ wrote in his first epistle to Timothy, since there he praises Jesus for being the only sovereign King of all creation, and describes him as the only One possessing the immortality who dwells in light that cannot be seen!

“I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which HE will display at the proper time—HE who is the blessed and ONLY Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who ALONE has immortality, WHO dwells in unapproachable light, WHOM no one has ever seen or can see. To HIM be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.” 1 Timothy 6:13-16

The reason why the foregoing depiction is quite remarkable is that the Hebrew Scriptures identify Jehovah as the God who is clothed in light and reigns as the Lord of lords:

“For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe.” Deuteronomy 10:17

“Bless the Lord, O my soul! O Lord my God, you are very great! You are clothed with splendor and majesty, covering yourself with light as with a garment, stretching out the heavens like a tent.” Psalm 104:1-2

“Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his steadfast love endures forever;” Psalm 136:3

This blessed Apostle wasn’t the only inspired writer to identify Christ as the King of kings and Lord of lords:

“They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.” Revelation 17:14

“Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that NO ONE knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.” Revelation 19:11-16

Pay attention to what John says in respect to Christ possessing a name that only he knows. Now if we were to employ the anti-Trinitarian hermeneutic that Jesus can’t be God when the Father is said to be the only true God, then this means that the risen Lord knows more than both the Father and the Holy Spirit since Jesus is the only One who knows what his name is!

Christ is further said to be the Son of God who is the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, and the Beginning and the End that comes with his reward to recompense every person for what s/he has done:

“And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: ‘The words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze… and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I AM HE who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works.” Revelation 2:18, 23

“‘Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end… I, JESUS, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.’… He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. COME, LORD JESUS! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.” Revelation 22:12-13, 16, 20-21

To sum up our examination of the teaching of the ESV concerning Christ, we learned that:

  1. Christ is the only God (John 1:18).
  2. Christ is the only Master and Lord (Jude 1:4).
  3. Christ is the only Lawgiver and Judge (James 4:12).
  4. Christ is the only Sovereign King of kings and Lord of Lords (1 Timothy 6:15 – cf. Revelation 17:14; 19:16).
  5. Christ alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light (1 Timothy 6:16).
  6. Christ alone knows what his name is (Revelation 19:12).
  7. Christ is the Lord who is the Glory (James 2:1).
  8. Christ is the Lord of hosts (James 5:4).
  9. Christ is the Lord who comes with his tens of thousands to judge the wicked and repay all men for what they have earned (Jude 1:14-15; James 5:7-9; Matthew 16:27; 25:31-46; Luke 17:24-25; 21:27, 36; John 5:22, 27; Acts 10:42; Romans 2:16; 2 Corinthians 5:10; 2 Timothy 4:1, 8, 18; Revelation 22:12-13, 16, 20 – cf. Isaiah 40:10; Jeremiah 17:10; Zechariah 14:1-5).
  10. The ESV, therefore, depicts the risen Lord of glory as Jehovah God Almighty in the flesh.

In light of the foregoing, we are either left with Jesus being the only true God Jehovah to the very exclusion of the Father and the Holy Spirit. Or we have to assume that the use of restrictive language in reference to Christ, where he is said to be the only one of something, isn’t intended to exclude the Father and the blessed Spirit. Such language is meant to exclude everything else that is not also God by nature.

In a similar fashion, the Father being depicted as the one and only true God isn’t aimed at excluding the Son or the Spirit, but rather excludes anything and everything else that is not God in essence. And since the God-breathed Scriptures clearly depict both the Son and the Spirit as being truly divine, this means that the Father is the only true God IN UNION WITH his beloved Son and eternal Spirit.

This is the inescapable conclusion and explicit teaching of the English Standard Version of the Holy Bible and clearly highlights why Bible translations do matter.

I have more to say in the next part of the discussion (

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