The Trinity on Trial An in-depth examination of a doctrine

John 5:44

How can you believe, who receive glory from one another and do not seek the Glory that comes from the only God?

Proof: Jesus identifies his Father alone as the only God.

The Evidence: Jesus identifies his Father as the only God

The Definite Article: Exclusivity

The definite article is called such because it defines what we are talking about. It is "definite" because it itself "defines." It sets limits on the object in question. It identifies which specific, or particular, object we are talking about. In this case, Jesus is referring to "the" God.

If we say, "Richard is THE King" we are excluding anyone else from being that particular King. If we simply said, "Richard is King" we are not excluding anyone from being King. Indeed, Charles might be a different King and is also King. When we use a definite article ("the") we are defining limits and using a term of exclusivity. Hence, if we say that "Richard is THE King," we are saying that ONLY Richard is that particular King in view.

Trinitarians like to insist that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are each "the only God" and thereby deny the definite article indicates exclusivity. However, the truth of this exclusivity is actually admitted by several leading Trinitarian scholars. When these scholars are interpreting John 1:1, they insist that the definite article indicates such exclusivity. In the phrase, "the Word was theos" at John 1:1, the definite article "the" is missing in the original Greek text in the phrase, "the word was theos (God/god)" unlike the other phrase in this verse, "the Word was with THE theos". These Trinitarian scholars insist that John had to write it that way or John's language would have excluded everyone but the Word from identity as "God." In other words, they are insisting that John did not use the definite article because if he had used the definite article he would have been saying ONLY the Word was God when the Father is also God and his words would have result in such a contradiction. In the Greek of John 1:1 the definite article is the word ho.

A.T. Robertson emphatically insists that John left out the article by necessity or John would have been excluding all but the Word from identity as "God."

"And the Word was God (kai theos en ho logos). By exact and careful language John denied Sabellianism by not saying ho theos en ho logos. That would mean that all of God was expressed in ho logos and the terms would be interchangeable, each having the article. (A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, vol. 5, pp. 4-5, underlined emphasis mine).

"The word with the article is then the subject, whatever the order may be. So in Jo. 1:1, theos an ho logos, the subject is perfectly clear. Cf. ho logos sarx egeneto (Jo. 1:14). It is true that ho theos an ho logos (convertible terms) would have been Sabellianism. See also ho theos agape estin (1 Jo.4:16). "God" and "love" are not convertible terms any more than "God" and "Logos" or "Logos" and "flesh." Cf. also hoi theristai angeloi eisin (Mt. 13:39), ho logos ho sos alatheia estin (Jo. 17:17), ho nomos hamartia; (Ro. 7:7). The absence of the article here is on purpose and essential to the true idea" (A. T. Robertson, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research, Nashville: Broadman Press, 1934, p. 767-768, underlined emphasis mine).

"A word should be said concerning the use and non-use of the article in John 1:1, where a narrow path is safely followed by the author. "The Word was God." If both God and Word were articular [if they both had the definite article "the"], they would be coextensive and equally distributed and so interchangeable [Sabellianism]. But the separate personality of the Logos is affirmed by the construction used and Sabellianism is denied. If God were articular and Logos non-articular, the affirmation would be that God was Logos, but not that the Logos was God.(A. T. Robertson, The Minister and His Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1977) pp. 67-68, underlined emphasis mine).

Robertson is arguing that if John had used the definite article and said, "and the Word was (THE) God" at John 1:1, he would have been teaching Sabellianism by declaring that the Word was that one God and ONLY the Word was that one God. And if John had done so, we would have to conclude that the Word was the Father which is not true in Trinitarian doctrine. In Trinitarian doctrine, the Word is Jesus and Jesus is not the Father. He is insisting that the definite article indicates exclusivity and if one person is identified as "THE" God then nobody else can possibly be that God. Put simply, Robertson is rightly arguing that the definite article necessarily indicates exclusivity.

And here is the kicker. Robertson has forgotten a simple little fact. The definite articles IS used at both John 5:44 and John 17:3. If indeed the definite article indicates exclusivity, Robertson is sadly caught in his own dilemma. For that would also mean that Jesus excludes everyone but the Father from being God at John 17:3 because, unlike John 1:1, the definite article IS used here. In other words, we have absolute proof that scholars know very well that the definite article necessarily indicates exclusivity.

Now Robertson is not the only leading Trinitarian scholar caught in this own trap. Notice how several other leading Trinitarian scholars have talked themselves into the same snare.

C.K. Barrett also insists the presence of the definite article at John 1:1 would have indicated exclusivity and that is why John did not use it.

"The absence of the article indicates that the Word is God, but is not the only being of whom this is true; if ho theos had been written it would have implied that no divine being existed outside the second person of the Trinity."
(C.K. Barrett, The Gospel According to St. John, S.P.C.K., 1955, p.76).

Dana and Mantey indicate the absence of the article is necessary so that the other persons of the Trinity are not excluded. In other words, if John had used the definite article he would have been indicating that Jesus was exclusively "God."

The article sometimes distinguishes the subject from the predicate in a copulative sentence. In Xenophon's Anabasis, 1:4:6, emporion d' en to korion, and the place was a market, we have a parallel case to what we have in John 1:1, kai theos en ho logos, and the word was deity. The article points out the subject in these examples. Neither was the place the only market, nor was the word all of God, as it would mean if the article were also used with theos. As it stands, the other persons of the Trinity may be implied in theos.
(H. E. Dana, Julius Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament, New York: The MacMillan Company, 1950, pp. 148-149).

F.F. Bruce also insists that if John had used a definite article he would have been indicating that the Word was exclusively "God" by identity. Rather, Bruce says, John is referring to the nature of the Word, not the identity of the Word.

"The structure of the third clause in verse 1, theos en ho logos, demands the translation "The Word was God." Since logos has the article preceding it, it is marked out as the subject. The fact that theos is the first word after the conjunction kai (and) shows that the main emphasis of the clause lies on it. Had theos as well as logos been preceded by the article the meaning would have been that the Word was completely identical with God (the Father), which is impossible if the Word was also "with God" . (F. F. Bruce, The Gospel of John, Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1983, p. 31).

Nicoll also insists that if the article was present then John would have excluded anyone but the Word from identity as God.

"The Word is distinguishable from God and yet Theos en ho logos, the Word was God, of Divine nature; not "a God," which to a Jewish ear would have been abominable; nor yet identical with all that can be called God, for then the article would have been inserted..."
(W. Robertson Nicoll, ed., The Expositor's Greek Testament, 5 vols, (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1983), 1:684).

William Barclay admits the very same thing.

When the Greek uses a noun it almost always uses the definite article with it. The Greek for God is 'theos', and the definite article is 'ho'. When Greek speaks about God it does not simply say 'theos'; it says 'ho theos'. Now, when Greek does not use the definite article with a noun that noun becomes much more like an adjective; it describes the character, the quality of the person. John did not say that the Word was 'ho theos'; that would have been to say that the Word was identical with God." (Barclay, W. The Gospel of John, vol.1, The Dailey Study Bible Series, Saint Andrew Press, p. 39)

Here we have abundant evidence from Trinitarian scholars themselves. Each and every one of them is arguing that the presence of the definite article at John 1:1 would have indicated that ONLY the Word was God and that is why John did not use the definite article here. But when we come to John 5:44 and John 17:3, we find that Jesus IS using the definite article to refer to God the Father. Hence, according to their very own argument, Jesus is excluding everyone but the Father. The Father is exclusively "God" and no one else.

The Father and Only the Father

Carefully notice what Jesus says in John 5:

I have come in the name of my Father, 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 you do not seek the glory that is from the only God?

Quite clearly, Jesus is identifying the Father as "the only God." The Father is THE only God. The only God is not a three person being. THE only God is his Father.

The Context

"And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. His voice you have never heard, His form you have never seen; and you do not have His word abiding in you, for you do not believe Him whom he has sent. You search the scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify concerning me; yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. I do not receive glory from men. But I know that you have not the love of God within you. I have come in the name of my Father, and you do not receive me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive. How can you believe, who receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; it is Moses who accuses you, on whom you set your hope. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?"

Having identified the God of the Scriptures as his Father, he then states ever so clearly, that this same God who testified of him in the Old Testament Scriptures, had sent him in His name and these Jews were not receiving him, God's Word. And so he asks why they receive approval and glory from one another but do not seek that approval from the Father who is God. And then Jesus refers to his Father as not only "the God, but "the only" God.


Jesus is essentially making the same statement here as he does at John 17:3 where he says, "Father... that they may know you, the only true God." Trinitarians try to claim here at John 5:44 that all three persons of his Trinity are "the only God." However, that is simply not going to work for them. Their own scholars have admitted the definite article "the" indicates exclusivity. Furthermore, "the only God" in Trinitarianism is not the Father but a three person being. The phrase "the only God" most definitely refers to an identity, and not only so, Jesus tells us exactly who that identity is, his Father, the only God.