In the Trinity doctrine, Jesus is God, but Jesus is not God.


The Trinity Doctrine

In the traditional Trinity theory, God is one Being with one single rational capacity (one single mind) but three co-equal and co-eternal Persons; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In this view, Jesus, together with the Father and the Spirit, is the Ultimate Reality; the uncaused Cause.

Purpose of this article

The Bible indeed has a very high view of Jesus. For example, through Him, God created and maintains all things (e.g., Heb 1:2-3). The Son, therefore, has ‘always’ existed. The Father gave Him to have “life in Himself” (John 5:26), “all judgment” (John 5:22), and “all authority … in heaven and on earth” (Mt 28:18). The Son is “He who searches the minds and hearts” (Rev 2:23). The Son, in other words, shares in the divine attributes of God.

However, this article shows:

(1) The Bible always maintains a distinction between God Almighty and Jesus Christ (e.g., Rev 21:22). All of Paul’s letters, for example, begin with phrases that make that distinction. For instance:

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 1:7).

This is not merely a distinction between the Father and the Son; it is a distinction between ‘God’ and the Son, meaning that the Son is not God.

(2) The Bible presents the Son as a distinct rational capacity (a distinct mind), in contrast to the single rational capacity in the Trinity doctrine. For example, Jesus talks to His Father and prays to His Father. When He was scared before the crucifixion, He asked the Father to not let Him suffer, but, in the end, He said to His Father, ‘Let you will be done, not mine’.

(3) The Bible also presents the Son as subordinate to His Father (e.g., 1 Cor 11:3). For example, even 60 years after His ascension, in John’s visions, Jesus referred to His Father as His God (Rev 1:6; 3:2, 12).

We cannot understand God.

Understanding the relationship between God and His Son is probably impossible because we are trying to understand the infinite and the one Being who exists without cause. That should scare us. Compared to the infinite God and His infinite creation, our world is like a one-cellular organism in a drop of water floating around in the oceans of the world; not knowing where it came from or where it is going. Compared to the Eternal, our existence is fleeting. How could we hope to understand the One who exists without cause?

However, the observant reader will notice that people sometimes use our inability to understand God to justify un-Biblical doctrines. That we must not do.


Is the Only God.

The Bible is clear that only one God exists. This is stated in both:

      • The Old Testament (e.g., Deut 6:4; Is 44:6; 45:21-22; 43:10-11) and
      • The New Testament (e.g., James 2:19; cf. Mark 12:28-30; Gal 3:20);

In modern languages, the term “God” identifies one single Being; the Ultimate Reality; the One who exists without cause. That concept did not exist in the ancient Greek language and culture. They only had the word theos, which is equivalent to our word “god.” The basic meaning of the term theos is an immortal being with supernatural powers, and the Greek culture had many of those, such as Zeus, the god of the sky and thunder, and Hades, the god of the underworld. The New Testament, written in that same ancient Greek, had to use that same term theos. Therefore, to identify the one single ultimate Reality of Judaism and Christianity, the authors of the New Testament added words to theos, for example:

    • The ‘only theos’, (Jude 1:25; 1 Tim 1:17),
    • The ‘one and only theos’ (John 5:44), and
    • The ‘one theos’ (1 Cor 8:6; 1 Tim 2:5; Eph 4:4-6);
    • The ‘only true theos’ (John 17:3).

The important point is, in all such instances where the one theos is identified through the addition of further words, that that one theos is the Father alone, in contrast to Jesus Christ, who is identified as “Lord.” For example:

“There is but one God, the Father …
and one Lord, Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 8:6).

Please take time to study the verses listed to make sure of this conclusion. Many texts in the Bible refer to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, but these verses specifically define God and must, therefore, be regarded as critically important when we ask who God is.

Of course, once the disciples had realized that Jesus had been resurrected and was alive, they could refer to Him as theos as well. For example, after Thomas for the first time saw Jesus alive after His resurrection, said to Him: “my theos and my Lord.” (John 20:28) But the Father remains the only true theos; the only true god (John 17:3). 1To say that the Father is the ‘only true God’ is saying the same thing twice because, in modern culture, there is only one God. To retain the meaning of the ancient Greek, John 17:3 should be translated as referring to the Father as the “only true god.”

The translation of theos as ‘God’, when it refers to Jesus, is based on the assumption that He is one with the Father and equal with the Father. Such a translation, therefore, is an application of the Trinity doctrine and must not be taken as proof of the Trinity doctrine.

Alone exists without Cause.

The Bible identifies the Father alone as the uncaused Cause of all things. For example:

“There is but one God, the Father,
from whom are all things
and one Lord, Jesus Christ,
BY whom are all things” (1 Cor 8:6). 

All things are from God,
who reconciled us to Himself through Christ”
(2 Cor 5:18-19; cf. Heb 1:1; John 1:3; Rev 4:11).

He is the ultimate Source of life:

“In the presence of God,
who gives life to all things,
and of Christ Jesus” (1 Tim 6:13).

Note that these verses identify God as the Father and contrast God with Christ. The Son, therefore, is not the Cause who exists without cause, as the Trinity doctrine claims. The words “through” and “by” in these verses indicate that God works “through” His Son. God always and in all things works through His Son.

Is alone Immortal.

The Father alone is immortal. For example:

“The King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God” (1 Tim 1:17)

“The King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone possesses immortality … whom no man has seen or can see.” (1 Tim 6:16)

Only the Father exists without cause is, therefore, essentially immortal.
All other beings derive their immortality from that one Uncaused Cause. They are conditionally immortal. Since the Son was begotten by the Father, He exists because God exists.


Is distinct from God

The New Testament maintains a consistent distinction between God and the Lord Jesus, which means that Jesus is not God. For example, all letters of the New Testament begin by making a distinction between God and Jesus, such as:

“Peace from God our Father,
and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 1:7-8).

“Grace be unto you … from God our Father,
and from the Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 1:3-4).

“Blessed be the God and Father
of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph 1:3; cf. Gal 1:3, Eph 1:2, Phil 1:2, Col 1:2, Philemon 1:3, 1 Thess 1:1, James 1:1; 2 Peter 1:2; 2 John 1:3; and Eph 6:23).

Many, many other such passages may be quoted. For example, the book of Revelation contains phrases such as “to God and to the Lamb” and “of God and of the lamb” (Rev 14:4; 11:15; 21:22-23; 22:1, 3).

Trinitarian apologists may argue that this only makes the obvious distinction between the Father and the Son but that is not so. It is a distinction between God and the Son, meaning that the Son is not God in the ultimate sense.

Is a Distinct Rational Capacity.

In the traditional Trinity doctrine, Father, Son, and Spirit are one single rational capacity (literally one mind and will). The Bible, in contrast, depicts Father and Son as distinct rational capacities. For example:

Jesus often prayed to His Father.

Before He had to suffer and die on the Cross, Jesus pleaded with His Father, “If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me;
yet NOT AS I WILL, BUT AS YOU WILL.” (Matt 26:39)

Is the visible Image of God.

God is invisible.

God “dwells in unapproachable light,
whom no man has seen or can see
(1 Tim 6:16-17).

No one has seen God at any time
(1 John 4:12; cf. John 1:18; John 6:46; Col 1:15; John 4:24).

God is invisible because He exists outside our physical realm of time, space, and matter. Nevertheless, that Invisible God is the Source of all things (Heb 11:3).

Jesus is His visible image.

Jesus “is the (visible) image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15). “He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His (God’s) nature” (Heb 1:1, 3; cf. 2 Cor 4:4).

God is invisible, unknowable, and incomprehensible. Human beings are unable to comprehend a Being that is not limited in space or time and Who exists without cause. But in His Son, appearing in a form that we can understand, God becomes knowable, visible, and audible to the material creatures of the universe.

If God is invisible, while Jesus is His visible image, then Jesus is distinct from God and, therefore, not God.

Is at God’s Right Hand.

The New Testament often mentions that Jesus, at His ascension, “was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God” (Mark 16:19). Stephen, just before he was stoned, said, “I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:56; cf. Mt 26:62; Acts 2:33; 7:55; Rom 8:34; Eph 1:20.)

His position at God’s right hand is the position of power over the entire universe but still subject to God. That confirms that Jesus is both DISTINCT from God and SUBORDINATE to God.

Considers the Father as His God.

Jesus referred to the Father as His God. For example:

“I ascend to My Father and to your Father,
to My God and to your God” (John 20:17; cf. Matt 27:46).

Even 60 years after His resurrection, when Christ gave to John the Book of Revelation, He identified the Father as His God (Rev 3:2, 12; cf. 1:6). Paul also described the Father as “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph 1:17; cf. Heb 1:8-9).

Since God is also His God, Jesus prayed to God while on earth (John 17:1; Luke 6:16; Heb 5:7). The entire John 17 is a record of Jesus’ prayer to “the only true God” (John 17:1, 3). “He spent the whole night in prayer to God” (Luke 6:16).


Various articles are available on this website that address possible objections to the view that Jesus is not God.

Jesus is called God.

Of the about 1300 times that the word Greek theos appears in the New Testament, it refers to Jesus about 7 times. So why is Jesus called “God” in those instances?

Firstly, as discussed above, the word theos does not mean ‘God’. The modern concept ‘God’ refers to the one Ultimate Reality. There was no word in the ancient Greek exactly equivalent to ‘God’.

When the Bible uses the word theos for the Father, it is appropriately translated as “God” because the Father is the Ultimate Reality.

When theos describes Jesus, since He is not the Ultimate Reality, it may perhaps be translated as “divine.” To translate such instances of theos as “God” is an application of the Trinity doctrine; not proof there-of. (For a further discussion, see, for example, the article on Hebrews 1:8 or on the word theos.) 

I and the Father are one.

In John 10:30, Jesus said, “I and the Father are one.” Trinitarians interpret this verse as that Jesus and the Father are literally one and the same Being. However, to be “one” does not mean to be literally one Person. Jesus, in His prayer for His followers, defined the term to “be one”:

“That they may be one as we are one“ (John 17:21-23).

To “be one,” therefore, means to be united in purpose and will. It describes a relationship between distinct beings. For example, Jesus said that He did the works of the Father (John 10:32) and He only did what pleased the Father (John 8:28-29). See – I and the Father are one.

He who has seen me has seen the Father.

When Philip said to Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father,” Jesus responded:

“He who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:8-9)

Trinitarians also use this statement to argue that Jesus and the Father are one single Being. However, given the verses quoted above, we should rather conclude that Jesus said here that He is THE EXACT IMAGE of the Father. For a further discussion, see – Seen the Father. 

John 1

Both John 1:1 and 1:18 refer to Jesus as God. However, these same two verses also make a distinction between God and Jesus by saying:

    • “The Word was with God” (John 1:1) and
    • “No one has seen God at any time” (John 1:18). 

Why is He called God if He is distinct from God? As already stated, translators ASSUME that Jesus is the Almighty and, based on that assumption, they translate theos here as “God.” But theos, ar argued, when referring to Jesus, should preferably translated as “divine.”

Furthermore, the article series on John 1:1 concludes that this verse uses theos in a qualitative sense which requires John 1:1c to be translated as:

‘The Word was like God.’

John 1:1 then has the same meaning as Philippians 2:5, which says that Jesus, before His birth, “existed in the form of God” and had equality with God.

The article on John 1:18 shows further that the original text of that verse is disputed. Many ancient manuscripts refer to Jesus as huios (son) and not as theos (god). But even if John originally did describe Jesus as theos, it remains up to the translator to decide whether to translate theos as ‘God’, ‘god’, or ‘divine’.


Given how the Bible describes Jesus, for example, that God created all things through Him and that Jesus upholds all things by the word of His power (Heb 1:2-3), finite minds find it difficult to distinguish between God and Jesus. But consider the following thoughts:

Since things exist, and not nothing, something must exist without a cause and, therefore, without a beginning.

Since everything that BEGINS to exist must have a cause, and since our universe had a beginning, our universe was caused by something.

Since the energy and intelligence that formed our universe came from outside our universe, the true but completely incomprehensible Infinity which is the true reality, exists beyond the time, space, and mass of our universe.

Since God created “all things” through Him (e.g., Heb 1:2), the Son has always existed. However, since time is limited to our universe, to say that the Son ‘always’ existed describes the Son only in terms of our little universe. How the Son relates to the incomprehensible Reality beyond our universe is beyond human understanding.

When we say that God created “all things” through the Son, that refers only to our universe. For example, “all things” do not include God or the Son Himself.

So, the Son is the alfa and omega of our existence, but of what exists beyond our universe, namely, the true Reality, we can say about nothing. “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us” (Deut 29:29).


A series of articles on this website discusses the origin of the Trinity doctrine. In particular, they show that the decision to adopt the Trinity doctrine was not taken by independent Church Councils, but by the Roman Emperors:

During the first three centuries, while Christianity still was persecuted by the Roman authorities, church fathers such as Polycarp, Justin Martyr, and Irenaeus described Jesus as theos but always as subordinate to the Father, who they identified as the only true and almighty theos (e.g., Origen).

In the fourth century, after the Roman emperors legalized Christianity, they became the de facto head of the church and the final arbiter in doctrinal disputes:

“If we ask the question, what was considered to constitute the ultimate authority in doctrine during the period reviewed in these pages, there can be only one answer. The will of the Emperor was the final authority” (RH, 849). 2Hanson RPC, The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God: The Arian Controversy, 318-381. 1988

Different emperors had different views, but the emperor’s preference always determined the doctrine of the church. For example, very briefly:

Emperor Constantine forced the Nicene Council in AD 325 to include the term homoousios (same substance) in the Creed. Constantine, however, later accept an anti-Nicene view, and recalled the exiled anti-Nicenes.

His successor Constantius and his successor Valens preferred one of the anti-Nicene views (Homoianism) and ensured the dominance of Homoianism in the church.

When Theodosius became emperor, Homoianism dominated but he was convinced of the Trinity doctrine and did something which no emperor has done before him: Through the edict of Thessalonica in AD 380, he made Trinitarian Christianity the state religion of the Roman Empire and outlawed all other forms of Christianity. Through severe persecution, he eradicated non-Trinitarian Christianity from within the Roman Empire.

One can say that the Arian Controversy began when persecution ceased and the Controversy ended when persecution resumed.

During the fifth century, Germanic tribes, who previously migrated into the Empire, reached such large numbers and such high positions in the Roman army that they, in reality, controlled the Western Roman Empire. They divided the territory of the Western Empire into Germanic kingdoms. Since these Germanic peoples became Christian in the fourth century while ‘Arianism’ still dominated the church, the Western Empire was ‘Arian’ once again! In the Eastern Roman Empire (the Byzantine Empire), with Constantinople as its capital, Nicene Christianity remained dominant.

In the sixth century, Emperor Justinian, emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire purposed to free the Roman Church in the west from Arian domination. He sent troops and significantly weakened the Arian nations. He dispersed the Vandals to the fringes of the empire, forced the Ostrogoths back north to South Austria, and barricaded the Visigoths with the new province of Spania.

Some Arian nations remained, but after Justinian had liberated the Roman Church from Arian domination, the Byzantine Empire continued to protect, strengthen, and reign over the west through the Roman Church. Two centuries of Byzantine rule over the Papacy (known as the Byzantine Papacy) converted the remaining Arian kingdoms, one after the other, to Trinitarian Christianity.

The Roman Church that subsequently became the church of the Middle Ages was the continuation of the Trinitarian state religion or Church of the Roman Empire. As stated in Revelation 13:2, the dragon (the Roman Empire), gave the beast from the sea (the Church of the Middle Ages) “his power and his throne and great authority.” Through her control over civil authorities, she put people to death who opposed her teachings.

It is impossible to deny the decisive influence of emperors on the church’s acceptance of the Trinity doctrine.


All Christians agree that the doctrine of God is the most important doctrine of the church. Therefore, for the mainstream church, the Trinity doctrine is the most important doctrine and the identifying mark of true Christianity. People who reject it are regarded and treated as outsiders and heretics. During the Middle Ages, such people were even killed.

Opposition to the Trinity doctrine has been subdued by various means, including by important sounding but vague terms making it very difficult to understand what the issues are.

But the opposition to the Trinity doctrine has not been fully exterminated. The Trinity doctrine distorts the Bible and, in the end-time, the truth of the Bible will be revealed and the first great controversy in the church will again erupt to become the last Great Controversy.



John consistently distinguishes between God and Jesus.


Gospel of JohnThe purpose of this article, and the ones following after it, is to determine whether Jesus is God according to John’s gospel, or whether only the Father is God.  The ultimate purpose is particularly to determine what John meant when he wrote that “the Word was theos (god)” in John 1:1c.  As discussed in the article theos, the word Greek theos has various different meanings.  John 1:1c may, for instance, be translated as:

“The Word was God” (definite) or
“The Word was a god” (indefinite) or
“The Word was like God” (qualitative).

Which of these is the intended meaning should also be the picture of Jesus we find by reading the entire gospel.  To prepare these articles, the gospel was read carefully and all relevant statements were selected and categorized.


Is Jesus called God in John’s gospel?

The title theos (usually translated “God” or “god”) appears more than 100 times in John’s gospel:

In most instances it is not clear whether it refers to the Father or to the Son, for instance: “There came a man sent from God, whose name was John” (1:6).

In ten instances it is clear that theos refers to the Father exclusively, for instance, “the Word (Jesus) was with God” (1:1b).  God has never been seen (1:18), while Jesus was seen.  The Father is even called “the one and only God” (5:44; 17:3) and Jesus referred to Him as “My God and your God” (20:17).

Three verses are sometimes used to argue that Jesus is called “God:”

John 1:1c

John 1:1c does not use theos in a definite sense, and therefore may not be translated “the Word was God.”  It is used in a qualitative sense, and therefore may be translated, “the Word was like God.”  Or, using the phraseology from Philippians 2, the Word “existed in the form of God” and had “equality with God” (Phil. 2:6).  But, as also argued in the article Jesus in Philippians 2, if Jesus “existed in the form of God” and if He had “equality with God,” then He is still distinct from God.

John 1:18

John 1:18 calls Jesus “the only begotten theos,” but only in some of the ancient manuscripts.  In the manuscript tradition with the widest geographical distribution, He is called “the only begotten huios” (son).  Therefore, the KJV translates this phrase as “the only begotten Son.”  John originally wrote either theos (god) or huios (son), but somebody corrupted the text either on purpose or by accident, and textual critics are not sure what John actually originally wrote.

John 20:28

John 20:28 records Thomas, when he saw the resurrected Jesus for the first time, as saying “my Lord and my God.”  This happened just after Jesus completed his work on earth and just before the apostle took the work forward in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Thomas could not have referred to Jesus as “God,” for the following reasons:

1. Jesus never taught the disciples that He is God.  Jesus consistently made a distinction between Himself and God.

2. When Thomas said these words, the apostles did not believe that Jesus is God.  For example, the two disciples walking to Emmaus spoke of Him as “a prophet” and said “we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:19-21).

3. Afterwards, as recorded in the book of Acts, the disciples did not teach that Jesus is God.

Therefore, if Thomas did apply the title theos to Jesus, it could have been in the sense of God’s representative.  The Bible does use theos sometimes in that sense.  But Thomas actually said ho theos.  This title is used for the Father only, and implies that when Thomas said “my God,” he actually referred to the Father.


The evidence is clear that Jesus is not called God in John’s gospel.  Only the Father is God.  However, the view that Jesus is God does not rely on the argument that He is called God.  It is based on other facts, such as that He is worshiped equal to God.  These matters are discussed in the articles that will follow after this one.

John’s Gospel

Critical scholars believe that John’s gospel was written by a number of writers over a period of time.  But the gospel expresses a coherent and consistent view of God and Jesus.  It does not seem to be written by more than one person.

John’s gospel was written much later than the other (synoptic) gospels.  It was written in the eighties or nineties, and has a much higher Christology (view of Christ) than the other gospels.  Some interpreters understand John’s gospel as saying that Jesus existed before His conception in Mary’s womb, and even that Jesus is God Himself.  The other gospels do not have such a high view of Jesus.  In the other gospels Jesus seems to be just a man; an anointed and sanctified man, but still only a man.  Competing views are therefore expressed, namely:

1.  John contradicts the first three gospels. OR

2.  John does not contradict the other gospels, for Jesus is God the Son also in Matthew, Mark and Luke; as divine as the Father is. OR

3. John does not contradict the other gospels, for John’s gospel is generally misunderstood, and even in John’s gospel Jesus is merely a man; God’s Messiah; and not God.

Unless otherwise stated, all quotes are from the NASB of John’s gospel.

Jesus is distinct from God.

Rather than referring to Jesus as God, John’s gospel reserves the title “God” for the Father.  The following phrases make a distinction between Jesus and God:

The Word (Jesus) was with God” (1:1b).

No one has seen God at any time” (1:18).  (Jesus was seen.)

God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” (3:16-17)

You do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God” (5:44).

This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent” (6:29).

You are seeking to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth, which I heard from God” (8:40).

I proceeded forth and have come from God“ (8:42).

Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me” (14:1-2).

This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (17:3).

John 17:3

Most of these quote Jesus’ words, making a distinction between Himself and God.  Two of these quotes refer to “the only true God” (17:3; cf. 5:44).  God is invisible (1:18), sent His Son (3:16-17; 6:29; 8:42; 17:3) and taught Jesus the truth (8:40).  His disciples, listening to these words, would not get the idea that Jesus is God.  To the contrary, in 8:40 Jesus refers to himself as “a man.”  Therefore, why would Thomas refer to Jesus as “my God” in John 20:28?  Where did he get the idea that Jesus is God?

The Father is God.

Jesus refers most often to “God” as the “Father.” It is important to understand that in John’s gospel, and in the entire New Testament, the title “God” is a synonym for “the Father,” for instance:

Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places” (14:1-2).

Jesus said to Mary, “I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God” (20:17).

If only the Father is God, then it obviously follows that the Son is not called God.  But there are some Trinitarians that view the Father and Son to be a single self, and in Modalism the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are simply three modes of the same single divine Being.  Contrary to these views, the following shows that Jesus is distinct from the Father:

Thinking about His approaching death, Jesus said, “Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour” (12:27).
(In Gethsemane He similarly prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will” (Mt. 26:39).  This shows that the Father and Jesus two separate wills.)

If you loved Me, you would have rejoiced because I go to the Father, for the Father is greater than I” (14:28; cf. 10:29).

The Father and the Son are therefore distinct Beings.  And, in the way that the New Testament uses the title “God,” only the Father is God

The Father is God for Jesus.

The following verse even identifies the Father as Jesus’ God:

Jesus said to Mary, “I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God” (20:17).

John, who also wrote the Revelation, quotes Jesus saying, “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God” (Rev. 3:12; cf. 3:13).


The title theos (usually translated God or god) appears more than 100 times in John:

In most instances it is not clear whether it refers to the Father or to the Son, for instance: “There came a man sent from God, whose name was John” (1:6).

Above ten instances are mentioned where theos refers to the Father only.

On the other hand, there are three instances (1:1, 18 and 20:28) where theos perhaps refers to Jesus.  Separate articles have been placed on this website for each of these verses.  Below these articles are summarized:

John 1:1c

John 1:1This is usually translated “the Word was God.”  A series of articles on this website addresses the translation of John 1:1c.  One article evaluates the translation “The Word was God” and another the translation “The Word was a god.”  In these articles it is shown that neither of these translations are appropriate because the word theos is used in a qualitative sense in that phrase, as grammarians agree.  It should rather be translated as “the Word was like God.”

Both John 1:1 and Philippians 2 describe Jesus before He became a human being.  The article Jesus in Philippians 2 proposed that “the Word was theos” can be understood as equivalent to the statements in Philippians 2 that Jesus “existed in the form of God” and had “equality with God” and “at the name of Jesus every knee will bow” (Phil. 2:6, 10).  But, as also argued in that article, if Jesus “existed in the form of God” and if He had “equality with God,” then He is still distinct from God.

John 1:18

This verse is discussed in the article: John 1:18. In the NASB, this verse reads,

No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.”

The word “God” appears twice in this verse.  The first “God” refers to the Father, who is described as invisible.  Since God is invisible, the conclusion can be that Jesus is distinct from God.

The second “God” in 1:18 refers to Jesus, but appears only in some translations.  Twelve of the 27 translation of this verse, as listed by BibleHub, describe Jesus as God in this verse.  The other (mostly older) translations, use a different source text, which actually has the widest geographical distribution, and which describes Jesus as “the only begotten Son.”  John originally wrote either theos (god) or huios (son), but somebody corrupted the text either on purpose or by accident.  It is the task of the textual critic to determine which was the original wording.  As discussed in the article Is Jesus God in John 1:18? neither the external or internal evidence is conclusive.  Because of this uncertainty, this verse should not be used as evidence that Jesus is called God.

John 20:28

This verse is discussed in the article on John 20:28.  Thomas would not believe the reports that Jesus was raised from death, but when He saw Jesus in person, a few days later, he exclaimed, “My Lord and my God” (20:28)!  Jesus did not reprove Thomas.

For some this provides the best evidence that Jesus is God.  It is said that Jesus is here without doubt called “God.”  However, strong circumstantial evidence exists that Thomas could not have referred to Jesus as God:

1. Jesus did not teach the disciples that He is God.  Jesus never used the term θεός (theos = god) for Himself, but described Himself as the Christ and as the Son of God.  As discussed above, Jesus consistently made a distinction between Himself and God.  John summarized the main thesis of his book as follows:

These have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” (John 20:31).

2. The events in the immediate context of John 20:28 show that the disciples did not believe that Jesus is God.  The two disciples walking to Emmaus demonstrate the thoughts of Jesus’ followers at that time.  Speaking to the resurrected Christ, whom they mistook as just a traveler, they described Jesus as “a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God…and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:19-21).

3. The events in the book of Acts began a few weeks after Jesus appeared to Thomas.  If the apostles really believed that Jesus is God, that would have been their message in Acts, but such a statement is never even once found in Acts.

4. Paul was given the task of interpreting the dramatic Christ-events and to teach the church through his letters.  He did not teach that Jesus is God, but wrote the head of Christ is God” (1 Cor. 11:3).   According to some translations of Romans 9:5, Paul referred to Jesus as God, but the article on Romans 9:5 shows that it is all a matter of punctuation, and all punctuation in the Bible is interpretation.

The article on John 20:28 analyses possible interpretations of Thomas’ exclamation.  Since the word theos has many different meanings, Thomas might have described Jesus as God-like or as mandated by God to speak for Him.  These are valid alternative meanings of the word theos.  See the article THEOS.  Another option is that Thomas did not address Jesus, but that He addressed the Father as “my God.”  Since Thomas did not merely say theos, but ho theos, this is quite possible.

But which of these is what Thomas actually meant is not important.  What is important is that the immediate and wider context prevents us from understanding John 20:28 as saying that Jesus is God.


The evidence is clear that Jesus is not called God in John’s gospel.  Only the Father is God.  However, the view that Jesus is God does not rely on the argument that He is called God.  It is based on other facts, such as:

He is worshiped equal to God.
The Jews thought that Jesus “was … making Himself equal with God” (5:18).
Jesus said, “Before Abraham was, I am” (8:58), “I and the Father are one” (10:30) and “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (14:9).

These matters are discussed in the articles that will follow after this one.

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