Friday, August 24, 2012

Stephen Smalley on 1 John 5:20

From Stephen Smalley's Word Commentary on 1 John:

"the most natural way of construing hOUTOS in v 20 (which need not refer to the nearest antecedent, and may allude to the main subject of the preceding statement as a whole; cf. 2:22; 2 John 7) is to take it as a reference to God: the God whom we recognize as genuine through the insight given us by his Son, and with whom we are in fellowship through Jesus Christ. 'This is the real God.' It is precisely through knowing him, as the Gospel [John 17:3] maintains, that eternal life itself becomes a reality" (p. 308).

Smalley does go on to write that if hOUTOS in 1 John 5:20 in fact refers to Jesus, then "we are presented with a NT christological witness which is rare in the NT." He cites John 20:28 as clear proof that Jesus is called God. Romans 9:5 is disputed, he says, and "Titus 2:13 is uncertain, since the Gr. can either mean, 'our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,' or 'the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ' " (Smalley 308).

Lastly, Smalley concludes that the writer of 1 John 5:20 may be ambivalent in this passage, but all of these remarks must be considered in the light of the initial statements I cited: the most natural way to construe hOUTOS is with TON ALHQINON.

A friend who uses the name "Martin Smart" provides these remarks on 1 John 5:20:

Zerwick, page 733 In A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament by Max Zerwick, Mary Grosvenor (4th edition) they say regarding 1John 5:20 with regards to hOUTOS

"the ref. is almost certainly to God the real, the true, op. paganism (v21)."

I have confirmed this quote in my personal copy of Zerwick and Grosvenor.


Brusting Wulfe said...

I bought Smalley's commentary. I also have Stott's. Is Smalley a good resource (I haven't gone through it yet). Are there any Commentary series you'd recommend?

Edgar Foster said...

I believe that Smalley's commentary is pretty good, but it's difficult to recommend an entire series. One reason why is because commentary sets normally are uneven: some works in the series are better than others. But, generally speaking,I like the Word series, the Hermeneia set, the New International Bible Commentary and the Anchor Bible commentary. I usually look for a work that is thorough and fair.

Brusting Wulfe said...

By the way, this is what Stott said on the same verse. He seems to be in agreement with Smalley:

"The final sentence of verse 20 runs: *He is the true God and eternal life.* To whom does *he* refer? Grammatically speaking, it would normally refer to the nearest preceding subject, namely *his Son Jesus Christ.* If so, this would be the most unequivocal statement of the deity of Jesus Christ in the New Testament, which the champions of orthodoxy were quick to exploit against the heresy of Arius. Luther and Calvin adopted this view. Certainly it is by no means an impossible interpretation. Nevertheless, 'the most natural reference' (Westcott) is to *him who is true.* In this way the three references to 'the true' are to the same person, the Father and the additional points made in the apparent final repetition are that it is this one, namely the God made known by Jesus Christ, who is both *the true God* and *eternal life.* As he is both light and love (1:5; 4:8), so he is also life, himself the only source of life (Jn. 5:26) and the giver of life in Jesus Christ (11). The whole verse is strongly reminiscent of John 17:3, for there as here eternal life is defined in terms of knowing God, both Father and Son." (The Letters of John, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, pgs. 197-198, italics indicated by asterisks)

Edgar Foster said...

Thanks for sharing. Stott's quote is helpful.