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1 John 5:20 & 1 Peter 1:1 And The Anaphora Article Analyzed And Applied

Updated: Nov 21, 2022


1 John 5:20: Jesus as the antecedent of οὗτός?: At first glance, one should consider the irony of the endeavor by some to claim that Jesus is the "true God" at 1 Jn. 5:20, one should consider Jesus' own *categorical proposition* at John 17:3 when he categorized the Father’s position of ἀληθινὸν Θεὸν.


The relevant Greek there reads this way: οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ ἀληθινὸν Θεὸς. The antecedent of the pronoun οὗτός is the Father. All terms are singular, and the presence of μόνον (only) clearly means that Jesus himself intended here to make an exclusive categorical proposition. Jesus wanted to make very clear who the only true God is: The Father. That was his *intent* of his proposition.

1 John 5:20 But we know that the Son of [the true] God [mentioned again at the end of the verse] has come, and he has given us insight so that we may gain the knowledge of the one who is true. And we are in union with the one who is true, by means of his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God [mentioned earlier with a Son] and life everlasting. If he wanted to accommodate himself and the holy spirit as also belonging to the category μόνον ἀληθινὸς θεὸς then he could have easily done so.

Nearest antecedent deception: If we were to insert another self besides the Father as the antecedent according to closest proximity to οὗτός then we must conclude (erroneously) that Jesus is a deceiver and an antichrist according to the 1 John 1:7 because Χριστὸν is the closest associated masculine noun in that text. In all of the 4 places, the “true God” refers to the Father and not the Son.*2 Chr. 15:3; Jer. 10:10; Jhn.17:3,1Th 1:9

What is the anaphoric article?

Anaphora (Greek, ‘to bring back, to bring up’) is a word or phrase which depends upon another for identification. For example, “Pronouns are anaphors.” When one says, “They refer back to a noun,” the word “they” is a pronoun that is anaphoric and the word “Pronouns” is its antecedent. Pronouns are very useful in exegesis. In ancient Greek, they developed before definite articles. Eventually articles were derived from them. That is why the Greek definite article still retains its use as an anaphoric pronoun, in fact, Thomas Franshaw Middleton in his “Doctrine of the Greek Article,” says that the definite article ὁ and pronoun ὁ are identical in function. While modern grammars document the anaphoric use of the Greek article, it is not commonly used in exegesis in the same way as the pronoun. This study will apply what is taught about the article in order to help interpret passages which are ambiguous and hotly debated in Christological controversies. That the Koine Greek article is related to the function of the pronoun has been recognized for a very long time. Apollonius Dyscolus1 first documented the connection between the article and pronouns (Dyscolus, 150 AD) in the second century. Modern grammars acknowledge this fact. (BDF, 1961).

A survey of both ancient and modern treatments on the Greek anaphoric article leads into an analysis from Daniel Wallace’s Exegetical Grammar on anaphora. Daniel Wallace gives a detailed treatment on the anaphoric article in his exegetical grammar (Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament, 1996) . This will be used to evaluate anaphora as a tool for the identification of referents in the Greek New Testament.

Here he says “The article was originally derived from the demonstrative pronoun. That is, its original force was to point out something. It has largely kept the force of drawing. An application is made for 1 John 5:20 and of course, 2 Peter 1:1, a text that is interpreted by some to refer to two persons (e.g. The American Standard Version, ASV), while others see Jesus identified there as God. (E.g. the New International Version, NIV). The result of applying what scholars like Wallace and Middleton say about the anaphoric definite article is shockingly different than their own conclusions and contrary to what they teach on the subject. An analysis of “Sharp’s Rule” demonstrates how to harmonize that grammatical principle with the anaphoric definite article. attention to something.” (Wallace, p. 208) His definition: “The anaphoric article is the article denoting previous reference. (It derives its name from the Greek verb άμαφερειν, “to bring back, to bring up.”) 5 The importance of understanding the article is that “there is no more important aspect of Greek grammar than the article to help shape our understanding of the thought and theology of the NT writers.” (Wallace, p. 208)

However, it will be demonstrated that a consistent treatment of the article as pronoun, described by Middleton, and anaphora with respect to "individualizing articles" as described by Daniel Wallace results in a conflict with their treatment of the article in a wide range of texts where they adhere to traditional theological interpretations. Some of their exegetical principles at times produce tension with the context by appealing to grammatical rules (Sharp, 1798) and even secular references to Pagan Formulas. Indeed, grammatical references that these apologists cite include contradictory evidence which has not been evaluated and addressed in the literature. For example, Daniel Wallace7 and Murray Harris8 cite Blass-Debrunner-Funk Greek Grammar 9 in support of their views of 2 Peter 1:1, but fail to mention a grammatical reason that BDF gives to support that two persons are in view in that verse.

A book entitled “The Doctrine of the Greek Article” (Middleton, 1833), attributes Apollonius with making this connection between the article and pronouns and coining the term “anaphora” to describe it. Middleton quotes Apollonius that “the Article with a Noun is equivalent to the Pronoun Relative.” (Middleton, p. 22) Also see (Dyscolus, p. 56) with “Anaphora (is) [the general meaning of the article].” Middleton differed with Apollonius on minor details, and concludes that the pronoun and article are, in fact, identical. The view of Ἀπολλώνιος ὁ Δύσκολος must be seriously considered, as he is the only grammarian who actually spoke the Greek natively and is considered one of the greatest of the Greek grammar and in history.

Modern Linguists like Steven Levinsohn have contributed to our understanding of the anaphoric article. A presentation at SIL entitled “The Greek Article and Exegesis” (Levinsohn S. H., 2014) gives some examples from 1 Peter. He cites a view from Steve Runge (Runge, 2013) that the article is a marker that the referent is “cognitively identifiable,” rather than definite. He also argues that demonstratives are the source of both articles and pronouns.

The individualizing Anaphora article from the pronoun at 1 John 5:20b is frequently used to identify God in that verse, but whether or not the article that governs θεὸς is anaphoric to my awareness has not been thoroughly discussed in the scholarship. Identifying the antecedent of pronouns can only be done based on case, number, and gender. That is about as far as it goes. Admittedly, the result of applying what scholars like Wallace and Middleton say about the anaphoric definite article is shockingly different than their own conclusions and contrary to what they teach on the subject.

The Demonstrative Pronoun οὗτός should be interpreted in light of the context, not the nearest antecedent. This could cause mayhem and theological chaos if we were to faithfully follow this erroneous grammatical reasoning. However the antecedent of the anaphoric article at 1 John 5:20 is also identified by the same noun, in the same verse! This clearly identifies the true God as the God who has a Son. 1 John 5:20 “But we know that the Son of [the true] God [mentioned again at the end of the verse] has come, and he has given us insight so that we may gain the knowledge of the one who is true. And we are in union with the one who is true, by means of his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God [mentioned earlier with a Son] and life everlasting.” The outcome is further favored by the context of the whole letter of 1 John. 1 Jo.4:9 says, “God’s love was revealed [ἐφανερώθη] among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him.” In vv.14-15 of this very chapter John says, “And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world. God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God.” Amen…

Brooke Foss Westcott who was a NT scholar in the mid to late 1800s rightfully notes, "As far as the grammatical construction of the sentence is concerned the pronoun [houtos, ‘this one’] may refer to ‘Him that is true’ or to ‘Jesus Christ’. The most natural reference however is to the subject not locally nearest but dominant in the mind of the apostle (comp[are].) c[hapter]. ii.22; 2 John 7; Acts iv.11; vii.[7]19). This is obviously ‘He that is true’ further described by the addition of ‘His Son.’ Thus the pronoun gathers up the revelation indicated in the words which precede…This being — the One who is true who is revealed through and in His Son, with whom we are united by His Son — is the true God and life eternal."—Brooke Foss Westcott, The Epistles Of St. John:

The Greek Text With Notes And Essays, London, Macmillian And Co., 1883, p. 187.

2 Peter 1:1

Context & the Anaphora applied

-not a TSKS construct according to Blass-Debrunner-Funk Greek grammar and others-Next, quotes from Blass-Debrunner-Funk Greek grammar (BDF) are provided in the section “2 Peter 1:1, not TSKS according to BDF Greek grammar” which give grammatical reasons that 2 Peter 1:1, Titus 2:13 and 2 Thessalonians 1:12 are not TSKS constructions, and so Sharp’s rule does not apply to them. As far as I know, these glosses from BDF have never been quoted in any of the standard treatments of Sharp’s rule.

A fresh “rule” of Greek grammar is proposed which describes the use of the anaphoric article in 2 Peter 1:1 and related texts. An analysis of the anaphoric Greek article is applied (see also to Titus 2:13, 1 John 5:20, Hebrews 1:8, Romans 9:5 and 2 Thessalonians 1:12). In each of these passages, the anaphoric article identifies the Father as God.

An analysis of a broad range of texts in the Greek New Testament “hardens” the rule by providing examples which don’t conform to the description of the anaphoric article. There are currently no exceptions in the Greek scriptures to the rule on the anaphoric article. An examination of the ‘deity of Christʼ camps support for the traditional renderings will be seen to be in conflict with this view that the Greek article is pronominal and anaphoric. We will start with 2 Peter 1:1-2.

It reads: 2 Peter 1:2 Grace to you and peace be multiplied in the knowledge of God (τοῦ θεοῦ) and of Jesus our Lord; (ASV)

The definite article τοῦ in red has θεοῦ (God) as its noun. According to T.F. Middleton in his “Doctrine of the Greek Article, ” all definite articles are pronouns. Pronouns are pronominal, and thus refer to another noun, generally the previous noun that matches its case, number and gender.

2 Peter 1:1 provides immediate context

Since to Middleton the article and the pronoun are identical, we would expect that the article would be anaphoric and refer to the previous instance of that noun. Middleton also states that we would look for the same noun occurring earlier, something he calls “renewed mention,” and that this could be a synonym as well if the same noun is not found.

2 Peter 1:1 Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained a like precious faith with us in the righteousness of ourGod (τοῦ θεοῦ) and the Saviour Jesus Christ: (ASV)

2 Peter 1:1 “τοῦ θεοῦ ἡμῶν καὶ σωτῆρος Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ”

Note that the definite article τοῦ in red has θεοῦ (God) as its noun just as in verse 2. There is no need to look for a synonym. The identity of the person in verse 1 is the same as in verse 2. It is God (The Father), who has been distinguished from Jesus Christ. As we saw earlier, θεὸς is found at 2 Peter 1:1. Thus the article at 2 Peter 1:2 is anaphoric. Anaphora identifies θεὸς at 2 Peter 1:1 as the θεὸς in verse 2. While “God” in verse 2 is not identified by name, He is distinguished from Jesus Christ in that same verse, and therefore Jesus Christ is not “God” at 2 Peter 1:1. However, these two individuals are distinguished from each other in verses 16-17 where in this same passage, God is identified as the Father. In traditional theological exegesis of this verse, some look “elsewhere” for the identification of θεὸς at 2 Peter 1:1, based upon Sharp’s rule. In “The Greek definite article across time,” (Guardiano, 2013), anaphor is recognized where “textual anaphora” (i.e. an anaphor found in the text itself and not a mere concept) is prominent, or where there is a “Referent accessible on the basis of contextual/textual evidence,” or with an indefinite “first mention.” (Guardiano, p. 86) There are no examples in the literature, where one finds a remote referent, when one exists in the immediate context, such as in 2 Peter 1. Therefore in syntax such as 2 Peter 1:2, the article in 2 Peter 1:1 will clearly be the antecedent of God in 1:2.

An ungrammatical argument is proposed that righteousness is a single notion related to one person. However, in 1 Peter 2:23, we find that Jesus "entrusted himself to the One who judges righteously." In verse 24, Jesus' sacrifice allows believers to "live to righteousness." Thus to Peter, “righteousness” is a single notion related to the Father and Son.

Frequently, it is argued that 2 Peter 1:1 should be interpreted in light of similar language in the same chapter, such as 2 Peter 1:11 with the phrase “our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” This is hardly a grammatical argument, in fact, it appeals to a mere superficial similarity to 2 Peter 1:1. It also ignores an important difference, the anaphoric article.

2 Peter 1:11 for thus shall be richly supplied unto you the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. (ASV)

2 Peter 1:11 οὕτως γὰρ πλουσίως ἐπιχορηγηθήσεται ὑμῖν ἡ εἴσοδος εἰς τὴν αἰώνιον βασιλείαν τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν καὶ σωτῆρος Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ.

As it turns out, Granville Sharp was not wrong to see that a particular Greek syntax with “Article Noun [the word ‘and’] Noun” pointed to two things being represented together. This same construction is discussed in the Smyth Greek Grammar. (Smyth, 1920) There Smyth says that this syntax “produces the effect of a single notion.”


To Peter, is righteousness a single notion related to one or two persons? At 1 Peter 2:23, we find that Jesus "entrusted himself to the One who judges righteously." In verse 24, Jesus' sacrifice allows Christians to "live to righteousness." Thus to Peter, “righteousness” is a single notion related to the Father and Son. Likewise “the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:16) “received from God the Father honor and glory” (1:17) at the transfiguration, demonstrating that the cooperation between Father and Son in the immediate context produces a single notion.

Applying the Greek grammar of the anaphoric article identifies two persons at 2 Peter 1:1 and that harmonizing the context identifies the single notion that is consistent with the observation Smyth’s Grammar. Therefore in the syntax of 2 Peter 1:2, will renew the mention of the article in 2 Peter 1:1 and will clearly be the antecedent of God in 1:2.

The rule “The Greek Anaphoric Article Applied to the Exegesis of 2 Peter 1:1 and Related Texts -,” is based on Wallace and Middleton. To date, proposed “exceptions” have been due to a misunderstanding of the rule or by mistakenly including articles in syntaxes that fall outside of the “individualizing article,” or “are capable of linguistic explanation.” When an articular noun follows another instance of the same noun, in a discourse it re-introduces the same subject. Any noun that could be part of words being cited, spoken or alluded to from another writer or speaker are excluded. In addition, texts must be “A single-threaded narrative or exposition. Not a conversation or reported conversation.” (Levinsohn S. , p. 215)

Anaphoric article and antecedent will be part of a contiguous unbroken narrative.

The analysis of the anaphoric article should be especially useful in texts where the referent is ambiguous. Investigating its use in exegesis should therefore be a fruitful endeavor.

In contrast, an approach that consistently incorporates anaphora in the exegesis produces an analysis that is consilient with the context, compatible with legitimate grammatical rules and does not appeal to paradox to justify incongruence over cohesiveness in a biblical discourse.

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