By Shaun Rufener
Perhaps the strongest argument to which some appeal is that Jesus here is called “the true God,” and that the previous phrase – “His Son Jesus Christ” – contains in it the nearest antecedent noun. But the nearest noun does not always indicate the author’s intended reference. For instance, in the very same letter John wrote:
“Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son” 1 John 2:22.
It is evident in this example that “This” does not refer to the closest noun, “Christ” but to the antichrist, “the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ…the one who denies the Father and the Son.” Also in Acts (10:38) a similar text states:
“God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him” (CSB).
On this occasion, “God” was with “Jesus of Nazareth” not “the devil,” even though “the devil” is the nearest antecedent noun.
In the same way, “this true God” and “eternal life” need not refer to “His Son Jesus Christ.” Instead, it is more probable that the author’s intent was for the phrase to refer to “Him who is true,” i.e. the Father of Jesus Christ.”