“In” and “With”
Sometimes Interpreted as Proving Omnipresence & Immanence
In every language, and especially in the Bible languages, there are uses of common words that seem strange to speakers of another language.
For example, we may say, in English, “the building was on fire. No one could stop it from burning up. Soon it had completely burned down.”
To us who speak English this is perfectly sensible. But to those who have not grown up with it, these are just a very few of the many confusing English idioms. (How could the building be on the fire? Wasn’t the fire on the building? And if the building burned up, how can it be that it burned down?)
In the same way such expressions as: “All 3 astronauts were on board” (why were they on a board?) or, “tell the lunar astronauts, ‘we are with you all the way’” and, “Do what you have to, we are all behind you” can be very confusing to those learning our language. And what about, “You will always be in my heart”?
Of course, as they gain more experience they learn that there are many alternate meanings to the basic words they have learned. For example, Webster’s 3rd New International Dictionary, Unabridged, tells us that one of the many meanings of “with” is
“on the side of: willing to give aid or support to: FOR
The same kind of problems are encountered in OT Hebrew and NT Greek. For example, the NT word most often translated “in” (en) can also mean “with,” “by means of,” “through,” “aided by,” “in union with,” “under the control or influence of,” etc.
And the NT word most often translated “with” (meta, met’, or meth) can also mean “standing by someone, helping someone,” “by means of,” “in connection with,” etc. - p. 1103, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Kittel and Friedrich, Abridged In One Volume by Bromily, Eerdmans Publ., 1992 printing.
Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament tells us the same thing - p.403, Baker Book House, 1984 printing. It tells us that Matt.12:30 is an example of meta meaning “being on one’s side.” This verse reads literally in the RSV:
He who is not with [meta] me is against me - RSV.
This obviously has the meaning of being on Jesus’ side or supporting him and not necessarily being present with him. That is why these Bible translations render it in this way:
Whosoever is not in partnership with me is against me - CBW.
Anyone who isn’t helping me is harming me. - Living Bible.
He who is not with Me (definitely on My side), is against me - Amplified Bible.
Anyone who is not for me is against me - GNB
For example, expressions in the Bible like ‘in Christ’ - “denote membership in Christ and his church ... 1 Thess. 4:16; Ro. 8:1; 16:11” - Kittel, p. 233, and #45 in ‘Hints and Helps’, Young’s Analytical Concordance. And sure enough, when we look up these scriptures, we see that they use en , which is usually translated “in.” But notice how these trinitarian Bibles render these verses:
1 Th. 4:16 - “the dead in [en] Christ shall rise first.” - NASB.
“the dead in union with [en] Christ will rise” - CBW.
“those who have died believing in [en] Christ will rise” - TEV (Cf 4:14).
“those who belong to [en] Christ will come out of their graves” - NLV.
“the believers who are dead will be the first to rise” - Living Bible.
“first those who died in union with [en] Christ will rise” - AT
Ro. 8:1 - “There is...no condemnation for those who are in [en] Christ Jesus” - NASB.
“there is no ... for those who are in union with [en] Christ Jesus” - CBW.
“There is no ... for those who live in union with [en] Christ Jesus” - TEV.
“those who belong to [en] Christ will not suffer....” - NLV.
“those who belong to [en] Christ Jesus” - Living Bible.
“those who are united with [en] Christ Jesus” - REB.
“those who are in union with [en] Christ Jesus” - AT (Smith-Goodspeed)
Ro. 16:11 - “those of the household of Narcissus, who are in [en] the Lord” - NASB.
“...in the family of Narcissus that belong to [en] the Lord” - ETRV.
“the household of Narcissus who are in the Lord’s fellowship” - NEB.
“the household of Narcissus who are in the Lord’s fellowship” - REB.
“the household of Narcissus who belong to [en] the Lord” - JB.
“those who belong to [en] the Lord in the household of Narcissus” - NJB.
In fact, the authoritative, trinitarian reference work, The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology says of some of the NT uses of the preposition en (“in”) specifically as found in the phrase “in Christ” (en cristw):
(a) Incorporative union: .... “those who are in union with Christ Jesus” (Ro. 8:1).... (b) Sphere of reference: “I know a Christian man” (2 Cor. 5:21). “We make our boast in the sphere of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:3)... (c) Agency or instrumentality: “They are justified ... through the redemption accomplished by Christ Jesus” (Ro. 3:24). “The veil is not lifted because only through Christ is it removed” (2 Cor. 3:14). (d) Cause:.... “All will be made alive by virtue of their connexion and solidarity with Christ” ( 1 Cor. 15:22). (e) Mode:.... (f) Location: .... “Have this attitude among you that also characterized Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5). (g) Authoritative basis: “We urge you on the authority of the Lord Jesus” (1 Thess. 4:1).” - p. 1192, Vol. 3, Zondervan, 1986.
1 John 5:8, speaking of the Spirit, the water, and the blood, literally says: “the three in the one are” - The Zondervan Parallel New Testament in Greek and English, 1975. The word rendered “in” in this respected trinitarian reference work is eis , which literally means “in” or “into.” And yet notice how the literal “in” (or “into”) is translated:
1 Jn 5:8 - “and these three are in agreement” - NEB.
“and these three are in agreement” - REB.
“and the three are in agreement” - NASB.
“and these three agree” - RSV.
“and these three agree” - NRSV.
“and these three agree in one” - KJV.
“and these three agree as one” - NKJV.
“and the three agree” - CBW.
“and all three of them agree” - JB
“and all three agree” - TEV.
“and these three have one purpose” - Beck.
“and the three are of one accord” - NAB (‘91)
“and the three of them are in accord.” - Moffatt.
And so it is that Jesus, in prayer to God, says: “As you, Father, are in [en] me and I am in [en] you, may they [Jesus’ followers] also be in [en] us” - John 17:21, NRSV.
Since trinitarians generally want some mysterious, physical “oneness” with Jesus and the Father to indicate that they are both, somehow, God, they usually leave en in this scripture as the more literal “in.” However, the fact that Jesus’ followers, too, are to be en Jesus and en the Father makes it reasonable that a simple unity of purpose or agreement is being described here (as in 1 Jn 5:8 above).
That is why even some trinitarian Bibles render John 17:21 as
“just as you, Father, are in union with me and I in union with you, for them to be in union with [en] us” - CBW.
“... let them be in union with [en] us” - AT (Smith and Goodspeed).
“May they belong to us” - NLV.
And respected trinitarian commentaries even explain that John 17:21 is telling us that there must be “unity among believers” - p. 280, Vol. V, Word Pictures in the New Testament, A.T. Robertson.
Certainly the meaning of “in” as noted above for 1 John 5:8 can be understood here in John 17:21 also: “Let them be of one accord with us”; “Let them have one purpose with us”; “Let them agree as one with us”; etc.
And noted trinitarian Bible scholar, translator, and commentator, William Barclay tells us:
“What was that unity for which Jesus prayed [in Jn 17:20,21]? It was not a unity of administration or organization; it was not in any sense an ecclesiastical unity. It was a unity of personal relationship. We have already seen that the union between Jesus and God was one of love and obedience. It was a unity of love for which Jesus prayed, a unity in which men loved each other because they loved him, a unity based entirely on the relationship between heart and heart.
“Further, as Jesus saw it and prayed for it, it was to be precisely that unity which convinced the world of the truth of Christianity and of the place of Christ. It is more natural for men to be divided than to be united. It is more human for men to fly apart than to come together. Real unity between all Christians would be a ‘supernatural fact which would require a supernatural explanation.’ It is the tragic fact that it is just that united front that the Church has never shown to men.” - p. 218, Vol. 2, The Gospel of John, Revised ed., The Daily Study Bible Series, The Westminster Press, 1975.
We can see that there is no reason to take every use of “in” as found in the Bible to mean a literal, physical “existing within” (or “immanence”)! And this is especially true when it speaks of one or more persons being “in” another person or persons.
(Compare John 6:56; 14:20; 15:4, 5; 17:23; Ro. 8:10; 2 Cor. 13:5; Gal. 2:20; Col. 1:27; 1 John 3:24; 4:13; 4:15; 4:16.)
* * * * *
Does the Bible really say that God is OMNIPRESENT?
When a king had spies and informants throughout his kingdom telling him what everyone was doing and saying, he was considered having his “eyes” and “ears” everywhere. It could even be said “Sssh, the King is everywhere!” But actually, of course, he was physically in one place (his palace) only, and his agents (or “eyes,” “ears,” etc.) were “everywhere.”
In this modern age a ruler may have electronic devices (in addition to his spies and informants) which can “put him in” every home, office, etc. Tiny, nearly invisible devices can let him see and hear things throughout the world (even “reach out” and “touch someone” by activating various devices, including loudspeakers, electric “motivators”, even explosives). But the ruler himself is actually far away in one place (only)!
If lowly mankind could have developed such things, it is certain that the all powerful God who created everything is capable of having something infinitely superior to this to be able to inform him of everything in the universe: something invisible to men, able to “see,” “hear,” create, motivate, communicate in all parts of his creation and at his will. This “remote control system” could be an invisible “substance” able to “flow” anywhere and permeate anything. It could be described as an invisible “power,” “force,” and even as “eyes,” “ears,” and “hands”!
God is physically located in his “Most Holy” in heaven (which is probably well beyond the limits of our puny universe). However, through his infinitely superior “remote control system (‘substance’),” the Holy Spirit, he can be, in effect, also everywhere.
It would be natural to personify such a “substance” which can speak Jehovah’s very words, act as Jehovah’s “eyes” and “ears,” and actually perform his will. Dealing with this “Force” or “Substance” is, in effect, like dealing with God Himself! See BOWHS (note #1).
So when Scripture speaks of God’s “hand” or “ear” or “eyes” doing something, we don’t need to assign individual personalities to those figurative expressions. Nor do we need to describe God’s activities throughout his creation as “Omnipresence”! It is simply God’s Holy Spirit working under God’s direction and control.
So if Acts 17:27,28 is correctly translated as “in (en) him [God] we live, and move, and have our being,” it could mean that his “presence” may be felt anywhere through the activity of his Holy Spirit (“remote control ‘substance’”), and we live and move in that “presence” at all times. Or it may mean we are “in union” (in complete agreement with his will and purpose) with him - “it is through union with Him that we live and exist” – CBW (and AT; also cf. Weymouth).
And, of course, another meaning of en is “by,” “through,” or “by means of." This use of en would make Acts 17:28 say, “For by (or ‘by means of’) him we have life ...” – cf. Barclay (The Daily Study Bible Series) and NWT. This is far from evidence of “Omnipresence”!
A similar meaning of en (“in”) is illustrated at 1 Jn 5:19 - “the whole world lies in [en] wickedness (KJV) may be translated “the whole world lies in the power of [en] the evil one” (NASB, RSV, JB, NJB, NEB, REB, Beck); “under the power of the evil one” (CBW, NRSV, & NAB ); “under the evil one” (NAB ); “under the dominance of the wicked one” (MLB).
And when Jesus says at Matt. 28:20 ‘I am with you always,’ he certainly isn’t saying “I am physically present in everything”! For one thing, it is freely admitted, even by trinitarian scholars, that the expression “God is with us” as used by the Israelites meant that God was “on their side” or working in their behalf. In fact Thayer specifically gives this meaning for “with” and cites Matt. 12:30 as an example: “He who is not with me is against me.” Obviously Jesus was not saying: “He who is not physically by my side is against me”! Instead he plainly meant: “He who is not on my side [we don’t take that literally either] is against me.” Also, even if we insisted that it meant physical presence, it isn’t saying Jesus is with everyone and everything in the universe, much less in everyone and everything (which is the meaning of omnipresence).
“Omnipresence - property (of deity) of being in all places and things .... Omnipresence is opposed, not only to total, but also partial, absence, or localization - action upon this thing and not upon that” - p. 546, An Encyclopedia of Religion, Ferm (ed.), 1945.
In other words, an omnipresent God could not be “in” one thing and not “in” another! Or “with” one and not “with” another. Nor can an omnipresent God be said to be in any one specific location (e.g., “in heaven”) – But see 1 Ki. 8:49; Ps. 11:4; 33:13, 14; 115:3; Matt. 6:1, 9; Luke 1:19; Heb. 9:24.
Does the Bible really say that God is immanent?
“Immanence” is defined as being within something. So the concept of God’s “immanence” is that he is “within us” or “within everything that exists.”
In a figurative sense we could say he is within everything, because his power, energy, or active force (the Holy Spirit) can be everywhere at once acting as his eyes, ears, hands, etc. It is as though God himself, through the “remote control device” of his Holy Spirit, is actually everywhere and “in” everything.
However, the Bible clearly tells us that God is in one certain location in heaven only, and he “sees,” “hears,” creates, motivates, etc. through other agents (notable the Holy Spirit or his angels).
It is in line with scripture (and reason) that he does not actually physically dwell within his own material creation. His presence is not literally on earth. It is not in the atmosphere of the earth (the lowest of the “heavens” of the Bible). He probably does not dwell in the starry universe (the next highest of the “heavens” of the Bible). Scripture indicates that it is in the highest (outermost) of the “heavens” of the Bible (beyond the created universe) that his person or presence can be found.
There are myriad references in the Bible to God’s location or “dwelling place.” These by far outweigh the relatively few scriptures which are sometimes interpreted as showing God’s “omnipresence” or “immanence.” Here are just a very few:
Deut. 26:15 - “Look down from heaven, your holy dwelling place” - NIV.
Ps. 102:19 - “For He has looked down from height of His sanctuary; Jehovah looked down from heaven to the earth.” - The Interlinear Bible.
Ps. 115:3 - “But our God is in the heavens” - NASB.
Eccl. 5:2 - “Do not be hasty in word or impulsive in thought to bring up a matter in the
presence of God. For God is in heaven and you are on the earth.” - NASB.
Is. 63:15 - “Look down from heaven, and see from thy glorious habitation” - NASB.
Lament. 3:50 - “Until Jehovah shall look down and see from heaven” - NASB.
Matt. 7:21 - “Not every one who says to me, ‘Lord,Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” - NASB.
Matt. 18:10 - “... angels in heaven continually behold the face of my Father who is in heaven” - NASB.
Luke 11:25 - “... so that your Father also who is in heaven...” - NASB.
Heb. 9:24 - “For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.” - NASB.
IMMANENCE, in philosophy and theology, the idea that the intelligent and creative force or being which governs the universe pervades the universe. Immanence is a fundamental doctrine of pantheism (q.v.), and is opposite in meaning to transcendence, in which the intelligent and creative force or being is distinct from the universe. In pantheistic systems of thought, for example, all physical objects in the universe are pervaded with the infinite Divine presence; in Judaeo-Christian religions, God is infinite, but transcends (i.e., figuratively, rises above) the universe which He created; see GOD. - p. 4556, Vol.13, Universal Standard Encyclopedia (USE), Funk & Wagnalls, 1955.
PANTHEISM, that system of speculation which identifies the universe with God (akosmism), and, in its more material form, God with the universe.
The Mosaic account of the creation of all things out of nothing by God excludes any pantheistic cosmogony; Christian controversialists assert that pantheism involves an anti-Christian theory of the origin of evil, subverts the personality of God and man, renders free will impossible, and destroys responsibility. - p. 6435, Vol.18, USE.
IMMANENCE, in religious thought, concept of God as omnipresent in the world, in contrast to the idea of divine transcendence, in which God is considered as, in a metaphorical and nonspatial sense, completely above and beyond the world. Mere immanence tends to identify God and the world and thus becomes pantheism. However, if the world is created and sustained by the thought of God, God himself is transcendent, but his power is perpetually manifested in every part of the world, yet without any pantheistic identification. - p. 156, Vol. 9, Encyclopedia International, Grolier, 1966.
GOD .... The prophetic-Christian conception of God was predominantly practical rather than theoretical in its source. But it gradually became fused with congenial theistic [includes pantheistic] elements in Greek philosophy, and out of this fusion arose the rationalized Christian doctrine of God....
The history of Christian thought with respect to God reveals .... a change from a more or less dualistic [God (and heavenly creatures?) separate from the material universe] to an immanental view [God within His material universe] of God’s relation to the world....
- pp. 301, 302, An Encyclopedia of Religion, Vergilius Ferm, ed.
PANTHEISM, .... The earliest school of Greek philosophy, the Ionian, ... was essentially pantheistic; .... one of the most celebrated Indian systems of philosophy, in which probably developed the Buddhist religion, was the chief representative of pantheistic tendencies in the East. .... The Stoics ... may also be numbered among the adherents of pantheism. - p. 249, Vol. 21, Encyclopedia Americana, 1957.
Among the many meanings for en (“in”) is “among.” A trinitarian chart given to me (see CHART study) quotes 1 Cor. 14:25 as “God is in you,” but all the trinitarian Bibles I have examined have translated en here as ‘among’: “God is among you”!  - ASV, RSV, NRSV, NASB, NIV, AT, NEB, REB, JB, NJB, MLB, LB, GNB, CBW, Beck, Phillips, Moffatt. This has the same figurative meaning as “God is with you” (and is so translated in TEV). God is not literally in anyone (his Holy Spirit may be, but not God himself). An appropriate illustration might be found at Luke 22:3 where we see that Satan entered INTO [eis] Judas (cf. Jn 13:27). The NIVSB in a footnote for this verse says:
“Thus the Gospel writers depict Satan’s control over Judas...”
“Influence” might be a better word than “control,” but the principle is the same. Phillips translates this “a diabolical plan came into the mind of Judas.” In other words Judas of his own free will decided on a course of action that sided him with Satan or put him in union with Satan’s will and purpose.
So we might consider this verse as being figurative: Judas sided with Satan’s purposes. Or we might consider it more literally: the spirit (motivating force actually sent and controlled by Satan) of Satan actually entered and helped motivate Judas. Either way we can see the statement that Satan was “in” Judas as parallel with the expression of God (or Christ) being “in” Christians: either (1) true Christians adopting by free will a course in line with God’s will, or (2), more literally, the Spirit of God actually entering into and helping to motivate Christians (in this sense God, and Christ, “enter” Christians only through the “remote control substance,” the Spirit).
In these ways, then, God (or Christ) may be “with” them and “in” them in a manner similar to Satan’s “entering into” Judas. At the very least it should be admitted that if God is “immanent” because “God is in you,” then Satan must be “immanent” because he entered into Judas. But “Immanence” is supposed to be an exclusive quality of God (even though it is actually unscriptural).
And at Col. 1:27 where we see “Christ in you,” we may have a similar situation. It is translated as “Christ among you” in JB, NJB, Mo, NEB (footnote), and ASV (footnote). This is equivalent to “God among you” above. A similar meaning here is the meaning of “union” for en. It would mean Christ is “in union with you." This also would mean “on the same side,” “supported by,” etc. This is similar to the translation of Phil. 1:1 where Christians are “in” Christ. It may properly be translated “all God’s people in union with Christ Jesus” - AT, CBW, GNB, TEV. (Compare Christians being “in” Christ and the Father at Jn 17:21.)
If Christ “in” you means he is immanent, then Christians in Christ just as clearly shows they are immanent!
The same evidence could be used for the HS. However, being an invisible, motivating force (not a person – see the HS study), it really could be physically in us as explained above.
So “[the Holy Spirit] dwelleth with you, and shall be in you” (Jn 14:17) could be taken literally or figuratively. It is a gross mistranslation, however, to render the last part of this verse as “he dwells with you”! This verse (which literally reads in the original Bible manuscripts: “the Spirit of the truth which [o; - Marshall, p. 68; Machen, #395, #399] the world cannot receive because it beholds not it [auto - Marshall, p. 19; Machen, p. 47] nor knows; ye know it [auto - Marshall, p. 19; Machen, p. 47] because with you [it] remains [menei - Strong’s, #3306] and in [en] you will be”) is honestly translated:
“the spirit of the truth, which the world cannot receive, because it neither sees it nor knows it. You know it because it remains with you and is in [en] you.”
This is not merely an interpretation; this is the actual, literal wording! (Compare AT and NAB,1991 ed.)
Excerpt from OMN study paper:
God is a spirit person (see New Bible Dictionary - p. 427), which means that he does not have a material body, but a spiritual one: We read, “If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual one” (1 Cor. 15:44; John 4:24). God, being an individual, a person with a spirit body, has a place where he resides, and so he could not be bodily present at any other place at the same time. Thus we read at 1 Kings 8:43 that the heavens are God’s “dwelling place” - KJV. Also we see at Hebrews 9:24 that “Christ has entered ... into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.” - RSV.
Moreover, the disciple Stephen and the Apostle John had visions of heaven in which they saw both the person of God and the person of Jesus. So God must be as much a person, an individual, as Jesus Christ is (Acts 7:56; Rev. 5:1, 9).
Those Christians who will live in heaven are assured that they will see God and also be like him, showing that Jehovah is truly a person and has a body (of spirit, not flesh) as well as a certain location. - 1 John 3:2.
Some may have been confused due to the fact that God is All-Seeing; also his power can be felt everywhere (2 Chron.16:9). An illustration of this might be the comparison of an electric power plant to God. It has a certain location on a certain street in a certain city. But its power can be distributed out over the entire city, providing light, heat, power, communications, etc. And so it is with God. He has a certain location in heaven, but his active force, his holy spirit, furnishes enlightenment, and its force can be felt throughout the entire universe so that God can perfectly “see” any particle of his universe and powerfully act (through that spirit force) anywhere in that universe.
Although the Bible repeatedly warns that God’s worshipers are not to presume to make any likeness of him, it does use human characteristics in describing God. Thus the Bible speaks of God’s face, eyes, ears, nostrils, mouth, arms, and feet. Of course, such descriptive figurative language does not mean that his spirit body actually has the same kind of members as fleshly human bodies have. But such expressions are helpful to us, inasmuch as Jehovah God becomes more real to us.
Some trinitarians attempt to prove that Jesus shares with the Father an “untransferrable quality of God” known as “omnipresence.” But the scriptures they cite (such as John 6:56 and 14:23) do not indicate omnipresence for either God or Jesus. Certainly the most likely meaning for Jesus’ “dwelling” or “abiding in” (or with) people is that they have accepted his sacrifice for them and do their utmost to live in harmony (in union) with Jesus’ example and teachings! It shows a union of agreement in purpose and will. Jesus’ will has become their very own.
It is the same concept as used for all those who “walked with God” or who were “with God” or who could say “God is with us” (analyze Phil. 4:9). It did not mean they were literally in the personal physical presence of God but that they were sincerely trying to follow, or be in union with, God’s purposes and commandments, thereby pleasing him well or being “with” him. - Gen. 5:22; 6:9; Lev. 26:3, 21; 1 Kings 11:33; Malachi 2:6.
We need to understand exactly what “omnipresence” means. It is not a word found in the Scriptures nor a concept explained or used there. It is a concept developed and explained by philosophers:
“Omnipresence - property (of deity) of being in all places and things .... Omnipresence is opposed, not only to total, but also to partial, absence, or localization - action upon this thing and not upon that” - p. 546, An Encyclopedia of Religion, Ferm (ed.), 1945.
In other words, an omnipresent God could not be “in” one thing and not “in” another! Or “with” one and not “with” another. Nor can an omnipresent God be said to be in any one specific location (e.g., “in heaven”) - see Ps. 33:13, 14; 115:3; Matt. 6:9; 7:21.
Therefore, you must not (if you are really saying God is omnipresent) say that God was with David, but not with Saul (1 Sam. 18:12). Obviously, having God “with” you does not indicate omnipresence!
The scriptures often cited (John 6:56; 14:23) show persons accepting Jesus’ sacrifice and living in harmony with his teachings and example - “He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth [‘remains’ - NIV, NAB, MLB; ‘stays’ - Beck] in me, and I in him.” (John 6:56) If you should insist on taking the last half of that scripture literally, then you would be equally justified in taking the first half absolutely literally!
If Jesus were omnipresent, as some say, he would already be in everyone and everything. He would literally be in the most blasphemous of unrepentant sinners. Instead, this scripture shows he is only “in” certain ones who truly accept his ransom sacrifice and act accordingly. (You cannot truly accept his sacrifice and then fail to act accordingly.)
Notice how harmony in purpose (not omnipresence) is obviously meant here: not only is Jesus “in” these people, but they are “in” him! The will and purpose of the one becomes the will and purpose of the other (see John 10:30 study - ONE), in perfect harmony, but those Christians are not showing their “omnipresence” by being “in” Jesus any more than Jesus is showing “omnipresence” by being “in” them! They are “keeping his words” and are therefore “in” (in harmony with) him and his Father - John 14:23,24.
Those who are not “keeping his words” are not in harmony or union and therefore are not “in” him, and he is not “in” them. (This is certainly not omnipresence!) Compare the “whole world” being “in” Satan - 1 John 5:19. The NIV interprets this as “the whole world is under the control of the evil one.” (“in the power of the evil one” - RSV, AT, NASB, CBW, cf. MLB, LB).
Some trinitarians have shown a similar understanding of these figurative expressions when they speak of the necessity of accepting Jesus “so he can make himself at home with you” or “can come into your heart.” If Jesus were really omnipresent, he would already be in everyone’s heart! But, as these trinitarians indicate, before you can truly be in harmony with him, you must accept him as Savior and Christ and be obedient to him and his God. Then, and only then, can he be “in” you, and you can be “in” him—this is certainly not omnipresence, but obvious figurative language! (Surely no one would ever insist on taking Phil. 1:7 literally where Paul says he has all the Christian brothers of Philippi “in my heart”!)
Notice how clearly a figurative meaning is intended at John 17:20-23:
“(20) Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; (21) that they may all be one [all those who believe the words of the Apostles concerning Jesus]; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us ... (22) And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: (23) I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one.” - KJV.
If Jesus must be equally God, then we see Jesus in this scripture telling us that men are also to be equally God. And if Jesus is omnipresent because he is “in” others, then clearly Jesus is telling us here that real Christians are also to be omnipresent! But trinitarians say omnipresence is an untransferrable quality of God alone! (Isn’t it much better to admit the clear, figurative meaning of “in” and “abiding with,” etc.?) - cf. Jn 17:20-23 AT, CBW.
Clearly Jesus is speaking of being “one” as being “in harmony with” just as his being “in” the Father (and Christians being “in” Jesus and “in” the Father) shows a complete harmony of purpose, not some mysterious non-scriptural “omnipresence”! If Christ were truly “omnipresent” and literally “dwells in us” and “in” everything, what are such scriptures as 2 Cor. 5:6-9 trying to tell us?
It might be profitable to consider why God deals with men through angels, prophets, etc. It would certainly be easier, faster, clearer, and more certain (if God were truly physically present in all things) to just speak directly and cut out the “middle men.” Why, for example, take the time and bother to send an angel all the way to earth to appear in a burning bush to speak to Moses on behalf of God?
If God were omnipresent, he would have spoken directly from the burning bush himself! Or, even more likely, (if God were truly omnipresent) He would have spoken out right in Moses’ brain! (“Moses, this is Jehovah God speaking. To prove it is I, watch that bush burst into flames and continue to burn as long as I speak to you. Here’s what I want you to do ....”)
And why would Jesus (the only person who had been born a man and who had also literally been in the physical presence of God - John 1:18; 1 John 4:12) have to declare the only true God (or “explain him” - NASB; “Make him known” - NEB, RSV, JB) - Jn 1:18? If God were omnipresent, he certainly wouldn’t have to send another person from his physical presence in heaven to declare or make himself known. And why would Jesus bother to speak to John through an angel to send essential information to fellow Christians if he were also omnipresent? - Rev.1:1-3.
(Excerpt from the ONE study paper):
“I and my Father are ONE” - John 10:30, KJV.
Trinitarians want to believe that Jesus was implying that he and his Father together make up one God. But there isn’t even the slightest suggestion that he intended the word “God” to be understood as being included in this statement. Instead, context and NT Greek grammar show just the opposite. (Even famed trinitarian John Calvin rejected this scripture as trinitarian evidence for just that reason in his book Commentary on the Gospel According to John.)
If we insist on taking the statement literally, it would be much more likely (although still clearly impossible when the rest of John’s writings are examined) that he was saying, “I and my Father are the same person.”
There are numerous scriptures clearly showing that the Son is not the same person as the Father (although a very few figurative statements - such as “He who has seen me has seen the Father” - when taken literally could be wrongly interpreted in such a way. See SF study). There are, in like manner, numerous scriptures clearly showing that the Son is not equally God with the Father.
For example: “My Father is greater than I” - John 14:28 (see MINOR 12). And Jesus calls the Father “the only true God” (“who alone art truly God”! - NEB) - John 17:3. And Jesus’ Father is the God of Jesus - John 20:17 and Rev. 3:12. 1 Cor. 11:3 tells us that Jesus is head over the men of the Christian congregation (they are certainly not equal to him), and in a like manner, God is head over Jesus. Obviously they are not “one” in the same sense of being “equally God” as trinitarians insist.
In fact, when Bible writers write that a number of persons are “one,” they consistently mean it in a figurative sense.
For example, Paul writes to the Galatian Christians, “ye are all one in Christ” - Gal. 3:28. And Paul includes himself and Apollos in a “oneness”: “He that plants [Paul] and he that waters [Apollos] are one” - 1 Cor. 3:6, 8. Obviously Paul does not consider himself literally one person (or any other literal “one”) with other persons. However, he, as many other Bible writers do, considers himself as “one” with others in a figurative sense.
Yes, Bible writers consistently described groups of individuals as “one” figuratively in the sense of their being “united in will and purpose.” Here’s how one respected trinitarian reference book states it:
“‘One’ also expresses the unity between Christ and the Father (Jn 10:30), the union between believers and the Godhead, and the unity which exists among Christians (Jn 17:21; Gal. 3:28). ‘One’ further expresses singleness of purpose” - p. 844, New Bible Dictionary, (2nd ed.), 1982, Tyndale House Publ.
However, since we are concerned with a scripture written by John, we need to be assured that John (and even more specifically that Jesus as quoted by John) uses this figurative sense of “one” for groups of individuals.
Therefore, let’s examine John 17:22. “The glory which thou hast given me I have given to them; that they may be one, just as we are one.” - NASB. (Compare John 17:11. A footnote for John 17:11 in the very trinitarian The NIV Study Bible, Zondervan, 1985 says: “the unity is to be like that between the Father and the Son.”)
Not only is it obvious that these Christians are not equally Christ with Jesus, nor equally God with the Father, nor are they all one person, but that they are all figuratively united in “will” and “purpose” with God.
Notice that Jesus clearly defines his being “one” with his Father as being in the very same sense that he wants certain Christians to be “one”: “just as we are one” (NASB). There can be no doubt, then, that John 10:30 does not mean Jesus and the Father are equally God, but that, just as certain Christians were “one” in will and purpose so “the Father and I are one [in will and purpose].”
Although they have the same will and purpose as God, it is because they willingly and totally accept and conform to God’s will and purpose and take them as their own. God does not conform to their wills but they to his! This is exactly the same way that Christ is one in will with the Father (who alone is God) - Analyze John 6:38 (compare Luke 22:42 and Mark 14:36.)
Bible Greek expert Joseph H. Thayer tells us “one” can mean “to be united most closely (in will, spirit), Jn x.30 [John 10:30]; xvii.11,21-23 [John 17:11,21-23]” - p.186, Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, Baker Book House, tenth printing, August, 1984.
Commenting on John 10:30, J. H. Bernard, D. D. says in A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to St. John: “A unity of fellowship, of will, and of purpose between the Father and the Son is a frequent theme in the Fourth Gospel..., and it is tersely and powerfully expressed here; but to press the words so as to make them indicate identity of ousia [Greek for ‘substance,’ ‘essence’], is to introduce thoughts that were not present to the theologians of the first century.”
Even the very trinitarian New Testament Greek scholar W. E. Vine when discussing the Greek word for “one” says:
“(b) metaphorically [figuratively], union and concord, e.g., John 10:30; 11:52; 17:11, 21, 22....” - An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, p. 809.
Trinitarian Professor William Barclay writing in his popular Daily Study Bible Series, The Gospel of John, Vol. 2, The Westminster Press, 1975, pp. 74, 75, 76 says:
“Now we come to the supreme claim [of John 10:30]. ‘I and the Father are one,’ said Jesus. What did he mean? Is it absolute mystery, or can we understand at least a little of it? Are we driven to interpret it in terms of essence and hypostasis and all the rest of the metaphysical and philosophic notions about which the makers of creeds fought and argued? Has one to be a theologian and a philosopher to grasp even a fragment of the meaning of this tremendous statement?
“If we go to the Bible itself for the interpretation, we find that it is in fact so simple that the simplest mind can grasp it. Let us turn to the seventeenth chapter of John’s Gospel, which tells of the prayer of Jesus for his followers before he went to his death: ‘Holy Father, keep them in thy name, which thou hast given me, that they may be one, even as we are one’ (John 17:11). Jesus conceived of the unity of Christian with Christian as the same as his unity with God.”
“Here is the essence of the matter. The bond of unity is love; the proof of love is obedience. Christians are one with each other when they are bound by love, and obey ... Christ. Jesus is one with God, because as no other ever did, he obeyed and loved him. His unity with God is a unity of perfect love, issuing in perfect obedience.
"When Jesus said: ‘I and the father are one,’ he was not moving in the world of philosophy and metaphysics and abstractions; he was moving in the world of personal relationships. No one can really understand what a phrase like ‘a unity of essence’ means; but any one can understand what a unity of heart means. Jesus’s unity with God came from the twin facts of perfect love and perfect obedience. He was one with God because he loved and obeyed him perfectly....”
Finally, we need to be aware that the word “one” at John 10:30 and 17:22 is the neuter form hen. The two other forms for “one” are mia, which is the feminine form, and heis, the masculine form. Those who insist that John 10:30 means “the Father and I are one God” are clearly wrong as shown by New Testament Greek grammar alone. “God” in New Testament Greek is always in the masculine gender and must take masculine forms of adjectives, pronouns, etc. in agreement (see Mark 12:29, 32; 1 Cor. 8:4; Eph. 4:4-6 in interlinear Bibles). "
Or, as Dr. Marshall puts it in one of his basic NT Greek grammar rules: “Adjectives must agree with the nouns they modify in number, gender,...and case”. - p. 25, Rule 7, New Testament Greek Primer, Alfred Marshall, Zondervan Publishing, 1978 printing. (Compare 1 Cor. 3:8 in interlinear Bible [esp. note footnote in The Zondervan Parallel New Testament in Greek and English] with NIV; NAB; LB; and CBW.)
Therefore, the use of the neuter “one” (hen) at John 10:30 shows “one God (masculine gender)” could not have been intended by Jesus but instead shows “metaphorically, union and concord”! As we have seen in the study on “Wisdom” (BWF), we may have gender irregularities when someone is described figuratively (“metaphorically”) such as “he is a rock” or “Jesus is the lamb,” but when he is being literally described we must have gender agreement.
If we insist on supplying an “understood” ‘God,’ it must be at a place which uses the masculine form of “one” (heis) in gender agreement (cf. Mark 10:18; Ro. 3:30). Trinitarian scholar Robert Young commented on this knowledge of the word “one” at John 10:30 in his Young’s Concise Critical Bible Commentary:
“The particle [hen] being of the neuter gender, can hardly signify ‘one being, i.e. one God,’ but rather ‘one in will, purpose, counsel...” - p. 62, Baker Book House, 1977.
The very trinitarian Bible study reference book, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, agrees with trinitarian Young (above) in its discussion of John 10:30.
Truly, then, there is absolutely no evidence for a “trinitarian” interpretation at John 10:30. In fact, the real meaning shows Jesus is not God!
It’s interesting that some trinitarian scholars apparently (inadvertently?) admit that Gal.3:20 shows God to be one person.
You should be aware, however, that some trinitarian Bibles translate Gal. 3:20 as “a mediator is not for one party only; whereas God is only one.” - NASB. The underlined words (“party” and “only”) are not in the original text, but certain trinitarians insist that something like “party” has to be understood in order for God to be three persons [a “party”] and not just one person.
However, even some trinitarian translators don’t believe such a translation of Gal. 3:20 is correct. For example, the Roman Catholic New American Bible (1970) renders Gal. 3:20 as: Now there can be no mediator when only one person is involved; and God is one [heis - masculine singular].”
And the highly trinitarian Good News Bible (GNB) renders it: “a go-between is not needed when only one person is involved; and God is one.” - also TEV.
Even the extremely trinitarian The Amplified Bible, which often goes to incredible lengths in its attempt to produce trinitarian “proof” scriptures, renders Gal. 3:20 as: “there can be no mediator with just one person. Yet God is [only] one person.”
And yet the trinity doctrine states that God is “one God in three persons”! Isn’t it odd that these trinitarian scholars admit that this scripture shows God to be only one person?
Note: Although Watchtower Society (WTS) research and scholarship is usually at least the equal of (and often superior to) that of other sources, I have tried to rely most heavily on other sources in Christendom itself (preferably trinitarian) or my own independent research to provide evidence disproving the trinitarian ‘proof’ being examined in this paper. The reason is, of course, that this paper is meant to provide evidence needed by non-Witnesses, and many of them will not accept anything written by the WTS. They truly believe it is false, even dishonest. Therefore some of the preceding information, all of which helps disprove specific trinitarian “proofs,” may be in disagreement with current WTS teachings in some specifics (especially when I have presented a number of alternates). Jehovah’s Witnesses should research the most recent WTS literature on the subject or scripture in question before using this information with others. – RDB.
1. Daniel Wallace in his Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics says with respect to the preposition en that it is "the workhorse of prepositions in the NT, occurring more frequently and in more varied situations than any another." A footnote to this comment on p. 372 adds "Even BAGD (s.v. en, 258) recognizes the difficulty of cataloging every usage: 'The uses of this prep. are so many-sided, and oft. so easily confused, that a strictly systematic treatment is impossible.' "
Young’s Analytical Concordance tells us that en may be rendered into English as “in,’ ‘by,’ ‘with,’ ‘through,’ etc. – Eerdmans Publ., 1978 printing.
W. E. Vine tells us the ‘instrumental’ use of the NT Greek word en is often intended to mean ‘with’ and ‘by means of.’
“A very important instance of the instrumental en is in Rom. 3:25 where the [Revised Version], ‘faith, by [en] his blood,’ corrects the [KJV], ‘faith in [en] his blood,’ …. Thus the statement reads ‘whom God set forth to be a propitiation, through faith, by his blood.’ Christ is a propitiation, by means of His blood, i.e., His expiatory death. Faith is exercised in the living God, not in the blood, which provides the basis of faith.” – p. 1271, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1983 printing.
Thayer agrees with this meaning of en:
“d. of the instrument or means by or with which anything is accomplished …, where we say with, by means of, by (through)” – p. 210, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, Baker Book House, 1984 printing
Liddell and Scott also tell us about the meanings of en:
“III. OF THE INSTRUMENT, MEANS or MANNER” – p. 257, An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon, Oxford University Press, 1994 printing.
The Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament says:
Strong’s shows ‘through’ as one of the meanings of en in the KJV:
The New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible shows us that the NASB has rendered en as ‘through’ 18 times. - pp. 1267, 1268 and p. 1648, Holman Bible Publishers, 1981.
The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology discusses en encroaching on the territory of dia (‘through’) in some situations (p. 1190) and specifically mentions en as an “Agency or instrumentality” in one of its meanings when used in the phrase “in (en) Christ.” It cites 2 Cor. 3:14 as an example: “The veil is not lifted because only through Christ is it removed”. - Vol. 3, p. 1192.
This explains why at Col. 1:16, for example, ‘For in [en] him all things were created,’ as found in NRSV, RSV, ASV, NIV, etc. is also properly translated ‘For through him…’ (GNB; MLB; AT; NLT; C.B.Williams; and Phillips), and ‘For by Him…’ (NIV; KJV; NKJV; BBE; MKJV; Webster; Darby; Moffatt; & Barclay).
And, just as properly, the NWT renders it: ‘Because by means of him …’
The last part of this same verse further confirms this proper rendering of the instrumental en of the first part. Yes, “For through or by means of (en) him all things were created” (Col. 1:16a) is made certain by the concluding clause: “All things were created through [dia] him….” (Col. 1:16c) – NKJV.
2. Trinitarian scholar Ralph P. Martin in discussing Phil. 2:13 tells us that the literal God ‘working in (en) you’ is better rendered as ‘among you’ or ‘in your midst.’ - p. 116, Philippians, The Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, Eerdmans, 1991 reprint.
3. Ralph P. Martin tells us that the phrase ‘in [en] Christ Jesus’ is regularly used by Paul to mean “ ‘in union with Christ’, which is often tantamount to ‘in the fellowship of his people’.” - p. 99, Philippians.
4. John then reinforces Paul’s teaching that the relationship of Christians to Jesus is the same as Jesus’ relationship to God: one of obedience! Just as Christians are obedient to their superior, Jesus, so Jesus is obedient to his superior, God (who is the Father, alone): “The head of every man [Christian, of course] is Christ, ... and the head of Christ is God [who is the Father alone]” - 1 Cor. 11:3. NIV. (“Father, …. This is eternal life: to know thee who alone art truly God” - Jn 17:1, 3, NEB.)