I am primarily interested in the phrase "the King eternal":

New International Version 1 Timothy 1:17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

  • 1
    It says 'God' right there. Where do you think the ambiguity is?
    – user2910
    May 29 '18 at 23:10
  • I don't consider it ambiguous but some do. There is a lot of Trinitarian mojo applied, saying it applies to "all three persons". Gill considers it ambiguous: biblehub.com/commentaries/gill/1_timothy/1.htm Paul calling God "king" is a bit rare and I would like it well vetted before I appeal to it in exposition on other matters.
    – Ruminator
    May 29 '18 at 23:22
  • I'm a bit confused, seeing as how other passages make clear that Jesus is God. Are you asking if it's referring to the Father or the Son? If that's the case, I'm wondering what specifically is leading you to ask this question...again the two in many ways are inseparable, and unless something about God specifically refers to the Father or the Son, it's usually understood to be about God, the three in one.
    – Kevin H
    Sep 11 '18 at 17:39
  • 2
    Cf. Tobit 13: "And Tobias (the elder) opening his mouth, blessed the Lord, ... there is no other almighty God besides him ... give ye glory to him .. τὸν βασιλέα τῶν αἰώνων/the King eternal ... Give glory to the Lord for thy good things, and bless the God eternal, ..." Clearly this kind of language refers to the one God. 'Now to the King eternal' will simply depend on whom you think deserves to be identified as God. It's that simple. Sep 11 '18 at 18:19
  • Well then that's a no-brainer... [Jhn 17:3 NLT] (3) And this is the way to have eternal life--to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth. Please put your excellent reference to Tobit in an answer so I can mark it the answer. Thanks.
    – Ruminator
    Dec 2 '20 at 16:25

The is a need to carefully look into the following corollary passages to answer the question.

  1. John 1:18: No one has seen God at any time;

  2. John 4:24: God is Spirit [therefore incorporeal];

  3. John 6:46: Not that anyone has seen the Father;

  4. Colossians 1:15: There is invisible God (also see 2Cor. 4:4: ... the image of God);

  5. 1Tim. 6: 15-16: ..., He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and the Lord of lords, who alone ha immortality, dwelling in UNAPPROACHABLE light, whom no man has seen or can see, ... (also read Exodus 19: 16-18; 20:18; and 33:20, “ ..., You cannot see My face; for no man SHALL see Me, and live.”

  6. 1John 4:12: No one has seen God at any time.

All the above passages of the Holy Scripture are consistent in declaring that 1Tim. 1:17 is about God the Father, and Jesus Christ is the visible image of the invisible God, the only true God of John 17:3; 1Cor. 8:6; Gal. 3:20; Eph. 4:6; 1Tim. 2:5; and James 2:19).

  • @Ruminator - YES, brother; here it goes:- “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You sent.” It is Jesus, the Son of the only true God, who is speaking Dec 2 '20 at 20:48
  • I think this a good answer. +1.
    – Dottard
    Dec 2 '20 at 21:09

Paul, in 1 Timothy, has the expression twice:

  • 1 Tim 1:17 - Now to the King eternal, immortal, and invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
  • 1 Tim 6:15, 16 - which the blessed and only Sovereign One—the King of kings and Lord of lords—will bring about in His own time. He alone is immortal and dwells in unapproachable light. No one has ever seen Him, nor can anyone see Him. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen.

That these refer to God the Father is fairly clear to me and every commentator I consulted. The grammar also makes this clear in both cases. However, and this is the interesting part, the NT gives all these epithets to Jesus as well:

  • Jesus is the eternal king: Luke 1:32, 33, "He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever. His kingdom will never end!”
  • Jesus is king: Luke 1:33, John 1:49, Acts 13:23, Rev 11:15.
  • Jesus is King of kings and Lord of Lords: Rev 17:14, 19:16
  • Jesus is Lord of all: Acts 10:36, Rom 10:12
  • Jesus is immortal: Rom 6:9
  • Jesus is now invisible (unseen): John 16:10, 16, 17, 19, etc.
  • Jesus is due Honor, dominion, power, etc, Rev 5:11-13.
  • Jesus is also called "God" (ho theos): Matt 1:23, John 20:28, etc, as prophesied in Isa 9:6.

Therefore, while Paul obviously had the Father in view, we note that the NT is keen to make Jesus receive the same epithets.

  • @Dottard You are interpreting 'God with us' according to your theology. Was the child in Isaiah, titled Immanuel, God also? We have explicit verses like John 8:40 et al which you choose to ignore, while making much of those that are less explicit and need other texts to fully inform their intended meaning. Which, clearly, you have not done here. You have a fine talent for exploring and explaining the text, shame when it is misused.
    – steveowen
    Dec 3 '20 at 0:06
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat.
    – Dottard
    Dec 3 '20 at 0:13
  • 1
    @Dottard - I’d like to appeal to you, and of course the wider public, to carefully read Isa. 9:6 within its context and more importantly with the verse that follows it, Isa. 9:7. Acts 2:36 and Heb. 1:8 should also be viewed in a broader context to fully understand Isa. 9:6. May God’s mercy and grace be with all in truth and love. Dec 3 '20 at 4:50
  • @TesfayeWolde - I have just read these verses again but do not understand the point you try to obliquely allude to.
    – Dottard
    Dec 3 '20 at 11:07
  • @Dottard: I never had and don’t have any hidden intent to obliquely allude to what ISNOT EXPLICITLY WRITTEN in the Holy Bible for I heed to the judgment that awaits me if I do so as written in: 1) Matt.12:36: “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” 2) Mark 9:42: “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea. ...” Dec 5 '20 at 19:14

Is 1 Timothy 1:17 about God or about Jesus?

1 Timothy 1:17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Seems easy enough.

Jesus wasn't immortal - now, risen, exalted, he has eternal life.

knowing that Christ, having been raised up out from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer rules over Him. Rom 6:9

Jesus wasn't invisible - he has flesh and bones, so he is still not invisible.

See My hands and My feet, that I am He. Touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones, as you see Me having." Luke 24:39

Jesus isn't God, so that rules him out there too.

There is one God, the Father, by whom all things were created, and for whom we live. And there is one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things were created, and through whom we live. 1 Cor 8:6

So that leaves us with God - the only immortal, invisible and eternal King.

While the passage starts off referring to Jesus (v12), Paul changes the focus as he prepares to close the passage with an 'amen', by coming back to the Father and God.


In light of John 14:8-10a, I agree that a more interesting and difficult question is why Paul chose the particular appellation that he did.

8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” 9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me?

Nevertheless, the previous verses to I Timothy 1:17, beginning with "but" in verse 14, address the work of the Messiah Jesus through to the end of verse 16. Then, beginning with the "and" in verse 17, Paul differentiates and describes God as the King of the eons . . . with glory and honor to the eons of the eons.

Strengthening that observation, we see in verses 11 and 12, a mirror image that conveys gratitude first to the Father and then to Jesus, the Son. Mirror images make me look for evidence of a chiastic structure, which I think is mildly present in verses 19 and 20, mirroring verses 10 and previous.



Is 1 Timothy 1:17 about God (IE: the Father) or about Jesus?

"King Eternal" a title applied only to Jehovah, both OT and NT writers knew that God never dies and will therefore reign for all eternity to come, the Psalmist says that God is King for ever and ever.

Psalm 10:16 (ASV) Jehovah is King for ever and ever: The nations are perished out of his land.

Psalm 90:2 (NET Bible)

2 Even before the mountains came into existence,[a] or you brought the world into being,[b]you were the eternal God.

Jeremiah 10:10 (NIV)

10 But the Lord is the true God; he is the living God, the eternal King. When he is angry, the earth trembles; the nations cannot endure his wrath.

Exodus 15:18 (ASV) Jehovah shall reign for ever and ever

And in the book of Revelation the apostle John quoted voices out of heaven that said about the Lord God: "He will rule as king forever and ever." John certainly knew that the Creator will rule "into the ages of the ages"

Revelation 11:15 (NET Bible)

Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven saying: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ,and he will reign for ever and ever.”

The title "King Eternal" is also applied in the parallel verse Revelation 15:3

Revelation 15:3 New Heart English Bible

They sang the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, "Great and marvelous are your works, Lord God Almighty. Righteous and true are your ways, O King eternal.

Revelation 15:3

ΑΠΟΚΑΛΥΨΙΣ ΙΩΑΝΝΟΥ 15:3 1881 Westcott-Hort New Testament (WHNU)

3 και αδουσιν την ωδην μωυσεως του δουλου του θεου και την ωδην του αρνιου λεγοντες μεγαλα και θαυμαστα τα εργα σου κυριε ο θεος ο παντοκρατωρ δικαιαι και αληθιναι αι οδοι σου ο βασιλευς των αιωνων

  • Good intertextuality. However, please see this related question: hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/43596/…
    – Ruminator
    Dec 3 '20 at 21:06
  • Ruminator : Read my answer on John 8;58https: //hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/129/is-nwts-translation-of-john-858-reasonable Dec 3 '20 at 21:15
  • I'm familiar with the JW reading but do not concur.
    – Ruminator
    Dec 3 '20 at 21:41

Those words most probably apply to the Father alone, because Paul speaks about Jesus Christ just before this passage, and distinguishes the referent of this passage from Jesus Christ by the adversative particle δὲ ("but", "as to").

But this does not imply that to Jesus Christ cannot or is not applied the term "God" by Paul, for the Apostle clearly asserts eternal existence of the Person of Jesus Christ with God-the Father and the Former's equality with the Latter (ἴσα θεῷ) (Philippians 2:6), and equal to God can be only God.

Even if in the same 1 Timothy 3:16 Paul did not write himself "θεὸς ἐφανερώθη ἐν σαρκί" but "ὃς ἐφανερώθη ἐν σαρκί" (which is a moot point, for the proponents of ὅς, besides the oldness of the mss traditions with this rendition, have to explain the weirdness of grammar by assuming a certain hymn existing in Paul's time which the Apostle alludes to and inserts in his letter; however, on the contrary, θεός makes a perfect sense grammatically), it is totally in tune with Paul's Christology, for he explicitly says that in Christ dwells the entire fulness of God in a fleshly fashion (Colossians 2:9), and it is impossible for the "entire fulness of God" to be housed by any creature, but by the one who shares the everything of God, i.e. is the Latter's equal and as such God Himself. If Jesus Christ has entire perfection of God-the Father in a bodily way, then He is God necessarily, for only God is perfect, which divine attribute Paul explicitly eternally ascribes to the Son, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 7:28).

That's why Paul explicitly prays to Jesus as to Lord and God, for nobody, unless one either blasphemes or is out of one's wits, prays to a creature (be it even a highest among them, like any highest of angelic hosts, be he Michael or Raphael etc.), to deliver him (sorry feminists, I do not like to write a "him/her" monstrosity) from a demonic presence as Paul does pray to Jesus (2 Cor. 12:8-9) to deliver him from the tormenting presence of an "angel of Satan" in him, but let me use Ockham's razor and stop here from drawing so many other Pauline examples.

Non-Trinitarians are necessitated to bring all their merciless text-torturing interpretative machinery to derive other conclusions, but what can I do? Only wish them all the good things with all sincerity.

  • 1
    Again, I love your answers here (be prepared for the wrath of Arian down-markers!) many thanks for your divinely inspired wisdom. +1.
    – Dottard
    Dec 3 '20 at 21:23
  • @Dottard I liked your answer here and have up-voted it, thanks for giving such an esteem to my humble contribution. As to the wrath you speak about - all too accustomed to it:) Dec 3 '20 at 21:32
  • A friendly limerick to my mysterious @down-voter: "When counter-arguments are naughty,//A good solution is down-voting,//And better to stay anonymous,//For a discussion looms ominous://It may reveal the down-voter's conviction//Not a theology, but a fiction". :) Dec 7 '20 at 7:23
  • @Dottard I agree with you. Levan Gigineishvili always has a not that common view to share (+1). Dec 19 '20 at 19:47

The following is what Gill also stated: "Or else to God the Father, in agreement with a parallel place in Romans 16:27 who is the only true God, in opposition to nominal and fictitious deities, though not to the exclusion of the Son and Spirit; and to whom the several epithets here used may be unquestionably given:"

Notice Gill says, "not to the exclusion of the Son and the Spirit." No "ambiguity" here. Also Peter said the following at 2 Peter 1:1, "Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to hose who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ."

Now, I understand the "tension" as it pertains to the persons of the Trinity and who is the speaker in certain text.

Where there is not distinction made, it is obviously unnecessary to make a distinction. The persons of the Trinity are persons in relation to each other, any one of the person in relation to us is simply God. In that there is only One God. If God says to us His glory He will not give to another, that is because there is only One God.

Or to put it another way. The Holy Spirit is a person in relation to the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit is God in relation to us. If you are in a relationship with the Father/Son/Holy Spirit, then you must be in a relationship with them all, for there is only One God. If you deny one, you deny them all. Btw, I don't think "mojo" or good luck has anything to do with it.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.