The New World Translation, the official Bible version of the Watchtower/Jehovah’s Witnesses, translates John 1:1 into English as follows:

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god. NWT, 2013

The Greek text states,

Αʹ ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος NA28

The New World Translation of John 1:1 appears to be unique in using the phrase “a god” to translate the Greek word θεὸς. Unless I am mistaken, all other versions translate it as “God.” For example, the translation in the KJV, NASB, and NIV is identical:

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Is there any justification in the original Greek text for translating θεὸς into English as “a god”?

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    In New World Translation John 1:1 is not talking about Jesus. See John 20:17 (WE).
    – Jeremiah G
    Commented Aug 12, 2013 at 21:07
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    According to this wikipedia page, controversy regarding the translation of John 1:1 is not unique to the NWT; translations with a similar rendering include Wilson's Emphatic Diaglott (interlinear reading) and Goodspeed's An American Translation.
    – Jeremiah G
    Commented Aug 12, 2013 at 21:13
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    @user33515 It's very likely they didn't understand all of it -- does anyone? But just like Peter in regard to Paul's writing (2 Peter 3:15-16), enough of it can be grasped to know that it's enlightened.
    – enegue
    Commented May 2, 2017 at 6:49
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    I think the bottom line is if you use the trinity to dictate translation or scripture to dictate translation. If you except the trinity it has to be God as dictated aslo by the Creeds, but thats another story.
    – user26950
    Commented Oct 23, 2018 at 22:20

21 Answers 21


Short answer: no.

Long answer: While the Greek lacks the definite article on theos in the clause under discussion, that doesn't mean the English should be translated with an indefinite article. Greek and English do not enjoy a one-to-one relationship between their words. There are times in Greek when the article is present but not translated into English. Likewise, there are places where the article is not present in the Greek but the English requires it, or in this case, requires something to show the definiteness of the word.

Example 1: John 18:16 in Greek literally says: "...the disciple, the other, the one known to the high priest..." That's horrible English. So it gets translated (rightly) as "the other disciple, who was known to the high priest." As you can see the word order changed coming into English as well as two definite articles dropping out.

Example 2: John 1:1 contains another example of a time without an article in Greek but needed in English. It says, "en arche 'en o logos..." that is (literally) "In beginning was the Word." Notice that there is no definite article before arche. However, even the New World Translation puts the article there. That is how it should be. To leave it out would cause confusion in the English "In a beginning was the Word..." That implies that there were multiple beginnings to the universe, but that isn't what the Bible teaches. It's a difference in Greek and English. Likewise, the Septuagint of Genesis starts with en arche.

The reason the clause at the end of John 1:1 lacks the article deals with rules of Greek grammar. English uses word order to drive the meaning of a sentence. We almost always have subjects first, then verbs, then the objects (excepted Yoda speech is). Greek doesn't use word order to differentiate between types of nouns. They use word order for emphasis (Hebrew does the same thing). To tell the difference in the subject and the object (both of which are nouns), Greek uses case endings. They can then put the object of the verb at the beginning of the clause with the subject after the verb and still know what the sentence means. In English, "dog bites man" and "man bites dog" mean entirely different things.

However, in Greek, they would put case endings on the nouns and comprehend the same meaning even with the word order switched around. In the following example, I am using case endings here as an illustration. [s] means subject, and [o] means object. In Greek there is no difference between "dog[s] bites man[o]" and "man[o] bites dog[s]." They mean the exact same thing. This works with action verbs, linking verbs are different, but the action verbs show how the Greek usually works.

The clause in question (which uses a linking verb) literally reads kai theos 'en 'o logos (literally "and God was the Word" but you won't find it translated that way for good reason). Notice that the word order is switched around with "God" at the front of the clause. Because the verb is a linking verb, the subject and object use the same case ending, the nominative. With a linking verb, the part of the clause that would be the object often drops the article (even though it would use it otherwise), especially when it is in front of the verb (as here). When the object of a clause is a noun like this, it is called the "predicate nominative" and Colwell's Rule allows the translation to indicate the definiteness of the word even when the Greek lacks the article.

In English, we don't put "the" in front of God to show definiteness. We capitalize it. That's what Greek scholars recognize in this verse.

  • 21
    Wow! We need more people, such as yourself, who really know Greek grammar. I'd like to encourage you to keep up the good work. Commented Feb 14, 2012 at 19:01
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    Thanks! My Greek is rusty, and I did a lot more Hebrew than Greek in seminary. Though in one of my favorite classes (Studies in Numbers), we each had to pick a translation to compare to the Hebrew and our translation. I chose the LXX. My wife mostly saw the back of my head that semester as I had to translate both the BHS and LXX into modern English.
    – Frank Luke
    Commented Feb 14, 2012 at 19:23
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    Good answer. For more info, I'd pick up a copy of Dan Wallace's "Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics". He has a really good discussion of this issue on pages 266-269 (in my edition, anyway). You might find that useful. The reader will have to know a little Greek, but apparently you do.
    – Mallioch
    Commented Feb 15, 2012 at 5:37
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    @Yasky The NT was originally written in Koine Greek. Much of the Aramaic primacy argument relies on the unfounded thesis that Mishnaic Hebrew was not a language of the common people in the time of Jesus.
    – Frank Luke
    Commented Sep 3, 2013 at 17:05
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    @FrankLuke At the end of your answer you say English capitalizes a word to make it definite. That is evidence that the rendering "the Word was God" is a terrible translation. Scholars like Wallace, Harris and Robertson all say that a definite θεός at John 1:1c would identify the Word as the Father and that is modalism, not Trinitarianism.
    – user33125
    Commented Feb 9, 2020 at 6:26


Is there any justification in the original Greek text for translating θεὸς into English as “a god”?

The early Church fathers never debated the Greek capitalization in John 1:1 since the earliest Greek manuscripts of the New Testament were written in a Greek text that consisted of only majuscules, or “capital” letters. For example, the following is an image of John 1:1 in the Codex Sinaiticus which is dated to the 4th century A.D.:

Codex Sinaiticus, John 1:1

Transcription of John 1:1 in Codex Sinaiticus (with nomina sacra)

The Codex Sinaiticus features lunate sigmas and nomina sacra. Without the nomina sacra, the text would appear as follows:

Transcription of John 1:1 in Codex Sinaiticus (without nomina sacra)

Compare that text to the text of John 1:1 in the Textus Receptus which was written in 1550 A.D.:

Textus Receptus, 1550, John 1:1

While the Textus Receptus does incorporate both miniscules and majuscules, unlike the Codex Sinaiticus, it was written nearly 1 1/2 millennia after the original Greek New Testament was likely written, so it and similar manuscripts are entirely irrelevant to the issue at hand.

With that being said, any exegetical analysis of John 1:1 in order to affirm or deny the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ should not be focused on the capitalization of the Greek text or subsequent English translation.

The following is the text of John 1:1 separated into three clauses:

  1. 1:1a: ΕΝ ΑΡΧΗ ΗΝ Ο ΛΟΓΟϹ (ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος)
  2. 1:1b: ΚΑΙ Ο ΛΟΓΟϹ ΗΝ ΠΡΟϹ ΤΟΝ ΘΕΟΝ (καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν)
  3. 1:1c: ΚΑΙ ΘΕΟϹ ΗΝ Ο ΛΟΓΟϹ (καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος)

The First Clause: ΕΝ ΑΡΧΗ ΗΝ Ο ΛΟΓΟϹ

In the first clause, ΕΝ ΑΡΧΗ ΗΝ Ο ΛΟΓΟϹ, the author appears to be alluding to Gen. 1:1 wherein the LXX translates the Hebrew בְּרֵאשִׁית (bĕrēʾšît) by the Greek ΕΝ ΑΡΧΗ.

Karen H. Jobes wrote,1

Jobes, Karen. Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: 1, 2, & 3 John. 1 John 1:1


        1 p. 58, Commentary on 1 John 1:1

The author of the fourth gospel wrote that Ο ΛΟΓΟϹ, which may be translated into English as “the word,” “was in the beginning” (ΕΝ ΑΡΧΗ ΗΝ). It is noteworthy that the author does not write ΕΝ ΑΡΧΗ ΕΓΕΝΕΤΟ Ο ΛΟΓΟϹ (ἐν ἀρχῇ ἐγένετο ὁ λόγος), which would suggest that Ο ΛΟΓΟϹ was made or came into existence (ΕΓΕΝΕΤΟ).2 Rather, it suggests that Ο ΛΟΓΟϹ is pre-existent and eternal. In Gen. 1, this “word” was spoken to create the universe.3


        2 cf. John 1:6, 1:14
        3 Gen. 1:3


The interpretation of this clause is relatively straightforward, with the exception of the preposition ΠΡΟϹ (πρὸς). Ο ΛΟΓΟϹ, or “the word,” was ΠΡΟϹ ΤΟΝ ΘΕΟΝ.


The majority of (if not all) commentaries agree that ΤΟΝ ΘΕΟΝ in John 1:1b refers to the eternal creator of the universe, Ο ΘΕΟϹ of Gen. 1:1.


Most English translations translate ΠΡΟϹ (πρὸς) by the preposition “with.” However, we might rather expect the Greek to have used the preposition ΜΕΤΑ (μετά), as in ΜΕΤΑ ΤΟΥ ΘΕΟΥ (μετὰ τοῦ θεοῦ), or ΣΥΝ (σύν), as in ΣΥΝ ΤΩ ΘΕΩ (σὺν τῷ θεῷ), to indicate that Ο ΛΟΓΟϹ was with ΤΟΝ ΘΕΟΝ. Nevertheless, there is still a precedent for translating ΠΡΟϹ ΤΟΝ ΘΕΟΝ into English as “with God.”4


        4 Matt. 13:56; Mark 6:3, 9:19, 14:49; Luke 9:41; 1 Thes. 3:4; 2 Thes. 2:5, 3:10

The Third Clause: ΚΑΙ ΘΕΟϹ ΗΝ Ο ΛΟΓΟϹ

Finally, the clause in question. The author writes that Ο ΛΟΓΟϹ (“the word”) ΗΝ (“was”) ΘΕΟϹ. In the second clause, ΘΕΟϹ in the form of the definite, accusative ΤΟΝ ΘΕΟΝ referred to the Father (Yahveh, the creator of heaven and earth). But, Ο ΛΟΓΟϹ could not logically be identical with the Father because the second clause also stated that Ο ΛΟΓΟϹ was “with” the Father. To express a simpler analogy: if David was with Saul, then David cannot be the same person as Saul. Rather, the clause indicates that Ο ΛΟΓΟϹ and ΤΟΝ ΘΕΟΝ (1:1b) are two distinct persons.

But, if ΘΕΟϹ does not refer to the Father, the creator of heaven and earth (cp. Gen. 1:1), then to what or whom does it refer?

ΘΕΟϹ κατὰ φύσιν or ΘΕΟϹ κατὰ καθήκον

The real issue concerns whether Ο ΛΟΓΟϹ is ΘΕΟϹ κατὰ φύσιν (“according to nature”),5 or ΘΕΟϹ κατὰ καθήκον (“according to office”).6


        5 Latin secundum naturam
        6 Latin secundum officium

ΘΕΟϹ κατὰ φύσιν

Undoubtedly, Yahveh, the creator of heaven and earth, Ο ΘΕΟϹ of Gen. 1:1, ΤΟΝ ΘΕΟΝ of John 1:1b, is ΘΕΟϹ κατὰ φύσιν. Being ΘΕΟϹ κατὰ φύσιν, Yahevh is eternal and uncreated, omnipotent and omniscient. All else is NOT ΘΕΟϹ κατὰ φύσιν, for all else is created and finite.

ΘΕΟϹ κατὰ καθήκον

Scripture sometimes describe others aside from Yahveh as being ΘΕΟϹ, or its Hebrew equivalent אֱלֹהִים (ʾĕlōhîm). For example, Moses was appointed אֱלֹהִים to Pharaoh.7 The judges of Israel are referred to as אֱלֹהִים (ʾĕlōhîm).8 Satan is referred to as ὁ θεὸς of this world.9 Spiritual messengers (“angels”) are referred to as אֱלֹהִים (ʾĕlōhîm).10


        7 Exo. 7:1; LXX: θεὸν
        8 Exo. 21:6, 22:8, 22:9; Psa. 82:1
        9 There is some debate whether ὁ θεὸς τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου refers to Yahveh or Satan. My interpretation is that it refers to Satan as the instrumental agent of the blinding, while elsewhere Yahveh is identified as the ultimate agent of the blinding (Isa. 6:10 cf. John 12:40). Also cf. 2 Sam. 24:1; 1 Chr. 21:1.
        10 LXX: ἀγγέλους cf. Heb. 2:7, 2:9

All of these instances have one thing in common: none of those described as ΘΕΟϹ, whether Moses, judges, Satan, or spiritual messengers (angels), are ΘΕΟϹ κατὰ φύσιν, since they are all created. Logically, then, they must all be ΘΕΟϹ κατὰ καθήκον, or “GOD according to office.”

One who is ΘΕΟϹ κατὰ καθήκον is identified as ΘΕΟϹ because he is granted authority or power by Yahveh and thus functions in Yahveh’s stead. For example, Moses is described as ΘΕΟϹ to Pharaoh because Moses judged Pharaoh and Egypt as Yahveh acted through him to execute judgment against Egypt and its “gods.”11 Likewise, the judges of Israel are referred to as ΘΕΟϹ because they judge for Yahveh, and Yahveh is with them in judgment.12 Angels (spiritual messengers) are sometimes referred to as ΘΕΟϹ because they too render judgment on behalf of Yahveh.13 However, in the case of Satan, he is not granted authority, but rather seeks to usurp Yahveh’s authority.14


        11 Exo. 12:12
        12 2 Chr. 19:6
        13 1 Chr. 21:16
        14 Whether Isa. 14:13–14 and Eze. 28:2 refer to Satan even by allusion is inconsequential. More importantly, they demonstrate that anyone who attempts to usurp Yahveh’s authority is a “god” in their own mind.

Ο ΛΟΓΟϹ is ΘΕΟϹ κατὰ φύσιν

Is Ο ΛΟΓΟϹ, ΘΕΟϹ κατὰ φύσιν or ΘΕΟϹ κατὰ καθήκον? The answer is determined by answering this simple question: is Ο ΛΟΓΟϹ created or uncreated? If Ο ΛΟΓΟϹ is created, then Ο ΛΟΓΟϹ is ΘΕΟϹ κατὰ καθήκον. However, if Ο ΛΟΓΟϹ is uncreated, then Ο ΛΟΓΟϹ is Yahveh and thus ΘΕΟϹ κατὰ φύσιν.

Although there is a slight allusion to the answer in John 1:1, in order to definitely answer the question, we must skip forward two verses to John 1:3. Referring to Ο ΛΟΓΟϹ, the author wrote,15

3 Everything was made by means of it,16 and not even one thing that was made was made without it.

Γʹ πάντα δι᾽ αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο καὶ χωρὶς αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο οὐδὲ ἕν ὃ γέγονεν


        15 There is no necessity to write majusculars as the Greek word θεὸς does not occur in this verse and there is no possibility of confounding the topic of discussion.
        16 At this point in the prologue, I would prefer to translate the pronoun as “it” because anyone reading this passage for the very first time (also, 2000 years ago) would not have assumed by v. 3 that Ο ΛΟΓΟϹ is actually the pre-incarnate Lord Jesus Christ. This is methodically and intentionally introduced shortly thereafter by the author.

The author writes that “everything was made by means of” Ο ΛΟΓΟϹ, using the preposition δι᾽ (διά). Those who argue that Ο ΛΟΓΟϹ is created emphasize that everything was created “by means of” rather than “by” Ο ΛΟΓΟϹ. Not only is this argument unconvincing, it is inconsequential. Even if we suppose that everything was created “by means of” Ο ΛΟΓΟϹ as the instrumental cause,17 the author still states that everything was created by means of Ο ΛΟΓΟϹ.


        17 Rather than as the effective cause, where δι᾽ (διά) might be properly translated as “by.”

Logically, Ο ΛΟΓΟϹ could not have been used by the efficient cause (e.g., the Father) as the instrumental cause to create everything if it had not been created yet. In order for the efficient cause to have used Ο ΛΟΓΟϹ as the instrumental cause to create everything, Ο ΛΟΓΟϹ itself cannot be created, but rather, Ο ΛΟΓΟϹ must have already existed prior to creation. Of course, to exist prior to creation demands that Ο ΛΟΓΟϹ is uncreated, and if Ο ΛΟΓΟϹ is uncreated, then it must be ΘΕΟϹ κατὰ φύσιν.

  1. If everything was made by means of Ο ΛΟΓΟϹ (1:3a),
  2. And not even one thing that was made was made without it (1:3b),
  3. Then Ο ΛΟΓΟϹ cannot be made,
  4. Because something not yet made (i.e., that does not yet exist) cannot be used to make itself.

ΘΕΟϹ in John 1:1c defines φύσις or οὐσία

While ΤΟΝ ΘΕΟΝ in John 1:1b (and therefore Ο ΘΕΟϹ in Gen. 1:1) refers to the person18 of Yahveh, i.e., the Father, ΘΕΟϹ in John 1:1c refers to the φύσις or οὐσία of Ο ΛΟΓΟϹ, often translated into English as “nature.”


        18 πρόσωπον, and in later philosophical and theological discussions, ὑπόστασις.

Aristotle’s Categories

Perhaps 500 years prior to the conception of Christianity, Aristotle wrote many philosophical discourses concerning the nature of the things in the universe. In one such discourse, entitled “Categories” (Κατηγορίαι), he defines two types of οὐσίαι or “natures,” the former being “the primary natures” (αἱ πρῶται οὐσίαι), and the latter being “the secondary natures” (αἱ δεύτεραι οὐσίαι).

Primary οὐσίαι, he wrote, are things such as “the certain (individual) man” (ὁ τὶς ἄνθρωπος) or “the certain (individual) horse” (ὁ τὶς ἵππος). Other examples would be “Peter,” “Paul,” “Yahveh,” and you the reader.

On the other hand, secondary οὐσίαι categorically encompass the primary οὐσίαι. For example, Peter is a human (ἄνθρωπος), which loosely refers to his species (εἶδος), and he is also an animal (ζῷον), which loosely refers to his genus (γένος). The εἶδος and γένος, human (ἄνθρωπος) and animal (ζῷον), respectively, are secondary οὐσίαι.


  1. Genus (γένος) - δευτέρη οὐσία (e.g., “animal”)
  2. Species (εἶδος) - δευτέρη οὐσία (e.g., “human”)
  3. Individual (ὁ τὶς) - πρώτη οὐσία (e.g., “the individual human”)

Just as ἄνθρωπος (“human”) is a πρώτη οὐσία, so is θεός (“god”). Hippolytus wrote the following concerning Aristotle,19

Aristotle, who was a pupil of this man (Plato), reduced philosophy into an art, and was very logical, hypothesizing that the fundamental elements of all things were “nature” (οὐσίαν) and “accident” (συμβεβηκός): one nature (οὐσίαν) underlying everything, but nine accidents (συμβεβηκότα): quantity, quality, relation, where, when, possession, posture, action, passion. Thus, nature (οὐσίαν) is such a thing as “god” (θεὸν), “human” (ἄνθρωπον), and each of the potentials falling under a similar denomination.

Ἀριστοτέλης τούτου γενόμενος ἀκροατὴς εἰς τέχνην τὴν φιλοσοφίαν ἤγαγεν καὶ λογικώτερος ἐγένετο. τὰ μὲν στοιχεῖα τῶν πάντων ὑποθέμενος οὐσίαν καὶ συμβεβηκός. τὴν μὲν οὐσίαν μίαν τὴν πᾶσιν ὑποκειμένην, τὰ δὲ συμβεβηκότα ἐννέα. ποσὸν ποιὸν πρός τι ποῦ πότε ἔχειν κεῖσθαι ποιεῖν πάσχειν. τὴν μὴν οὖν οὐσίαν τοιαύτην εἶναι οἷον θεὸν ἄνθρωπον καὶ ἕκαστον τῶν τῷ ὁμοίῳ λόγῳ ὑποπεσεῖν δυναμένων.


        19 Book 1, Ch. 17, p. 24–25

When we speak of something’s οὐσία, we are attempting to define “what it is.” You, let’s call you by the name “Joe,” are human, or ἄνθρωπος. ἄνθρωπος is your οὐσία (secondary οὐσία, according to Aristotle). But, as Yahveh is living, He, too, must have an οὐσία. What is Yahveh? The οὐσία of Yahveh is θεός (i.e., Yahveh is θεός).

All too often, Christians misinterpret θεός as being a name, but properly, it is a common noun referring to a thing. It primarily identifies what something is, not who someone is. On the other hand, a proper noun, or name, primarily identifies an individual, i.e., who someone is. For example:

  1. Peter (a name identifying “who?”) is human (a nature identifying “what?”).
  2. Yahveh (a name identifying “who?”) is god (a nature identifying “what?”).

John of Damascus wrote,20

“We have frequently stated that essence (οὐσία) is one thing and hypostasis (ὑπόστασις) another, and that essence (οὐσία) signifies the common and general species (εἶδος) of hypostases of the same species (ὁμοειδῶν), such as “God” (θεός), “human” (ἄνθρωπος), but hypostasis (ὑπόστασις) signifies the individual, that is to say, “Father,” “Son,” “Holy Spirit,” “Peter,” “Paul.” Well then, one must know that “divinity” (θεότητος) and “humanity” (ἀνθρωπότητος) are names of essences (οὐσιῶν) or natures (φύσεών), but “God” (θεὸς) and “man” (ἄνθρωπος) are applied in reference to natures (φύσεως), whenever we say, “God is an incomprehensible essence (οὐσία),” and “God is one.” But, it is also understood of in reference to hypostases (ὑποστάσεων) when the name of the more general is applied to that which is more specific, as when the scripture says (Psa. 45:7), “Therefore, O’ God, your God has anointed you...” (for behold, it indicates the Father and the Son), and as when it states, (Job 1:1), “There was a certain man in the land of Uz” (for, it only indicated Job).”

Ὅτι μὲν οὖν ἕτερόν ἐστιν οὐσία καὶ ἕτερον ὑπόστασις, πλειστάκις εἰρήκαμεν, καὶ ὅτι ἡ μὲν οὐσία τὸ κοινὸν καὶ περιεκτικὸν εἶδος τῶν ὁμοειδῶν ὑποστάσεων σημαίνει οἷον θεός, ἄνθρωπος, ἡ δὲ ὑπόστασις ἄτομον δηλοῖ ἤτοι πατέρα, υἱόν, πνεῦμα ἅγιον, Πέτρον, Παῦλον. Ἰστέον τοίνυν, ὅτι τὸ μὲν τῆς θεότητος καὶ τῆς ἀνθρωπότητος ὄνομα τῶν οὐσιῶν ἤτοι φύσεών ἐστι παραστατικόν, τὸ δὲ θεὸς καὶ ἄνθρωπος καὶ ἐπὶ τῆς φύσεως τάττεται, ὁπόταν λέγωμεν· Θεός ἐστιν ἀκατάληπτος οὐσία, καὶ ὅτι εἷς ἐστι θεός· λαμβάνεται δὲ καὶ ἐπὶ τῶν ὑποστάσεων ὡς τοῦ μερικωτέρου δεχομένου τὸ τοῦ καθολικωτέρου ὄνομα, ὡς ὅταν φησὶν ἡ γραφή· «Διὰ τοῦτο ἔχρισέ σε ὁ θεὸς ὁ θεός σου» (ἰδοὺ γὰρ τὸν πατέρα καὶ τὸν υἱὸν ἐδήλωσε), καὶ ὡς ὅταν λέγῃ· «Ἄνθρωπός τις ἦν ἐν χώρᾳ τῇ Αὐσίτιδι» (τὸν γὰρ Ἰὼβ μόνον ἐδήλωσεν).


        20 Book 3, Ch. 4, p. 997–998

As John of Damascus noted, the name of a nature may be applied in reference to a an individual, i.e. a primary οὐσία.

For example,

  1. Peter is human (ἄνθρωπος).

Here, ἄνθρωπος refers to species, or secondary οὐσία.


  1. Peter is the human (ὁ ἄνθρωπος).

Here, ἄνθρωπος is used to refer to a particular individual of the species ἄνθρωπος (i.e., ὁ τὶς ἄνθρωπος); the individual is also known as a ὑπόστασις (hypostasis). If you recall, earlier we said that ὁ τὶς ἄνθρωπος referred to a primary οὐσία; thus, a ὑπόστασις is also equivalent to οὐσία in the sense of primary οὐσία, not secondary οὐσία.

ΘΕΟϹ in John 1:1c defines φύσις or οὐσία (continued)

In John 1:1b, ΤΟΝ ΘΕΟΝ identifies a particular individual who is ΘΕΟϹ in nature; this person or ὑπόστασις is Yahveh (the Father). The definite article indicates a reference to an individual or ὑπόστασις.

On the other hand, ΘΕΟϹ in John 1:1c identifies the secondary οὐσία (nature) of Ο ΛΟΓΟϹ. ΘΕΟϹ tells us what Ο ΛΟΓΟϹ is. Since we established that Ο ΛΟΓΟϹ is ΘΕΟϹ κατὰ φύσιν, and only Yahveh is ΘΕΟϹ κατὰ φύσιν, then Ο ΛΟΓΟϹ must also be Yahveh, like the Father (ΤΟΝ ΘΕΟΝ in 1:1b). What the Father is, the Son is. Both are god in nature. The capitalization of “god” is irrelevant. The fact that both are god in nature, rather than office, indicates that both are the eternal creators of the universe.


Hippolytus. Origenis Philosophumena sive Omnium Hæresium Refutatio. Ed. Miller, Emmanuel. Oxonii: E Typographeo Academico, 1851.

Jobes, Karen H. Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: 1, 2, & 3 John. Ed. Arnold, Clinton E. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014.

John of Damascus (Ἰωάννης ὁ Δαμασκηνός). “An Accurate Exposition of the Orthodox Faith” (Ἔκδοσις Ἀκριβὴς τῆς Ὀρθοδόξου Πίστεως). Patrologiæ Cursus Completus: Series Græca Prior. Ed. Migne, Jacques Paul. Vol. 94. Petit-Montrouge: Imprimerie Catholique, 1857.


This answer is supplementary to Frank Luke's, and supports it.

When someone makes a claim about an ancient language's grammar, it always helps me to believe it and internalize it when I can see parallel usages that illustrate the truth of the claim. Thus, I am glad that Frank Luke offered several examples.

I have another which is perhaps even more to the point that came up in my reading of the Greek New Testament: Mark 2:28. My interlinear:

ὥστε κύριός ἐστιν ὁ   υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου καὶ  τοῦ σαββάτου
so   lord   is    the son  the man      even the sabbath

For those of you who don't know Greek, "the man" and "the Sabbath" are in the genitive, which is often rendered by adding an "of" in English. Now the one confusing thing about this verse is that the τοῦ σαββάτου goes with κύριός and not υἱὸς (to claim otherwise would turn the sentence into mumbo-jumbo, especially in context). Therefore, what is happening is that "Lord" has been moved forward in the sentence for emphasis, but the article has been placed only on "son" because that is the subject of the sentence. Thus, something to the effect of: "Therefore, the Son of Man is Lord, even of the Sabbath!" To claim that the Son of Man is "a lord" of the Sabbath would be very odd, obscure the meaning of the wider passage, and raise other strange questions (who are the other lords? etc.).

Compare this verse now to my interlinear of the relevant portion of John 1:1:

...καὶ θεὸς ἦν  ὁ   λόγος
...and god  was the word

Notice the grammar of this sentence, though, slightly simpler than the above verse, is fundamentally that same: it is a predicative nominative construction (both major nouns in the sentence are in the nominative case and are joined by the standard copulative verb).

  • 3
    Thanks, the answers I've received here make me really hope BH keeps going! Commented May 26, 2012 at 21:03
  • So would it be correct to say, "and God the Word was" ? thus showing by word order in English the nominatives in Greek, as you point out .
    – Nigel J
    Commented Sep 30, 2017 at 22:11
  • 1
    Perhaps the question arose early and so John addressed it in 1Jo 5:7. The word for heaven שמימ is formed by the letters with the metaphor of מ Father, ם Word , and ש Spirit. Illustrating he understood Hebrew Word formation. So he certainly saw that bara ברא was formed as 'son' בר who created א, The son was God the creator, and the son was the word.
    – Bob Jones
    Commented Jul 27, 2018 at 8:42
  • *formation of words is called: Notarikon - Interpretation by dividing a word into two or more parts in the 32 rules of Rabbi Eliezer ben Jose de Galili
    – Bob Jones
    Commented Jun 27, 2020 at 14:02
  • This isn't a parallel example because "Lord" is modified by the genitive for "The Sabbath." The is no prepositional phrase modifying "god" in John 1:1c
    – Austin
    Commented Aug 9, 2021 at 2:00

The meaning of the English article

In English the article ("the") is used to make a word definite.

This is how you would demand an indefinite pizza:

  Bring me a pizza

This is how you would demand a definite pizza:

  Bring me the pizza

The meaning of the Greek article

The meaning of the Greek article is slightly different, which can make it difficult for English speakers to grasp.

"The primary function of the [Greek] article is not to make a word definite.

  • When the article is present, it is emphasizing identity

  • When the article is not present, it is generally emphasizing the quality of the substantive."

-Mounce, BBG, p. 334

This is how you would speak with reference to an identified love:

  τὴν ἀγάπην τῆς ἀληθείας οὐκ ἐδέξαντο

"they did not receive the love of the truth" -2 Thessalonians 2:10, NASB

This is how you would speak with reference to a "love essence":

  ὁ Θεὸς ἀγάπη ἐστίν.

"God is love." -1 John 4:8, NASB

You would not translate that verse "God is a love" because that is not what the Greek is saying.

John 1:1

Likewise, John 1:1 is not saying "the Word was a god," but is rather saying something somewhat like, "the Word was God in essence*"... which is weird English, so we translate it "the word was God" and that conveys the meaning well for English readers.

For a very thorough treatment of this issue, see Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar: Beyond the Basics, pp.256-269

  • +1 That quote by Mounce seems to be the pillar of this answer, (which makes sense). Your parallel with "love" is very apropos. But, it would be great to see evidence more contemporary with the text, and not from a source which could be seen as anachronistic or even biased. \o/ I complete agree with the answer, and the illustration using "love" - just not necessarily the reliance on Mounce, (who may not be enough to sway a reasonably minded person). Commented May 3, 2017 at 2:07
  • 3
    "That conveys the meaning well for English readers" - I disagree. By using the phrase "was God", it easily misleads the English reader into thinking it's an identity, not a quality. If you wanted to view it as a quality, you might say "was godly" or "was divine".
    – 4castle
    Commented Jan 4, 2018 at 19:27
  • Your comment "the Word was God in essence" is not as "weird as you think because J. Moffatt renders it as "the Logos was divine." Thus highlighting the nature of Jesus in Hevaen before he came to earth, Vs. 14. *** w93 10/15 p. 28 The Trinity—Is It Taught in the Bible? *** Professor C. H. Dodd, director of the New English Bible project, comments on this approach: “A possible translation . . . would be, ‘The Word was a god’. As a word-for-word translation it cannot be faulted.”
    – user26950
    Commented Nov 11, 2018 at 22:24

Short Answer: Yes.

I am sure that this is not the answer that most people want to hear. From a purely grammatical perspective, before claiming that Jehovah’s Witnesses added “a God”, see why many Trinitarian Bible translations have translated John 1:1 as “a God”. The NWT was published in 1951 and I am quoting from the appendix of the New World Translation for their decision. Similar rendering can be found in nearly 60 different translations. I can’t explain it better.

1808 “and the word was a god”
— The New Testament, in An Improved Version, Upon the Basis of Archbishop Newcome’s New Translation: With a Corrected Text, London.

1864 “and a god was the Word”
— The Emphatic Diaglott (J21, interlinear reading), by Benjamin Wilson, New York and London.

1935 “and the Word was divine”
— The Bible—An American Translation, by J. M. P. Smith and E. J. Goodspeed, Chicago.

1975 “and a god (or, of a divine kind) was the Word”
— Das Evangelium nach Johannes, by Siegfried Schulz, Göttingen, Germany.

1978 “and godlike sort was the Logos”
— Das Evangelium nach Johannes, by Johannes Schneider, Berlin.

1979 “and a god was the Logos”
— Das Evangelium nach Johannes, by Jürgen Becker, Würzburg, Germany.

These translations use such words as “a god,” “divine” or “godlike” because the Greek word θεός (the·os′) is a singular predicate noun occurring before the verb and is not preceded by the definite article. This is an anarthrous the·os′. The God with whom the Word, or Logos, was originally is designated here by the Greek expression ὁ θεός, that is, the·os′ preceded by the definite article ho. This is an articular the·os′. Careful translators recognize that the articular construction of the noun points to an identity, a personality, whereas a singular anarthrous predicate noun preceding the verb points to a quality about someone. Therefore, John’s statement that the Word or Logos was “a god” or “divine” or “godlike” does not mean that he was the God with whom he was. It merely expresses a certain quality about the Word, or Logos, but it does not identify him as one and the same as God himself.

In the Greek text there are many cases of a singular anarthrous predicate noun preceding the verb, such as in Mr 6:49; 11:32; Joh 4:19; 6:70; 8:44; 9:17; 10:1, 13, 33; 12:6. In these places translators insert the indefinite article “a” before the predicate noun in order to bring out the quality or characteristic of the subject. Since the indefinite article is inserted before the predicate noun in such texts, with equal justification the indefinite article “a” is inserted before the anarthrous θεός in the predicate of John 1:1 to make it read “a god.” The Sacred Scriptures confirm the correctness of this rendering.

In his article “Qualitative Anarthrous Predicate Nouns: Mark 15:39 and John 1:1,” published in Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 92, Philadelphia, 1973, p. 85, Philip B. Harner said that such clauses as the one in Joh 1:1, “with an anarthrous predicate preceding the verb, are primarily qualitative in meaning. They indicate that the logos has the nature of theos. There is no basis for regarding the predicate theos as definite.” On p. 87 of his article, Harner concluded: “In John 1:1 I think that the qualitative force of the predicate is so prominent that the noun cannot be regarded as definite.”

Following is a list of instances in the gospels of Mark and John where various translators have rendered singular anarthrous predicate nouns occurring before the verb with an indefinite article to denote the indefinite and qualitative status of the subject nouns.

Abbreviations used in the following table:

  • KJV: King James Version

  • AAT: An American Translation

  • NIV: New International Version

  • RSV: Revised Standard Version

  • TEV: Today’s English Version

                     KJV          AAT          NIV           RSV              TEV
         Mark 6:49   a spirit     a ghost      a ghost       a ghost          a ghost
         Mark 11:32  a prophet    a prophet    a prophet     a real prophet   a prophet
         John 4:19   a prophet    a prophet    a prophet     a prophet        a prophet
         John 6:70   a devil      an informer  a devil       a devil          a devil
         John 8:44   a murderer   a murderer   a murderer    a murderer       a murderer
         John 8:44   a liar       a liar       a liar        a liar           a liar
         John 9:17   a prophet    a prophet    a prophet     a prophet        a prophet
         John 10:1   a thief      a thief      a thief       a thief          a thief
         John 10:13  an hireling  a hired man  a hired hand  a hireling       a hired man
         John 10:33  a man        a mere man   a mere man    a man            a man
         John 12:6   a thief      a thief      a thief       a thief          a thief

For those needing more explanation, you might find the book Truth in Translation: Accuracy and Bias in the English Translation of New Testament by Professor Jason Beduhn of Arizona University to be helpful. He is not one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, but he defends the NWT on John 1:1. Dr. Beduhn says,

The Jehovah’s Witness editors, in explaining this verse, say that they are trying to convey that the word has qualitative sense — that is, that the word belongs to the class of divine beings. This is correct. In fact, it seems clear to me that the word theos is in this verse a predicate adjective. I would translate as Moffatt and Goodspeed (two excellent scholars of Greek) have: “And the Word was divine.”

However, the NWT Translation Committee chose to use the indefinite article “a” (“divine” in footnote) to so render as it did and not like Moffatt and Goodspeed, because of two factors. One, its avowed principle of being as “literal as possible” and second, the context, as the Greek shows a contrast between two that are “theos” but only one is “ho theos”, “the God”. For more scholars who endorse John 1:1 as “a God” or “divine” see the article JOHN 1:1c: “God,” “divine” or “a god”?

Another interesting fact is that one of the earliest languages into which the Greek New Testament was translated was Coptic in the 3rd Century, prior to the adoption of Trinity by Egyptian churches. Coptic has the definite article, and existing 3rd/4th century manuscript read “a God”! Trinitarians try to use a weak defense, saying that the Coptic text could also be translated into English as “God”. See more details in the article Coptic John 1:1c: What Conclusions Can Be Drawn?

One user has answered that John 1:3 would contradict with 1:1 if the translation is “a God”. Again, the translation submitted by him is the problem. Many translations, including NWT, translate it as “through him” not “by him”. For example, the NIV translates it as, “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” That is why Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that Jesus is “a God”, or a powerful person with Godlike qualities, a mighty God himself, but not Almighty God Jehovah. Note that the Bible uses the word “God” for Satan and for human beings, denoting a powerful person. These are in harmony with Colossians 1:15, where it states that Jesus is the “firstborn of all creations” and all other things were made “through him and for him”.

And finally there are other scriptures which are translated as "a God" though the context may be different. See below.

             KJV         ESV          NIV        NET Bible      Young's literal
Acts 12:22   a God       a God        a God         a God            a God
Acts 28:6    a God       a God        a God         a God            a God
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    This is mostly good content, but it isn't the full story. The other translations not covered here have various reasons for doing so that are not arbitrary (and not even all theological). Only if you were to review the rest of the picture with the same rigor as you do here would a whole picture emerge.
    – Caleb
    Commented Dec 11, 2013 at 13:03
  • 6
    No much Bible would be sold and make money if it read "a God".
    – user2924
    Commented Dec 11, 2013 at 21:05
  • 5
    @FrankLuke Wallace believes Jesus is God and part of a Trinity. If John's intention was to confirm Trinity won't we expect a clear scripture at-least the word "Trinity" in Bible? I am no scholar in Greek, but I see that NWT rendering is not unique as shown above, and have Grammatical basis. While I have full respect for Jesus, a mere reading of the Bible says me Jehovah (Yahweh or YHWH) is the God that Jesus as a Jew worshiped and Jesus paid ransom to God. How can God pay ransom to himself? No God when Jesus died? Trinity is a pagan teaching and a messy topic.
    – user2924
    Commented May 27, 2014 at 19:44
  • onlytruegod.org/defense/metzgercolwell.htm
    – user2924
    Commented May 27, 2014 at 19:46
  • 8
    I would like to hear from those so called scholars who claim that "a God" is not a valid translation how should be the Greek version of John 1:1 if the writer wanted to render "a God". Although I am no Greek expert, not even newbie, I would argue that the sentence would be rendered the same way. I'd like to hear some thoughts on that. Cheers.
    – Marcelo
    Commented Aug 5, 2014 at 19:48

Question Restatement: Does John 1:1 refer to Jesus, the Word, as "The Most High", or simply god, in form and nature, being the Son of God?

Significance of the Question: The interpretation of John 1:1 is often used as a statement of faith regarding the "Trinitarian", "Unitarian", and "Oneness" doctrines, (e.g., International Pentecostal Holiness Church, Assemblies of God Statement of Faith). However, there is no Biblical condition for Salvation that requires one to believe that Jesus is "THE" God, but many references calling for belief in Jesus as the Son of God, (1 John 4:15, 1 John 5:5, etc.). That is, there is no Biblical requirement to believe that Jesus and "The Most High" are the same "identity", just that there is a shared "nature".

Answer - "Divine" should be used instead of "God":

The book of John, as a whole, (especially John 1:1), uses specific terms and ideas that indicate that the "Gospel of John" was written to people familiar with both Greek Philosophy as well as the Pharisaic/Rabbinical Judaic beliefs in the authority of tradition over scriptural texts and prophets, (as opposed to Sadducean and Galilean beliefs).

Given that audience, and during that time, "θεός" is more comparable to "Divine" in English, which is used as both an adjective and noun. The sense of "Divinity" or "A/The Divine" were the common uses of the word in Greek culture and ancient texts. (See θεός @ logeion.uchicago.edu.)

In John, the context clearly is about "The Word | ὁ λόγος", a Greek / Indian / Persian and Egyptian philosophical reference to "divine reasoning". (See logos @ brittanica.com .) This is not seen often Hebrew Scripture, but is most notably portrayed as "the Wisdom of God" personified in the books of Song of Songs, and Proverbs, (e.g., Proverbs 8).

Berean Literal Bible, Proverbs 8:12 - I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence, and I find knowledge and discretion.

Berean Literal Bible, Proverbs 8:22 - The LORD created me as His first course, before His works of old.

It is arguable that "Logos" probably shouldn't even be translated into English - because "Logos" is the formal/proper name of a very specific philosophical concept, (See John 1:1 - How would Λόγος (Logos) be understood in Hellenistic philosophy?) :

Suggested Interpretation and Translation of John 1:1 using Logos / Divine:

John 1 - In the beginning was the Logos [Divine Reasoning/Wisdom], and the Logos was [standing] before the Divine, and the Logos was divine. ... And then, the Logos became flesh and dwelt among us.

1.) Interpreted in that way, the significance would have been grasped immediately - by a Greek audience and those familiar with Proverbs.
2.) The prepositional phrase "πρὸς τὸν θεόν" does not literally mean "with God". Rather, it denotes "being in front of", or metaphorically, a place of compliance, being in accordance to, standing before an authority, (e.g. a king). In English, "before" can imply a sense of time - which is not being conveyed here, in the Greek.
3.) "In the Beginning" is probably more accurately translated as "In the Founding/Foundation".

"Divinity / god / the god" were used in literature to indicate a divine nature - and used to even describe Roman Emperors, and of course the Pantheon. So the significance of this statement, to a Greek audience, is not at all an indication that Jesus was "The Most High", that "he is his own Father" ... (Though, references in the book of Revelation get pretty close.)

"The God" does not always refer to "The Most High":

If this phrase is argued to always be an indication of "The Most High" and applied consistently, then we end up interpreting "THE GOD" of "This Age", (presumably Satan), as "The Most High", because the Greek is not at all ambiguous, here, and actually uses the definite article:

2 Cor. 4:3-4, NASB - 3 But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.

Claims that can be inferred from the text, regardless of the article:

  1. At the very least, this context asserts that Jesus has both a divine and human nature.
  2. That Jesus is the physical manifestation of the Wisdom of God, (Logos or divine reasoning), and is also the image of how The Most High chose to be portrayed (their face).

NASB, John 3:6 - That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

NASB, 1 Corinthians 1:24 - but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

Berean Literal Bible, 2 Corinthians 4:4 - in whom the god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, so as for not to beam forth the illumination of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

Early Church assertion and use of "God" as a Divine Nature:

The Nicene creed contains a very clear assertion that Jesus shared the divine nature of The Most High just as a child shares the nature of their parent while still being a completely separate identity.

Nicene Creed, 325 (Wikipedia) - ... the Son of God, begotten of the Father [the only-begotten; that is, of the essence of the Father, God of God,] Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father;

Note on Consubstantiality: "One Substance" is actually, "Same Substance", (homo-ousian). The term is also used to describe the common humanity which is shared by all human persons. Thus, Jesus Christ is said to be consubstantial with the Father in his divinity and consubstantial with us in his humanity, (from Consubstantiality, Wikipedia).

Against the Application of Colwell

Colwell's reasoning is often misapplied to justify omitting the indefinite article, "a god" - which would more clearly indicate a "divine nature or essence".

However, the proper application of this rule is contingent on a "post hoc" understanding, (established in a previous context), of how the semantic should be interpreted - which is impossible here because the terms are used at the very beginning of the text.

It must be noted that Colwell's Rule is complicated and casual summaries are likely over-simplifications. So, it is important to also consider the refutations to the application of this rule to John 1:1, (which the rule itself seems to disallow):

From Bible.org:

Fourth, Colwell seems to have misunderstood what a definite semantic to the noun entailed linguistically. His improper method of prescription, based on his analysis, led him to commit a category mistake by foisting a semantic upon a certain group of nouns (pre-copulative PNs) that he failed to appreciate on their own terms. Because of this, and apparently without considering the ramifications of what the semantic suggested, he applied it to John 1:1c and argued against the indefinite or qualitative sense. But this was an improper use of his own rule, for his rule was only to be applied post hoc to nouns clearly understood to be definite from context.

Wikipedia, John 1:1:

At issue is whether Colwell's rule applies to John 1:1 and if it is a reliable standard by which grammatical constructions of this type should be measured. It has been pointed out that Colwell's rule does not help by determining definiteness.[22] Rodney J. Decker stated, "it has often been misused by well-intentioned defenders of the deity of Christ."[23]

Daniel B. Wallace argues that the use of the anarthrous theos (the lack of the definite article before the second theos) is due to its use as a qualitative noun, describing the nature or essence of the Word, not due to Colwell's rule.

See also, the related question, which discusses "subset" and "convertible" propositions, which can alternatively be applied, rather than Colwell's Rule.

Clear Translation Biases - Robbery, or Not Robbery?

It must also be understood that many, if not all, Biblical translations rely on traditional and doctrinal beliefs to guide them. Philippians 2 is one of the most egregious examples of how a passage can be translated in completely contradictory ways to suit doctrinal beliefs:

A Unitarian View , Phil 2:5, NKJV - Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God,

A Trinitarian View, Phil 2:5, NASB - who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,

Jesus' Own Words, His Own Defense, John 10:33-36

Jesus explicitly clarifies his own claim to divinity, as the Son of God and sharing a divine nature, and he also directly rejected the idea that he was equal to The Most High:

NASB, John 15:10 - If you keep My commandments, you will remain in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and remain in His love.

John 10:34, NASB - Jesus answered them, “Has it not been written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’?

John 10:36, NASB - do you say of Him, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, 'You are blaspheming,' because I said, 'I am the Son of God '?

NASB, Psalms 82:6 - I said, “You are gods, And all of you are sons of the Most High. 7 “Nevertheless you will die like men ...

"Oneness" in the sense of "Unity" not "Sameness":

NASB, John 17:22 - The glory which You have given Me I also have given to them, so that they may be one, just as We are one.

Jesus argued that people are "gods" as well, (in John 10:34), by quoting the Psalms. Some have argued that the writer of the Psalm was being sarcastic, but this is unreasonable given the explicit death sentence associated with God's judgment against Israel in Psalms 82 because they were neglecting the week, the needy, afflicted, fatherless, and neglecting even justice.

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    Up-voted - nice answer. I agree with John 1:1c translated as: and the logos was divine. I think, "and the logos was god" is an honest attempt also but there's a problem with the target language being English. In English, "god", is a proper noun (ie. the "name" of the most high). So it can be confusing to read that the logos was with god and god at the same time. Commented Apr 28, 2023 at 15:53

The translation of 'THEOS' as 'a god' is not a good choice. On the other side, however, the widely accepted decision not to make any distinction between articulated 'HO THEOS' and unarticulated 'THEOS' apparent in this context is not very good either because it seems not to represent the gospel writer's intention adequately. The Word, HO LOGOS, has everything that belongs to God. He shares the very essence of the One with whom all originates. The Word was with the God, in the beginning. HO LOGOS ÊN PROS TON THEON.

In English or German it cannot be said as in the Greek. To translate God was the Word is not what John intended to say. Otherwise he would have said it thus. HO THEOS ÊN HO LOGOS would have been perfectly possible to say if that was what he wanted to say. To translate 'A god was the word' is a foolish attack. Quite senseless and contradictory. No reason to boast.

Any translation must fall short in this case. Maybe this is what we should come to appreciate.

  • Privately I would translate
    – hannes
    Commented May 8, 2013 at 4:50
  • Of God was the Word and all God was He.
    – hannes
    Commented May 8, 2013 at 4:52
  • 2
    Regarding the Witnesses here and where they come from I would write god uncapitalized. (Or vice versa: capitalized for them and not for others. For myself I almost dare not to. He is too great to speak as if I knew him.)
    – hannes
    Commented May 8, 2013 at 13:25
  • 2
    An interesting choice of word; "The Word was with God. Wonder how The Word can be WITH God and be God at the same time?
    – user26950
    Commented Oct 28, 2018 at 18:39

I am surprised that only two people mentioned Colwell's rule in relation to this passage. Colwell's rule applies to about 80% of the cases where an articleless predicate noun and an articled noun appear. That is really good for a Greek rule. There are major textual clues which support using Colwell's rule here. First, the passage is chiasmic with the clause before. Second, to switch from talking about the God in the two previous clauses, then to a god, and back to the God seems disjointed to say the least. Most Greek rules are merely strong guidelines, except for Sharp's rule but it is so rarely applicable that it stands as the exception. Greek is notorious for not using articles and for using them in places we never would. This is why literal translation is not best. If we take John's Gospel as a whole, then translating 1:1 as a God would be in contradiction with 14:6, 10:30 and others. Good Hermeneutics is about digging deeper based on holistic knowledge (in this case the large Gospel of John). To argue that a lack of article means an indefinite God, one would have to translate many passages of the NT as a god and would drastically alter the natural context of simple and uncontested verses. For instance, there is no article in front of the word God in the first 4 verses of Romans, is that all to be read "a god?" No. So, long and short, Colwell's rule applies (as well as it can) and the context combine with literary indicators and larger intent of John's Gospel all point to "God" and not "a god" as the appropriate translation.


When 'the' is placed before Theos, I understand that to be definitive, therefore to be a matter of Divine Person, rather than Deity as a matter of nature.

When it is absent, I would understand that Divine Nature, as such, is being emphasised.

Thus "and Deity was the Logos" emphasises that Divine Nature was that which is a matter of Logos.

And the addition of the definite article, "the Logos" then emphasises the individual spoken of.

So the same phrase, "and Deity was the Logos" emphasises both Divine Nature and Divine Person.

  • 1
    I come to the same conclusion. Commented Sep 30, 2017 at 23:23
  • 3
    Having a divine nature do not allways make one God. That would make humans God for example it sat at 2 Pe 1:4 (NJB) "Through these, the greatest and priceless promises have been lavished on us, that through them you should share the divine nature and escape the corruption rife in the world through disordered passion." So it would seem that at John 1:1 it relative to be in the divine natuire or like God but not being God.
    – user26950
    Commented Oct 17, 2018 at 19:41

Translations like The New World Translation (NWT) which have "a god" have made two translation decisions for the phrase θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος. The first is to include an indefinite article. The second is the decision not to capitalize both words.

The earliest manuscripts were written entirely in block letters: enter image description here

There is nothing in the original text of verse 1:1 to justify writing θεὸς differently; nor is there any syntax or rule of grammar of the time which serves to justify that decision. The earliest manuscripts were written in uncials, or majuscules; later manuscripts written in minuscules; so both words are always written exactly the same. Interpretation based on theology is the only reason for capitalizing one and not the other.

Theological Interpretation:
In [the] beginning was the Word was, the Word was with God, and the Word was [a] god.

Literal Translations
In [the] beginning was the word, and the word was with god, and the word was [a] god.

In the mind of English translators "god" means something much different than "God." However, there is nothing in the phrase θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος to justify the decision not to capitalize. If the original writer intended the understanding "a god' supposes the direct statement, "the Word was not God" is how it would be done.

Instead, the Word was God creates the question and for that reason alone one would conclude the writer in no way intended the meaning the NWT sees.

Regardless, the reader knows only the writer wrote "THE WORD WAS GOD" which might possibly be understood to mean "THE WORD WAS A GOD." Any difference in meaning should be found by examining what the writer wrote about "THE WORD" and "GOD." This means "a god" demands more than a simple grammatical examination of θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος.

What "a" God
The 1971 revision of the New World Translation includes this note:

"a god." In contrast with "the God." Greek: the-os'1

The NWT translators understand theos without the article in θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος has a different meaning when written with the article as in ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν. The NWT sees τὸν θεόν as equivalent to "the Father." Their doctrine is the Word was with the God (the Father) and the Word was a god (the Son).

Yet how theos without the article is understood in verse 1:1 is rejected in verse 1:6.

There arose a man that was sent forth as a representative of God: his name was John.
(John 1:6 NWT)
ἐγένετο ἄνθρωπος ἀπεσταλμένος παρὰ θεοῦ ὄνομα αὐτῷ Ἰωάννης

Despite the absence of the article the NWT understands theos as God, not "a god." Importantly, if the original writer intended the difference between theos with and without the article as the NWT understands, then the theos who sent John cannot be "God" who is in ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν. Rather, it was the Word who was a god who sent John.

Of course no one, including those who translated the NWT believes theos without the article means "a god" in this verse. The "article-less" theos is also found in John 1:13 and 1:18. Each time the NWT understands theos as "God." Arguably, the original writer of the Prologue anticipated the "a god" understanding, and to demonstrate the fallacy of such an understanding continued to use theos without the article through the rest of the literary unit. [This is even more obvious since the writer could have easily added the article in all three places and in doing so would have clearly shown "a god" was intended at 1:1c.]

Why God is Correct
The opening "In the beginning was the Word..." implies preexistence, a quality of God alone. If this is considered against Genesis 1:1, "In the beginning God..." the writer began with a statement not only connecting the Word and God, but placing the Word before God, reinforcing the implication of preexistence. Like failing to write "the Word was not God" these are deliberate devices on the part of the writer to lead the reader to conclude the Word is God.

Alternatively, if one thought "the Word was a god," one would ask, what type of "god" was the Word? The answer: "a god" who was in the beginning, apparently before God created...

After verse 1 the Word "disappears" until the Word becomes flesh in verse 14.2 The writer does this by using pronouns:

2 οὗτος ἦν ἐν ἀρχῇ πρὸς τὸν θεόν
3 πάντα δι᾽ **αὐτοῦ** ἐγένετο καὶ χωρὶς αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο οὐδὲ ἕν ὃ γέγονεν

οὗτος refers to ὁ λόγος from the previous verse. The closest noun to αὐτοῦ is θεόν. If these are written with the nouns one gets:

This [the Word] was in the beginning with God.
All things through Him [God] came into being..."

However, theos is inextricably connected with the Word from 1:1c so the correct understanding of Him is God, who was the Word.

This [the Word] was in the beginning with God.
All things through Him [God who was the Word] came into being..."

Those who promote "the Word was a god" will correctly state the phrase θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος can not mean "God was the Word." However, what is grammatically impossible in verse 1 is the writer's meaning when using a pronoun in verse 3.

The fact the writer begins "In the beginning was the Word...the Word was God..." are deliberate devices which imply the Word is "God." This issue exists because the writer deliberately employed several literary devices, none of which were necessary, unless the Word was God. It is illogical to believe the writer produced totally unnecessary texts which can easily be understood as saying the Word was God, if in fact the writer believed otherwise.

The immediate use of pronouns, serves to personalize the Word before He comes into the world and creates a text in verse 3 which is meant to say "All things through Him [God who was the Word]..." if the Word is an agency of creation, as is obvious.

Finally, completing the Prologue with three additional uses of God without the article, requires a consistent treatment: either "God" or "a god" in all places. Since it is clear, verses 1:6, 1:13, and 1:18 are "God" despite the lack of the article, the same is true in 1:1. In fact, the writer's decision to omit the article after 1:1c must be seen as an inspired device to refute any line of reasoning meant to diminish the deity of the Word who was God, θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος.


  1. New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., 1981 printing, p. 1109
  2. This not only serves to personalize the Word before He comes into the world, the Word becomes flesh is a completely different concept of the Logos than either Greek philosophy or Hellenistic Judaism (Philo of Alexandria).
  • 1
    "The first is to include an indefinite article which may be justified. The second is the decision not to capitalize, which is purely an interpretation." If it is justified to include an indefinite article then it is equally justified to not capitalize. The god, (without any other modifying constructions) is necessarily a particular identity and therefore is appropriate to capitalize. A god, is not any particular identity and is therefore appropriate to not capitalize.
    – Austin
    Commented Aug 14, 2021 at 23:46
  • @Austin Not for the original audience. They might comprehend "a" --- but even that is uncertain. The lack of a word to express an idea is a good indication that idea is not in existence yet. (Conversely, a writer who coins a new word expresses a new idea.) But either way, the people of the time had no comprehension of capitalization or using that device to designate a difference. It is an anachronism. Commented Aug 15, 2021 at 4:50
  • 1
    "The second is the decision not to capitalize, which is purely an interpretation." Isn't the same true for capitalizing the first letter in the word God since that also is an anachronism based on your logic?
    – Austin
    Commented Aug 15, 2021 at 4:55
  • @Austin Absolutely. My point is both words should be treated the same without or without the article. Even if the reader understood "a God/god" they would ask "what type of theos?" Note that if you can call the Word "a" theos, then you can call the Father "a" theos. Also continue to read and in verse 6, it is theos who sends John. There is no article, so the entire grammatical argument for "a" theos in the Word was theos, apply there. But no one who maintains Jesus was not God applies the same arguments. Instead it was "God" (i.e. the Father) who sent John. Commented Aug 15, 2021 at 14:16

It might be God to look at what other texts say to show if it should read "a god" or God."

“My God” who is He?

To whom was Jesus calling to at:-

Matthew 27:46 “About the ninth hour Jesus called out with a loud voice, saying: "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" that is, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"”

Which is literally rendered "this is the God of me, God of me."-'The NASB-NIV parallel N.T. in Gk. & Eng.' with Interlinear Translated by Alfred Marshall*

Who is Jesus referring to at:-

John 20:17 “Jesus said to her: “Stop clinging to me. For I have not yet ascended to the Father. But be on your way to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father (Literal Gk. “Father of me”^) and YOUR Father and to my God (Literal Gk. “God of me”^) and YOUR God.’” ^'The NASB-NIV parallel N.T. in Gk. & Eng.' with Interlinear Translated by Alfred Marshall

“my poss[essive]. pron[oun]. (attrib.) 1 of or belonging to me. 2 affectionate, patronizing, etc. form of address (my dear boy). 3 in expressions of surprise (my God!; oh my!). 4 colloq. indicating a close relative etc. of the speaker (my Johnny's ill again). my Lady (or Lord) form of address to certain titled persons. [from *mine1] .”-Oxford Dictionary

“god n[oun]. 1 a (in many religions) superhuman being or spirit worshipped as having power over nature, human fortunes, etc. b image, idol, etc., symbolizing a god. 2 (God) (in Christian and other monotheistic religions) creator and ruler of the universe. 3 adored or greatly admired person. … .”-Oxford Dictionary

Jesus must have been calling to the Almighty, the Father, his God, see John 20:17, “my God”, (Lit. Gk. "God of me" 'The NASB-NIV parallel N.T. in Gk. & Eng.' with Interliner Translated by Alfred Marshall) quoting from Ps 22:1 where King David was, showing that God is somone other than himself. No, Jesus cannot be Almighty God if he plainly says in the above texts that he himself has a “God”!

We can also add to the above, the following words, where Jesus is speaking from an exulted heavenly postion:-

Revelation 3:12-13 "‘The one that conquers—I* will make him a pillar in the temple of my God**, and he will by no means go out [from it] anymore, and I* will write upon him the name*** of my God** and the name of the city of my God**, the new Jerusalem which descends out of heaven from my God**, and that new name of mine. Let the one who has an ear hear what the spirit says to the congregations.’”

*Jesus Christ **Which in litrealy rendered "the God of me."-'The NASB-NIV parallel N.T. in Gk. & Eng.' With Interliner Translated by Alfred Marshall ***Jehovah

JOHN 1:1-2 Literal translation from Greek in beginning was the word and the word was toward the god and god was the word this (one) was in beginning toward the god A help.

“The title ho theos [the God, or God], which now designates the Father as a personal reality, is not applied in the N[ew] T[estament] to Jesus Himself; Jesus is the Son of God (of ho theos). . . . Jn 1:1 should rigorously be translated ‘the word was with the God [=the Father], and the word was a divine being.’”—Dictionary of the Bible (1965), by John L. McKenzie, S.J.

So if Jesus called out to "MY [HIS] GOD" then how can he be "God"? So therefore we can conclude that Jesus must be a divine or superhuman being; "a god" when in heaven as in John 1:1 and when on earth he called out to "Ho Theos" or "God" of John 1:1.

FURTHER TO THE ABOVE:- NWT Colossians 1:15 “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation;”

(ALT) who is [the] image of the invisible God, first-born of [fig., existing before] all creation,

(ASV) who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation;

(BBE) Who is the image of the unseen God coming into existence before all living things;

(CEV) Christ is exactly like God, who cannot be seen. He is the first-born Son, superior to all creation.

(Darby) who is image of the invisible God, firstborn of all creation;

(DRB) Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:

(ESV) He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.

(GB) Who is the image of the invisible God, the first begotten of every creature.

(GNB) Christ is the visible likeness of the invisible God. He is the first-born Son, superior to all created things.

(GNT-WH+) ος3739 R-NSM εστιν2076 V-PXI-3S εικων1504 N-NSF του3588 T-GSM θεου2316 N-GSM του3588 T-GSM αορατου517 A-GSM πρωτοτοκος4416 A-NSM πασης3956 A-GSF κτισεως2937 N-GSF

(GW) He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.

(HNV) who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.

(KJV+) Who3739 is2076 the image1504 of the3588 invisible517 God,2316 the firstborn4416 of every3956 creature:2937

(>LITV) who is the image of the invisible God, the First-born of all creation.

(MKJV) who is the image of the invisible God, the First-born of all creation.

(MRC) He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation.

(WEB) who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.

(Webster) Who is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of every creature:

(YLT) who is the image of the invisible God, first-born of all creation,

Stong’s Greek No. 4416 πρωτοτοìκος prōtotokos pro-tot-ok'-os From G4413 and the alternate of G5088; first born (usually as noun, literally or figuratively): - firstbegotten (-born). Thayer Definition: 1) the firstborn 1a) of man or beast 1b) of Christ, the first born of all creation Part of Speech: adjective A Related Word by Thayer’s/Strong’s Number: from G4413 and the alternate of G5088 Citing in TDNT: 6:871, 965

Strong’s No. 3956 πᾶς pas pas Including all the forms of declension; apparently a primary word; all, any, every, the whole: - all (manner of, means) alway (-s), any (one), X daily, + ever, every (one, way), as many as, + no (-thing), X throughly, whatsoever, whole, whosoever.

Thayer Definition: 1) individually 1a) each, every, any, all, the whole, everyone, all things,everything 2) collectively 2a) some of all types Part of Speech: adjective A Related Word by Thayer’s/Strong’s Number: including all the forms of declension Citing in TDNT: 5:886, 795

So if Jesus was born of God and the first one to be so how can he be "God"?


Two comments in your question are not quite accurate.

The footnote on John 1:1c in the 2013 NWT to “a god” is “or divine.” In fact these two are not mutually exclusive. The NWT understands θεός here as a mixture of indefinite-qualitative, this not “a god” but rather “a god.”

The distinction is significant. This is not another god in addition to the God the Word was with. It is another individual with God who is divine. It's not a mere quality of God such as a “word” (e.g an expression) but another person with divine qualities.

In addition there are other bibles who render the verse in a similar fashion:

  • 1768 and was himself a divine person (Harwood)

  • 1994 the Word was a divine Being (Madsen

But also see Bauer-Danker-Arndt-Gingrich Greek lexicon (BDAG) on θεός 2:

2. Some writings in our lit. use the word θ. w. ref. to Christ (without necessarily equating Christ with the Father, and therefore in harmony w. the Shema of Israel Dt 6:4; cp. Mk 10:18 and 4a below), though the interpretation of some of the pass. is in debate. In Mosaic and Gr-Rom. traditions the fundamental semantic component in the understanding of deity is the factor of performance, namely saviorhood or extraordinary contributions to one’s society. Dg. 10:6 defines the ancient perspective: ὃς ἃ παραὰτοῦ θεοῦ λάβων ἔχει, τα τα ῦ το ςῖ ἐπιδεομένοις χορηγ ν ῶ , θεοὰς γίνεται τ ν ῶ λαμβανάντων ** one who ministers to the needy what one has received from God proves to be a god to the recipients.

  • 1
    @RevelationLad You mean Harris the Trinitarian I quote as a hostile witness?
    – user33125
    Commented Feb 10, 2020 at 22:26
  • 1
    My point is how you pick and chose to cite "experts." In Hebrews Harris is worthy, but in John he is not - eisegesis can take on many forms. Commented Feb 10, 2020 at 23:05

To summarize Robertson's Grammar on this, predicate nominatives usually don't have the article, and this distinguishes the predicate from the subject, i.e. the Word was God, not God was the Word. The Word was a god violates Greek grammar. Thus, θεὸς should be translated God, not a god. See also the quote from Wallace at the end.

(i) NOUNS IN THE PREDICATE. These may have the article also. As already explained, the article is not essential to speech. It is, however, “invaluable as a means of gaining precision, e.g. θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος.” As a rule the predicate is without the article, even when the subject uses it. Cf. Mk. 9:50; Lu. 7:8. This is in strict accord with the ancient idiom. Gildersleeve (Syntax, p. 324) notes that the predicate is usually something new and therefore the article is not much used except in convertible propositions. Winer,4 indeed, denies that the subject may be known from the predicate by its having the article. But the rule holds wherever the subject has the article and the predicate does not. The subject is then definite and distributed, the predicate indefinite and undistributed. The word with the article is then the subject, whatever the order may be. So in Jo. 1:1, θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος, the subject is perfectly clear. Cf. ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο (Jo. 1:14). It is true also that ὁ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος (convertible terms) would have been Sabellianism. See also ὁ θεὸς ἀγάπη ἐστίν (1 Jo. 4:16). “God” and “love” are not convertible terms any more than “God” and “Logos” or “Logos” and “flesh.” Cf. also οἱ θερισταὶ ἄγγελοί εἰσιν (Mt. 13:39), ὁ λόγος ὁ σὸς ἀλήθειά ἐστιν (Jo. 17:17), ὁ νόμος ἁμαρτία; (Ro. 7:7). The absence of the article here is on purpose and essential to the true idea. Cf. also ἀνθρωποκτόνος and ψεύστης (Jo. 8:44). In Eph. 5:23, ἀνήρ ἐστιν κεφαλή, the context makes it clear (W. H. marg. ἀνὴρ κεφαλή ἐστιν) that ἀνήρ is subject even without the article. In Jo. 9:34, ἐν ἁμαρτίαις σὺ ἐγεννήθης ὅλος, the article with ὅλος is not needed, a neat use of the predicate adjective. But the article is quite frequent with the predicate in the N. T. and in strict accord with old usage. It is not mere haphazard, however, as Winer rather implied. Hence W. F. Moulton, in his note to Winer, properly corrects this error. He finds that when the article is used in the predicate the article is due to a previous mention of the noun (as well known or prominent) or to the fact that subject and predicate are identical. The words that are identical are convertible as in the older idiom.4 If he had added what is in Winer-Schmiedel,5 that the article also occurs when it is the only one of its kind, he would have said all that is to be said on the subject. But even here Moulton’s rule of identity and convertibility apply. The overrefinement of Winer-Schmiedel’s many subdivisions here is hardly commendable. In a word, then, when the article occurs with subject (or the subject is a personal pronoun or proper name) and predicate, both are definite, treated as identical, one and the same, and interchangeable. The usage applies to substantives, adjectives and participles indifferently. Cf. ὁ λύχνος τοῦ σώματός ἐστιν ὁ ὀφθαλμός (Mt. 6:22), ὑμεῖς ἐστὲ τὸ ἄλας τῆς γῆς (Mt. 5:13), ὁ δὲ ἀγρός ἐστιν ὁ κόσμος (13:38), σὺ εἶ ὁ Χριστός (16:16), εἶς ἐστιν ὁ ἀγαθός (19:17), τίς ἄρα ἐστὶν ὁ πιστὸς δοῦλος (24:45), τοῦτό ἐστιν τὸ σῶμά μου, τοῦτό ἐστιν τὸ αἷμά μου (26:26, 28), σὺ εἶ ὁ βασιλεύς (27:11), σὺ εἶ ὁ υἱός μου (Mk. 1:11), οὐχ οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ τέκτων (6:3), οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ κληρονόμος (12:7), οὐ γάρ ἐστε ὑμεῖς οἱ λαλοῦντες (13:11), ἡ ζωὴ ἦν τὸ φῶς (Jo. 1:4), ὁ προφήτης εἶ σύ (1:21), σὺ εἶ ὁ διδάσκαλος (3:10), οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ προφήτης (6:14), οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ ἄρτος (6:50; cf. 51), τὸ πνεῦμά ἐστιν τὸ ζωοποιοῶν (6:63), ἐγώ εἰμι τὸ φῶς (8:12), οὐχ οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ καθήμενος (9:8; cf. 19 f.), ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ θύρα (10:7), ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ποιμήν (10:11), ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ άνάστασις καὶ ἡ ζωή (11:25, note both articles), ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ ὁδὸς καὶ ἡ ἀλήθεια καὶ ἡ ζωή (14:6, note three separate articles), ἐκεῖνός ἐστιν ὁ ἀγαπῶν μς (14:21), οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ λίθος (Ac. 4:11), οὗτός ἐστιν ἡ δύναμις (8:10), οὐχ οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ πορθήσας (9:21), οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ ἄνθρωπος (21:28), οὐκ ἄρα σὺ εἶ ὁ Λἰγύπτιος (21:38), ἡ κεφαλὴ ὸ Χριστός ἐστιν (1 Cor. 11:3), ὁ δὲ κύριος τὸ πνεῦμά ε͂στιν (2 Cor. 3:17), αὐτός ἐστιν ἡ εἰρήνη ἡμῶν (Eph. 2:14), ἡμεῖς ἡ περιτομή (Ph. 3:3), ἡμεῖς γάρ ἐσμεν ἡ περιτομή (3:3), ἡ ἁμαρτία ἐστὶν ἡ ἀνομία (1 Jo. 3:4), ἐγώ εἰμι τὸ Ἅλφα καὶ τὸ Ὦ (Rev. 1:8), ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ πρῶτος καὶ ὁ ἔσχατος (1:17, note both articles), σὺ εἶ ὁ ταλαίπωρος (3:17), etc. This list is not exhaustive, but it is sufficient to illustrate the points involved. Note ὁ βασιλεύς (Mt. 27:11) and βασιλεύς (Jo. 1:49). Even the superlative adjective may have the article as in Rev. 1:17 above. But see οἱ ἔσχατοι πρῶτοι καὶ οἱ πρῶτοι ἔσχατοι (Mt. 20:16) for the usual construction. Cf. ἐσχάτη ὥρα (1 Jo. 2:18). See further ἐν ἐσχάταις ἡμέραις, Jas. 5:3; 2 Tim. 3:1; ἐν καιρῷ ἐσχάτῳ, 1 Pet. 1:5, and τῇ ἐσχάτῃ ἡμέρᾳ, Jo. 6:39. For the common predicate accusative see chapter XI (Cases), VII, (i). In the N. T. most examples are anarthrous (Jo. 5:11; 15:15), and note 1 Cor. 4:9 ἡμᾶς τοὺς ἀποστόλους ἐσχάτους ἀπέδειξεν. Cf. Gildersleeve, Syntax, p. 326. -- Robertson, A. T. (2006). A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research (pp. 767–769). Logos Bible Software.

Wallace agrees with Robertson.

To Distinguish Subject from Predicate Nominative and Object from Complement

Generally speaking, the subject will be distinguished from the predicate nominative by having the article. This rule of thumb also applies to objects in the object-complement double accusative construction. ... Cf. also John 1:1 -- Wallace, D. B. (1996). Greek Grammar beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (p. 242). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

  • 4
    You've provided a reference, but you have not stated your answer to the question, "In John 1:1c, should the Greek word θεὸς be translated into English as 'a god' or 'God'?" I'm pretty sure that falls short of what is required on this site.
    – enegue
    Commented Feb 4, 2018 at 22:07

I would translate John 1:1 like this:

In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and God was the word.


enter image description here

There are three phrases here, each containing the verb ἦν, with the following structure:

In A *ἦν* B, and B *ἦν* with C, and C *ἦν* B

A = *ἀρχή* - beginning  
B = *Λόγος* - word  
C = *θεός* - God

Take note of the last phrase. What is the justification for flipping the order of the nouns, which is what must be done to get, "and the word was God"?

The logic of John's argument is obvious: that B is C and C is B, which is simply a different take on Jesus' own words:

I and the Father are one.
-- John 10:30

The KJV has "my father" here, but there is no genitive case.

enter image description here

Additional Comments

Perhaps the appeal to John's logic is insufficient evidence, so it might prove profitable to investigate a couple of other instances of θεός where the definite article is missing.

  1. In reply to the Sadducees' question about the wife that was passed from one brother to another as each of them died, Jesus said:

    Furthermore, he is not the God of the dead, but of the living. For, all to him are alive.
    -- Luke 20:38


    enter image description here

    There are three possibilities in regard to how θεός might be translated in this verse:

    • he is not a God of the dead, but [a God] of the living
    • he is not the God of the dead, but [the God] of the living
    • he is not God of the dead, but [God] of the living

    There is an implied reiteration of the subject in the second part of the statement, since whatever he is not for the dead, he is for the living (bracketed).

    The first possibility can be eliminated pretty-easily, since it really isn't likely that Jesus, or the writer recording his words, would imply there was more than ONE God of the living, which is what one gets from "he is [a God] of the living".

    Now, the only reason for choosing the third possibility, would be a stubborn reluctance to include the definite article, since there can be no doubt the writer of Luke's Gospel believed/knew, as did Jesus, that there is but ONE God of the living.

  2. This next example, John 1:18, is an absolute corker:

    No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.

    NIV: A whole bunch of words here that are not in the Greek
    No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and1 is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

    ESV: What does "the only God, who is at the Father's side" mean?
    No one has ever seen God; the only God,2 who is at the Father’s side,3 he has made him known.

    NASB: Who is the "only begotten God"?
    No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.

    I would translate John 1:18 like this

    No man has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, the one who is in the bosom of the father, he has made him known.


    enter image description here

    The second instance of Θεὸς that appears in WH Greek but not TR, has been ignored, since attempts to accommodate it (see NIV, ESV, NASB above) introduce ideas that are not only foreign to the Gospel of John, but foreign to the entire NT. It clearly has no logical place in the author's argument.

    Regardless of all the issues the additional Θεὸς has caused for translators, the Θεὸς that remains, having no definite article, could not possibly be translated as "a God". If the Gospel writer has used Θεὸς without the definite article in John 1:18, and no one is in any doubt that he is referring to "the" Θεὸς, then its appearance as such in John 1:1 shouldn't be an issue, either.

1. Some manuscripts: but the only Son, who
2. Or the only One, who is God; some manuscripts: the only Son
3. Greek: in the bosom of the Father


Cowell's Rule argues that it should read "and the LOGOS was God". However, Cowell's work has come under fire and I for one believe it should be taken as a qualitative predicate: "the utterance was God-utterance":

"...Fourth, Colwell seems to have misunderstood what a definite semantic to the noun entailed linguistically.33 His improper method of prescription, based on his analysis, led him to commit a category mistake by foisting a semantic upon a certain group of nouns (pre-copulative PNs) that he failed to appreciate on their own terms. Because of this, and apparently without considering the ramifications of what the semantic suggested, he applied it to John 1:1c and argued against the indefinite or qualitative sense. But this was an improper use of his own rule, for his rule was only to be applied post hoc to nouns clearly understood to be definite from context. But here is where the problem of his method shows up starkly. Because John 20:28 has the articular qeov", he assumes that its pre-copulative anarthrous occurrence bears the same semantic. But this is simply an example of pigeonholing a noun into a semantic box based completely on the semantics born out in a separate construction. Count nouns can bear different nuances without the article than it can with the article—Colwell has not properly understood this principle.34 In short he begged the question by making his rule prescriptive rather than descriptive of the majority of cases involving definite nouns preceding the copulative verb..." https://bible.org/article/revisiting-colwell-construction-light-masscount-nouns

In other words, the utterances of God are different from human utterances in that they carry divine power and authority. IE: "Let there be light and there was light".

However, that isn't the only grammatically viable option. The other is "a god". This has the advantage of accommodating that the logos was "with God" without upending millennia of Jewish monotheism.

I'm currently torn between the two.

  • @ Ruminator :I suggest you get a copy of the book "Truth in Translation" by Jason David Be Duhn and read chapter 11 then you will not be torn. There scores of verses in the scriptures which have the structure as John 1:1, for example John 18:35, 19:21 , 6:60, 4:24, 18:35, 12:6, 12:36,1:14, 8:44, 8:48 and many others. But Just to soften your heart the Greats of Greek translation wrote: Moffat: 1 THE Logos existed in the very beginning, the Logos was with God, the Logos was divine. Goodspeed:1 In the beginning the Word existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was divine Commented Apr 22, 2019 at 20:21
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    I like to remind people that John 1:1-3 does not mention: 1) Trinity 2) Jesus 3) "spirit" Nor does it speak of "Word". Instead it speaks of God's utterance. He is referring to "Let there be x". Nothing was made without that utterance.
    – Ruminator
    Commented Apr 22, 2019 at 20:32
  • That "divine utterance" is what was made flesh in John 1:14. Jesus is not the "Word" of God but rather his "utterance" and the one who accomplishes what God commands: [Isa 55:11 ESV] (11) so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
    – Ruminator
    Commented Apr 22, 2019 at 20:37
  • Of course, it is all metaphor, just like the metaphor of wisdom personified as a woman "justified by her children".
    – Ruminator
    Commented Apr 22, 2019 at 20:38

How can Jesus be God & High Priest of God & an Apostle & a Medatior, between man and God & be God?

Texts NWT

Hebrews 3:1 "Consequently, holy brothers, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the apostle and high priest whom we acknowledge—Jesus."

1 Timothy 2:5 "For there is one God, and one mediator BETWEEN God and men, a man, Christ Jesus,"

All services rendered to God my a lesser person than God!

Example; God cannot be a "High Priest" as a "High Priest" serves God and man!

Further to the above after Jesus had been resurrected by God:-

Acts 2:24 "But God resurrected him [Jesus' see vs.""] by releasing him from the pangs of death, . . ."

Jesus later said :-

John 20:17 "Jesus said to her: “Stop clinging to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father and to my God and your God.’”

So if Jesus thinks of his "Father" as "my "God" how can Jesus be Almighty God Also??

  • This doesn't answer the question. My question is about the text of John 1:1. Commented Oct 21, 2018 at 20:05
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    I think it does matter because a Priest cannot be God! An Apostle cannot be God but both can be divine and thus "a god" if "Ho Theos" ordains it to be so.
    – user26950
    Commented Oct 22, 2018 at 0:05

There was an old heresy grammatically trying to support Arianism that ὁ θεός with article denotes the only God, whereas θεός without article the not-the-only-God, but a creature with a closeness to God and thus not God but god-ly or divine. Indeed, in Greek philosophy and tradition the difference between θεός and θειός ("god" and "divine") was vague, not like in Latin where "deus" and "divus" were strictly demarcated. That's why when Hellenistic Greek cities would write on stones "Deeds of the divine Augustus" they would write sometimes θεοῦ instead of θειοῦ (πράξεις Σεβαστοῦ θεοῦ), however in Latin it was impossible to write "res gestae dei Augusti" but always "res gestae divi Augusti". Yes, θεός in Greek mentality and culture of polytheism could denote both "god" and "divine", however it is impossible that in the John 1:1 it could be anything less than God, with the same dignity of the name as God the Father. Why? Here's why:

God the Father has created all through His Logos who was with (πρός) Him before the creation, which means - eternally, which means uncreatedly; and that Father creates the world through Him does not mean that He could do without Him, saying as it were to His Logos: "My dear co-eternal Logos, I want to create the world but have a rest, I do not want to bother you, but will do it alone", or such a stupidity, - no, He not only did not create the world without His Logos, but could not, ontologically or theologically create the world without His Logos. But He is also the Source of His Logos, being His Father, and this means that in the supra-temporal dimension this causality is eternal and cannot be an aspect of creation. This means that the Son is essential for the Father and God cannot be God without having His co-eternal Son who enters the very definition of His, the Father's essence, for there is not a father without offspring, the latter defining the former's fatherhood, so the eternity of God as the Father implies the co-eternity and thus co-Divinity of His Son, the Logos also.

Thus, nobody can have God as Father and worship Him without co-worshiping with Him also God-the Son. To wrongheadedly respect Father as the only God without co-worshiping the Son with Him is in fact a calumny and insult of both the Father and the Son and is not from the Holy Spirit who teaches us to glorify and worship the Son as Lord (1 Cor. 12:3).

Thus the capitalized "God" is a correct rendering denoting the equal divine, worshipable dignity of the Father and the Son.


The whole polemic, discussion is pointless. John 1:1, is correctly translated: "and the word was god"! Never, under any circumstances, that - "was God"! Jesus surely cannot be almighty God. The only, almighty God the Father "cannot be contained by the heavens themselves", ...... and God cannot become flesh at all. It's an absurd, even comical idea! God is an eternal Spirit and can never (or any part of Him) break this rule. "God is invisible and whoever sees him will die"! God cannot even be tempted, nor can he suffer and die! If someone does not understand these elementary basics, then there is no help. Jesus' power was delegated (he received it) from his Father, from "his God"! Because our God is also Jesus' God. I will never understand how mentally healthy individuals, people with a sound mind, can believe that there are multiple beings? Such multiple, triple, three-headed beings can only be found in fairy tales and in pagan philosophy and mythology! (Cerberos, etc.) Almighty God is one, indivisible, Supreme and Sovereign, and no one will ever change that! Howgh

  • 2
    Welcome to the site, Milano. If you take the 'Tour' (below) you will see how this site differs from others. It's not for debating. Answers may reflect a bit of personal opinion, or interpretation, but there must be biblical evidence presented, incl. Greek grammar, textual differences etc, for a hermeneutic answer to a particular verse. On this hot topic there's lots of misunderstanding as to what the Trinity doctrine actually states; "multiple, 3-headed beings"? No. Father & Son share one divine nature with total unity of the Spirit in that nature - tri-unity in the ONE God. Not 3 beings.
    – Anne
    Commented Jan 20, 2023 at 12:44


IF in John 1:1c, the anarthrous (without article) Greek word “THEOS” can be translated as “a god” (with small “g”) for Jesus Christ, THEN it can be applied to God the Almighty Father as well!


Anarthrous (without article) God the Father with a small “g” and small “f”

A god the father

“There was a man sent from a god; his name was John” (John 1:6)

Here, God the Almighty Father is a small god.

“But as many as received Him, to them He gave authority to become children of a god” (John 1:12)

Here, God the Almighty Father is a small god.

“who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but were born of a god” (John 1:13).

The true God the Father is “a god”!

“And we beheld His glory, glory as of an only begotten from a father”> (John 1:14).

The true God the Father is a small father!

“No one has seen a god at any time” (John 1:18).

The true God is “a god”!

I am sure no one will agree to this wrong concept of the only God as a small god with a small “g”.

Yet, in all the above places in Greek, the word “theos” as applied to God the Father is “anarthrous” or without the definite article.

This should prove that the presence or absence of an article with the word “theos” doesn’t make any difference in NT Greek.

God the Father is used with arthrous “theos”. So also is Jesus used with arthrous “theos”.

Arthrous Jesus

”My (the) God and my (the) Lord)

Apostle Thomas calls the risen Jesus as “my the God and my the Lord”. Here as is clear in the English (though inappropriate) both God and Lord are arthrous in Greek.

But some people claim that Thomas was “exclaiming” to God when he saw the risen Lord. First of all, Thomas was a devout Jew who would not “take the name of God in vain”. Besides, Jesus instructed them not to swear at all (Mat 5:34) and to use “yes” for yes (verse 37).

Moreover, the Scripture says:

“Thomas answered (Jesus) and said to Him (Jesus)”.

The word “answered” in Greek is “apekrithe” which means “to conclude for oneself” (Strong). So Thomas considered all sides of the issues, including arthrous/anarthrous controversy, and concluded for himself by responding directly only to Jesus by addressing Him as the God and the Lord!

There is only one inescapable conclusion:

Jesus is the true and the only Son of God. A son and his father are of the same nature and features. The only difference is that the father will be in authority.

Like Father like Son!

If God the Father is the only true God, so also His Son is the only true God.

I don’t really understand why some people make a distinction only in this case; that is, between the natures/”kinds” of the Father and the Son.

In all kinds, the son has the same nature as the father. Only in authority they differ.


Jesus, as the only true Son of the only true God, is the only true God.

He “demands” an EQUAL honor that is given to the Father to Himself (John 5:23) which, if He is not God, would be utter blasphemy because He Himself said that we should worship only God (Mat 4:10; Luke 4:8).

  • +1 Yes, it's a huge IF. Three notes here: (a) Theon is related to but NOT the identical word as Theos for a reason. What is that reason? (b) The first chapter of John seems to be a quote from a hymn, creed, or poem with chiastic structure. According to Dr. David H Stern's Complete Jewish Bible translation, John 1 is interspersed with John's commentary: verses 6-8, 12-13, 15, and 18. I wonder whether there are any additional clues, evidence, or ideas concerning the origin of the prologue text. (c) John's commentary is likely a translation from Aramaic into Greek.
    – Dieter
    Commented Apr 12 at 17:50
  • 1
    @Dieter – Thanks for the up vote and info. You have several points I agree. If I am not wrong, “Theos”, “Theon”, “Theou” are all the same word; the difference is only with what the grammar terms as “case” such as nominative, objective, genitive, dative etc. “Ho theos/ Theos” is nominative as in “God (theos) says” (God is subject). “Ton Theon/ Theon” is objective as in “I love God (theon)” (God is object). “Tou theou/ Theou” is genitive/possessive as in “This belongs to God (Theou)” (God owns). Greek still retains its “inflections” (word connectives) while the same in English got erased. Commented Apr 14 at 8:03
  • Thank you for the explanation! Do you have any knowledge of the source of the prologue text in John 1? I do believe that John inserted his comments into it and reading it straight through without John's commentary, I find it both beautiful and profound!
    – Dieter
    Commented Apr 14 at 15:43
  • It indeed is beautiful and profound. But I don't have any knowledge about the source of the prologue text in John 1:1 except that he connects it to Gen 1:1 by going beyond in time! Commented Apr 14 at 15:55
  • 1
    You have a valid question there. The context and grammar would decide the semantics of verses. In the case of Psalms 82:1, the “Theon” is the translation of the Hebrew word “El” (H410) which is singular in the Hebrew Scripture. In the LXX (Ps 81:1), all the constructs are singular except the “Theous” (the second Elohim = gods). So, the “Theon” should be singular because it is singular in Hebrew. In the case of John 1:1, every construct is in singular, beyond any doubt. So, the Logos was with the God. However, Elohim is a uni-plural word just like family, team, church etc. Commented Apr 15 at 14:28

The definite article is left off to highlight a difference. Many times the definite article is left off of the predicate of a sentence.

John 4:24 (ESV)
24  God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

Jesus is a god. Apart from god Jesus created all things.

Colossians 1:15 (ESV)
15  He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.

He is image of god -- he looks like him but He was created. Almighty god was the creator Jehovah.

  • 9
    In order to judge what you were saying here, I had to sort through your post and fill in articles -- both definite and indefinite as appropriate. How are we supposed to buy an unsubstantiated claim about the usage of articles out of a post that doesn't use them correctly? Beyond that, the verses you pick are terribly out of context. Colossians goes on to describe how all the fullness of God was made visible in the person of Jesus. I'm voting this down because I don't see how the argument holds water. Perhaps you can edit to fill in the gaps and make a full argument for us?
    – Caleb
    Commented May 8, 2013 at 7:30
  • 1
    @lang. I did not think your citation from Colossians was out of context. It is speaking of the same One, who is all of God, having all from God, received (firstborn) and begotten (son). I noticed your translation wrong in this other instance (John 4:24 which you quoted from ESV). God is (in Jesus' words) not a spirit (out of many). He is spirit (meaning not to be perceived physically but by his force). The indefinite article means one out of many. That is why it is unsuitable in either instance (John 1:1 and 4:24). Can you see that?
    – hannes
    Commented May 10, 2013 at 2:57
  • 1
    The original of John 4:24 reads "Pneuma ho Theos". The definite article is there.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Sep 30, 2017 at 23:02
  • @Nigel J - I realize this is old and all but I've been sorting through answers and comments on this question and saw your response here. I think the argument was for the predicate lacking the article here and not the subject. So the Noun lacking the article is pnuema and not theos. Commented Jun 17, 2023 at 15:28

Hebraic context of Scripture

Given that the pertinent conversations and events in the Messianic Testimonies and Letters were (in spirit and in truth) Hebraic in context, it is therefore apparent that the writing of these Greek language accounts had necessarily been associated with an interpretation-translation process (from their original Hebraic context and terminology), whether by the writers themselves or with scribal-translator assistance. Thus, the normal limitations associated with any language interpretation-translation process would need to be taken into consideration by readers of these Greek accounts, even though they were original works. The effects and constraints of any interpretation-translation process are the same, regardless of whether the interpretation-translation process was an internal bilingual-writer process or external scribal assistance process. Although the Messianic Testimonies and Letters were recorded in Greek, the fact is that Greek was the Hellenistic gentile language of the Roman Empire in those days. The Greek language and its historical Greco-Hellenistic culture was not intended to be a permanent replacement-culture or substitute-language or revised-context to the Hebraic Scriptures. “Thus, the common practice of using purely Greek (or any other gentile language) in crucial Scripture root word study or exposition is neither expedient nor appropriate. As an illustration - any intent to understand the true concept and meaning of the original Hebraic title Elohim cannot be properly achieved by pursuing the historical, linguistic or cultural origins of the Anglo God, Greco Theos, African Mungu, Chinese Shen or any other divinity titles of any other gentile language or culture – it will only be at expense of the original Hebraic root word. Each of the above four gentile divinity titles would have their own root meaning, context and application which are not necessarily congruent with the Hebraic Elohim. The actual conversation, interaction and thought processes amongst the YAHudim, especially amongst YAHshua and His disciples were always in the Hebraic context. Likewise, there is no other gentile language today that can be adequately used on its own for such crucial Scripture root word study purposes – the English language included.”

Excerpt From Book of The Covenant

  • Hence, here is John 1:1-3 from the “Book of The Covenant - An Integrated Translation & Transliteration of the Hebraic Scriptures”: “1:1 In the beginning[129] was the davar[130], and the davar was with ELOHIM, and the davar was Elohim[131]. 1:2 It was in the beginning with ELOHIM. 1:3 All events[132] happened on account of it, and without it, nothing which is, would have come to past.” Excerpt from BTC-ITT
    – Gim
    Commented Dec 18, 2022 at 15:58

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