The following passages from John's gospel had identified Jesus as θεός and I had observed that various theological deductions favored either a High Christology or Low Christology in interpreting them.However, I'd like to receive an answer that explained these text on its purest form without using pre-conceived Christological languages (Trinitarian, Socinian, Biblical Unitarian etc.). Expounding or developing hypothesis would be best applicable here. Exemption would be the use of authorities when quoting NT scholars.

John 1:1 Westcott and Hort / [NA27 and UBS4 variants]

ΕΝ ΑΡΧΗ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος.

John 1:18 Westcott and Hort / [NA27 and UBS4 variants] θεὸν οὐδεὶς ἑώρακεν πώποτε· μονογενὴς θεὸς ὁ ὢν εἰς τὸν κόλπον τοῦ πατρὸς ἐκεῖνος ἐξηγήσατο.

John 10:33 Westcott and Hort / [NA27 and UBS4 variants]

ἀπεκρίθησαν αὐτῷ οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι Περὶ καλοῦ ἔργου οὐ λιθάζομέν σε ἀλλὰ περὶ βλασφημίας, καὶ ὅτι σὺ ἄνθρωπος ὢν ποιεῖς σεαυτὸν θεόν.4

John 20:28 Westcott and Hort / [NA27 and UBS4 variants]

ἀπεκρίθη Θωμᾶς καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ Ὁ κύριός μου καὶ ὁ θεός μου.


Does θεός in John 1:1, John 1:18, John 10:33 and John 20:28 have the same meaning?

  • Why would the Greek word have different meanings ? What evidence is there that it could have different meanings ?
    – Nigel J
    May 9 '19 at 14:58
  • 1
    It might have different meanings because the grammatical construction is different. I think it is an excellent question.
    – user25930
    May 9 '19 at 21:20
  • The addition of the article does not change the meaning of a word. Nor does grammar ever change meaning. Homonyms have different meanings because they are different words. But θεός is not an homonym.
    – Nigel J
    May 10 '19 at 6:45
  • Really? Compare "theos" in John 10:34 with John 1:18 - vastly different!
    – user25930
    May 10 '19 at 10:36

I am impressed with the reasoning of David Bentley Hart on this topic in his translation of the New Testament (Yale University Press, 2017) which contains extensive notes of explanation about, in this case, the articular vs inarticular form of the noun "theos". To over-simplify his argument, "ho theos" is the articular form that invariably refers to "God in the fullest and most unequivocal sense" but "theos" without the article is usually (but not invariably) the inarticular form. For much more detail, see the above reference.

Now let us examine each of the verses quoted using David Bentley Hart's translation.

  • John 1:1 - "In the origin there was the Logos, and the Logos was present with GOD, and the Logos was god." - that is Jesus is declared to be god - a Greek construction signifying a classification statement. (This might be compared to saying, "that car is (a) Ford", not suggesting that the car was Henry Ford himself, but that the car was classified as a type of Ford vehicle.)
  • John 1:18 - "No one has ever seen GOD; the one who is uniquely god, who is at the Father's breast, that one has declared him". In this case, "theos" is used of God the Father ("GOD") and to again describe the classification of Jesus as "uniquely god".
  • John 10:33 - "We stone you not on account of a good work, but rather on account of blasphemy, and because you who are a man make yourself out to be God." Thus, Jesus was accused of claiming to be God.
  • John 20:28 - "Thomas answered him, 'My Lord and my GOD.'" Thus, Thomas realised that Jesus was God and, significantly, was not corrected despite the necessary corrections listed in other places such as Acts 10:25, 26, Rev 19:10, 22:8, 9. On this text, David Bentley Hart observes:

Here Thomas addresses Jesus as "ho theos", which unambiguously means "God" in the absolute sense. … He addresses him also as "ho kyrios", again, with the honorific article, which also happens to be the Greek rendering of the Hebrew Adonai in the Septuagint, the preferred circumlocution for God's unutterable name, the tetragrammaton (YHWH). Thomas's words here, then, appear to be the final theological statement of the Gospel at its "first ending."

In summary, "theos" has been used in a variety of ways as illustrated above including: the name of God the Father, the classification (a Greek technical term) of Jesus, and the title/name of Jesus as well.


There is one required assumption in order to interpret correctly these passages: that John holds these passages as divinely inspired and therefore true:

"You are my witnesses," declares the LORD, "and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe Me and understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God [el] formed, neither shall there be after Me. (Is 43:10)

"Thus says YHWH, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, YHWH of hosts: 'I am the first and I am the last, and there is no God besides Me. (Is 44:6)

Do not tremble and do not be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? And you are my witnesses! Is there a God [eloah] besides Me? There is no Rock; I know not any.'" (Is 44:8)

"I am YHWH, and there is no other; besides Me there is no God. I will gird you, though you have not known Me; (Is 45:5)

"Declare and set forth your case; indeed, let them consult together. Who has announced this from of old? Who has long since declared it? Is it not I, YHWH? And there is no other God besides Me, a righteous God [el] and a savior; there is none except Me. (Is 45:21)

First, it is well-known that the name Elohim, literally "the gods", has two meanings in the Hebrew Bible: a) the only omnipotent, eternal Creator God, YHWH, in which case the plural has a majestatic sense and the accompanying verb is singular, and b) the gods, either existing super-human entities created by and subordinated to YHWH (in pre-exilic texts only, of which I make the case below) or the imaginary gods of the gentiles, in which case the accompanying verb is plural.

Thus, verses like 44:6 and 45:5 which say literally "besides Me no Elohim/elohim" can be understood in either of two senses, depending on the sense of Elohim/elohim: with "Elohim" in sense a, as "besides me no omnipotent, eternal Creator God", and with "elohim" in sense b, as "besides me no gods", so that someone intent on affirming that post-exilic Jews did NOT reserve the term "god" for YWHW can reject these verses as proof to the contrary by saying that they use Elohim in sense a only, and therefore do not preclude the existence of lesser, subordinated, created gods which should not be worshipped.

Therefore I emphasized above the instances where "God" translated a singular Hebrew name, either "el" (Is 43:10) or "eloah" (Is 44:8), which I gave between []. From these instances, it is clear that for post-exilic Jews all names referring to a divinity, both the majestatic plural "Elohim", which in Greek would be "ho Theos", and the singular "El" and "Eloah", which in Greek would be "Theos", were reserved to YHWH. The other existing superhuman real entities, the angels, were created by YHWH and wholly subordinated to Him, so that they could not be called "gods". And the "gods" of the idolatrous peoples were not real: "For all the gods [elohe] of the peoples are idols, but YHWH made the heavens" (Ps 96:5).

I wrote all the above to preemptively dispel the notion that the Apostle John could be referring by "theos" to a created superhuman entity, as non-trinitarians posit.

Turning to the NT, the term "ho Theos" or its genitive "tou Theou", dative "to Theo", or accusative "ton Theon", refer to God the Father, except in the 5 passages where it refers to the Son, none of which calls Jesus simply "ho Theos" without qualification: Mt 1:23, Jn 20:28, Ti 2:13, 2 Pe 1:1, 1 Jn 5:20. But even in these cases "ho Theos" refers always to a divine Person, not to the divine ousia.

On the other hand, unarthrous "Theos" can refer to:

  • the one and only divine ousia, what each divine Person Is, in which case it is the attribute of a copulative sentence whose subject is the Son (Jn 1:1, Rom 9:5) or the subject of a passive predicative sentence;

  • a divine Person, usually God the Father when it appears without qualification or the Son in "monogenēs Theos" (Jn 1:18).

So, Jn 1:1 says:

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God the Father, and the Word was all that God the Father was (except Father)."

Where from monotheism, "all that God the Father was" is understood in a sense of numerical identity, not of merely qualitative identity. "I and the Father are one" (Jn 10:30), not "I and the Father are equal". "Homoousios", i.e. "of the same ousia" (numerical identity), not "isoousios", i.e. "of identical ousiai" (merely qualitative identity).


For this type of question, a good place to start is the BDAG. Here is the section on θεός when used of Jesus.

Note that all of these, according to BDAG, should be interpreted in light of Jesus words at Mk 10:18:

King James Version Mark 10:18 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.

Also note that the reference to one who is called god in this sense to be considered "a god."

BDAG θεος 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(cp. Sb III, 6263, 27f of a mother). Such understanding led to the extension of the mng. of θ. to pers. who elicit special reverence (cp. pass. under 4 below; a similar development can be observed in the use of σέβομαι and cognates). In Ro 9:5 the interpr. is complicated by demand of punctuation marks in printed texts. If a period is placed before ὁ ὢν κτλ., the doxology refers to God as defined in Israel (so EAbbot, JBL 1, 1881, 81-154; 3, 1883, 90-112; RLipsius; HHoltzmann, Ntl. Theol.2 II 1911, 99f; EGünther, StKr 73, 1900, 636-44; FBurkitt, JTS 5, 1904, 451-55; Jülicher; PFeine, Theol.d. NTs6 ’34, 176 et al.; RSV text; NRSV mg.). A special consideration in favor of this interpretation is the status assigned to Christ in 1 Cor 15:25-28 and the probability that Paul is not likely to have violated the injunction in Dt 5:7.—If a comma is used in the same place, the reference is to Christ (so BWeiss; EBröse, NKZ 10, 1899, 645-57 et al.; NRSV text; RSV mg. S. also ε1.—Undecided: THaering.—The transposition by the Socinian scholar JSchlichting [died 1661] ὧν ὁ=‘to whom belongs’ was revived by JWeiss, D. Urchristentum 1917, 363; WWrede, Pls 1905, 82; CStrömman, ZNW 8, 1907,319f). In 2 Pt 1:1; 1J 5:20 the interpretation is open to question (but cp. ISmyrna McCabe .0010, 100 ὁ θεοὰς καιὰσωτηὰρ Ἀντίοχος). In any event, θ. certainly refers to Christ, as one who manifests primary characteristics of deity, in the foll. NT pass.: J 1:1b (w. ὁ θεός 1:1a, which refers to God in the monotheistic context of Israel’s tradition. On the problem raised by such attribution s. J 10:34 [cp. Ex 7:1; Ps 81:6]; on θεός w. and without the article, acc. to whether it means God or the Logos, s. Philo, Somn. 1, 229f; JGriffiths, ET 62, ’50/51, 314-16; BMetzger, ET 63, ’51/52, 125f), 18b. ὁ κύριός μουκαιὰὁ θεός μου my Lord and my God! (nom. w. art.=voc.; s. beg. of this entry.—On a resurrection as proof of divinity cp. Diog. L. 8, 41, who quotes Hermippus: Pythagoras returns from a journey to Hades and appears among his followers [ε σέρχεσθαι ἰ ε ςἰ τηὰνἐκκλησίαν], and they consider him θεόν τινα) J 20:28 (on the combination of κύριοςand θεός s. 3c below). Tit 2:13 (μέγας θ.). Hb 1:8, 9 (in a quot. fr. Ps 44:7, 8). S. TGlasson, NTS 12, ’66, 270-72. Jd 5 P72. But above all Ignatius calls Christ θεός in many pass.: θεοὰς Ἰ ῦ ησος Χριστός ITr 7:1; Χριστοὰς θεός ISm 10:1. ὁ θεοὰς ἡ ῶμ ν IEph ins; 15:3; 18:2; IRo ins (twice); 3:3; IPol 8:3; τοὰπάθος τοῦ θεοῦ μου IRo 6:3. ἐνα ματι ἵ θεοῦ IEph 1:1. ἐν σαρκιὰγενόμενος θεός 7:2. θεοὰς ἀνθρωπίνως φανερούμενος19:3. θεοὰς ὁ ο τως ὕ ὑ ᾶμ ς σοφίσας ISm 1:1.—Hdb. exc. 193f; MRackl, Die Christologied. hl. Ign. v. Ant. 1914. ὁ θεός μου ΧριστεὰἸ ῦ ησο AcPl Ha 3, 10; Χριστοὰς Ἰ ῦ ησο ς ὁθ[εός] 6, 24; cp. ln. 34 (also cp. Just., A I, 63, 15, D. 63, 5 al.; Tat. 13, 3; Ath. 24, 1;

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