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

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


Question

In John 1:1,Jesus is called by an anarthrous θεός while in John 20:28, it's by articular θεός. What's the difference if there's any? What does θεός mean in John 1:1, 20:28?

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    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
  • 2
    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
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    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
  • 1
    Really? Compare "theos" in John 10:34 with John 1:18 - vastly different!
    – user25930
    May 10 '19 at 10:36
  • The ancient Coptic version understood it to mean "The word was a god.". Anyway, the meaning of this word in Koine Greek is actually already very clear from solid internal evidence.
    – David
    Oct 22 '21 at 16:21
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The Koine Greek word "θεος" is just a countable noun like "god" and "king" in English. Because of its semantics, it can like "king" be used as a title as well. Just as in ancient Israel there can be one true king YHWH and yet the people of Israel can correctly call the king of Israel "the king", so also the context is always necessary to determine whether each occurrence of "θεος" refers to the one true god or some other god. Note that "θεος" means "mighty one" and does not necessarily imply divinity, though obviously in writings about YHWH most occurrences of "θεος" would naturally be referring to YHWH.

[John 1:1]
εν αρχη ην ο λογος και ο λογος ην προς τον θεον και θεος ην ο λογος
In [the] beginning was the word, and the word was with the god, and the word was [a] god.

[John 1:18]
θεον ουδεις εωρακεν πωποτε ο μονογενης υιος ο ων εις τον κολπον του πατρος εκεινος εξηγησατο
[The] god no one has ever seen. The only-begotten/unique son, the [one] who is in the bosom of the father, that [one] declared [him]. [I think the Byzantine majority is correct here.]

[John 10:33]
απεκριθησαν αυτω οι ιουδαιοι λεγοντες περι καλου εργου ου λιθαζομεν σε αλλα περι βλασφημιας και οτι συ ανθρωπος ων ποιεις σεαυτον θεον
The Jews answered to him, saying, about [a] good work we do not stone you, but about blasphemy and because you, being [a] man, make yourself [a] god.

[John 20:28]
και απεκριθη θωμας και ειπεν αυτω ο κυριος μου και ο θεος μου
and Thomas answered and said to him, my lord and my god!

These are essentially the most accurate translations into grammatical English. They do not dictate how you interpret each occurrence of "god". Of course, every occurrence of "the god" in my translation would refer to some specific god, which in "The good tidings according to John" would of course often refer to YHWH. But other occurrences are for you to decide yourself.

Note that it is common and natural for Koine Greek writers to drop the definite article in some places where it can be inferred, and there is no hard and fast rule. Some articles must be added to make it grammatical in English, as indicated by square-brackets in my translation.

Finally, you need to understand the basic Koine Greek grammar to know how noun phrases are formed, including the grammatical syntax required for possessive expressions like "ο θεος μου". The definite article here only indicates that there is a definite reference, but the "μου" specifies that reference! That is to say, "ο θεος μου" means nothing more or less than "the god that is mine" (with a bit less emphasis on "mine"). It does not mean "the god, which is mine". Without the article, "θεος μου" could mean "[a] god that is mine", so "ο θεος μου" excludes that possibility. That is all.

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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.

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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).

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  • +1 however, i know many trinitarians who believe that angels were called originally gods in scripture (Deit 32:37, Psalm 82:6 etc.). Even Christ quoted Psalm 82:6 (you are gods) in John 10:34. These gods are subordinate to Yhwh whom scripture calls "God of gods".
    – Radz Brown
    Oct 23 '21 at 13:46
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Here, John is making the most categorical and concise statement found anywhere in scripture regarding the deity of Jesus - He is GOD. If you need a more detailed explanation on this I would recommend you read the the answers posted on the following thread.

"Why John 1:1 in (DRB)(Douay-Rheims Bible) is not literal translation from the Latin Vulgate?"

The meaning is revealed by the unusual construction of και θεος ην ο λογος. Here is what I mean.

The following are arguments by a professor of NT Greek given to me years ago whose name I no longer remember. Over the years, I have rewritten most of it to make the arguments more concise and easier to understand, but his arguments remain the same.

First, Koine Greek normally drops the article in a prepositional phrase. The absence of the article in a prepositional phrase is normal and doesn't mean anything. It is the INCLUSION of the article in a prepositional phrase as we see in this verse that is unusual and thus means something.

The prepositional phrase "εν αρχη" for example, does not contain an article, but is still properly translated "in the beginning." The prepositional phrase "προς τον θεον," however, does include the article (τον). Since it would have been grammatically proper not to include it, then the INCLSION of the article here means something. In general, the inclusion of an article in Greek when it is not expected means the writer is being specific. There are three things this could mean, depending on the construction:

a. It could mean that the Word was a LESSER god than the Father who is the τον θεον (the God) in the previous clause.

b. Or, it could mean that the Word was the Father.

c. Or, it could mean that the Word was fully God, but was NOT the same person as Father.

So, the question is this, how do we determine which is meant?

If John had written the clause: και ο λογος ην θεος, it would mean that "the Word was 'A' god." That is, the Word was a LESSER god than the Father. The reason is that since λογος is the subject and appears first, there is no grammatical reason to leave the article off of θεος, thus the absence of the article means something (since even if it was given the article, it would STILL be the predicate). Therefore, the absence of the article would mean "A" god. In other words, since the inclusion of the article would not change the grammatical function of θεος, the exclusion of the article must therefore change the MEANING of θεος.

The absence of the article in a position where the inclusion of the article would NOT change the word's grammatical function would tell us there is a difference in specificity: the λογος is not the same individual as the Father.

Further, if it does not have an article, the position of θεος at the end of the sentence would tell us there is a difference in emphasis (θεος is being “de-emphasized”): In such a construction, λογος would then be less of a god than the Father. Thus, "και ο λογος ην θεος" could ONLY mean "the Word was a god." BUT, John did NOT use this construction.

If John had written the clause: και ο λογος ην ο θεος, it would mean that "the Word was THE God." In other words, the Word was exactly the same person as the Father. This would mean only one person is being represented throughout the text, not two. The Father and the Son would then be nothing more than manifestations of the same person. They would not be separate individuals. It would mean here is one personality who simply appears at times in different forms. This would then lend support to the modalist argument. The inclusion of the article with θεος would make it specific and make θεος the subject: In such a construction, the λογος would be exactly the same individual as the Father (the exact same θεος just mentioned in the previous clause). Since both nouns have the article, θεος is grammatically locked into occurring after λογος. If it were moved in front of λογος, it would change its grammatical function, and become the subject. Thus, in this construction, the position of θεος would not mean anything. It MUST appear there. Thus, the clause "και ο λογος ην ο θεος" can only mean "Jesus was THE God (the exact same individual as the Father)." BUT, John did NOT use this construction.

By writing it as και θεος ην ο λογος, John does two critical and deliberate things. First, he leaves the article off of θεος, thus indicating that Word is NOT the same individual as the father. Second, he places θεος to the front of the clause which places extra emphasis on the Word. By doing that, John makes it clear by the increase in emphasis, that the absence of the article does NOT mean "lesser." Since the absence of the article does not mean "a lesser god," it leaves us with only one choice as to what is meant: The Word is not exactly the same individual as the "τον θεον" of the second clause, but every bit as much GOD as the "τον θεον" of the second clause. Thus, the absence of the article tells us that the θεος of the third clause is NOT the same individual as the τον θεον of the second clause. The position tells us that the absence of the article does NOT mean "lesser." By placing θεος in a position of emphasis, John is doing the equivalent of bolding it, underlining it, and adding an exclamation point: "The Word was God!"

Now we see why John included the article in the prepositional phrase "προς τον θεον." He was being very specific. The Word is WITH a SPECIFIC being called "The God" (τον θεον). In the next clause, John then lets us know that the Word was completely EQUAL with "The God" in divinity, but through the careful use of the articles John has clued us in that the Word is not the same individual as The God of the previous clause.

One of the objections raised to the divinity of Jesus is that λογος means “the mind, wisdom, intelligence, or plan of God” and nothing more. It is argued that λογος is not an individual but simply a way of describing the “mind” or “wisdom” of God (this was a common philosophy of the Gnostics). Thus, the λογος was not an individual, but simply the wisdom of God, not a “God” made flesh, but the wisdom of God or the mind of God made flesh. That means He did not exist prior to His birth (as God). Prior to his physical birth, this theory suggests that he was merely an idea, or a plan in the MIND of God and that IDEA became a man.

John's construction of this verse is so carefully crafted that it is often called the most concise theological statement ever made. In this one short verse, the Holy Spirit wrote through John a sentence that took me all of this time and space to explain. The Holy Spirit's deliberate use of grammar leaves us only ONE possible conclusion: Jesus is completely and totally God in every way that the Father is God, but Jesus is NOT the same individual as the Father.

If you would like to further investigate the arguments I have presented here, you can access the works of the renowned Dr. Jan Van der Watt on the Gospel long.

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  • +1 i agree. And yes, ο λογος in John 1:1 is a person (hence, the Word) because in the Bible θεος is personal.
    – Radz Brown
    Oct 23 '21 at 13:49
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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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