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In John 1:2, what is the accurate translation of "οὗτος"?

John 1:2 (DRB):

The same was in the beginning with God.

John 1:2 (GNT):

  1. oὗτος ἦν ἐν ἀρχῇ πρὸς τὸν Θεόν.

I looked about 30 translations: Arabic and English translations. Translations were as follow:

  • هذا. هذا=this.
  • هو. هو=He.
  • This.
  • He.
  • The same.
  • The Word.
  • This one himself.

I don't understand "The same" translation.

For me, "This" doesn't equal "He", the meaning is different. "This" speaks about the event, while "He" speaks about the person, the Logos who had mentioned in John 1:1.

I admit and acknowledge that the Logos is a person, and He was with God at the beginning. I am not talking about this, I am talking about: is the speech in verse 2 about the event or about the person?

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As seen in the answer by Thomas Pearne, οὗτος is a demonstrative pronoun. It is most often translated as "this" when singular. Here is a clear example from John:

The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” (John 2:20 ESV)
εἶπαν οὖν οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι τεσσεράκοντα καὶ ἓξ ἔτεσιν οἰκοδομήθη ὁ ναὸς οὗτος καὶ σὺ ἐν τρισὶν ἡμέραις ἐγερεῖς αὐτόν [mGNT]

While few translations render as such, the literal text of John 1:2 should be "this" as in Wycliffe's:

οὗτος ἦν ἐν ἀρχῇ πρὸς τὸν θεόν
This was in the beginning at God. (WYC)

Because the pronoun refers to the noun "the Word" which is later identified as Jesus, some translators choose to reflect that when translating:

He was in the beginning with God. (ESV)

The Word4was with God in the beginning. (NET2)
4 tn Grk “He”; the referent (the Word) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

This One was in the beginning with God. (DLNT)

Some, like the ESV replace "this" with "He," which looks ahead to "Jesus." Yet "He" is not justified and is confusing at this point in the text as the pronoun is looking back to the previous verse and simply takes on the gender of the noun it is replaces. Here it means "the Word" which is masculine, not the Word who becomes flesh who is male. Also the etymology of οὗτος argues against "he" as οὗτος comes from the article and αὐτός, which is usually translated "him, his, or he." John's decision not to use αὐτός is another reason why "He" is not appropriate. John knows the identity of the Word, so the decision to use the pronoun which means "this" rather than the pronoun which means "He" indicates he wants the reader to understand "this."

Similarly, John's decision to replace "the Word" with the pronoun must be taken as intentional. That is, the NET translation which renders οὗτος as "the Word" is contrary to John's intention to focus attention on the pronoun. The Disciple's Literal New Testament adds One which is better than "He" or "the Word" but it highlights the essential issue in John's decision to replace the noun with a pronoun.

A case can be made that referent is any one of three of the uses of ὁ λόγος: enter image description here If the pronoun is meant to replace the closest noun, "this" is #3. But "this" is identified as being with τὸν θεόν which refers to #2. Finally, "this" which is in the beginning (ἐν ἀρχῇ) refers to #1. Effectively John has used οὗτος as a device which preserves the equality of the Word and God from the first verse while placing both the Word and God in the beginning to ensure the reader does not give the Word superiority to God (see below):

John 1:2. οὑτος ἦν ἐν ἀρχῇ πρὸς τὸν θεόν. Not a mere repetition of what has been said in John 1:1. There John has said that the Word was in the beginning and also that He was with God: here he indicates that these two characteristics existed contemporaneously. “He was in the beginning with God.” He wishes also to emphasise this in view of what he is about to tell. In the beginning He was with God, afterwards, in time, He came to be with man. His pristine condition must first be grasped, if the grace of what succeeds is to be understood.1

The use of οὗτος immediately draws the previous statement into the meaning, reinforcing the divine nature, not the later, "the Word became flesh," human nature (1:14).

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (ESV)

Most commentators see this is a threefold statement of the same state. In other words, just as Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow (Hebrews 13:8); "the Word" is the same as in the beginning. However, as this answer notes, "the word και (and) found at J 1:1 is said by Danker in his Concise Greek concordance to have the sense of “and so.”

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

This opens the possibility John is referring to three consecutive states which build on one another: enter image description here

If so, then the first state, unlike the second and third, lacks "God" implying the Word was before God. A reader would likely find support for understanding the Word was "in the beginning before God" in the first state since the second state uses the article to identify God and it is missing in the third, paralleling the LXX use in the Greek Genesis. Taken by itself the Word is superior to God, an understanding which is made impossible by the fourth statement using the pronoun οὗτος. Yet, while removing any implication of the superiority of the Word, οὗτος preserves the equality of the Word and God from the first three statements.

Conclusion
The best translation for οὗτος is "this" which supports all of the uses of ὁ λόγος and specifically places the Word and God together in the beginning:

ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος...οὗτος ἦν ἐν ἀρχῇ πρὸς τὸν θεόν
In the beginning was the Word...this was in the beginning with God.

Thus it provides what is missing before the first "and so" such that it (re)unites God, who was grammatically "missing" from the Word "in the beginning." It establishes a type of inclusio with the opening "In the beginning..." to show the Word while separate from God, was equal to God, including an eternal nature.


  1. Expositor's Greek Testament
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The following is what Greek Scholar A.T.Robertson says about John 1:2.

Verse 2

The same (ουτος — houtos). “This one,” the Logos of John 1:1, repeated for clarity, characteristic of John‘s style. He links together into one phrase two of the ideas already stated separately, “in the beginning he was with God,” “afterwards in time he came to be with man” (Marcus Dods). Thus John clearly states of the Logos Pre-existence before Incarnation, Personality, Deity.

The text is clear, "That one" or "This one" is one and the same person, Jesus Christ. Vs3, Says "Him". Vs4, Says "Him". Vs7, Says "He" and so on down the line.

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  • does "That one" or "This one" equal "the aforementioned Logos"?, i.e: The aforementioned Logos was in the beginning with God. Or: This one was in the beginning with God. – salah Jan 31 at 12:49
  • @Soldaenal. I would like to know why some of my thread my was deleted. I don't want to make the same "mistake" again in future post. – Mr. Bond Jan 31 at 14:05
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From Robert Funk's Greek Grammar:

DEMONSTRATIVES: Οὗτος, Ἐκεῖνος

  1. The demonstrative pronominal adjectives οὗτος (this, referring to something relatively nearer at hand) and ἐκεῖνος (that, referring to something relatively more remote) appear in both simple and complex nominal word clusters, and alone as a grammatical item in the sentence (like the pronouns). Their uses are so nearly identical that they may be conveniently considered together.

  2. The contrast between the demonstratives as pointers can be observed in the following two common clusters:

(1) ἐν τούτῳ τῷ αἰῶνι Mt 12:32 in this (present) age (2) ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ Mt 7:22 on that (last) day

Οὗτος generally points to something present, proximate, or under discussion, while ἐκεῖνος refers to persons absent or to the more remote, although the two demonstratives are not often contrasted in the same context.

726.1 Οὗτος may point to someone (or something) present:

(3) οὐχ οὗτός ἐστιν Ἰησοῦς ὁ ὑιὸς Ἰωσήφ; Jn 6:42 Is this man not Jesus the son of Joseph? (in the presence of Jesus)

726.2 To a subject just introduced:

(4) οὗτός ἐστιν ὑπὲρ οὗ ἐγὼ εἶπον ... Jn 1:30 This is (he) concerning whom I said ... (The subject was introduced in 1:29.)

For some reason, the author of John wants to re-emphasize that something he refers to as "hO LOGOS" (had been being (GRK imperfect) HN PROS TON THEON): at/towards/to God. He accomplishes this by the use of the demonstrative pronoun hOUTOS, which can refer to something just mentioned or something nearby.

This...this one...the same, would seem well able to fulfill the above mentioned function.

BTW, Funk's Grammar can be accessed online:http://www.ibiblio.org/bgreek/project/funk-grammar/pre-alpha/

Robertson's Grammar can be accessed at:

faculty.gordon.edu+Robertson-GreekGrammar

A Paradigm Shift

Something that may be helpful, is to consider that hO LOGOS may be a "something".

Heraclitus says:

οὐκ ἐμοῦ, ἀλλὰ τοῦ λόγου ἀκούσαντας ὁμολογεῖν σο­φόν ἐστιν ἓν πάντα εἶναί It is wise to listen, not to me but to The Logos, and to confess that all things are one.

Heraclitus, fr. 1 (p. 19)

Although this Logos is eternally valid, yet men are unable to understand it -- not only before hearing it, but even after they have heard it for the first time. That is to say, although all things come to pass in accordance with this Logos , men seem to be quite without any experience of it -- at least if they are judged in the light of such words and deeds as I am here setting forth.

John claims that GOD is what THE LOGOS IS"THEOS HN hO LOGOS" ; (among all the other things that God is...I would say) ...hence he writes: The Same had been and was being at/toward/to God.

hOUTOS...the demonstrative pronoun

In John 1:2, what is the accurate translation of "οὗτος"?

In view of all the above an accurate translation could be:

This, the Same.

The reason being that what has been being presented and spoken of in John 1:1 is something referred to as The Logos.

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  • thank you for your helpful answer, but I wish if you could clarify in your answer: is the speech about an event or about a person? – salah Jan 31 at 0:22
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    Neither, but rather a concept, an abstract principle if you will; much like Jesus is door...is truth...is bread etc. What might help is to re-read starting from A Paradigm Shift in my post. – Virgilsalvage Jan 31 at 0:47
  • Jesus is the personified Logos, the personified reason, So, whether Logos is an abstract principle or a person in verse 1 in both cases it is a person, you understand me?. On the other hand, the event is not a person, so, there is a difference between: This event was in the beginning towards God. And: this person (or principle) was in the beginning with God. – salah Jan 31 at 1:10
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Here is Danker's concise.

"This" brings out the focus on the subject better than "he" IMO. It would then be "this one" in English as it is the subject.

-- οὗτος, αὕτη, τοῦτο [etym. complex] demonstrative pron.—a. as noun, signifying a pers. or thing set forth in narrative that precedes its use or follows it and in various grammatical structures this, and freq. simply = he, she, it / they, these Mt 1:22; 3:3; 5:19; 26:12, 26, 28; Mk 1:27; 3:35; Lk 2:2; 11:29; 13:8; J 1:2, 19; 9:2; Ac 4:9; 8:10; 22:26; Ro 2:3; 7:10; 1 Cor 1:12; 7:12, 13; 2 Cor 1:12; Gal 3:2; Eph 3:8; Phil 2:5; Col 3:20; 1 Th 4:3; 2 Th 3:10; 1 Ti 1:9; 2 Ti 1:15; Tit 1:13; Phlm 18; Hb 8:3, 10; Js 1:23; 1 Pt 2:7; 2 Pt 1:17; 1 J 2:22; 2 J 6, 9; Jd 4; Rv 20:5, 14. W. focus on identity, οὗτός ἐστιν it’s he / he’s the one Mt 11:10; J 9:9; 1 J 5:6. With contemptuous nuance this fellow Mt 13:55f; Lk 7:39, 49; 15:30; 22:59; J 6:42, 52. Special phrases: τοῦτο μέν . . . τ. δέ sometimes . . . sometimes Hb 10:33; ϰαὶ τοῦτο and what’s more / especially Ro 13:11; Eph 2:8; 3 J 5; ϰαὶ ταῦτα although / and that Hb 11:12; τοῦτο δέ simply put / as the saying goes 2 Cor 9:6; ϰαὶ τοῦτον namely him 1 Cor 2:2; in glosses of a foreign word τοῦτ’ ἐστιν = that is / meaning Mt 27:46; Ac 1:19; or in explanation of narrative details that is, namely Mk 7:2; Ac 19:4; Ro 1:12; 10:6–8; Phlm 12; Hb 2:14; 1 Pt3:20.—b. as adj. this: before noun with its art. Mt 12:32; Mk 9:29; Lk 7:44; J 4:15; 12:34; Ac 1:11; Hb 7:1; Rv 19:9; cp. Ro 11:24; after noun w. its art. Mt 3:9; 7:28; 9:26; 24:34; Mk 12:16; 14:58; Lk 2:17; 11:31; J 2:19; 4:13; Ac 6:13f; Ro 15:28; 1 Cor 1:20 v.l.; 11:26a, b v.l.; Rv 2:24; w. noun without art. Lk 24:21; J 2:11; 4:54; οὗτος μὴν ἕϰτος ἐστὶν αὐτῇ she is in her sixth month Lk 1:36; αὕτη ἀπογραφὴ πρώτη ἐγένετο this census took place as a first one 2:2; τρίτον τοῦτο this is the third (time) 2 Cor 13:1.

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