Many see John's Prologue arranged using a literary device1in which the first two verses are a single thought:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. This One was in the beginning with God. (John 1:1-2 DLNT)

ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος οὗτος ἦν ἐν ἀρχῇ πρὸς τὸν θεόν

There are four statements, three linked by a καὶ followed by a fourth without καὶ. Both καὶ's are translated as the connecting conjunction "and." When understood as such it seems like the meaning is unaffected if they were left out:

In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God. The Word was God. This One was in the beginning with God.

ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος οὗτος ἦν ἐν ἀρχῇ πρὸς τὸν θεόν

This lack of additional meaning suggests they were not intended to be connecting; rather the writer had some other purpose which would add to the meaning to the passage. For example, the BDAG states καὶ may be used to introduce a result that comes from what precedes and would be translated "and then" or "and so" or it may be used to explain what goes before it and would be translated as "that is" or "namely:"2

In the beginning was the Word, and then/and so the Word was with God, and then/and so the Word was God. This One was in the beginning with God.

In the beginning was the Word, that is/namely the Word was with God, that is/namely the Word was God. This One was in the beginning with God.

Is one of the other uses of καὶ a better understanding of the use in the beginning verses of John's Prologue?

1. Two literary structures of the Prologue (1:1-18) recognize vv. 1-2 is a single unit. Marie-Émile Boismard, Le Prologue de St John identified a chiastic structure; Marc François Lacan, Le Prologue de saint Jean, identified three movements made up of three tracks, or waves.
2. Fredrick William Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, The University Chicago Press, 2000, p. 495

  • @NigelJ I don't disagree but I do think that when verse 2 which does not have kai is included the unbelief cannot be supported. IOW whatever reasoning one uses in verse 1 must be continued with the next statement which is the conclusion. Also some of the "unbelief" interpretations (i.e. and then as a different time) have the literal affect of elevating the Word above "God" since "in the beginning was the Word (without God) and then the Word was with God... Mar 20, 2020 at 16:03
  • @ThomasPearne As the footnote states page 495 of the 3rd edition of BDAG. Apr 5, 2020 at 21:08
  • @RevelationLad, please see JB Lightfoot for a discussion of John's rather distinctive use of KAI by which some see evidence that the fourth gospel was written by an authentic Hebrew speaking Jew. bible-researcher.com/lightfoot.html And this: bible-researcher.com/hebraisms.html It is controversial stuff but may be helpful.
    – Ruminator
    Apr 20, 2020 at 23:40

1 Answer 1


The frequent use of καὶ appears to be a Hebraism equivalent to the waw prefixed to the word that starts a new clause.

2 וְהָאָ֗רֶץ הָיְתָ֥ה תֹ֨הוּ֙ וָבֹ֔הוּ וְחֹ֖שֶׁךְ עַל־פְּנֵ֣י תְהֹ֑ום וְר֣וּחַ אֱלֹהִ֔ים מְרַחֶ֖פֶת עַל־פְּנֵ֥י הַמָּֽיִם׃

3 וַיֹּ֥אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֖ים יְהִ֣י אֹ֑ור וַֽיְהִי־אֹֽור׃ (Gen. 1:2-3, MT)

But there can be little doubt that the extreme fondness for parataxis [ : the placing of clauses or phrases one after another without coordinating or subordinating connectives -- Merriam-Webster] in John’s Gospel, for instance, is partially due to the use of καί in the LXX for the Hebrew וְ which “means a hook and resembles a hook in shape.” It was certainly used to “hook” together all sorts of sentences. There is not the same unity in the older Greek in the matters united as is true of τέ. Καί “connects in a free and easy manner” and the he Hebrew וְ still more loosely. There are three main uses of καί which appear in the N. T. as in all Greek. The Adjunctive Use (‘Also’).... The Ascensive Use (‘Even’).... The Mere Connective (‘And’).... -- Robertson, A. T. (2006). A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research (p. 1180-1181). Logos Bible Software.

parataxis. Clauses or phrases linked together without subordinate relationships. Parataxis is a characteristic feature of Hebrew narrative, in which actions are linked with a simple “and” (Heb wāw). -- Patzia, A. G., & Petrotta, A. J. (2002). In Pocket dictionary of biblical studies (p. 90). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

2 ἡ δὲ γῆ ἦν ἀόρατος καὶ ἀκατασκεύαστος, καὶ σκότος ἐπάνω τῆς ἀβύσσου, καὶ πνεῦμα θεοῦ ἐπεφέρετο ἐπάνω τοῦ ὕδατος. 3 καὶ εἶπεν ὁ θεός Γενηθήτω φῶς. καὶ ἐγένετο φῶς. (Gen. 1:2–3, LXX)

  • +1, What do you think of the idea that καὶ was often used like a coma in English?
    – user35953
    May 1, 2021 at 17:01

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