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The text says that the Word is in the beginning at John 1:1 but God is not said to be in the beginning. Is there grammatical evidence that God was?

We also find that the Son is the beginning at Revelation 3:14.

The relationship between God and the Son with respect to “the beginning” is quite different.

Could this help us understand why the Word in "the beginning" but God is not? (John 1:1)

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    Is it because God had no beginning? – user35499 Jun 3 at 20:31
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    Why is John not repeating the (Greek) contents of Genesis 1:1 at the beginning of his Gospel ? Because it is the existence and importance Jesus of Nazareth, not that of God (whose existence and importance no one doubted or was unaware of), that needs to be introduced and preached to the world. – Lucian Jun 3 at 21:48
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    As the word (faculty) of a human being is inseparable from the inner man, which is a soul, the Word ((MEMERA (= “Ma’amar” or “DIbbur,” “Logos”) of God is inseparable from Himself who created all by/through the Word for John wrote the Word was with God (John 1:1). Genesis 1:1 and Hebrews 1:1-2 are parallel passages to John 1:1. – Tesfaye Wolde Jun 4 at 17:23
  • As one 12th c. exegesis says: "The "Beginning" or the "Principle" (ἀρχή) of the Logos is the Father, thus, the Logos was in the Principle, the Father eternally". – Levan Gigineishvili Jun 4 at 22:02
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    The same was - in the beginning - with God. If 'with God' in the beginning, then God was - in the beginning. – Nigel J Jun 4 at 22:30
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This site has lengthy discussions on what logos means in John 1:1, we can say by using logos John emphasized that God is more that the cause of creation. Although his thoughts are far superior to ours. God reasoned and planned creation. You can argue from Genesis 1 that God spoke creation into existence.

Perhaps what you struggle with is the way John used logos in John 1:1 compared the Genesis 1:1 implies Logos = God, which John explicitly states in the versus that follow although some try to argue otherwise. For those who argue that Jesus is not God, it is a huge question why John would use logos in John !:1:

Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος (NA27)

With the same starting phrase as Genesis 1:1:

בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית בָּרָ֣א אֱלֹהִ֑ים {BHS 1996)

Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἐποίησεν ὁ θεὸς (LXX)

We who believe Jesus is God have no question with why john used logos in John 1:1 and are waiting for how those who do not believe Jesus is God answer this question.

P.S. This is a response to your question after it has changed. Your question now seems confusing. If you think John 1:1 said God was not there at the beginning, how can you say that when including verse 2?

οὗτος ἦν ἐν ἀρχῇ πρὸς τὸν θεόν. (John 1:2, NA27)

If you believe that John's Gospel was inspired by God and still true to modern physics, then time is codependent on matter. There was no time before God created matter, and God created time when he created matter. Verse 3:

πάντα διʼ αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο, καὶ χωρὶς αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο οὐδὲ ἕν. (John 1:3, NA27)

indicates that Ἐν ἀρχῇ is the beginning of all created things (including matter). Thus, the beginning of time itself. God exists independent of time. Time is a creation.

The Greek preposition ἐν has a greater variety of meanings that the English preposition in. Perhaps, "At the beginning" would be a better translation for Ἐν ἀρχῇ. The idea of containment is in the phrase ἐν αὐτῷ ζωὴ ἦν in verse 4.

ἐν prep. with dat. in, on, at; near, by, before; among, within; by, with; into (= είς ); to, for (rarely); ἐν τῷ with inf. during, while, as; ἐν ὀνόματι ὅτι because (Mk 9:41)

Newman, B. M., Jr. (1993). A Concise Greek-English dictionary of the New Testament. (p. 59). Stuttgart, Germany: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft; United Bible Societies.

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  • the same reason logos is used 39 other places to express words like, saying, statement, message, news etc. There is no reasonable or biblical value to infer a personage to the 'word'. John's audience knew what he meant and they weren't thinking a pre-existing son. The person came when the 'word' was made flesh. – user48152 Jun 4 at 2:01
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    @user48152 Hebrews 13:8, Revelation 2:8 - in addition the expression "Son of Man" was not only Messianic, it was considered to be the perfect Heavenly Man. So the Word became flesh functions to show believers, the One who has already come is also the One who will come again and who was in the beginning. The agency of creation and redemption and recreation are one in the same. – Revelation Lad Jun 4 at 15:55
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Grammatical evidence for God being present in the beginning ?

This evidence is supplied by John the Apostle in verse 2.

ουτος ην εν αρχη προς τον θεον [TR undisputed]

The same was in the beginning with God. [KJV, 1769]

If 'with God' in the beginning, then God was - in the beginning.

Otherwise 'with God' is meaningless.

John deliberately adds this sentence to clarify, without ambiguity, the situation in verse one.

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    “If 'with God' in the beginning, then God was - in the beginning. Otherwise 'with God' is meaningless.” - Succinct, to the point. – Der Übermensch Jun 18 at 22:52
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First of all both at John 1:1 and at Genesis 1:1 the definite article has been supplied. In both cases it literally reads, "en arche" that is, "in beginning."

Greek Scholar A.T.Robertson quotes Westcott and he says, "There is no argument here (at John 1:1) to prove the existence of God any more than at Genesis 1:1. In other words, it is "assumed" that God exist.

https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rwp/john-1.html

Moreover, both John 1:1 and Genesis 1:1 start out with the same three words, "in the beginning." The main thought of Genesis 1:1 is on "WHAT HAPPENED" in the beginning, and at John 1:1 the main thought or emphasis is on WHO EXISTED "in the beginning."

You also said this, "Could this help us understand why the Word was|in "the beginning" but God is not? (John 1:1)" But this assumes the Word is not God.

The text clearly teaches that the Word/Logos was with God and is God. It could not be more clear. Now, you quoted Colossians 1:18 and the words, "in the beginning" in context is not referring to creation in the material realm. Jesus Christ also has the preeminence in the spiritual realm, that is the Church.

Why? Because He is the first-born from the dead. That is He conquered death in a permanent way by His resurrection. You also quoted Revelation 3:14. This verse does indeed have to do with the created realm. The Greek word for "Beginning" is "arche." We get our English word "architect" from the "arche."

So what is the function of an architect? He draws up the plans, he is the origin of anything that commences. Strong's Lexicon explains it quite nicely. https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G746&t=KJV

So "the God" is not qualitative, it is being used as a proper name just as "the Word" is. In other words, this passage is identifying "persons," or "who." So, "the Word" (proper name) is in very nature God (Supreme Divinity), bu "the Word" (proper name/person) is not "the God" (proper name/person) that He was with (that is clear from John 1.1b which creates a subject/object DISTINCTION between "the Word" and "the God," i.e, one is the subject and the other is the object of the verb).

In short, "the Word" was "already existing" in the beginning and He was "NOT" created.

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  • @ThomasPearne Well how come at John 1:2 John says, "This one/He/Logos/Word" was in it with God? And if He was not "in it/in the beginning" with God how do you explain John 1:3? What part of "all things" came into being by Him or through Him is excluded? And "apart" from Him or "without" Him NOTHING came into being that has come into being." Since nothing came into being without Him what are these so-called "other" things this "a god" created when your organization added the word "other" at Colossians 1:16 of your NWT of the Bible? Who's the one that needs dance lessons now Mr.Pearne? – Mr. Bond Jun 3 at 21:56
  • @ThomasPearne I have read your note before and in fact read the full paper which I believe was 30 pages? Just going from memory. Tell me, what sense does it make for you to quote others that you use to support what you believe when they are all Trinitarians? Or to be more specific, actually believe and teach Jesus Christ is God and not a created creature like Arius believed. In short, what do you hope to gain by continuing on this "contradictory" approach? – Mr. Bond Jun 3 at 23:58
  • @Mr.Bond The verse does not say if Jesus was or was not created. Please stop reading theology into the text. – Jesus Saves Jun 4 at 2:59
  • Which specific verse are you reffering to? – Mr. Bond Jun 4 at 3:13
  • Mr Saves' theology appears to include a kind of created creator. If i'm reading into his comment – Walter S Jun 4 at 23:43
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John is writing late in the Apostolic era. Peter and Paul have finished their work and writings and have been martyred. At this time the doctrine of the deity of Christ has been established. Matthew, Mark, and Luke reported Jesus as the preexisting (and returning), Son of Man. But unlike Philo's philosophy of the Original Adam, Jesus is the sinless Heavenly Man as God willed Him to be when Adam was created in His own image. Jesus is the Lord, through whom are all things and through whom we exist (1 Corinthians 8:6); therefore He must already have been related to all things at the beginning. In fact "Lord" effectively deifies Jesus and transfers all titles of honor for God Himself (except that of "Father") to Jesus.1

Paul has specifically wrote Christ is God (Romans 9:5, Titus 2:13-14); Peter has done likewise (2 Peter 1:1). Both have called Him "Savior," a title used most often for God in the Old Testament. As "Christ" He is the Messiah, the coming Savior (Isaiah 19:20). This Old Testament understanding of Christ follows what Jesus revealed to the Apostles after His Resurrection (cf Luke 24:27, 44-45).

While His deity is a tenet of the Church, three heresies are looming:

Therefore John writes not simply to affirm the deity of Jesus, but to refute the three heresies and affirm how he understands the simultaneous and equal deity of Jesus with God.

In the beginning... forms a permanent link from Genesis and the beginning of the Old Testament to the beginning of the Gospel:

Old Testament: In the beginning God created...
New Testament: In the beginning was the Word...

For John, the Old Testament serves as the basis to recognize the temporal preexistence of both the Word and God. They are both present in the beginning and so both are equal and yet at the same time they must be different. By putting the Word in the beginning without God, John alludes to Paul's "great God" who has a place of relative superiority since He gave Himself (in contrast with the Father who sent the Word).

The Gnostics and Marcionites are wrong: Jesus is not "a god" He was in the beginning before and with God. Of course, the Word became flesh... refutes the Docetics. Yet, John does not simply say Jesus was "a man." Rather, he emphasizes it was the Word (who was in the beginning) that became flesh. Moreover, John personalized the Word almost immediately (1:3) and before becoming flesh, He gave life and light (1:4-5).

However, these truths are united only in the saving work of Christ. That is, John does not understand the deity of Christ as an abstract concept or idea as does a Greek philosopher.

The New Testament neither is able nor intends to give information about how we are to conceive the being of God beyond the history of revelation, about whether it really is a being only in the philosophical sense. It intends rather to report the great event of God's revelation in Christ. The reticent allusions to something beyond revelation are made on the periphery of the New Testament witness and serve solely to point to the simultaneous distinction and unity of the Father and the Son, and thus to remind us that all Christology is Heilsgeschichte.2

Thus the proper understanding of what follows is the continuing work of the pre-existent Word:

All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made... (1:3)

Speaks first to creation, all things were made through Him... and then to redemption without not one thing was made (i.e. done). The Word is both the agent of creation and of salvation: there was not one thing done in the history of man to bring salvation which was not done through Him.

Thus "in the beginning was the Word" = "in the beginning was everything necessary to bring salvation to mankind." "Everything" being the "thought" and "purpose" and the "means" by which it would be accomplished.


  1. Oscar Cullmann, The Christology of the New Testament, translated by Shirley C. Guthrie and Charles A. M. Hall, The Westminster Press, revised edition 1963, p. 236-7
  2. Ibid., p. 327
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As a non-trinitarian (there are many of us), I have to come at this question with a non-trinitarian point of view and obviously give, at the very least, a somewhat believable, if not more than believable answer.

In John 1:1, we have the subject Jesus (the Word) and we have, believe it or not, God as the object within the sentence. We are told that... In (the) beginning was the Word... The second (non-imaginary) "the" is in the singular, masculine, nominative case, whereas the third (non-imaginary) "the" that comes before the first "Theos", with a capital "T", as this clearly refers to the "Almighty" himself, but is NOT the subject of the sentence, is in a singular, masculine, accusative case and therefore the object of the sentence. We are also told that... the Word was toward/with the "Almighty"... and the verb precedes the noun. Then we are told that the second "theos" (Oeog, as opposed to Oeov)...was the Word... and the verb comes after the noun (more on the positioning of the verb later). So we have two different applications of "Theos/theos", one preceded by the verb (was) and the other (was) succeeds the second "theos". The first "Theos" being the object of the sentence and the second "theos" being the subject. Consequently, we would seem to be talking about two separate divinities here, otherwise, the point of the two different applications would be lost to the absolute meaning. Most of us non-trinitarians are therefore of the opinion that the first "Theos" refers to "the God/the Almighty" and that the second "theos" refers to (a) god/Jesus, hence the reason for the second "theos" being without a capital "t", although the divinity of both should not be in question.

So, to get back to the question at hand: "Why is the Word in the beginning but God is not". Well the non-trinitarian answer to that is that God/Almighty has no beginning. JHVH means:- Proved to Be, or, Causes to Become... He caused Jesus to become (become the Only Begotten of God), the firstborn of all creation; and therefore have a beginning. Jesus means:- JHVH's salvation... and subsequently became the means for deliverance from sin and a short while later, the firstborn from the dead.

About the positioning of the verb (was). See the Appendix 2A, page 1139, of "The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures, which also talks about other translations using the indefinite (god), as opposed to the definite (God) for the second "theos".

ERNEST CADMAN COLWELL RULE: While Colwell's rule merely permits but does not demand that a predicate nominative ahead of an equative verb be translated as definite (God) rather than indefinite (god), it all depends on the context. If the latter part of John 1:1 were interpreted to mean "the" God, this would then contradict the preceding clause, which says that the Word was with God. It stands to reason, therefore, that the translation should be indefinite and more to the point "a" god, even though there was no indefinite article in Koine Greek language, but there was a definite article "the" and the second "theos" was not preceded by the definite article.

In Rev,3:14:- The Son, Jesus, is being referred to as... "the Amen (So be it, surely, truly, verily. Root meaning: A.man...be faithful, or trustworthy), who made singular use of the expression often.... the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of/by God"...God's first creation in other words.

There is NO DIFFERENCE in John 1:1 and Rev,3:14 as to the meaning of the beginning. The "Amen" and the "Word" are both referring to God's first creation, that of the Only Begotten spiritual Son of God, through whom all other things (other than himself) were made. God may well have been the "Architect" of all things but Jesus was his "Contractor". See Proverbs 8:22-31, (NWT of the HS), an uncorrupted translation of the Hebrew, if there ever was one.....

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  • @Nigel-You are right as far as there being only one article in Greek and it is definite. The indefinite article "a" is implied by the context, as E.C.Colwell explains. You obviously didn't check out the Appendix 2A, because if you had, you would have seen that there are many examples in John and even Mark, not just in the NWT, but also in the KJV, NIV, & RSV when the indefinite article is implied where singular anarthrous predicate nouns occurring before the verb are concerned, to denote the indefinite and qualitative status of the subject nouns. Conceptual artistry of the Greek, aside. – Olde English Jun 6 at 2:53
  • @Nigel-You seem to have it in for me for some reason. Is it because I flagged you last time?? You obviously still have not looked up Appendix 2A, in the KIT of the Greek Scriptures. I suggest you do that before you embarrass yourself further. I would quote the whole appendix here but it's way more than 500 words and it's great conceptual thinking and even though in English, brilliant in it's language, and the "one" article "the" that is pertinent in the Greek is by all intents and purposes DEFINITE. – Olde English Jun 6 at 4:17
  • @Nigel-KIT stands for " The Kingdom Interlinear Translation (of the Greek Scriptures), of which I have my own copy. This morning I tried to capture, Appendix 2A from the internet but wasn't successful, although I would think it to be possible. What I did come across however was extremely interesting:- Kingdom Interlinear's-Only True God.org - and I would highly recommend you visit and take in the site. As an addendum, I take your point about "Qualitative" not being the same as "Indefinite". It could be that John 1:1c "theos" was more to do with..one of a class of others, rather than essence.. – Olde English Jun 6 at 19:13
  • @Nigel-...following on: It is well known that the JW's believe that Jesus' pre-human form was that of the Archangel Michael. He will return after all with an Archangel's voice - 1 Thess, 4:16. In the OT, angels were considered "gods", the second "theos" may have been implying that "the Word" was one of a class of gods (other angels) and therefore "a god" and "Indefinite". It's a thought anyway. – Olde English Jun 6 at 19:28
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    @Mr. Bond-I note that you just picked up on the "additional thought". You should have been paying attention to the question at hand and my original answer. The NWT and it's Interlinear are only 2 of 5 bibles that I have. The first two are good non-trinitarian references, which help to combat dubious translations, particularly in the NASB. I could try and educate you on the question of gods and angels but I sense enmity here, which doesn't become a Christian. Your "Run don't walk to the nearest exit" remark is particularly galling. – Olde English Jun 6 at 22:16
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Notice that John 1:1 does not state,

In the beginning, the Word came into existence, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἐγένετο ὁ λόγος καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος

but rather,

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

Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος

Footnotes

        1 Blum, p. 393

The first ἦν of the three occurrences in v. 1 is not followed by a prepositional phrase with an object of the preposition (like the second: “was with God”) nor a predicate nominative (like the third: “was God”). Rather, the first ἦν is functioning alone as a substantive verb, expressing existence.2 (Ἐν ἀρχῇ is an adverbial prepositional phrase modifying the substantive verb ἦν.)

Footnotes

        2 Earle, p. 289: “...the substantive verb to be ... The ‘substantive verb’ is so called, not from any connection with the part of speech called a substantive; but for a distinct reason. It is the verb which expresses least of all verbs; for it expresses nothing but existence. ... The verb substantive, then, is the verb which, unlike all other verbs, confines itself to the assertion of existence, which in all other verbs is contained by implication.
        Hence, LSJ, p. 488, on εἰμί: A. as the Subst. Verb ... I. of persons, exist ... II. of the real world, be, opp. become

The Word was already existing in the beginning; the Word did not come into existence in the beginning.

Is there grammatical evidence that God was?

Although only the first ἦν is functioning as a substantive verb, the presence of ἦν as the primary verb in three adjacent independent clauses, all coupled by καί, indicates that the actions of each of the independent clauses are concurrent. Accordingly, if the pre-existent Word3 was with God, then God, too, must be pre-existent in order to be with the Word.

Footnotes

        3 Remember, the Word was already existing in the beginning (v. 1). Creation does not occur until v. 3, and in fact, everything (πάντα) came into existence by means of the Word, which logically requires the Word to not be one of the things that came into existence, i.e., a creature. For, something uncreated cannot create itself. The Word did not come into existence (i.e., ἐγένετο). Hence, the Word was pre-existent, i.e., the Word existed prior to the existing things (τὰ γιγνόμενα) coming into existence.


References

Blum, Edwin A. The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Gospels. Ed. Walvoord, John F.; Zuck, Roy B. Colorado Springs: Cook, 2018.

Earle, John. The Philology of the English Tongue. 4th ed. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1887.

Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; et al. A Greek-English Lexicon. 9th ed. with revised supplement. Oxford: Clarendon, 1996.

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  • Ubermensch - Point taken that ...in (the) beginning, the Word was (existing), BUT, at the beginning of "all time" there was only the uncreated Almighty. It is unfortunate that in Genesis 1:1 we are not told of the firstborn of all creation, i.e. the Word, but at least in John 1:1 his existence is preeminent. In V.3, his preeminence is made known when it talks about all (other) things "beginning" coming into being through him (apart from him). In John 1:1, the Word, already with God, (both) then, collude/conspire with regard to everything (else), with God in the architectural mode "only". – Olde English Jun 20 at 0:44
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Q. Why is the Word in the beginning but God is not? (John 1:1)

  • God cannot be contained in something that is created. (Cp. 1 Kings 8:27)

  • The beginning was created (Proverbs 8:22 Literal Hebrew and Greek)

  • Therefore God was not “in” the beginning (John 1:1). Anything “in” the created beginning was also created. (Cp. Gen. 1:1)

Objection: If God created in the beginning He was also in the beginning.

Answer: If we consider the "Big Bang" to be "the beginning" [a] of the physical universe and God created it, was God in the "Big Bang" or did he cause the Big Bang?

Note that the preposition is "in" and not "at" or "from." Danker below does not classify αρχή as a time period that starts at a particular time but as a point in time.

Anything enclosed "in" something created would make them created. Most also believe that God transcends "time" and is not bound by it, having no beginning to His existence.

Objection: εν can also mean "at."

Answer: BDAG does give a gloss for "at" [b] but not for John 1:1. The examples are locative as being "near the pool" or "at ones right hand."

These don't fit the context of John 1:1 and English bibles don't use the gloss at John 1:1. "At" and "in" are two completely different senses.


[a] Danker Concise Greek Lexicon

ἀρχή, ῆς, ἡ [ἄρχω; a multivalent term with basic signification of priority]—1. 'point of derivation or originating moment’, beginning, start Mt 19:4; 24:8; Mk 1:1; Lk 1:2; J 1:1; 2:11

[b] BDAG εν

c. within the range of, at, near (Soph., fgm. 37 [34 N.2] ἐν παντὶ λίθῳ=near every stone; Artem. 4, 24 p. 217, 19 ἐν Τύρῳ=near Tyre; Polyaenus 8, 24, 7 ἐν τῇ νησῖδι=near the island; Diog. L. 1, 34; 85; 97 τὰ ἐν ποσίν=what is before one’s feet; Jos., Vi. 227 ἐν Χαβωλώ) ἐν τῷ γαζοφυλακείῳ (q.v.) J 8:20. ἐν τῷ Σιλωάμ near the pool of Siloam Lk 13:4. καθίζειν ἐν τῇ δεξιᾷ τινος sit at someone’s right hand (cp. 1 Esdr 4:29) Eph 1:20; Hb 1:3; 8:1.

10.marker of a period of time, in, while, when

Note: Section 10 on time does not list "at" as a gloss at all.

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