6

What is the justification for English translations capitalizing “Word” in John 1:1?

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

New International Version In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

New Living Translation In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God.

English Standard Version In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Berean Study Bible In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Berean Literal Bible In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

New American Standard Bible In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

New King James Version In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

In early Greek MSS that we have, they were all written in capital letters. However, in English a proper noun is capitalised for a reason (i.e. to indicate that it is a name or a title). In my question, it relates to this understanding of English grammar. Does the Greek phrase ὁ λόγος , the subject of John 1:1, refer to a title or name of a person so that it is accurately translated into English as a proper noun?

  • 3
    You should note that the lack of a capital in Greek does not have any bearing on how English translations should capitalise - lowercase Greek letters didn't exist until many centuries after the gospels were written – Nacht Sep 30 at 5:41
  • @Nacht, thank you for the note. I edited my question to reflect that fact. – Radz Matthew C. Brown Sep 30 at 5:52
  • It appears you’re really asking why is the Greek a noun which is reflected in English as Capital letter. That would require understanding where John was inspired to use the word Word and it comes from the inspired OT text from the word the scribes referred to as the Word which is the et or the alephtav. It appears right in the beginning in Genesis 1:1 and John explains Genesis 1:1’s et in John 1:1. So the English doesn’t find its justification in the Greek as much as the English and the Greek gets its justification from the Hebrew OT. Hence I think this question should go to the source the OT. – Nihil Sine Deo Oct 13 at 11:17
5

"Word" (Logos) being capitalized by some versions is consistent with some versions capitalizing all of Jesus numerous titles. Here is a sample:

  • Word, Word of God, Word of Life, John 1:1, 14, 1 John 1:1, Rev 19:13
  • First and Last, Rev 1:17, 22:13. Compare Isa 41:4, 44:6, 48:12
  • Emanuel, Matt 1:22
  • Savior, 2 Tim 1:10, Totus 1:4, 2:13, 3:6. Compare Isa 43:3, 11, 45:17, 21
  • "I Am", John 8:58. Compare Ex 3:13-15; Deut 32:39, Isa 41:4, 43:10, 13, 25, 45:19, 46:4, 48:12, 51:12, 52:6 (LXX)
  • Shepherd, Heb 13:20, 1 Peter 2:25, 5:4, Rev 7:17. Compare Psalm 23:1; Eze 34:11ff
  • Lord of all, Acts 10:36, Rom 10:12, Col 1:15. Compare Deut 10:17, Josh 3:11, 13, Ps 97:5, Zech 4:14, 6:5, Mic 4:13.
  • Lord of lords, Rev 17:14, 19:16. Compare Deut 10:17, Ps 136:3, 26.

Most these titles, in the OT are titles of YHWH and are used in the NT of Jesus.

| improve this answer | |
5

O λογος (The Word) , the subject in John 1:1, is a title of person, specifically of someone who is God (θεος).

ὁ λόγος was one of the many titles of Jesus in the gospel of John. Jesus had the titles The Word, The Lamb, The Bread, The Light, The Door in the Johannine gospel (1:1, 1:14, 6:35, 8:12, 10:9). Neither word nor light nor door nor lamb nor bread is a person. Yet all of those were ascribed to Christ as titles. The evidence that λογος is a title in John 1 is that it is the subject (ο λογος) being described by a predicate noun θεος which means that the subject was being described as a person, specifically as a divine person. Majority of scholars agree with the Trinitarian interpretation that ὁ λόγος was one of the many titles of Jesus Christ/the Son of God.

On the GJohn, it’s clear that the text makes the Son/Logos the agent of creation of “all things/everything”. That puts the Son/Logos on the side of the line with God. At the same time, from 1:1 onward the text also distinguishes the Son/Logos from God “the Father”. This tension is the central factor that drove later christological debates. So, of course, the Son/Logos isn’t the Father. But there is no hint in GJohn that the Son/Logos is a creature. He’s just “there” with God. (From Larry Hurtado's comments in Even Higher Christology in the Gospel of John: Frey’s Edinburgh Essay, Larry Hurtado, May 24, 2019).

Only personal beings were described as θεὸς in the Bible. Thus, it makes sense that the Word was a who in John 1:1, having been described as 'God'.

The subject being described is always a personal being and never an impersonal thing for θεὸς semantically refers to a personal entity in the Bible. The word θεὸς in the predicative nominative case has a sentence construction of (subject + verb + θεὸς).

You are gods... (Psalm 82:6, John 10:35) 
You are my God... (Psalm 118:28)
...the Word was God (John 1:1)
...you make yourself God (John 10:33)
...he was a god (Acts 28:6) 

The Word was described as θεὸς (God). Thus, the Word was God (not flesh) in v 1 but then this same Word, who was already God in v.1, became flesh in v. 14. Ergo, John 1:1 speaks of Jesus Christ pre-existing as God and that John 1:14 speaks of the incarnation of Jesus Christ.

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    Yes. Agreed. Both question and answer up-voted +1. – Nigel J Sep 29 at 21:10
  • 1
    Cf. Rev. 19:13 "And he was clothed with a garment sprinkled with blood; and his name is called, The Word of God." – Sola Gratia Sep 30 at 21:36
  • With the 'person' construct, the logos was God. 'He' was also with God, which makes him NOT God. The NEB puts, ...what God was the word was. Not making 'him' God, but a full representation of in every sense - which is why Jesus - the word made flesh, is also the full representation of God without being God. Which he never said he was. – user48152 Oct 20 at 0:40
-5

Capitalising logos in John 1 has nothing to do with Jesus being called 'Word of God'.

1 John 1:1 does, but this is an personal experience of the author and peers - touching, seeing - this is not the beginning of creation, but the new beginning Jesus made possible. Note it is the life of the Father which the 'word' (which is now Jesus) manifests and has the appropriate title/role or name.

What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life — and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us.

Continuing, it has nothing to do with any of Jesus' titles granted him at various times after his arrival on the earth scene. When John 1:1 refers to the logos, Jesus wasn't born yet in John's account of events.

The logos becoming flesh was Jesus' grand entry - and is certainly NOT part of, 'in the beginning' concerning the creation of all things! That was the role of God through the/His logos - and Jesus being appointed the heir to. Heb 1:1-4

Seeing as the personhood (he, him) attributed to the logos is not clearly revealed at all, and due to the complete lack of any other reference to this abstract that John has delivered, there is no substance to making more of it than John intended. John is revealing what the logos is, not who.

The word logos is used many times without capitalisation - everywhere except the translators treatment of John. Excepting those few where we have the Word of Life or Word of God, Rev 19:13

Note Rev 1:2 '...who testified to the word of God' no capital there in any version.

(Is Jesus the word of God or not? They don't seem to have made up their minds)

Heb 4 :12 The word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword…

If anywhere, one would think this verse deserved capitalisation... (Youngs renders 'reckoning')

Now this is but one example of a complete abandonment of a capitalisation bias that has otherwise plagued the John verses - leading to doctrine based on ideas and guesses - not solid biblical evidence.

Logos is the Gr. for many English words as noted below;

Luke 7:17 And the news about Jesus spread…

John 6:60 This is a difficult statement

Phil 2:16 holding fast the word of life…

Matt 5:37 But let your statement be, 'Yes, yes…

1 Cor 2:4 my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words…

What is the justification for capitalising logos in John?

Nothing more than a biased appropriation of various parts of scripture to enhance a Jesus to be more than he is. Jesus is a man without sin, the son of God.

There is no clear expression of the logos being a ‘person’, and is never mentioned again- except in connection with Jesus. Jesus was sent to die, if the logos is now Jesus, this logos ‘who’ is God, cannot die. Some may be comfortable using philosophy, traditional logic and theological myth to reimagine the word of God to fit human constructs, but that’s not what we’re here for.

John does not say, ‘in the beginning was Jesus’. We must not conflate logos with Jesus unless the text indicates this for us, as in v14. Jesus, God, the apostles and prophecy all speak of Jesus as a man - why must we insist he is God?

| improve this answer | |
  • You said, "The Logos becoming flesh was Jesus' grand entry-and is certainly NOT part of, 'in the beginning'! If this is true then how do you reconcile this errant view of yours with John 1:2? "He/This one was in the beginning with God." Also, if Jesus was "certainly NOT part of "in the beginning" explain verse 3. "All things came into being by Him, and apart or without Him NOTHING has come into being that has come into being." So how can you say Jesus had no part of in the beginning? – Mr. Bond Oct 12 at 23:39
  • You are conflating the two terms. John DID NOT write 'in the beginning was Jesus' etc for good reason. If you choose to see that there that is for you to work through. John uses the term 'logos' for equally good reason. They are not the same in this reference of John 1:1-3 As you've noted, the Gr. does not require 'he' or 'him' either. all came into being through the logos - not Jesus - according to John anyway. This helps explain why Jesus was 'foreknown', was 'appointed heir' of all that God/Yahweh had made. – user48152 Oct 12 at 23:51
  • 3
    I think perhaps it is you who are conflating the two terms. Jesus is the incarnation of the Logos, the begotten Son of God. Jesus was not Logos' name prior to the incarnation (You shall call His name Jesus...). A claim that the Son did not exist prior to the incarnation disregards what John is saying. Logos did not cease to exist; Logos took on flesh and was called Jesus but Logos has always been the Son (that which God begat). – Mike Borden Oct 13 at 11:06
  • 1
    Clearly you think so, barely of shred of what you just said has any biblical basis. Esp. this, 'Logos has always been the Son'. What? Before logos became flesh (~4BC) there was no son suitable for the purposes God had in mind from the start. I don't know why they call this site BH, it's absurd the things that pass for truth! Tradition yes, truth about the nature of God, barely. – user48152 Oct 13 at 11:13
  • 1
    Excellent work. Taking a couple of 'odd' passages that either in this case are readily explained another way, the Jude one is clearly of dodgy origin - if you're relying on that as a 'proof text' it's a bit sad. Those that choose to not trust what Jesus said about himself as a man and his God - throughout the NT incl. in Rev. insist on making up whatever they want like 'begotten Gods', eternal sons, one substances, incarnations etc. Anyway, those who call out the traditional view can expect the usual suspects to get upset and defensive - ignoring plain revelation at their peril. Nice to chat. – user48152 Oct 14 at 6:22

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.