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Please help track the pronouns and antecedents in John 1:1-5.

In the Greek, do the “He” and the “him”’s that refer to the Logos in 1-4 definitively indicate personhood/agency, or could the antecedent possibly be an “it”? (Without reference to any greater context at the moment)

What is the gender of Logos, and what does it imply about the options for translating the pronouns?

John 1 NIV:

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.

1 ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος 2 οὗτος ἦν ἐν ἀρχῇ πρὸς τὸν θεόν 3 πάντα δι᾽ αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο καὶ χωρὶς αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο οὐδὲ ἕν ὃ γέγονεν 4 ἐν αὐτῷ ζωὴ ἦν καὶ ἡ ζωὴ ἦν τὸ φῶς τῶν ἀνθρώπων

οὗτος is a bit different as I learned in the links below. More like “that one”. We don’t need to discuss unless it impacts a question.

John 1:2 KJV

2 The same was in the beginning with God.

Lastly, the pronoun in 5 refers to the light, that was the life, that was in the Logos. αὐτὸ was again used there. If light φῶς is masculine, then technically a translation decision was made to use “it” rather than “him” for the light. And if light is feminine, then the translator made an error (I don’t suspect that; only say it to check my understanding). That thinking seem right? If yes, light is masculine right?

John 1:4-5 NIV

4 In him [Logos] was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

None of my questions were answered in any of these questions or their answers, but they helped me ask it better: The relationship between wisdom and light ; Who is, or are the correct referent(s) of the pronouns in John 1:3-4? ; Since the Word received life in John 1:3-4 per the UBS Greek text, can the prologue also support the Word was eternal?

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  • I changed the first line. The “but for a translation decision” was probably tough. And probably gets eyes glazing early in the reading. Apologies. But I think the rest makes sense.
    – Al Brown
    Aug 9, 2021 at 5:21
  • Logos ends in -os, hence it is masculine. The Greek -os corresponds to the Latin -us.
    – Lucian
    Aug 9, 2021 at 12:35
  • This seems to be same as all about 3 or more Qs on the pronoun of Spirit. The pronoun used in Grk does nothing to establish the personhood for Word or Spirit. Bec they use the Greek linguistic rules, unlike the Modern Eng versions which violated the English grammar by claiming that personhood requires masculine or fem, as opposed to neuter; when there was no such rule in all old versions that use neuter which/it for the Spirit despite the fact it is a Person. So ignore the misconception hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/55050/…
    – Michael16
    Aug 9, 2021 at 12:51
  • See my answer on the controversial pronoun for the spirit in English created by the modern English versions of the last century, which created the confusion. This was only because they could not find enough evidence for trinity that they even began to corrupt the English language to counter the Unitarians. hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/22785/…
    – Michael16
    Aug 9, 2021 at 12:56

2 Answers 2

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The Greek pronouns in John 1:1-5 are as follows:

  • V2: Οὗτος ἦν ἐν ἀρχῇ πρὸς τὸν Θεόν. // Οὗτος is demonstrative masculine singular (= "that man") and refers to Logos/Word
  • V3: πάντα δι’ αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο, καὶ χωρὶς αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο οὐδὲ ἕν ὃ γέγονεν. // αὐτοῦ is genitive masculine singular (= "his") and refers to Logos/Word
  • V4: ἐν αὐτῷ ζωὴ ἦν, καὶ ἡ ζωὴ ἦν τὸ φῶς τῶν ἀνθρώπων. // αὐτῷ is dative masculine singular (= "in/to him") and refers to Logos/Word
  • V5: καὶ τὸ φῶς ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ φαίνει, καὶ ἡ σκοτία αὐτὸ οὐ κατέλαβεν. // αὐτὸ is accusative neuter (= "it") and refers to "light" because it is neuter.

Thus, every pronoun in John 1:1-5 is masculine singular whose antecedent is Logos/Word which is masculine singular except for the last one which refer to the neuter "light". Whether Logos/Word is a person or not is irrelevant to the discussion above but is grammatically masculine singular.

The Greek for Logos is masculine, and light is neuter.

The pronoun must agree with the antecedent in gender and number. Greek has perfectly serviceable set of masc, fem, neuter (="it") pronouns. The context aside for a moment, we could have translated the he’s and him’s in v3 and v4 as “it” instead - in English, but not in Greek. For example if we thought Logos was an object (just hypothetically mind you; I’m not suggesting that interpretation can be supported). Similarly, the “it” αὐτὸ in v5 that refers to “light” φῶς, could have been translated as “him” in English if the meaning had motivated that.

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  • 1
    @AlBrown - in English perhaps, but not in Greek.
    – Dottard
    Aug 9, 2021 at 5:45
  • 1
    @AlBrown - look at Matt 2:13, "for Herod seeks the child [neuter] to destroy it [neuter]. Most versions translate the last pronoun "him" because that is required in English but the Greek requires "it".
    – Dottard
    Aug 9, 2021 at 5:51
  • 1
    @AlBrown - there is another example in Matt 12:11 - "it" has the antecedent "sheep" because it is neuter.
    – Dottard
    Aug 9, 2021 at 5:54
  • 2
    I do not see any support for Οὗτος = 'that man'. Just being masculine does not support a reference to humanity in the absence of anthropos / aner / arsen. 'That one' : yes.
    – Nigel J
    Aug 9, 2021 at 6:34
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    @Dottard In the context of the Person of Christ, where Deity and humanity require to be acknowledged but, betimes, separated, to say 'that One' is desirable, in my view. The KJV on many occasions adds 'man' (sometimes in italic and sometimes, against their own rules, not) where it is a definite intrusion, again - in my own view..
    – Nigel J
    Aug 9, 2021 at 7:03
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The pronouns in English cannot indicate agency and personhood. The description of the entity shows agency or personhood. The Holy Spirit was often translated as neuter 'it' in the traditional Bible versions, until the modern Bible translator's got insecure and threatened by the JWs and forced everyone to use a masculine pronoun for the spirit, when we all know that a spirit is neuter gender in English. Same way when referring to the spirit as dove, the neuter is used, but that doesn't mean the dove is not a person. Demons being personal are typically given neuter "it". So, it is good at least they use "it" for the light, and not forcing the twisted modern agenda that "it" may threaten their dogma.

There is no problem if you use "it" for the word, but since English has a loose ambiguous rule for the grammatical gender, it would be better to use the masculine for the word to maintain consistency. If we check the bible version comparison on biblegateway, we find that the Geneva Bible 1599 used "it" for the word .

John 1:2-4

2 This same was in the beginning with God.

3 All things were made by it, and without it was made nothing that was made.

4 In it was life, and that life was the light of men.

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