Point of view: I am a Biblical Unitarian, but I'm open to the 'word' in John's prologue referring either to a person or an active power of God, or indeed, just God's word as reflected in the Torah, prophets, and or of course the Christ.
The Gospel of John, not including the prologue
In the Gospel of John, not including the prologue, 'word' or 'words' are used 36 times. 32 of these are singular (89%). All are 'the word(s)' (100%).
It is describing something obviously not related to Jesus or the Father (a crowd's words, for ex.) 8 times (22%).
In the remaining 28 cases, 28 (100%) of these cases are described as something distinct from Jesus. 8:55 is a good example of this.
"but I [Jesus] have known Him [the Father], and His word I keep"
The word is distinct from Jesus, but Jesus keeps it. It is never described as a person (again, excepting the prologue, where it is unclear).
- J John 2:22 ("when, then, he was raised out of the dead, his disciples remembered that he said this to them, and they believed the Writing, and the word that Jesus said.")
- 4:37 ("for in this the saying is the true one, that one is the sower and another the reaper.")
- 4:39 ("because of the word of the woman testifying")
- J 4:41 ("and many more did believe because of his [Jesus'] word")
- J 4:50 ("Jesus saith to him, 'Be going on; thy son doth live.' And the man believed the word that Jesus said to him, and was going on")
- J 5:24 ("He who is hearing my [Jesus'] word, and is believing Him who sent me [the Father], hath life age-during," cf. "in the word was life," 1:4)
- F 5:38 ("and His [the Father's] word ye have not remaining in you, because whom He sent [Jesus], him ye do not believe.")
- J 6:60 ("many, therefore, of his disciples having heard [from Jesus], said, 'This word is hard; who is able to hear it?'")
- J 7:36 ("what is this word that he [Jesus] said, Ye will seek me, and ye shall not find? and, Where I am, ye are not able to come?'")
- J 7:40 pl ("Many, therefore out of the multitude, having heard the word[s], said, 'This is truly the Prophet;'", YLT for some reason translates it as singular but it's plural in the Greek)
- J 8:31 ("Jesus, therefore, said unto the Jews who believed in him, 'If ye may remain in my word, truly my disciples ye are, and ye shall know the truth")
- J 8:37 ("'I have known that ye are seed of Abraham, but ye seek to kill me, because my [Jesus'] word hath no place in you")
- J 8:43 ("wherefore do ye not know my speech? because ye are not able to hear my [Jesus'] word.")
- J 8:51 ("If any one may keep my [Jesus'] word, death he may not see -- to the age.")
- J (crowd repeating) 8:52 ("Abraham did die, and the prophets, and thou dost say, If any one may keep my word, he shall not taste of death -- to the age!")
- J 8:55 ("but I [Jesus] have known Him [the Father], and His word I keep")
- J 10:19 pl ("Therefore, again, there came a division among the Jews, because of these [Jesus'] words")
- J 10:35 ("if them he did call gods unto whom the word of God came")
- 12:38 ("This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet")
- J 12:48 ("He who is rejecting me, and not receiving my sayings, hath one who is judging him, the word that I spake, that will judge him in the last day")
- J 14:23 ("'If any one may love me [Jesus], my word he will keep, and my Father will love him, and unto him we will come, and abode with him we will make")
- J, F 14:24 x2 pl x1 ("he who is not loving me, my words doth not keep; and the word that ye hear is not mine, but the Father's who sent me")
- J 15:3 ("already ye are clean, because of the word that I [Jesus] have spoken to you")
- J 15:20 x2 ("'Remember the word that I [Jesus] said to you, A servant is not greater than his lord; if me they did persecute, you also they will persecute; if my word they did keep, yours also they will keep'")
- 15:25 ("that the word may be fulfilled that was written in their law -- They hated me without a cause.")
- F 17:6 ("to me [Jesus] Thou [the Father] hast given them, and Thy [the Father's] word they have kept")
- F 17:14 ("I [Jesus] have given to them [the disciples] Thy [the Father's] word, and the world did hate them, because they are not of the world, as I am not of the world")
- F 17:17 ("sanctify them in Thy truth, Thy [the Father's] word is truth")
- 17:20 ("And not in regard to these alone do I [Jesus] ask, but also in regard to those who shall be believing, through their word, in me")
- J 18:9 ("that the word might be fulfilled that he [Jesus] said -- 'Those whom Thou hast given to me, I did not lose of them even one.'")
- J 18:32 ("that the word of Jesus might be fulfilled which he said, signifying by what death he was about to die")
- 19:8 ("When, therefore, Pilate heard this word, he was the more afraid")
- 19:13 pl ("Pilate, therefore, having heard this [these] word[s]")
- 21:23 [21:22 in YLT] ("This word, therefore, went forth to the brethren")
As can be seen from the above exhaustive list of usages outside of the prologue, 'the word' in John's Gospel is overwhelmingly the word of someone - in particular, Jesus (23, 64%) or the Father (5, 14%). It is never a title or identity of Jesus or the Father.
This can be contrasted with another term in the prologue that seems to be identified with Jesus more clearly, 'the light'.
7 He [John the Baptist] came as a witness to testify about the Light,
so that through him everyone might believe. 8 He himself [John the
Baptist] was not the Light [so the light is something like a man], but
he came to testify about the Light. 9 The true Light [Jesus] who gives
light to every man was coming into the world. 10 He was in the
Jesus explicitly claims the 'light' as a title or identifier 3 times in the rest of the Gospel of John, and there are multiple instances where it is arguable it is meant to be applied to him himself, beyond those 3 explicit identifiers.
- 3:19 x2
- 3:20 x2
- = 8:12 x2 ("'I [Jesus] am the light of the world; he who is following me shall not walk in the darkness, but he shall have the light of the life.'")
- = 9:5 ("While I am in the world, I [Jesus] am the light of the world.")
- 12:35 x2
- 12:36 x3
- = 12:46 ("I [Jesus] a light to the world have come, that every one who is believing in me -- in the darkness may not remain")
- 1:1 ("That which was from the beginning, that which we [the disciples] have heard, that which we have seen with our eyes, that which we did behold, and our hands did handle, concerning the word of the life.")
- 1:10 ("if we may say -- 'we have not sinned,' a liar we make Him [the Father], and His [the Father's] word is not in us.")
- 2:5 ("whoever may keep his [Jesus'] word, truly in him the love of God hath been perfected")
- 2:7 ("the old command is the word that ye heard from the beginning")
- 2:14 ("I did write to you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God in you doth remain, and ye have overcome the evil")
- 3:18 ("My little children, may we not love in word nor in tongue, but in work and in truth!")
- 5:7 [contested textual variant] ("because three are who are testifying [in the heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit, and these -- the three -- are one"])
1:1 is ambiguous - is 'the word of life' here a person, simply the word of God (as spoken by Jesus), an active power of God, or something else? The experiences recounted (heard, seen, handled) are concerning or about the word, so the phrase has some degree of ambiguity. The pronoun in 'that which was from the beginning', 'that', is neuter, but 'word' in ancient Greek is a masculine noun.
1:10 attributes the word as something of the Father. It is possible this could by referring to Jesus, but seems unlikely. 2:5 buttresses this, where the word now is something of Jesus'.
2:7 treats the word as equivalent to a command - this doesn't support the 'word' being thought of as a person.
The bracketed text in the 5:7 quotation above is almost univocally regarded to be a corruption amongst modern scholars. It is in the YLT, but in almost no modern translation (instead, 5:7 simply says "For there are three that testify" and continues with "Spirit, water, and blood" in the next verse). If it weren't a corruption, it would be evidence corroborating 'the word' as a person, but the likelihood of this seems low.
- 1:10 ("because of this, if I may come, I will cause him to remember his works that he doth, with evil words prating against us")
The standard belief amongst scholars is that the author of John's Gospel did not write Revelation, so any discussion of 'word' here as directly reflecting the author of the Gospel of John's usage of 'word' has a major asterisk.
The 'word' is attributed to God, and contrasted with the 'testimony' of Christ in Revelation repeatedly.
Revelation 19:13 includes a reference to a rider on a white horse, which seems to refer to Jesus, having the name of the 'the word of God'. This is perhaps the best evidence in the rest of the works considered that 'the word' in the Gospel of John's prologue is intended to refer to a person.
The Gospel of John's prologue
Having a sense of the scope and sweep of the author of John's usage of 'word', we can turn to the prologue, which is the centre of most of the debate.
Arguably, the prologue is poetic or has poetic elements, and that is important to keep in mind when looking at the sentence construction.
It is not clear in the prologue whether reference to the 'word' continues after 1:4. 1:10 picks up a masculine personal pronoun without an obvious, nearby referent. It seems there are two obvious interpretive possibilities. Either it refers 6 verses back to 'the word' (not mentioned between 1:4 and 1:10), or it refers to a new, implicit masculine noun (the man who is the light) that is introduced in 1:9.
This leads us to 1:14, 'ho logos sarx egeneto' - literally, 'the word flesh became'. 'Egeneto' is one of the vaguest Greek verbs, and so precisely what it is intended to mean here is up for debate. Compare usage of 'egeneto' at 2:9, where there is a similar sentence, 'to hydor oinon gegenemenon' - literally, 'the water wine having become'. This suggests a transformation of something from one to the other, but if that's our take, it has 2 unfortunate implications. The wine is no longer water (the flesh is no longer the word?), and the water ceases to be (the word ceases to be?). So whatever 'egeneto' is doing at 1:14, its meaning is not obvious. If the prologue is a poetic text, we probably should take this in a loose, poetic sense, whatever it might mean.
Similarly, there is a masculine pronoun at 1:14 ('glory of him/it') and at 1:15 ('John witnesses concerning him/it'). 1:15's pronoun could refer to 'the word', 'the word become flesh' as a distinct concept, or the 'uniquely begotten [monogenes] of the Father'.
'Witness' ('martyrei') is used by John regarding Jesus outside of the prologue. How is 'martyrei' or similar words used re John the Baptist's witness in John's Gospel?
- 1:7 x2 ("this one came for testimony, that he might testify about the Light [seems to be Jesus, see 1:8], that all might believe through him")
- 1:8 ("that one [John the Baptist] was not the Light [so the light is something like a man], but that he might testify about the Light [which turns out to be Jesus].)
- 1:15 ("John doth testify concerning him [Jesus]")
- 1:19 ("And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent out of Jerusalem priests and Levites, that they might question him, 'Who art thou?'" [then testifies he is not the Christ])
- 1:32 ("And John testified, saying -- 'I have seen the Spirit coming down, as a dove, out of heaven, and it remained on him [Jesus]")
- 1:34 ("and I [John the Baptist] have seen, and have testified, that this [Jesus] is the Son of God")
- 3:26 ("and they came unto John [the Baptist], and said to him, 'Rabbi, he who was with thee beyond the Jordan, to whom thou didst testify, lo, this one [Jesus] is baptizing, and all are coming unto him.'")
- 3:28 ("ye yourselves do testify to me [John the Baptist] that I said, I am not the Christ, but, that I am having been sent before him [Jesus]")
- 5:33 ([Jesus speaking] "You have sent to John, and he has testified to the truth." [context is all about Jesus' identity])
Contextually, we can see a strong link re John the Baptist's witness being about Jesus specifically. So the natural referent for 1:15's pronoun is Jesus. The only question remaining is whether it is intended to lock onto 'logos', an implicit noun which is 'logos sarx egeneto', or the 'only-begotten of the Father', or two or all three of these.
It is this grammatical development, at 1:10 and from 1:14 to 1:15 that seems to strongest argument for 'the word' being a person in John's prologue, but it is ambiguous.
Broader NT Context
There is no author in the rest of the NT who explicitly identifies Jesus or the Son as the 'word'. So, it occurs in none of Paul's letters or the letter to the Hebrews. It does not occur in any of the other Gospels. Jesus or the Son is not referred to as such in Acts. It does not occur in the letters attributed to Peter, James, or Jude. Therefore, the broader NT context is evidence against Jesus being identified as the 'word' in the prologue of John's Gospel.
The vast majority of John's usage of 'word' does not mean a person, while there is a small minority that is ambiguous. In his Gospel, it is usually talked about as something related to Jesus or the Father. There is an asymmetry between 'word' and 'light', where light is clearly identified with Jesus 3 times in the Gospel outside of the prologue. 1 John's usages where it might be meant to identify the word as a person are ambiguous, similar to the prologue's usage but without the grammatical considerations as in the prologue. The context outside of John's prologue argues against the referent of 'the word' in the prologue being a person, while the grammatical development at 1:10 and 1:14-15 argues for it. Overall, my best guess is that the author of John's prologue intended for 'word' to mean simply God's word, not a person.