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In search of support for the translation of Θεὸς(theos) as "God" in John 1:1, I wanted to find a similar usage of theos - specifically at the beginning of a complete thought and without a preceding adjective, possessive or article - and came across Luke 20:38, in which Jesus describes the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

How theos is used in Luke 20:38 seems, in my Greek-untrained mind, to support its occurrence in John 1:1 as "God" rather than "a god." Throughout all the verses containing theos, only the two verses mentioned have theos without the definite article "the" before it. In Luke 20:38, there is seemingly no contention to the render of theos as "God" despite having no article, yet there is for theos in John 1:1, where some translations render "a god." The basis for such translation in John 1:1 I've seen so far is that (1) the immediate, surrounding instances of "God" - theon in Greek - are preceded by the definite article, and (2) the English indefinite article "a" can be added to a noun lacking an article and has been added in other parts of Scripture. In regards to point one, my focus is not on the usage of theon but on theos specifically (by the way, do nouns as direct objects right after a verb, like theon, require an article?). As for the second point, following its logic seems to point out that theos in Luke 20:38 should also be "a god," which doesn't make sense given the context of the previous verse. Consequently, Luke 20:38 might set a precedent that theos can't be translated to "a god" solely on the lack of an article.

Moreover, all the verses I've seen that have theos with the definite article is translated as "God," and supposedly with the exception of John 1:1, all the verses rendering theos as "god" - which are very few in number - also have theos with the definite article, in which the translation to "god" is so because of immediate context and/or similar phrasing in another part of Scripture.

Based on what I've gathered, translating theos into "god" seems to require a contextual basis, and perhaps Luke 20:38 lends itself to this; and without such basis, theos just refers to "God" as it was understood prior to the New Testament as the supreme being who owns and sustains all things. With that in mind, Luke 20:38 has a more complex word structure in Greek than I could ever hope to make heads or tails of, and the observations I've made certainly lack complete knowledge of the grammatical workings of Greek. If anyone versed in Greek can go in-depth and provide an answer to the question in the title, I would very much appreciate it.

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  • Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics! and thank you for your contribution. When you get a chance, please take the tour to understand how the site works and how it is different than others. I also recommend going through the Help Center's sections on both asking and answering questions.
    – agarza
    Commented Apr 18 at 13:44
  • @Jason_ thank you for your comment. It helped me realize my point wasn't as clear and specific as thought it'd be. Please take a look at the two paragraphs in between the previous two for added clarity Commented Apr 18 at 15:55
  • @another-prodigal Great question!
    – Jason_
    Commented Apr 18 at 16:42
  • Unlike English, Greek does not use word order to distinguish between the subject and the object in a sentence. Here's a segment covering John 1:1 and why there's no article before theos. youtu.be/LFGKX4oJleg?t=369 and here's a longer introduction covering the Greek in John 1:1: youtu.be/qIp6GGcxZg0?t=108
    – Dieter
    Commented Apr 18 at 23:45

6 Answers 6

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The short answer is "NO". The reasons for this are:

  1. Luke 20:38 does not mention the Word/Logos (the word used in John 1:1)
  2. The two passages in John 1:1 and Luke 20:38 are discussing quite different subjects. Specifically, Luke 20:38 is not specifically discussing Jesus as the Word.
  3. Lule 20:38 is discussing the resurrection of the dead; while John 1:1 is discussing the nature of God and Jesus. So, again, they talking about quite different matters.

Having said all of that, one could conceivably draw and very long bow-connection between the two by showing the Jesus is the source of life and thus the one who raise people from the dead and so is God. However, this so indirect, it makes a weak argument.

If one seeks support for the translation of John 1:1 as "... the Word was God", then it must be done on the basis of the grammar alone. There are several questions about this very question on this site such as:

What are possible historical interpretations of John 1:1?

What does John mean by "The Word was θεός" at John 1:1?

There are several more - just search for them. However, let me add some material in the common literature on this subject.

The following quote is taken from an article by the esteemed NT linguist and editor, Bruce Metzger found here >> http://www.bible-researcher.com/metzger.jw.html

Some years ago Dr. Ernest Cadman Colwell of the University of Chicago pointed out in a study of the Greek definite article that, “A definite predicate nominative has the article when it follows the verb; it does not have the article when it precedes the verb. … The opening verse of John’s Gospel contains one of the many passages where this rule suggests the translation of a predicate as a definite noun. The absence of the article [before θεος] does not make the predicate indefinite or qualitative when it precedes the verb; it is indefinite in this position only when the context demands it. The context makes no such demand in the Gospel of John, for this statement cannot be regarded as strange in the prologue of the gospel which reaches its climax in the confession of Thomas [John 20:28, ‘My Lord and my God’].”

In a lengthy Appendix in the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ translation, which was added to support the mistranslation of John 1:1, there are quoted thirty-five other passages in John where the predicate noun has the definite article in Greek. 20 These are intended to prove that the absence of the article in John 1:1 requires that θεος must be translated “a god.” None of the thirty-five instances is parallel, however, for in every case the predicate noun stands after the verb, and so, according to Colwell’s rule, properly has the article. So far, therefore, from being evidence against the usual translation of John 1:1, these instances add confirmation to the full enunciation of the rule of the Greek definite article.

Concerning John 1:1c, Daniel B Wallace, in his Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, page 269, says this:

The most likely candidate for Θεὸς is qualitative. This is true both grammatically (for the largest proportion of pre-verbal anarthrous predicate nominatives fall into this category) and theologically (both the theology of the Fourth Gospel and the NT as a whole). There is a balance between the Word's deity, which was already present in the beginning (Ἐν ἀρχῇ ... Θεὸς ἦν [1:1], and his humanity, which was added later (σὰρξ ἐγένετο [1:14]). The grammatical structure of these two statements mirrors each other; both emphasize the nature of the Word, rather than his identity. But Θεὸς was his nature from eternity (hence εἰμί is used), while σὰρξ was added at the incarnation (hence γίνομαι is used.)

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    Sorry, my question is more grammatical in nature than I had initially made it out to be. Thanks for the feedback! I do agree with those three points and that long-bow connection being a weak argument, and I'll definitely look into what you've referenced Commented Apr 18 at 16:42
  • How does the presence or absence of a word such as logos determine the grammar of a statement? Commented Apr 18 at 20:22
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Question: Can usage of Θεὸς in Luke 20:38 support the translation of Θεὸς as "God" and not "a god" in John 1:1?

Short Answer: In one sense it can as they both lack the indefinite article. That being said, we can't fully make that case just based on this. However, to know why, we need to understand the grammatical structure of John 1:1.

Let's go into detail of the grammar of the relevant part.

enter image description here

The usage of the Greek article is what determines whether or not John 1:1 states, "in the beginning was the word the word was with God and the word was ('a god' or 'was God')."

In English we have two articles.

  • the = definite article
  • a/an = indefinite article

We have the definite article "the" and we have the indefinite article "a/an". So, an example would be, "the man" versus "a man".

Greek actually has three ways of regarding nouns.

It makes little difference whether or not the article is present in Greek. There are three possible understandings in the Greek language, regardless of whether the article is present or not.

The article's purpose in Greek is to point to something for a reason. It has more of a grammatical function.

  1. If an article appears, most of the time it indicates that one of the words is either definite ('the man' or 'the prayer') or indefinite ('a man' or 'a prayer'). Therefore, it can be both definitive and it can be indefinite with the article.

  2. However, it can also be definite without the article and it can be indefinite without the article. Or qualitative for that matter.

enter image description here

Sometimes the term can be definite even when the article is missing. Take the opening sentence, "In the beginning was the Word." By definition, there can only be one "beginning". Therefore, "beginning" is definite by definition. For this reason, even though there is no article, it is translated as "the beginning."

  1. Greek also frequently employs nouns in qualitative ways. In other words, a noun can be used to attribute a particular quality to another.

If this is the case, then why is John 1:1 translated regularly as "and the word was God" as opposed to "the God" or "a God"?

  1. John was a Jewish monotheist. Given his belief in the existence of a single God, the concept of "a god" would be absurd. Given that calling something "a god" presupposes the existence of multiple gods, it seems improbable that he will say that, as it contradicts his belief.

  2. The phrase "the word was god" is a predicate nominative construction.

Sentences in English are normally structured as follows: subject, verb, and object. In other words, "the cat" (subject) chased (verb) "the mouse" (object). We follow that order pretty closely. That is not how Greek works; word endings determine translation, and word order might change. The phrase "the word was god" is a predicate nominative construction.

"Theos" (God) and "ho logos" (the Word) are the two nominatives found in this passage. In Greek, the subject is normally expressed in the nominative, but in this case, there are two. Thus, the question that has to be asked is: How can we determine which one is the predicate (being equated to the subject) and which one is the subject? That's the article's contribution.

It is customary Greek practice to employ the article before the subject and omit it from the predicate when dealing with a predicate nominative. This is precisely what's happening here: "ho logos" (the Word) was "theos" (God). The absence of an article before "theos" has no bearing on John's intended meaning for us or the fact that it's indefinite. The entire purpose of leaving the article off before "theos" is to make us understand that "logos" is the subject and not "theos."

  1. Typically, when a noun is to be understood as qualitative it will not have the article prior to it. (It can occasionally)

This anatherus noun is frequently employed in this qualitative sense. He is not arguing that God was the word and the word was God, and that there is no distinction between logos and theos, rather, by keeping the article off theos, we are permitted to maintain that there is a distinction between logos and theos. In order to make it clear to us that the word possesses the quality of the God described in Genesis 1:1, he is leaving the article off.

Let's look at the relevant part of Luke 20:38:

enter image description here

"Θεὸς δὲ οὐκ ἔστιν νεκρῶν ἀλλὰ ζώντων·"

  • "Θεὸς" (Theos) is the subject of the sentence, meaning "God."
  • "δὲ" (de) is a conjunction meaning "but" or "on the other hand."
  • "οὐκ" (ouk) is an adverb meaning "not."
  • "ἔστιν" (estin) comes from eimi which is the basic Greek verb which expresses being, i.e. "to be". It's in the third person singular present indicative active form, meaning "is."
  • "νεκρῶν" (nekron) is the genitive masculine plural form of "νεκρός" (nekros), meaning "of the dead."
  • "ἀλλὰ" (alla) is a conjunction meaning "but", "except" or "however."
  • "ζώντων" (zontōn), meaning "of the living", is the genitive plural present participle of "ζάω" (zao).

So, the grammatical structure of Luke 20:38 is a relatively simple subject-verb sentence with additional phrases modifying the subject "God" to clarify that He is not the God of the dead but of the living.

Now to the question, why can't this be used to support John 1:1?

In Luke 20:38, "Θεὸς" (Theos) is clearly the subject of the sentence, and the sentence is straightforward in its meaning: God is not of the dead but of the living.

In John 1:1, the structure is quite different:

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

In John 1:1, the emphasis is on the relationship between "ὁ λόγος" (the Word) and "θεόν" (God).

Therefore, while Luke 20:38 asserts an identity attributed to God, John 1:1 explores the nature and relationship of the Word, with God, using a different grammatical structure.

References
Burling, Dr. Darryl. “John 1:1 How the Greek Text Argues That Jesus Is God (and Why It Doesn’t Mean “Jesus Is a God”).” www.youtube.com, 22 Dec. 2021, www.youtube.com/watch?v=LFGKX4oJleg Accessed 19 Apr. 2024.
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  • What about the grammatical structure of Luke 20:38? Commented Apr 19 at 2:38
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    @another-prodigal If you'd like I can touch on it a bit. However, John 1:1 is really a unique case which is why there is so much controversy surrounding it.
    – Jason_
    Commented Apr 19 at 2:53
  • yes that would be great Commented Apr 19 at 3:10
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    @AlexBalilo Trick question. I believe in one true God. I quote: "There is but one God, according to Jewish religious dogma. No other exists." Allow me to quote another answer: "The Bible is clear that all other gods are false idols that only the misguided believed in, however many Jews fell into that category. So the answer is both. The Jews who worshipped idols believed in them, and the prophets of the Tanakh rebuked them for this erroneous belief."
    – Jason_
    Commented Apr 19 at 9:57
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    Damn! Just lost my comment to you here because I didn't save while I checked something else out. Have to try and recreate. Ok! this is a noteworthy answer for sure, it even is on similar lines to my 2020 answers, on the opening gambit to John's prologue, one of which is given as a link under NR's answer here. Consequently you now have my vote. We, of course have already, very recently in fact, debated with regard to the link, now given immediately above, to Alex. Commented Apr 24 at 15:37
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Absolutely. Luke 20:38 demonstrates John 1:1c does not mean "a god."

First, the difference between God and a god is more than an indefinite article, because God does not mean god. The distinction modern translations make by capitalization was unknown at the time and probably for the next 1,000 or more years. The proper translation of the "a god" hypothesis is:

In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with τὸν θεόν and the Word was "a" θεὸς

The original audience cannot capitalize. The article is what distinguishes between θεόν and θεὸς. It would destroy the meaning to omit the article as in our English translations. So the original audience would preserve the article.

The question for the reader is whether the nominative θεὸς is also to be understood as the accusative τὸν θεόν. As can be seen by the many questions and answers an argument can be made both for "God" and "a god." On the whole, the stronger case is for the Word was God. Nevertheless, the Word was a god is possible. However, for the original audience, lacking both an indefinite article and the ability to capitalize, if either meaning is possible, then the original writer knows the reader may, as many Greek scholars do, come away with the understanding θεὸς is intended to be understood as τὸν θεόν.

From the standpoint of composition the original writer knows it is possible the reader might understand the purpose of the first sentence in the Gospel was to declare the divinity of the Word. Therefore, if that is not the meaning the writer intends the proper composition would be like that of Luke 20:38.

Luke 20:38a (ESV)

Now he is not God of the dead...
θεὸς δὲ οὐκ ἔστιν νεκρῶν

This is how one says the equivalent of the Word is "a" god:

...the Word was not God or ...now the Word was not God
...θεὸς οὐκ ἦν ὁ λόγος or ...θεὸς δὲ οὐκ ἦν ὁ λόγος

No writer who believed θεὸς δὲ οὐκ ἦν ὁ λόγος would compose θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος.

Therefore, the Gospel begins with a statement intended to tell the reader the Word was God. This is reinforced when the same writer presents many statements saying it implying equality with the Father before ending with Thomas's declaration My Lord and my God.

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    +1, very good logical reasoning. I too stated somewhere that if Moses were a strict unitarian, "Elohim" instead of El or Eloah hardly would be used to denote the true God! Commented Apr 20 at 12:55
  • I agree. Well put.
    – Jason_
    Commented Apr 21 at 3:10
  • "equivalent of the Word is "a" god [is]: ...the Word was not God" - Is this the only equivalent of that phrase? "No writer who believed θεὸς δὲ οὐκ ἦν ὁ λόγος would compose θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος" -This seems pretty compelling. Moreover, if the writer did intend to say that the Word was divine, wouldn't there be a clearer way to compose such intent - i.e. by using the actual Greek adjective for divine - than to use a composition that could be the center of controversy in theology like the current composition? Commented Apr 23 at 22:59
  • @another-prodigal Yes. I would argue the only reason to compose the statement is to demonstrate the Word was God. If John believed otherwise he had 2 options: 1. Say nothing. 2. Say the Word was not God. The idea John intended to communicate “a god” as we understand “a god” is preposterous when you consider this passage in Luke. Since “a god” is not God, the only acceptable way to say that is the Word was not God. Commented Apr 24 at 1:13
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I think the OP is trying to make a comparison between John 1:1c and Luke 20:38 to answer the Unitarian position which states that the word “Theos” in John 1:1c acts as an “adjective” since it, as the predicate, comes before the nominative “Logos”.

John 1:1c: “God was the Word”.

The proper syntax in English would be: “The Word was God”, where “The Word” is the subject and “was God” is the predicate. But in Greek, the predicate “was God” is placed before the subject as “God was the Word”.

One of the Unitarian positions is that the predicate before the subject proves (?) that the word “god” acts as an adjective and hence the proper translation should be: “the Word was divine”.

Luke 20:38: “God but is not of the dead but of the living”.

If I am not wrong, the OP may be trying to prove that the same syntax is found in Luke 20:38 as shown above.

But, Luke 20:38 is not similar to John 1:1c in word structure. Here, though the Greek starts with (anarthrous) “Theos”, it is not part of the predicate. “God” is the subject of that sentence.

However, since the “Theos” here is anarthrous, we can translate it as follows:

“But a god is not of the dead but of the living”. Here, the only God the Father is “a god” with a small “g”.

Let the Greek experts make further explanations.

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  • I'm not making the case from a Unitarian position, but part of the question does come from noticing similar syntax - at least in the beginning of the two complete thoughts that you quoted Commented Apr 18 at 18:45
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    I know that you're not making the case from a Unitarian position. I said, "the OP is trying to ....... answer the Unitarian position ......". Commented Apr 19 at 1:42
  • V. 38 follows closely on the heels of v. 37, is tied to it even, and 37 is clearly talking about the Almighty Himself. V. 38's "Theos" then, is also in reference to the Almighty Himself and should be "God" with a capital G. An anarthrous "Theos" here is consequently of little relevance, unimportant in fact and should not IMO be heeded. I may have something more to say here, but right now I have an appointment that I need to keep. Commented Apr 23 at 21:00
  • @OldeEnglish apparently, adding "a" in front of anarthrous nouns in other parts of Scripture holds significant weight in translations favoring "the Word was a god" Commented Apr 23 at 23:23
  • @another-prodigal - Don't get me wrong, I am a fan of a god in John 1:1c, but in Luke 20:38 it should be God. There is neither an implied definite article to be had here in Luke, nor is there an implication to be had to the indefinite article. The previous verse in Luke takes all preference. If you really want to see where I myself am coming from, all you need do is check out my answer to the following: hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/47593/… Commented Apr 24 at 5:25
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Examining Luke 20:38, we find in the context, Luke 20:37, that Jesus talked about the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Notice that Jesus did not claim that he is the God of the aforementioned patriarchs. Acts 3:13 further repudiates the idea that Jesus is the God of the disciples' forefathers and the patriarchs.

Luke 20:37 ASV

But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the place concerning the Bush, when he calleth the Lord, the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob

Acts 3:13 ASV

The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Servant Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied before the face of Pilate, when he had determined to release him

Granting that the Word in John 1:1 is God, then there are two Gods in John 1:1. There is no support in the bible that this God called the "Word" was offered and received sacred service as the Almighty God from the beginning. Who is the God that the "Word" was with? Most people only identify the word" but never identify the God he was with, thus making the analysis incomplete. If only the "Word" is identified and then assumed that this "Word" was and is God, then the analysis clearly is incomplete, and a conclusion based on an incomplete analysis may not be truthful.

This part of my answer was taken mostly from https://examiningthetrinity.blogspot.com/2009/09/definite-john-11c.html

If "according to rules of Greek grammar", John 1:1" could also be translated "The Word was (the)God." even if this is true, this would make the "Word" the "God" he is said to be with, and hence, this translation understanding of theos as definite, as "the God," teaches Sabbellianism- that the Word was God the Father! Careful examination is needed to distinguish the being of the Father (ho theos) from that of the Word, and must also be done in our translations of this passage.

Is the translation of "the Word was a god," grammatically impossible? as William Barclay once alleged?

"Grammatically impossible," so said Dr. William Barclay of the University of Glasgow, Scotland: "The deliberate distortion of truth by this sect is seen in their New testament translations. John 1:1 is translated: '...the Word was a god, ' a translation which is grammatically impossible...It is abundantly clear that a sect which can translate the New Testament like that is intellectually dishonest."-An Ancient heresy in Modern Dress, Expository Times, 65, Oct.1957

But observe how William Barclay was again quoted, this time for saying the opposite when he wrote: "You could translate [John 1:1c], so far as the Greek goes: `the Word was a God'; but it seems obvious that this is so much against the whole of the rest of the New Testament that it is wrong." - p. 205, Ever yours, edited by C. L. Rawlins, Labarum Publ., 1985.

There are some who think John 1:1 may be literally translated as"the word is a god", consider,

Robert H. Gundry of Westmont College, Ca, USA :

"As to the translation of John 1:1,"and the Word was a god" is grammatically possible but not grammatically favoured."

D.Moody Smith Jr, George Washington Ivey Professor of N.T. wrote us:

"As to John 1:1 the translation "a god" is possible, but in the context* clearly not what is intended. "Divine" is better, but John clearly wants to say Jesus was theos°..."

W. E. Vine admits that the literal translation of John 1:1c is: "a god was the Word". - p. 490, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1983 printing.

Dr. C. H. Dodd (director of the New English Bible project); A possible translation [for John 1:1c] ... would be, `The Word was a god.' As a word-for-word translation it cannot be faulted." - Technical Papers for the Bible Translator, vol. 28, Jan. 1977.

Reverend J.W. Wenham wrote in his The Elements of New Testament Greek: “Therefore as far as grammar alone is concerned, such a sentence could be printed: θεὸς ἐστιν ὁ λόγος, which would mean either, ‘The Word is a god’, or, 'The Word is the god’.” - p. 35, Cambridge University Press, 1965.

Professor Murray J. Harris also admits that grammatically John 1:1c may be properly translated, ‘the Word was a god,’ but his trinitarian bias makes him claim that “John’s monotheism” will not allow such an interpretation. - p. 60, Jesus as God, Baker Book House, 1992.

Dr. Robert Young admits that a more literal translation of John 1:1c is "and a God [2] (i.e. a Divine Being) was the Word" - p. 54, (`New Covenant' section), Young's Concise Critical Bible Commentary, Baker Book House, 1977 printing.

John J. Mckenzie, S.J.,writes in his Dictionary of the Bible: "Jn 1:1 should rigorously be translated `the word was with the God (equals the Father), and the word was a divine being.'" - p. 317, Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1965, published with Catholic Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur.

Prof. Jason Beduhn, “Grammatically, John 1:1 is not a difficult verse to translate. It follows familiar, ordinary structures of Greek expression. A lexical (‘interlinear’) translation of the controversial clause would read: ‘And a god was the Word.’ A minimal literal (‘formal equivalence’) translation would rearrange the word order to match proper English expression: ‘And the Word was a god.’ The preponderance of evidence, from Greek grammar, from literary context, and from cultural environment, supports this translation….” - p. 132, Truth in Translation, University Press of America, 2003.

In bible times many of God's servants had no qualms about using the word "god" or "gods" for godly men, kings, judges, and even angels.

Dr. Robert Young tells us in the preface to Young's Analytical Concordance in the section entitled "Hints and Helps to Bible Interpretation":

"65. God—is used of any one (professedly) MIGHTY, whether truly so or not, and is applied not only to the true God, but to false gods, Magistrates, judges, angels, prophets, etc., e.g. Ex. 7:1; ... John 1:1; 10:33, 34, 35; 20:28 ...." - Eerdmans Publ., 1978

If the honest interpretation of John 1:1c is to mean that "the Word was the true God" then these scholars would have translated it as such. Obviously, it would not be the honest choice to say that the "Word" is the true God or that the Word is equal to the God that it was with. Thus, Dr. Young also specifically tells us that John 1:1 is literally "and a God (i.e. a Divine Being) was the Word." p. 54, Young's Concise Critical Bible Commentary.

The implication of the "Word was God" in John 1:1 is that the verse is being used to place the teaching of a multi-person God that is not present in the bible.

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  • No one denies that John 1:1c can be translated as “a god”; so, “The Word was a god”. But, the point is, we need to be consistent. The truth is, “a god” can be applied to God the Father also in John 1 itself. “But as many as received Him, to them He gave authority to become children of a god…..who …….were born of a god” (John 1:12-13). Like Father like Son. If Jesus can be “a god”, His Father also can be “a god”! Commented Apr 22 at 15:40
  • @NepheshRoi.The teaching of a multi person true God is consistently absent in the scriptures. Commented Apr 22 at 17:49
  • Alex – That is your personal “opinion” or wish which I respect. Yet, the Scripture emphatically says, “And Jehovah God said, Behold! The man has become as one of Us” (Gen 3:22). Commented Apr 22 at 17:59
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    + 1. Another great answer in respect of John 1:1 and in particular John 1:1c. It will, unfortunately, prove to be a little too long and intricate for most contributors to BHSE. Most of the "Trinitarians" among us here, the majority in fact, won't even give it the courtesy of an initial read, never mind a second look. Commented Apr 23 at 18:31
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    @Jason - Differing opinions do indeed often lead us to the truth. I certainly can't argue with that. I'll leave Alex to respond to the second part of your comment. Incidentally, just so you know, I have not yet read your answer but intend to do so now. Will most likely comment further there in due course. Commented Apr 24 at 14:28
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The language here designates Jesus as God. The Word was God, and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. This has been the belief of the church from the beginning of the Christian faith, confirmed by virtually every early church father (Polyc. Phil. 12.6–7; Diogn. 7; Ign. Eph. 7, 18; Ign. Smyrn. 2; Justin 1 Apol. 63; Iren. Adv. Haer. 3.6.1; Ta. Or. Graec. 21; Theoph. Autol. 2.22; Athen. Leg. 10; Clem. Al. Protr. 1; Tert. Apol. 9.55; Or. Princ. 1.10). In response to the Arian heresy, it became the legal and orthodox belief at the first council of Nicaea in 325 CE (Euseb. ep. Caes.; Creed⁴²).

In our modern day, the Jehovah’s Witnesses have reawakened the Arian controversy, arguing that Jesus was not God, but a separate being (RFTS 212–213, 213–216), and their retranslation of John 1:1 has become a major point of contention. They claim that the Word was with τον Θεον (the God), in the articular, whereas the Word itself was Θεος (god), in the anarthrous form. The one is a proper noun. The other, they say, is not, and should therefore be translated as an indefinite noun.

In the strictest sense, translating an anarthrous predicate nominative as an indefinite noun is not out of the question. If we were dealing with a word other than Θεος and the theological implications such a translation engenders, no one would think twice about it. If it read, for example, that the Word was with God, and the Word was carpenter, we would have no issue with adding an indefinite article to clarify the statement in translation. By the same token, Θεος is a generic word, and is used, for example, in relation to false gods in 1 Cor. 8:5, and even in the articular in relation to Satan, though not as a proper noun, in 2 Cor. 4:4. Θεος is only a proper noun because we use it as a proper noun. Context is really the translational key. Θεος is identified grammatically and in usage in the first clause as a proper noun, and should therefore be recognized in succeeding clauses as a proper noun, having been already identified as such, even if succeeding instances are in the anarthrous form. Anyone who has studied Greek will know this to be correct.

However, as noted, Jesus is declared to be God in the flesh by virtually every Greek-speaking church father of the first four centuries CE. All arguments concerning the translation are therefore moot. Those who spoke the language declare its actual meaning, despite any translational debates modern day people may choose to engage in. Several church fathers recognize Jesus as God, and cite the fact that he is "the Word" as substantiation for that recognition. These men spoke the language. That the Word was "God" is what it means.

Furthermore, the argument isn't really grammatical. The overall context demonstrates a meaning that should be viewed in line with Isaiah 45:22–25 (cf. Phil. 2:10–11). John 1:3 (cf. v. 10) says that all things were made by him, and that nothing was made without him. The same thought is reflected throughout the Pauline letters, saying, “by whom also he made the worlds,” and, “… who created all things by Jesus Christ,” and, “… by him were all things created” (Col. 1:16; Eph. 3:9; Heb. 1:2).

God didn’t create the world by a separate being. He didn't allocate creational tasks to a lesser god. God created all things by saying, “Let there be …” and it was so. God spoke, and it was his utterance that created all things, and by which no thing that was made was made. This utterance was manifested into a man of flesh and blood, who came and dwelt among us, that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow and every tongue should confess to the glory of God the father (Isa. 45:22-25; Phil. 2:5-11).

As God said:

I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear. (Isa. 45.23)

John is referencing this.

Furthermore, recognizing that Jesus is a physical manifestation of God's own voice and utterance helps to clarify the issue of togetherness; viz. "the Word was with God," which some might construe as a demonstration of two separate beings. My word is within me, with me, and separate from me, though we are both one. It is recognized as me even in my physical absence. To hear my voice is to hear me.

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