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The Prologue begins with statements about God in which the article is included and omitted.

John 1:1-2:

In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with τὸν θεόν and the Word was θεὸς. οὗτος was in the beginning with τὸν θεόν

Regardless of the Word was God or the Word was a god, the next statement reverts back to including the article with God, τὸν θεόν.

The next statement with God is verse 6.

John 1:6-8

There was a man sent from θεοῦ whose name was John. οὗτος came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness to the light.

θεὸς is without the article. Similar to verse two, the pronoun οὗτος is used in the next verse. This pattern recalls θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος οὗτος. The man is identified simply as "John," presumably the Baptist. However, this John is a witness to the light, not to repentance, and that all might believe through him not a voice in the wilderness. The Prologue's description better fits the Apostle John.

Later the Gospel gives the Baptist's final witness:

John 3:

31 He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. 33 Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God ὁ θεὸς is true. 34 For he whom God ὁ θεὸς has sent utters the words of God, τοῦ θεοῦ for he gives the Spirit without measure. 35 The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God τοῦ θεοῦ remains on him.

In this passage, even verse 34 which is very similar to 1:6, God is always with the article.

Even if John is the Baptist in verse 1:6, by omitting the article does the Gospel writer intend the reader to understand θεοῦ refers to θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος? If not, what other explanation is there for not writing τοῦ θεοῦ when saying God sent John?

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  • 1
    3 and 4 are not possible because 1. John the apostle never refers to himself in the epistle, only as 'the disciple whom Jesus loved'. 2. The context is clear 1:6,7 John ... came for a witness // 1:15 John ... bare witness of him (clearly by the wording this is the Baptist). . . . Then, Logos is 'with' God pros+article+Theos Both 1:1 and 1:2. But John is sent 'from'God para/no article/Theos. Thus the answer is a matter of concept and person. Two persons, one Deity, pros and article. Two persons, Deity and a man, para , no article. Up-voted +1. But an answer will take time to research.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Apr 28 at 20:14
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    I'm prepared to look at the anarthrous and anaphoric article usage. But your attempt to imply ambiguity and to insinuate that 'John', the witness, is John the apostle is just not plausible from the Greek text. I would not wish to contribute further unless that aspect was abandoned.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Apr 28 at 21:23
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    @AlexBalilo I believe the whole Bible teaches men and women are sent by God, not just the Baptist. Was John the Apostle sent? Was the Apostle or the Baptist a witness to the light? Was the Baptist or the Apostle sent so all might believe through him? Is there any evidence the Baptist's was a witness to the light? More importantly, if the article is so important to understanding the difference in God in verse 1 (as you claim elsewhere), then why isn't it used in verse 6 (this is the question) and why in your doctrine is the article meaningless in every verse after 1:1? Commented Apr 29 at 12:42
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    @AlexBalilo Please stop with comments which only serve to promote your personal beliefs and have no bearing on the question. I am asking why verse 1:6 lacks the article when identifying John who was sent. If this question leads to answers which don't align with your personal beliefs, please don't try to obscure the question by throwing out things which are not present in the passage under consideration. Commented Apr 29 at 13:58
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    @AlexBalilo Pardon me for interjecting into comments between yourself and the OP but I noticed the OP said to you "...verse 1 (as you claim elsewhere), then why isn't it used in verse 6 (this is the question) and why in your doctrine is the article meaningless in every verse after 1:1?" but you seem to be finding (or making) every opportunity to push your belief about "the God and Father of Jesus" claiming this proves Jesus cannot be God. This Q is not about that. Your answer does not deal with the Q seeking information about WHY there's no article before 'God' in vs. 6. Why no explanation?
    – Anne
    Commented May 1 at 8:50

3 Answers 3

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  • "Does θεοῦ in John 1:6 refer to θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος?" I find nowhere in John where the text calls Jesus "God" (as a name). Yes, John 1:1 says Jesus is God, but doesn't call him God. Therefore there is no good reason to believe that is what is happening in John 1:2 or 6.

  • "If not, why is θεοῦ without the article?" The article is needed in John 1:1&2 to differentiate between the Father and the Son.

koine-greek.com › 2016/10/31 › quick-grammar-facts
Quick Grammar Facts: Definite Articles – Koine-Greek Oct 31, 2016 · michaelaubrey October 31, 2016 Grammar, Greek, Language, Linguistics, Syntax. Quick Grammar Facts: Definite Articles.

To use a definite article is to say to your audience: “I know what I’m talking about and I think you know what I’m talking about, too.”

This explains why the article is missing from θεοῦ in John 1:2, but not why it is missing from 1:6.
My estimate is that John the Apostle didn't know whether John the Baptist was sent by God the Father or by God the Son.

  • Why did John say God rather than Father in 1:1-6?
    My answer to this question is in the Father comment following this answer. This question seems to have been deleted, but my answer may still be helpful to some people following this discussion.

  • Is the John of 1:6 John the Apostle?

    • Why he is not John the Apostle - "John the apostle never refers to himself in the epistle, only as 'the disciple whom Jesus loved'" - Nijel J.
      From 1:1 through 2:25, John appears to be strictly chronological. (Please show me where I am mistaken). Discussing John the Apostle in 1:6 would be out of sequence.
    • Why he is John the Baptist - Please read John 1:15-40. There is no good reason to suppose that this is a different John than in 1:6.
  • "Then the reader assumes the Gospel writer chose to describe the Baptist as a witness to the light, not as one sent with a message of repentance as in the Synoptics". John has been described as the most chronological of the Gospels. If that was intentional, it makes sense that he would start with the Word, then Jesus coming to earth, and then John the Baptist. But the transition from Jesus to John the Baptist needs a tie-in. The Old Testament prophecies which John the Baptist fulfilled performed that function. If John had decided to include "message of repentance", it would not have fit until John 1:28. I have been told that John is more teaching and less history than the other gospels.

  • "When the writer replaced οὗτος with ἐκεῖνος in the next verse this seems purposeful to draw attention to οὗτος which first refers to θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος". You appear to have ignored the pronoun at the end of John 1:7. This refers to the Light. In any case, the longer pronoun in verse 8 reminds us that the nearest noun is not the antecedent, we need to look back to verse 6 for the antecedent, John (the Baptist).

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  • Welcome to the site, Hall, and for your contribution to this immensely deep issue. Just to suggest that saying, "Yes, John 1:1 says Jesus is God, but doesn't call him God" - is a contradiction in terms. But the OP purposely said the Q is not about that. Another point arises from mentioning how some think John's gospel "is the most chronological" of them all. It's the least! And jumping from "the beginning" to the Baptist is deliberate given the point of John's record. Not said to start a debate but just points that might help you with this answer.
    – Anne
    Commented Apr 29 at 9:13
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    Sorry, I should have explained the word "call". I meant that it isn't used as a name. I am told that John is used to tie various events in the life of Jesus to the Jewish holidays. Do you have support for your statement? Commented Apr 29 at 9:23
  • Thanks for clarifying. Indeed, 'God' is a title. And, yes, I do have support for my statements but comments are not for responding to points that are outwith the OPs scope. They're only meant to help clarify either the question, or some answers. This site asks for us to keep on-topic and not to start debates. Fresh questions can be posted separately. So I trust you will accept my comments in that spirit of friendliness.
    – Anne
    Commented Apr 29 at 10:33
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    Thank you for your comments. I edited my response to make it clearer. Commented Apr 29 at 11:03
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    Father - John's first use of "Father" is in 1:14, where he refers to Jesus as the only-born of the Father. If John intended "born" to include created, Jesus and Adam would both be "born". Here John is using "Father" in the restrictive sense of one who provides a gamete to an ovum. (Sorry for the vocabulary, but I have found that it is necessary to be precise.) So, God was not Jesus' Father in the sense that John is using until Jesus' incarnation. Yes, Daniel mentions a "son of man", but in a prophecy that appears not to have been fulfilled until Jesus' incarnation and ascension. Commented Apr 29 at 22:27
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John 3 (ESV)

22 After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he remained there with them and was baptizing. 23 John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because water was plentiful there, and people were coming and being baptized 24 (for John had not yet been put in prison).

Unlike Matthew, Mark, and Luke, John describes a time during which both John the Baptist and his disciples and the disciples of Jesus were baptizing. The work of baptizing was concurrent yet in different locations. That is, despite having identified Jesus as the Lamb of God (1:29) and Son of God (1:34) and having some of his disciples leave to follow Jesus (1:35-37), John the Baptist continued to carryout what he had been sent to do. The point in time was before John had been put in prison.

The Fourth Gospel makes no further reference to John's arrest. With respect to Matthew, Mark, and Luke the effect of making the statement about prison accomplishes three things:

  1. It places everything in John 1:19-4:45 before John's death.
  2. It limits the work of baptizing by the disciples of Jesus to Judea.
  3. It preserves the purpose of John the Baptist's work as described in Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

With respect to John the Baptist, this final point is significant because it shows nothing that happened between Jesus and the Baptist detailed in the Fourth Gospel caused the Baptist to change his work. The complete picture of the duration of the Baptist's work is one of a singular message briefly interrupted by the events in the Fourth Gospel.

The Fourth Gospel also includes the Baptist's personal testimony of calling. First, it explains in John's own words he was told to baptize for the purpose of revealing the Lamb of God to Israel (1:29-31). Second, it explains in John's own words his calling:

John 3

25 Now a discussion arose between some of John's disciples and a Jew over purification. 26 And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness—look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.” 27 John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. 28 You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ 29 The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.”

31 He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. 33 Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. 34 For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. 35 The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

The key statement in verse 34 is for he whom God has sent utters the words of God.... The Greek is ὃν γὰρ ἀπέστειλεν ὁ θεὸς τὰ ῥήματα τοῦ θεοῦ λαλεῖ. Both times John speaks of God, he includes the article.

The Baptist says it was ὁ θεὸς who sent him. In fact, God is always with the article in this passage.

Some scholars question whether the entire passage are the Baptist's own words. Verses 3:31-36 might be those of writer. In this case, it was the writer who chose to use the article when describing the Baptist being sent by God.

Conclusion
The Prologue is a summary placed at the beginning of the Gospel. It reflects the writer's final thoughts, a conclusion one should likewise reach after reading everything which follows.

If John in verse 1:6 is the Baptist, then the writer has intentionally removed the article from the Baptist's testimony of being sent by God to make the point it was θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος who sent John.

If John in verse 1:6 is the Apostle, the writer has provided his own words of being sent by Jesus whom he knows as θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος.

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  • Nice try!! But by all other accounts, as I have already indicated, the John in 1:6 can really be no other than the Baptist. Commented May 17 at 15:37
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    @OldeEnglish Well I have shown otherwise here, and as you acknowledge, the absence of the article is troubling. If you study John's Gospel after the Prologue, there is only one place where God is written without the article where one expects it: But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God. (3:21) Apparently, John 1:6-8 is based on the words from Jesus. At a minimum they are in agreement with respect to light and God. Commented May 17 at 16:44
  • I agree with your minimum. Commented May 18 at 4:56
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When the rest of the bible is examined, evidence will show that there is no good reason to consider that it was not the God of Jesus and John the Baptist that sent them both. The part of the asker's comment that states "I believe the whole Bible teaches men and women are sent by God, not just the Baptist.". show that the asker himself believe God sent John the Baptist.

Proposing alternate interpretations because of a missing article before the word "God" in John 1-6 is similar to trying to find obscurities when there are none.

If the bible show that both Jesus and John the Baptist were sent by the God they serve, what purpose would an alternate "a god" interpretation reveal or obscure?

If in the scriptures, John 8:17-18, two witnesses set a matter, then Jesus and John's statements about the God that sent them both confirms that they were not sent by "a god".

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  • Yes. But how does the asker understand the nature of God? Do they take Scripture literally or do they substitute words when confronted with statements which confound their doctrine? Surely the writer meant to say Father not God. Or surely Commented Apr 30 at 21:43
  • @RevelationLad. Does the verses in question show that God is to be taken as a "nature" or a person? Commented Apr 30 at 22:16
  • Your answer does not deal with the Q seeking information about WHY there's no article before 'God' in vs. 6. Why no explanation from you? And why do you try to deflect the Q into a different one of your own choice, namely, seeking to launch into a debate about whether God in vs.6 is to be taken as nature, or a person. If you cannot give a hermeneutic answer, why are you posting a pseudo-answer?
    – Anne
    Commented May 1 at 9:07
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    + 1. Even though the definite article is not evident here, which is admittedly a little troubling, the surrounding context leaves little doubt as to who is being referenced in this 6th verse, and it is undoubtedly the Almighty God Himself. Commented May 2 at 7:45
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    There are participants in this discussion who appear to be handling Koine Greek as if it was machine language which is a fundamental misunderstanding. The presence or absence of the article is being discussed in a very mechanical manor. John's use of Koine is not obscure. The obscurities are being manufactured by people who don't understand how human languages function. Commented May 2 at 13:59

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