Friday, April 12, 2024

John 1:1 "Word was God" or "Word was a god"?

Exploring the Depth of John 1:1

The opening verse of the Gospel of John, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God," is a profound statement that has captivated theologians, scholars, and believers for centuries. This verse, which establishes the eternal existence and divine nature of the Word, is a cornerstone of Christian theology.

The term "Word" (Logos in Greek) carries significant philosophical and theological weight. In Greek philosophy, Logos referred to the principle of order and knowledge. In the context of John's Gospel, it is a title for Jesus, identifying Him as the divine, self-expression of God. Through Him, the invisible God is made visible and accessible to humanity.

John 1:1 counters the notion that the universe is eternal by affirming that there was a beginning, and God existed from that beginning. It also establishes the distinct yet unified relationship between God and the Word, implying a complex unity within the Godhead. This verse sets the stage for the rest of the Gospel, which unfolds the identity and mission of Jesus as the incarnate Word who reveals God to the world. This was defined (homoousios) in the Council of Nicaea against the heresies of Arianism and Sabellianism which sought to degrade Jesus into a mere human, a lesser god, or not an equal to God. 

The depth of John 1:1 lies in its affirmation of creation, revelation, and redemption all found in the person of Jesus Christ. As the Word, He is the agent of creation, the source of life and light, and the ultimate revelation of God's love and truth. This single verse invites readers to ponder the mystery of God's eternal plan and the central role of Christ in the cosmos and human history.

For those exploring the Christian faith, John 1:1 serves as an invitation to consider the claims of Jesus and the implications of His identity as the Word made flesh. It challenges us to reflect on the nature of God and the meaning of existence, leading us to a deeper understanding of our purpose and destiny in relation to the divine.

The Gospel of John continues to reveal the character and works of Jesus, demonstrating how the Word, which was with God in the beginning, became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth. This profound truth has the power to transform lives and shape destinies, as it has done throughout the ages.

Jehovah's Witnesses/Watchtower: The Word was "a god." 

However, there are some, namely the Watchtower or more commonly known as the "Jehovah's Witnesses" sect that claim that John 1:1's proper translation is, "In the beginning was the Word, the Word was God and the Word was a god."  They have their own heavily edited version of the Bible called the New World Translation and often cite Coptic and Syriac texts to justify their edit.  

Here are the problems with this:

1) The Gospel of John was NOT written in Coptic but in Koine Greek.  Syriac, Coptic, and Latin translations were written later around 200 AD. 

2) Suppose the Watchtower translation is correct, hypothetically speaking. This brings about a lot of problems.  

a. If the Word is a god, which god is the Word supposed to be? 

b. How can there be other gods co-existing with God? This would be polytheism. This would contradict Exodus 20:3-5 in which God says not to have other gods before Him.

c. Jesus says that He and the Father are ONE (John 10:30), how can this be possible?   

3) Only the New World Translation has this translation. No other Bible translations have this. Some use other variations such as, "the Word was Divine." 

4) If this translation is correct, why do the Greek Orthodox not use it in their Gospel of John text? The Greek Orthodox Church is older than the Watchtower which is a sect founded in the United States by Charles T. Russell. 

5) How can Jesus be "Imanu-El/Emanu-El" or "God among us/God with us" but not be God and just "a god?" This goes back to number 2. How can there be more than One God?

So as you can see, this translation disrupts the entire Bible and reason in general.  Thankfully, we know how Koine Greek words and exegesis work.  

Greek lacks what is called the indefinite article (a and an). When translating to other non-Greek languages, discretion must be used to add it in order for the translated language to flow semantically and grammatically. However, before "a or an" can be added, the context of the text must be taken into account.  

The words used are "theos en ho logos." This can be translated literally as "God is logos," "Logos is God," "Word was God," and "God was word" due to the absence of the indefinite article. In light of this, the translation must be made carefully and accurately to the context of the text. John is introducing Jesus Christ to readers. He begins by telling us about this word or logos and then mentions John, but clearly states that John was just a witness and was not the light. 

In verse 14 John tells us who is this word or logos and is stating that this word or logos took on flesh and dwelled among us (Immanu-El). So we know John is introducing Jesus Christ as the subject here.  If a translator adds "a or an" to John 1:1, problems arise. This word or logos becomes a created being, a finite being (in this case, a god), and inferior to the One True God. The Gospel of John emphasizes greatly the divinity of Christ. In John 5:18 John tells us that the Jews sought to kill Jesus because he allegedly broke the sabbath and called God His Father and even made Himself equal to God.  John does not dispute this nor correct the Jews' accusation.  So the translation stating that the "Word was a god" is erroneous and does not fit the context of John 1:1 and the entire Gospel of John. (Daniel Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, 255–70).  

John 1:2 and 3 go further saying the Word/Logos was with God and all was created through this Word/Logos. This Word/Logos is referred to as a He/Him. Let us go back to verse 1. It says, "en arche 'en o logos" literally "In beginning was the Word." Notice that there is no definite article before arche. Even the New World Translation puts the article there. That is how it is supposed to read. Toying with it would cause confusion in the English translation of the text which would read "In a beginning was the Word..." That implies that there were multiple beginnings to the universe, which is false (biblically & cosmogonically speaking) and not consistent with the rest of the Scriptures. 

So we can see how the New World Translation deliberately edited some of the text while leaving the rest untouched showing inconsistency and lack of thought behind the translation.  The translator either made a mistake, did it intentionally to try to lessen the divinity of Christ, or simply was not an expert in Koine Greek and exegesis. It is interesting to note that the names of the alleged committee that made the translation were kept anonymous. Names of individuals assumed to possibly have had a hand in the translation are from individuals who lacked proper education in Greek, Hebrew, and Biblical studies.   

Now it is important to note that the early Hebrews were henotheists or believed in henotheism or the worship of one Supreme God or deity while acknowledging others exist. However, the Hebrews moved beyond that to monotheism and Christians definitely have never subscribed to this.  Clearly the Jews in Jesus' time did not subscribe to henotheism either. 

So again, this is why the translation "The Word was God" is the best translation semantically, exegetically, theologically, and grammatically. Even Google Translate translates it in this manner.  See the attached screenshot and photos of my Koine Greek New Testament. 

Some argue that Colwell’s rule which is a linguistic rubric is outdated, or obsolete. Not necessarily.  We see this when a definite predicate nominative when linked to the article and when a verb follows it. With John 1:1, the question is in regards to the clause are και θεος ην, the verb and now ην, θεος.  In regards to Koine Greek and how sentences are structured, there is no expectation for a definite article to be present when a verb is consecutive to the aforementioned noun.  This is why the Jehovah's Witness New World Translation is the only text that does something differently that makes no sense. They are inconsistent because, in other verses that lack an article, they replace it with "Jehovah" when the original text does not have a noun or this name or any name specifically. 

Wallace on pp. 5-6 writes, “One of the most well-known rules of NT grammar articulated in this century encompassed just such an approach [i.e. beginning with semantics and involving what Wallace calls “the prescriptive fallacy”]. What became known as ‘Colwell’s Rule’ was first published in 1933…. The rule is valid as far as it goes, though it is relatively worthless for syntactical purposes since it presupposes a certain semantic force for the predicate nominatives in question.” 

Wallace explains and makes note that Colwell’s rule was in criticism of text or semantics rather than in grammar. Moreover, on pp. 256-271, Wallace explains the rule more intensely and admits that some scholars misinterpreted the rule on page 257 and explains how this led to the resurrection of Arianism and other heresies on page 258 due to the misinterpretation of the rule.  A predicate nominative when it comes before a verb can be anarthrous when no article that is definite is present, however, in the case of John 1:1 that is not the case.  I.E. "In the beginning."  

A book from 1982 authored by the Jehovah's Witness (The Jehovah’s Witnesses NT: A Critical Analysis of the NWT of the Christian Greek Scriptures Philipsburg: P&R, 1982) even admits to the erroneous translation.  It notes the inconsistencies found in the New World Translation where there are 282 references to the anarthrous θεος.  They admit that the New World Translation was only consistent with the translation as such only 16 of those 282 locations.  In regards to θεος and how it is translated, the New World Translation uses it 6 times as "God," one time for "a god," and two times for "the god." 

So we see how the Jehovah's Witnesses play around with "a god."  As stated, the New World translation has inconsistencies - in other places where we have anarthrous "theos", the translators do NOT use "a god" i.e.:around

John 1:6 -There came a man who was sent as a representative of God; his name was John [notice - no "a" before "God" despite the lack of article]

John 1:12  - However, to all who did receive him, he gave authority to become God’s children [notice - no "a" before "God" despite the lack of article]

John 1:13 - And they were born, not from blood or from a fleshly will or from man’s will, but from God [notice - no "a" before "God" despite the lack of article]

Bruce Metzger writes:

"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."

Daniel Wallace writes:

"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.)"

So we can see that "a god" is a bad translation and makes no sense in relation to the context of the rest of the text, Gospels, and the beliefs of John being a Christian.  

  • Again, who is "a god"?  This is polytheism, not monotheism. 
  • If the "a god" is correct, why did not the early Church Father adopt this translation or theology behind it?  
  • Why to this day do Greek Christians both in the Eastern and Western Churches not follow this "a god" translation. 
  • Why did in 325, (the Council of Nicaea) define that Jesus Christ was God, "consubstantial with the Father?"  
  • Why did Thomas say, "My Lord and My God"  to Jesus in John 20:28?  (Ἀπεκρίθη Θωμᾶς καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ Ὁ Κύριός μου καὶ ὁ Θεός μου.)  Transliterated as:  (Answered Thomas and said to Him, The Lord of Me, and the God of Me!)  "A god" was not used in this text nor does the New World Translation translate John 20:28 using "a god."  

We can go on and on, but we can see the problem "a god" causes and why it does not match with the context of John or the entire Gospel.  

Watchtower followers argue over translating Greek into English, not the actual Koine Greek text and the semantics surrounding it.  This is where the confusion lies.  Surely any language can be translated in different ways. For example, I can say "This is cool."  Someone can interpret it as referencing temperature while a younger person may interpret it as meaning something fun, attractive, or exciting. What decides what I mean is the context or main idea behind the statement. If the saying, "This is cool" continues with "I really like that car." Then we know what I am trying to convey.  So "cool" can mean different things but what decides the ultimate meaning is the context. 

The same with John 1:1.  John is introducing Jesus as God and Son of God who came into the world.  So Jesus is God but is not the Father or the Holy Spirit. They are distinct persons but one God substance. Moreover, John specifically uses Hellenistic jargon such as "Logos" to do this. The Greeks believed in the Logos or the great order or mind that runs the universe or is the universe. John was using their jargon to show that the universe is not the Logos, God is the Logos who was there before the universe (In the beginning was the Word) and the one who became flesh (Jesus), is also the Logos (was God) but also a distinct person from the Logos (with God). So here, Logos is the God substance or Divine nature that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are equal with the only difference that they each are distinct persons within this Godhead or God substance. 

This is why all Bibles except the Watchtower's New World Translation say "The Word Was God." It is the only correct translation that connects with the context and corroborates with the Gospels.  Even Biblehub's Greek-English lexicon shows this and why even Google Translate uses a similar translation as demonstrated beforehand. 

"A god" makes no sense at all in this text.  Moreover, as shown, the Watchtowers fails to use the same translation in another 200-plus verses where "a god" could have been placed.  They selectively only made the edit in John 1:1.

This was done to push their false heretical views which are a rehashing of the banal arguments of Arianism and Sabellianism. From here they get stranger in their doctrine. They go as far as to claim that Jesus is a creature and even claim Jesus is St. Michael the Archangel.  This idea is absurd and is of the antichrist as Scripture says (1 John 4:3, 2 John 7, 2 John 1:7).  Those who deny Jesus coming into flesh and His divinity are of the spirit of the antichrist.  

Jesus is God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity.  Jesus is NOT the Father or the Holy Spirit. All three are one God, three distinct persons in this Godhead.  Jesus and St. Michael the Archangel are also not the same beings.  St. Michael the Archangel is an archangel created by God, Jesus is not. Jesus says that He and the Father are ONE (John 10:30-38).  Think about it. How can Michael and God be ONE while at the same time being an archangel and creation of God?  God is absolute. He has no beginning or end.  Some cite St. Justin Martyr where he uses "Angel of the Lord" alongside Jesus Christ.  They claim that Justin Martyr acknowledges that Jesus is an angel or a creation of God; a lesser god. In Hebrew scriptures, the refers"Angel of the Lord" refers to God. We see different instances where the "Angel of the Lords" is actually God speaking (1st person) see: (Genesis 16:7-12; 21:17-18; 22:11-18; Exodus 3:2; Judges 2:1-4; 5:23; 6:11-24; 13:3-22; 2 Samuel 24:16; Zechariah 1:12; 3:1; 12:8). St. Justin Martyr clearly makes this distinction in Dialogue with Trypho.

Jesus is God. Jesus is the Word of God.  Jesus was with God and is God.  John 1:1 is a crucial theological text that must be believed if one is to be a follower of Jesus.  Jesus Christ is true God and true Man. He was God before creation, at conception, while growing up as a male Jew, and after His crucifixion, death, resurrection, and ascension.  He is a man at conception in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary and remains so. He did not lose His divinity. He is God and Man simultaneously with two natures (divine and human) and one personhood (Jesus Christ/Son of God/Second Person of the Blessed Trinity).  This is what the Catholic Church has always believed and taught and formulated in the Nicense Creed which says:

I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages. God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; through him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man.

Jesus is not "a god."  Jesus is not Michael or an angel. Jesus is God, the Son of God, and the second person of the Blessed Trinity.  The editing of the Bible by the Watchtower sect shows the extremes that some will go to push lies.  To have the audacity to edit the Bible so it can fit your heresy is sinful and blasphemy. As stated, this edit distorts the entire Scriptures. It defeats the purpose of Jesus even incarnating. It warps theism as presented in the Bible and creates a polytheistic disaster.  


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