Sunday, December 11, 2016

John 1:1-3 - The Logos Was Theos

In the beginning was the Word [LOGOS], and the Word [LOGOS] was with God [TON THEON], and the Word [LOGOS] was God [THEOS]. The same was in the beginning with God [TON THEON]. All things were made through him. Without him was not anything made that has been made. -- World English with transliterations from the Westcott & Hort Interlinear.
John 1:1-3
John in the context makes it plain that the Logos was with Ton Theon in the beginning, stating this twice. Thus it should be evident that John is not saying that the Logos was Ton Theon with whom he was with in the beginning. Therefore, in saying that the Logos was *theos*, it should also be evident that John is not using *theos* as he applies it to the Logos in the same manner as he speaks of Ton Theon with whom the Logos was with in the beginning.
That there is a secondary meaning that is given to the word *theos* is shown by Jesus' quotation of Psalm 82:6 as recorded by John in John 10:34,35. Jesus said these "gods" (Greek, theoi, plural of *theos*) are those to whom the Logos of God came. But why does God refer to His sons as "gods"? Is he saying that they are idols, or false gods? No, there is nothing to give us any reason to believe this. Rather, we believe that he is showing that there is more than one way that the word THEOS can be used. Theos does not always mean God Almighty -- EL SHADDAI. Theos in the NT does reflect the Hebraic meaning of words EL and ELOHIM, that is, might, strength, power. Thus, THEOS in the NT, like the Hebrew EL and ELOHIM of the OT, when applied to others than Jehovah, does not mean Supreme Being. John emphasizes twice that the LOGOS is not TON THEON, by stating that the LOGOS was with TON THEON. Jesus himself speaks of his having a glory with the only true God before the world of mankind was made. (John 17:1,3,5) Thus, we need to apply John's usage of THEOS here as to one who is not Jehovah, the only true God. Jesus shows this an application of the words for "god" to others than Jehovah when he applies "theoi" [plural of THEOS] to the sons of God to whom the Logos came. (Psalms 82:1,6,7; John 10:34,35) Jesus was with Ton Theon but he was not Ton Theon whom he was with. He was, however, one of might, one of power, having a glory with his God and Father before the world of mankind was made. -- John 17:5.
Since the word "theos" in the phrase "the Word was God [theos]" is not preceded by the article "ho" (the God), as are the other two uses of theos in verses 1 and 2, it can be understood as an adjective rather than a noun; "the Word was mighty", which would be our preferred way to translate the phrase. Theos is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word "elohim" which can be rendered as "mighty" as the King James Version does in Genesis 30:8 and 1 Samuel 14:15, and as applied to Moses in Exodus 7:1. Thus, in keeping within what has been revealed by the holy spirit in the scriptures, we believe the proper thought of John 1:1 should be: In the beginning was the LOGOS and the LOGOS was with TON THEON, and the LOGOS was mighty.
See our study:
Hebraic Usage of the Titles for "God"
The Logos, of course, came to his own, who didn't receive him. (John 1:11) But as many as did receive him, he gave power to become sons of God. (John 1:12) With this he also gave special power to those whom he sent out to with power and authority heal, cast out demons, etc. -- Matthew 10:1,8; Mark 3:14,15; 6:12,13; Luke 9:1,2; 10:1,17.
Now let us look at another whom God called "god", that is, Moses.
Exodus 7:1 - And Jehovah saith unto Moses, `See, I have given thee a god to Pharaoh, and Aaron thy brother is thy prophet; - Young's Translation.
Jehovah did not make Moses a "false god" to Pharoah. It is easy to see that Moses is referred to as "a god" to Pharaoh in a sense different than the word "God" is used of Jehovah. It should be easy to see the same as true concerning Jesus, but, due to the strong influence that those who fell away from the truth who have insisted that Jesus is God Almighty, it is difficult for most to apply this concept to Jesus. Likewise, when Jesus spoke of the sons of God to whom the Logos came as "gods" (theoi) (John 10:34,35), he was showing from Hebraic heritage that the word *theos* could be legitimately used in a secondary sense.
Those who will do a little study in the scriptures can see the Hebrew words from which *theos* is translated (EL and ELOHIM), when not used of Jehovah or of false gods (idols), take on the general meaning of "strength, might, power", etc.
The "beginning" (Strong's #746) spoken of here is usually thought to be the beginning of all creation, including the unseen spirit world, but in connection with the context, as well as the rest of the Bible, we conclude that it is speaking of the beginning of the world of mankind. We say this partly because of verse 10, which speaks of the world into which the Word came, the world which was made through him, and which rejected him, which is the world of mankind. However, if John is speaking of the creation of all the spirit world and material world, then the beginning could refer to the creation of Jesus as the Logos, or it could be referring to a point in time after the creation of Jesus. The latter would seem more correct, as the Greek word een (Strong's #1722) seems to indicate that Jesus was already there in the beginning spoken of. This definitely is not referring to Jehovah's beginning, since he had no beginning. Jesus was not with the Father before the beginning of absolutely every creation, for he himself was "the beginning of the creation of God", "the firstborn of every creature." -- Proverbs 8:24; Colossians 1:18; Revelation 3:14.
Nevertheless, the "beginning" in John 1:1 appears to be referring to the same beginning as in Genesis 1:1, which refers to the beginning of things pertaining to the physical earth and mankind (including all six days of creation -- Exodus 20:11; 31:17), and not the creation of the spirit world or even of the stars and planets. (We should take note that there is a single "day" of creation spoken of in Genesis 2:4, which "day" includes "six days" in which he created the heavens [skies] and the earth [land masses]. -- Exodus 20:13; see also Matthew 19:4,5, which refers to the beginning when Adam and Eve were created.) The angels were already in existence in the spirit world at the creation being spoken of in John 1:1; Genesis 1:1; Exodus 20:11; 31:17. -- Job 4:11-17; Mark 10:6.
Thus the Logos, the Word, existed with God his Father before the beginning of the world's creation (Proverbs 8:25-27; John 17:5), as mentioned in Genesis. He was the first living creature to be created, being the firstborn creature of the Father -- the first that the Father gave life to, as well as the first or highest in rank. -- Colossians 1:15
The translation of "toward", as given in the Westcott & Hort Interlinear, is a basic meaning of the Greek word pros; nevertheless, in English it is often rendered as "with" as in "alongside of". It can also be used in the sense of being in service of another, which is probably the meaning meant in John 1:1. Some have argued that the Greek word pros (Strong's #4314) means more than just being with, as it indicates movement. We agree in that in the beginning the LOGOS was actively with his God in movement, with God when the spirit beings were being created, and before the "beginning" of the earthly creation spoken of. Some have seen in this word -- pros -- a thought not there: that time itself was created thus producing motion in time. Of course, the Greek word pros is used throughout the New Testament without any indication of such a meaning, but rather with the common meaning of "to" (as in joining or coming to a person, place or thing), "with" or "alongside of".
In 1 John 1:1, John describes Jesus as the "Word [Logos] of Life." Likewise, Jesus is called "the Word" in his pre-human form in John 1:1. In John 1:14 he is further called the "Word" at his first advent. Jesus could also have been referring to himself as the "Word" in John 10:35. In Revelation 19:13 he is called the "Word" in his future glory. Thus in all three stages of his existence he is still the Logos, or Word of God. He is never depicted as his God for whom he serves as the Logos.
The Greek word "Logos" has many different shades of meaning, with the basic meaning of "speech". John uses it in the sense of the expression of God as represented by the personage with that title, the one who came to earth with the name "Jesus." When John wrote of the Logos, there had been several heathen writers and at least one Jewish writer who had written concerning the Word or "Logos" of God. We are not so concerned with the philosophies presented by the extra-Biblical writers, but we are concerned with how the Bible itself describes Jesus as the Logos.
We believe that the term "Logos" in John 1:1 describes Jesus as the divine, or mighty -- "mouthpiece" of Jehovah, before he became flesh. An example of this usage of "word" is found in ancient Abyssinia, where there was an officer referred to as Kal Hatze, which phrase means "The word or voice of the King", who stood always at the steps of the throne, at the side of a lattice window, in which there was a hole, covered in the inside with a curtain of green taffeta. Behind this curtain the King would sit: and spoke through the aperture to the Kal Hatze, who communicated his commands to the officers, judges and attendants. [Bruce's Travels, 1873 Edition, page 130].
Similarly, Jehovah made Aaron the word or "mouth" or "prophet" of Moses. (Exodus 4:16; 7:1) The Hebrew word rendered "prophet" in Exodus 7:1 is "Nabiy'" which means "spokesman, speaker, prophet"*. Thus we can also see that Jesus, who came in the name of Jehovah, and as the promised prophet of Jehovah, served Jehovah in a comparable manner. -- Deuteronomy 18:15-19; John 1:45; 4:34; 8:28; 12:49,50.
Brown, Driver, Briggs and Gesenius.
"Hebrew Lexicon entry for Nabiy'".
"The KJV Old Testament Hebrew Lexicon".
In Old Testament times, we read that God spoke by means of the the prophets. (Hebrews 1:1) Certain scriptures seem to imply that Jehovah was speaking directly to these human prophets, but a comparison of scriptures show that Jehovah was actually speaking through or by means of his angel(s). (Exodus 3:2-4 [see Acts 7:30,35]; Genesis 16:7-11,13; 22:1,11,12,15-18. Only in the case of Moses did Jehovah appear "face to face", so to speak, so Moses caught a glimpse of his form. This has led some to claim that the "angel of Jehovah" was actually the prehuman Jesus, acting as the Logos, and, not only this, many claim that this angel of Jehovah was actually Jehovah, since the angel of Jehovah is called "Jehovah". We have shown that Jesus is considered a prophet -- a spokesman -- for Jehovah. (Deuteronomy 18:18; John 1:45; 4:34; 8:28; 12:49,50; see also Matthew 13:57; Mark 6:4; Luke 4:24; 24:19; Acts 3:22,23; Hebrews 1:1,2) While we believe, as indicated in John 1:1, that Jesus in his prehuman existence was active as the "mouthpiece" of Jehovah, we highly doubt that any "angel of Jehovah" in the Old Testament times was indeed Jesus. In some cases, an angel of Jehovah in the Old Testament could possibly have been Gabriel, just as in Luke 1:11,19,26. Neverhteless, it very well could have been that the same chain of communication was employed in the Old Testament days as was employed in Revelation: From Jehovah to the Logos to the angel of Jehovah. -- Revelation 1:1; Genesis 16:7-11; 22:11; 31:11; Exodus 3:2-5; 23:20-23; Judges 2:1-4; 6:11,12; 13:3.
See our study: The Angel of Jehovah
We have further to consider that John records that Jesus was sent by, speaking for, and doing the works of the God of Israel, not that he was God Almighty in the flesh. (John 3:16,17; 4:34; 5:23,24,30,36-38; 6:29,38,39,40,44,57; 7:16,18,28,29,33; 8:16,18,26,29,42; 9:4; 10:25,32,36,37; 11:42; 12:44,45,49,50; 13:20; 14:10,24; 15:21; 16:5; 17:3,18,21,23,25; 20:2) Before coming to the earth, he was God's "master workman." (Proverbs 8:30) Through him the world was created. (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16) It was in this manner that Jesus was "Word" or "Logos" of God. Likewise, the entire testimony of the scriptures indicate that Jesus was the image of God, spoke for Jehovah, made him known, and took action in the name of Jehovah. (Deuteronomy 18:15-19; Matthew 11:27; 23:39; Mark 11:9,10; Luke 10:22; 13:35; John 1:14,18; 3:2,17; 5:19,43; 6:57; 7:16,28; 8:26,28,38; 10:25; 12:49,50; 14:10; 15:15; 17:8,26; 2 Corinthians 4:6; Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:1-3; 2:3; 1 John 5:20; Revelation 1:1) Thus we conclude that Jesus, being the Logos of Jehovah, serves as his mouthpiece, expressor, to speak for Jehovah, and to act on behalf of Jehovah.
According to one author, "God the Father commanded (spoke the 'word') and Christ (the 'Word'--logos) created all things." The following scriptures are given to support this theory: Genesis 1:3-7,20, 24; 2:7. "God [the Father] said [i.e. spoke the "word"], 'Let there be light,' and there was light . . . God [i.e. the "Word"] divided the light from the darkness . . . God [the Father] said [i.e. spoke the "word"], 'Let there be an expanse' . . . God [i.e. the "Word"] made the expanse . . . God [the Father] said [i.e. spoke the "word"], 'Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures . . . And God [i.e. the "Word"] created the large sea creatures, and every living creature that moves . . . God [the Father] said [i.e. spoke the "word"], 'Let the earth bring forth the living creature after their kind' . . . God [i.e. the "Word"] made the animals of the earth after their kind . . . God [the Father] said [i.e. spoke the "word"], 'Let us make man.' . . . So God [i.e. the "Word"] created man . . . Jehovah God formed man from the dust of the ground."
We have no doubt that Jehovah did use the Logos in the creation of the "all things" that are spoken of in Genesis 1 and 2. This is confirmed in John 1:1-4. The above claims, however, appear to see a lot in the scriptures that we have no reason to believe was meant to be read into them. It is simply an effort to see into the scriptures that the commands of Jehovah are in themselves the Logos, and thus the Logos is actually Jehovah, which we deny.
We note that in the beginning the LOGOS was with or toward TON THEON. As Strong points out, the definite article often emphasizes the Supreme Deity [Power]. This usage roughly corresponds with the singular usage of ELOHIM of the Old Testament, where ELOHIM, the plural of EL (meaning power, strength, mighty) is used in a singular setting to represent Supremacy in the realm being spoken of. These words are thus used, not only of the only true God, but also of men and of the Son of God, to denote their supremacy in the realm spoken of.
See: Elohim - Does This Word Indicate a Plurality of Persons in a Godhead?
Hebraic Usage of the Titles for "God"
The Logos was with the only true Supreme Being in the beginning. (John 17:3,5) Here we see beautifully the close relationship existing in the very remote past between the heavenly Father and the heavenly Son. This also sets the context for the phrase that follows.
The final part of John 1:1 reads from the Westcott & Hort Interlinear (as found on the Bible Students' Library CD): KAI THEOS EEN HO LOGOS = AND GOD WAS THE WORD.
Was John here telling us that the Logos was the very God with whom he was with in the beginning? Even many trinitarian scholars would not say this. Trinitarians usually do not wish be understood as believing that Jesus is the Father, but if the above meaning should be given to the phraseology used in the Greek text, then the only conclusion one could reach is that Jesus is the Father with whom he was with in the beginning of the world of mankind. (John 17:5; John 1:1,2) On the other hand, many of our neighbors who believe in the "oneness" teaching believe that Jesus is the Father, thus they would be willing to have this scripture say that the Logos was the very God with whom he was with. The most straightforward understanding of this verse, we believe, is in the context of the usage of "theoi" (the plural of theos"), as Jesus used it in John 10:34,35. Thus Theos as applied to the Logos in John 1:1 should be read in the light of the Hebraic Old Testament background and usage, not according to Greek philosophy or the later-developed trinitarian dogma with its unique but often vague definitions of terms, which definitions then have to read back into the scriptures, and then not applied consistently.
Probably no other phrase in the Bible is more disputed than this phrase. Translations of this phrase usually take one of the following three forms: (1) "and the Word was God"; (2) "and the Word had the same nature as God", or, "and the Word was divine", or "and what God was, the Word was", or "he was the same as God"; (3) "and the word was a god". Before we begin, we might state that each translation has some support, and each translation has some weaknesses. We should also note that none of the translations should be viewed as being exactly what John said, since John did not write in English, but in Greek. The translations should be viewed as translator's renderings, according to what they believe John meant to say, rather than what he actually said. We will discuss each view with pros and cons.
Translation #1: "and the Word was God"
This is often the preferred translation by many trinitarians, even though it tends to make the Word the Father, which they deny. Some point to what has come to be called Colwell's Rule concerning the absence of the definite article before the word theos. The Rule states: "In sentences in which the copula is expressed, a definite predicate nominative has the article when it follows the verb; it does not have the article when it precedes the verb." (E. C. Colwell, "A Definite Rule for the Use of the Article in the Greek New Testament," Journal of Biblical Literature 52, 1933, page 20; See Summary at:
Many have misused this rule by claiming that it states that whenever the predicate noun precedes the verb, it is understood to be definite, which is not what Colwell said. According to Donald E. Hartley of Dallas Theological Seminary: "Both orthodox and otherwise utilize Colwell's rule to promote not only different but contradictory interpretations of this passage -- obviously contradictory interpretations cannot at the same time and in the same way be true. Adding to this problem, otherwise careful scholars misstate and misunderstand Colwell's rule." (Revisiting the Colwell Construction in Light of Mass/Count Nouns, Donald E. Hartley, 1998, Colwell did his study mainly in an effort to disprove that the usage of theos in the phrase we are discussing was due to Hebraic influence. His contention was that this usage of theos in John 1:1 had to do with NT Greek grammar, not any Hebraic influence. Several scholars (both trinitarian and non-trinitarian) have found some fault with Colwell's methods and his conclusions. As to Colwell's rule, we will reproduce a quote from a website:
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 theos] 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"]. (E. C. Colwell, "A Definite Rule for the Use of the Article in the Greek New Testament," Journal of Biblical Literature, LII (1933), 12-21. Cf. also B. M. Metzger, "On the Translation of John 1:1," Expository Times, LXIII (1951-52), 125 f., and C. F. D. Moule, The Language of the New Testament, Inaugural Lecture, delivered at Cambridge University on May 23, 1952, pp. 12-14.)
The quote above is quoted as proof that Jesus is divine [with the meaning of uncreated, etc.]. However, notice very carefully that it says that "the absence of the article before Theos 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." Then upon the assumption that John is presenting in context that Jesus is God Almighty throughout, the author states: "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]." In other words, the author is assuming that the context of the whole book of John supports the idea that Jesus is God Almighty, thus because of this there is no question that theos applied to the Logos in John 1:1 is definite and then from this one further would assume that John is showing that Jesus is God Almighty. It is circular reasoning: "We believe that John in context is saying that Jesus is God Almighty thus this must be what it means in John 1:1, thus John 1:1 proves that Jesus is God Almighty." Whether the context demands that it be definite, qualitative or indefinite in reality then boils down to how one interprets what John was saying. Was John saying what later theologians claimed, or was he simply using a hebraic expression, and emphasizing this by stating that the Logos was with Ton Theon? Using the Hebraic background for usage of EL and ELOHIM would be simplest way to explain this; trying to force the idea that John was saying that the Logos was in fact the Supreme Being only confuses the matter, which confusion led to the formulation of the trinitarian tale of three persons in one God.
Regardless, whether one views Theos as applied to the Logos, it really makes no difference, for with either the best way of understanding what John was saying in harmony with the Heraic usage of EL and ELOHIM (in the sense that Jesus makes us of theoi in John 10:34,35) -- that is, in the sense of mightiness or power, not by adding to the scriptures that Jesus is Jehovah the Most High or the story of three persons in one God.
Nevertheless, Colwell's Rule is mistaken 13% of the time even by his own reckoning. It is also pointed out that Colwell did not examine the indefinite predicate noun. Philip B. Harner tells us that of 53 times in John that the anarthrous [without the definite article] predicate noun appears before the verb, more than 47% are not definite, and maybe as many as 70%. (Philip B. Harner, "Qualitative Anarthrous Predicate Nouns: Mark 15:39 and John 1:1," Journal of Biblical Literature, page 83, as referred to in The Great Debate Regarding the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Robert Wagoner).
As stated earlier, many trinitarian scholars do not like the rendering as it appears in the King James Version because it would tend to make Jesus the same person with whom he was with. This can be more apparent when we compare John 1:1 with John 17:5,24. These texts are written by the same author and have a similar expression. John 1:1 says that the Logos with "with God" and John 17:5 says that Jesus was 'with the Father.' Thus it becomes apparent that Jesus was with God the Father in the beginning, and if the meaning of John 1:1 is to make the last THEOS be the exact same as TON THEON, then Jesus would in actuality be the Father.
Professor W. G. Moorehead of Xenia College, who was a trinitarian, points this out: "If John had inserted the article the before the term God in the third clause of the verse, then the word would have embraced the entire Godhead, and a distinction of the Persons in the Trinity would have been obliterated. Had he written (to follow again the example of the Dawn translation), 'and the Word was the God,' then Christ would have been the whole of the Trinity. He might as well have written, 'The Son is the Father,' for that would have been the exact equivalent." -- "A New Rendering of John 1:1", an article by John Moorehead that appeared in The Watch Word and Truth, circa 1902, as reprinted in The Watch Tower, September 15, 1902.
Translation #2: "and the Word had the same nature as God", or, "and the Word was divine", etc.
Concerning this, Harner wrote (Page 87): "In John 1:1 I think that the qualitative force of the predicate is so prominent that the noun cannot be regarded as definite."
We also find the following in Newman and Nida's A Translator's Handbook on the Gospel of John:
He was the same as God appears in most translations as "the Word was God" [Revised Standard Version (RSV), JB, NAB]. NEB renders by "what God was, the Word was" and Mft "the Logos was divine." [Goodspeed (Gdsp) "the Word was divine."] Zücher Bibel (Zür) has "the Word was God," with a footnote indicating that this means the Word possessed a divine nature.
These many differences in translation are due to the Greek sentence structure, as well as the viewpoints of whether Jesus is God Almighty or not. In this type of equational sentence in Greek (A=B) the subject can be distinguished from the predicate by the fact that the subject has the article before it and the predicate does not. Since "God" does not have the article preceding it, "God" is clearly the predicate and "the Word" is the subject. This means that "God" is here the equivalent of an adjective, and this fact justifies the rendering he (the Word) was the same as God. John is not saying that "the Word" was God the Father, but he is affirming that the same divine predication can be made of "the Word" as can be made of the Father, and so "the Word" can be spoken of as God in the same sense.| -- page 8, 1980 edition.
Thus many trinitarians point out that in this type of sentence structure, the predicate noun may be treated as adjective. Although our trinitarian neighbors wish to give the word theos a higher meaning in the context than we would, we have no serious objection to this translation, for Jesus was and is theos -- mighty. The question is does this warrant saying that Jesus is God Almighty, or to add to the scriptures a story about three persons in one being? There is no need for such, for from the rest of the scriptures we realize that the power and glory of the Logos are given to him by his Father, Jehovah, the only true Supreme. (If the glory given to him after being raised is given to him by his God, so we have reason to believe that the glory he had with the Father before coming to the earth was given to him by his God.) -- Matthew 13:35; John 3:11,13,17,34,35; 5:19; 6:37-40,62; 8:26,28,29; 10:36; 12:49; 17:1-5,7,8,22,24; 1 Peter 1:17-21.
Thus, since the word "theos" in the phrase "the Word was God [theos]" is not preceded by the article "ho" (the God), as are the other two uses of theos in verses 1 and 2, it can be understood as an adjective rather than a noun; "the Word was mighty", which would be our preferred way to translate the phrase. Theos is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word "elohim" which can mean "mighty" as shown in the King James Version in Genesis 30:8; 1 Samuel 14:15, and as applied to Moses in Exodus 7:1. It can also be translated from the Hebrew word *el*, which likewise is translated in the King James Version as "might", "mighty", "power", "great", etc. (Genesis 31:29; Deuteronomy 28:32; Nehemiah 5:5; Psalm 36:6; Psalm 29:1; 82:1; 89:6 -- see below) Thus we believe the proper thought of John 1:1 should be: In the beginning was the LOGOS and the LOGOS was with TON THEON, and the Logos was mighty.
Translation #3: "and the Word was a god"
Of all the translations, this is probably the most controversial, as to many English readers this would be tantamount to belief in polytheism. However, if one has in mind that the Hebrew words for "god" and "gods" [especially, EL and ELOHIM] are applied to men and angels who are in power, as well as other usages, then we would either have to accuse the Old Testament of being polytheistic, or else recognize that there are various usages of the words for "god". In view of the context stating that the Logos was with God in the beginning spoken of, we believe that there is no need to add to the scriptures a tale about three persons in one God, for certainly the Logos, in his prehuman condition, was certainly a mighty being - EL - much more so than were the angels. -- Psalm 8:5; Hebrews 2:7.
The Hebrew word for "god" -- EL -- has as its basic meaning: "strength, power, might." In its broad application it can be used of anything that is powerful. That the word is thus used may be readily seen by anyone who will carefully note the following texts from the King James Version, in which English translations of the Hebrew word El are in denoted by *..*: "It is in the *power* of my hand." (Genesis 31:29) "There shall be no *might* in thine hand." (Deuteronomy 28:32) "Neither is it in our *power*." (Nehemiah 5:5) "Like the *great* mountains." (Psalm 36:6) "In the *power* of thine hand to do it." (Proverbs 3:27) "Pray unto *a god* [mighty one] that cannot save." (Isaiah 45:20) "Who among the sons of the *mighty*." (Psalm 89:6) "God standeth in the congregation of the *mighty*." (Psalm 82:1) "Who is like unto thee, O Lord [Jehovah] among the *Gods* [mighty ones or ruling ones]?" (Exodus 15:11) "Give unto the Lord [Jehovah] of ye *mighty*." (Psalm 29:1) "The mighty *God* [ruler] even the Lord [Jehovah]." (Psalm 50:1)
Thus certain men and angels are also called ELOHIM: Exodus 4:16; 7:1 -- The KJV adds the words "instead of" before "God" in Exodus 4:16, which words do not appear in the Hebrew; Psalm 8:5 {compare Hebrews 2:9}; 86:6-8; 95:3; 50:1; Psalm 82:6,7 (See John 10:34,35; 1 John 3:2) Likewise, we read of the anointing of Jesus as elohim by his elohim -- his God: Psalm 45:6,7 (Hebrews 1:8,9; Isaiah 61:1)
We can be sure that John was aware of the Hebrew usage of the words EL and ELOHIM, as he refers to Jesus' defense in using Psalm 82 at John 10:34,35. Thus it would not be unusual for him to bring this usage into Greek by using the word *theos* in reference to the Son of God.
We might note that Strong gives the definition of *theos* as: "of uncertain affinity; a deity, especially (with 3588) the supreme Divinity; figuratively, a magistrate; by Hebraism, very: --X exceeding, God, god(ly, ward)", thus implying that the word, like its Hebrew counterpart, can be used of one in power, as a magistrate.
Some have claimed, usually using Colwell's Rule as a basis (which we discussed earlier), that it does not represent the Greek to use the translation of "a god" here. (Remember Colwell's purpose was to discredit any Hebraism in John 1:1.) However, many point out that the same form is used in many places, such as John 4:19; 6:70; 8:44; 9:28; 12:6; and possibly John 18:37. No one questions the presence of the indefinite article in most of these texts; it is only questioned simply because of its usage in the John 1:1.
Some produce an argument that if the definite article in John 1:1 denotes God Almighty and theos without the article should be translated "a god", that everyplace throughout the Greek New Testament theos without the article should be translated "a god". They point to scriptures such as Matthew 5:9; 6:24; Luke 1:35; Luke 1:78; 2:40; John 1:6,12,13,18; 3:2,21; 9:16,33; Romans 1:7,17,18; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 15:10; Philippians 2:11,13; Titus 1:1, etc., and state: To be consistent in this rendering of "a god", the anarthrous theos should be so translated as "a god" in every instance where the article is absent. Of course, no one claims that the anarthrous theos should always be translated as "a god", and such actually throws attention away from the contextual usuage of the predicate nominative in John 1:1. Even Colwell notes that the context needs to considered in whether to consider the predicate nominative as definite or indefinite: "A predicate nominative which precedes the verb cannot be translated as an indefinite or a 'qualitative' noun solely because of the absence of the article; if the context suggests that the predicate is definite, it should be translated as a definite noun in spite of the absence of the article." (Colwell, "A Definite Rule," 20-21) Of course, Colwell believed and argued from the standpoint that the context was stating that the Logos was God Almighty; we see no reason to agree with him on this, as the context clearly shows that the Logos was with God, thus was not the God who he was with.
Additionally, it is argued that the four oldest and best manuscripts in John 1:18 read, "the only begotten god...," which favors adding the indefinite article in verse one to read "the Word was a god."
We should note that many translators, being trinitarian, avoid this translation. Usually the actual reason for the rejection is that it runs counter what is generally accepted as Christian doctrine. Some translations and/or scholars that render or give support to the latter *theos* as "a god" in John 1:1 are: The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures Watchtower Bible and Tract Society; The New Testament in an Improved Version (Unitarian translation based upon Archbishop Newcome's New Translation - Edited by John Thompson in 1808); The New Testament in Greek and English (A. Kneeland - 1822); A Literal Translation Of The New Testament (H. Heinfetter - 1863); The Coptic Version of the New Testament (G. W. Horner, 1911); Epiphany Studies in the Scriptures, Vol, I, GOD (Paul S. L. Johnson - 1938)
Philip B. Harner, in the work quoted earlier (pages 84-85) tells us that John could have written any of the following:
A. ho Logos en ho theos (The Word was the God);
B. Theos en ho Logos (God was the Word -- as appears in John 1:1);
C. ho Logos Theos en (the Word God was -- less emphatic than B);
D. ho Logos en Theos (the Word was a god);
E. ho Logos en Theios (the Word was divine);
He states: "John evidently wished to say something about the logos that was other than A and more than D and E."
Thus Harner expresses that if John had wanted to say that Jesus was the actual being of the God, he could have used the definite article to definitely say so. He could have shown that he was definitely not including Jesus as the God by putting the word theos after the verb and ho logos before the verb. He, in effect, rules out the first translation above (and the Word was God) and favors something in between translations #1 and #2.
At any rate, the arguments against translation #1 appear to us to be stronger than against translations #2 or #3. If one considers that the word theos is not a name, but a title based on Hebrew usage of the word EL and ELOHIM, meaning "mighty" or "mighty one", the choice of translation might be between "The Word was a Mighty One," or "The Word was Mighty."
John 1:2
The same was in the beginning with God.
Here John adds this phrase with the evident intent to show that he does not reckon the Logos to be same being or person with whom he was with in the beginning. To make sure the reader understood this, he added the phrase to the effect that the Logos with or toward TON THEON in the beginning, and thus he was not TON THEON with whom he was with.
John 1:3
All things [Greek, panta, Strong's #3956] were made through [Greek, di, Strong's #1223] him. Without him was not anything [oude hen, Strong's #3761, 1520] made that has been made.
John 1:4
In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
"All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people." -- John 1:3,4, New Revised Standard Version
John 1:3,10 speaks of the creation of the world of mankind, not of absolutely everything in the universe. Thus the word panta (usually translated in John 1:3 as "all things") and the words "oude hen" (usually translated as "not one thing") need to viewed relative to what is being spoken of, that is the world of mankind into which the Logos came and was not recognized by. (John 1:10) The words "things" and "thing" are supplied by the translators. Without adding the supplied word "things" and "thing", the verse would read: "All through him came to be, and without him not one came to be." Where to end the sentence has been disputed for centuries. Many would extend the sentence to include the rest of verse 3: "All through him came be, and without him not one came to be which has come to be." Others would put the last part of verse 3 with the next sentence. Either way, one has to consider the context, which speaks of that which was made through the Logos as the world of mankind into which the Logos came.
The above would be in harmony with several scriptures where creation is spoken with reference to creation of mankind, not the angels, stars, etc. -- Mark 10:6; Romans 8:20,22; 2 Peter 3:4.
We might add that many Bible Students have thought that the "all" here refers to angels, cherubim, seraphim, worlds, etc., as well as mankind. (R3475:1; R5351:6; R5372:1) Nonetheless, from the context of John 1:3 (as well as the rest of the scriptures), and the actual wording that John used, we are enabled to conclude that the "panta" -- all -- that is being spoken of is the creation of the things of the world of mankind, and not that of the angels, etc. At any rate, it should be apparent that the one through whom the things are made would of necessity not be included in the things that being spoken of as made, even if he had been brought into existence before the things being referred.
Jesus is not being called the Creator here, as some have assumed. In the King James Version we read in John 1:3: "All things were made by him." The word translated "by" in the KJV is the Greek word di (Strong's #1223). Its basic meaning is "through", as an instrument or container being used. Thus, in connection with the context, Ton Theon created all the things being spoken by means of the Logos. Many trinitarians realize that this is speaking of the Logos as the agent of God. Regarding this verse, Newman and Nida states: "This statement is literally 'all things through him came into being.' The Greek phrase through him indicates that the Word was the agent in creation, but at the same time the context clearly implies that God is the ultimate source of creation." -- A Translator's Handbook on the Gospel of John, by Barclay M. Newman and Eugene A. Nida, 1980 edition, page 10.
Many, noting that some translations refer to the LOGOS as "it", conclude that the LOGOS is not a person, but an "it". Usually, this thought is presented in connection with the idea that Jesus did not have a pre-human existence as a person, but that the LOGOS was with God only in the "mind of God", "in the counsels of God", or in the Torah, or some similar thought. Many unitarians, as well as many oneness believers, often present this or some similar thought.
Tyndale's translation, reads: ""All thinges were made by it and with out it was made nothinge that was made. In it was lyfe and the lyfe was ye lyght of men." Several other translations read similar to this. Does this mean that the LOGOS is an "it", and not a person? To reason so, would make the application of LOGOS only to Jesus before his birth, but, as we have shown above, the word LOGOS is applied to Jesus while on earth, as well as, after his ascension. Those who support the above often quote the scripture, as quoted above, ending with verse four. Evidently the thought is that before the world was made, that all things were made through God's spoken word, and in some vague manner that in that spoken word "was" life, and that "life" was the light of men. This, we believe, is a misapplication of the scripture. Why? As shown above, the term LOGOS also refers to Jesus as a human, and also after his exaltation. In 1 John 1:1, John describes Jesus as the "Word [Logos] of Life." In John 1:14 he is further called the "Word" at his first advent. It is also probable that Jesus was referring to himself as the Logos of God whom he spoke of as coming to the sons of God in John 10:35; Psalm 82:1,6,7; John 1:12). In Revelation 19:13 he is called the "Word" in his future glory. Thus in all three stages he is still the Logos, or Word of God. In Greek, the word Logos itself is neuter; this does not mean the Logos was, or is not, a title of a living person. Most translations recognize this, and thus use masculine pronouns in reference to the Logos, not to the neuter "it".
Furthermore, the LOGOS "was" life and the light of men while on earth, not before the world of mankind was made, as many would like to apply John 1:4. Why do we say this? Let us look at the verses, and other related scriptures, comparing spiritual revealing with spiritual revealing.
John 1:4 - In him [the LOGOS] was life, and the life was the light of men.
When was the LOGOS the "light of men"? John partly answer this when he said:
and the light in the darkness did shine, and the darkness did not perceive it. -- John 1:5, Young's Literal Translation.
More directly, Jesus said:
As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. -- John 9:5.
Jesus narrows this down to the time that he was in the world of mankind. While he was in the world of mankind, he was the light of the world. Therefore, John 1:4,5 is speaking about the LOGOS as a person while on the earth, that in this person was life, and that he was the light of men, the light of this world.
The Logos came to earth by means a miracle. Unlike all of dying mankind around him, he had life, the crown of glory that Adam originally had. (Psalm 8:5; Hebrews 2:7,9) Mankind, however, still does not have the glory and dominion originally given to him (Genesis 1:25,28; Psalm 8:5-8), thus Paul says: "now we don't see all things subjected to him [man], yet." (Hebrews 2:8) But, Paul adds, we do "see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man." Jesus, having been totally obedient to his God, did not fall short of the glory of God as did all mankind. (Romans 3:23) Thus, "in him was life", and that life offered "light" to men.
Was Jesus as LOGOS while in the world an "it"? Only in that you could refer to him with the title of "LIGHT" as an "it", but this does not mean that Jesus was not a person. The LOGOS as the "light of men" was indeed a person walking around on the earth. The LOGOS was most definitely a person while in the flesh, and is most definitely a person after being exalted.
Now we examine another related scripture, pertaining to "where" Jesus was, as spoken of in John 1:1, before coming to the earth. Jesus said:
John 6:62 - What if you would see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?
The "where" that the LOGOS is spoken of as being in John 1:1 is the same "where" that the LOGOS 'returned' to. Where is that Jesus ascended? To heaven to be with his God. (Mark 16:19; Luke 24:51; John 13:1; 16:28; 17:3; Acts 3:21; Hebrews 9:24) So wherever the LOGOS returned to is the same "where" that he was in John 1:1. Jesus returned, as a person, to be with his God, where he has been exalted as a mighty ruler, at the right hand of the Most High himself. Thus the spiritual revealment is that Jesus, as a person, was with his God before coming into the world of mankind. And, that is what is confirmed in John 17:1,3,5. If Jesus was not a person before he came to earth, then he must not be a person after his ascension, since Jesus returned to same "where" that he was before he came into the world of mankind.
Related RL Studies
Some Links to Related Writings
We are providing these links because we believe there is good information that supports what we have stated. This does not necessarily mean that we agree with all conclusions given by the authors, nor does it mean that the authors necessarily agree with all we have stated.
Herald of Christ's Kingdom
Editors' Journal - He That Built All Things is God
The Doctrine of Christ
The Made Maker
by Richard Kindig
The Doctrine of the Trinity - Mystery or Confusion?
by David Rice
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
The Image of the Invisible God
by Jeff Mezera
Genesis and Geophysics
by Richard Doctor
Criticisms of Pastor Russell and the International Bible Students Association Examined from a Scriptural Standpoint
Compiled by M. C. Bradley, Chicago, August, 1914.
Corrections to the New International Version of the English New Testament
This is a PDF file.
ZWT References
Charles Taze Russell's Response to W. G. Moorehead of Xenia College
The Author of the Atonement
The Only Begotten One
Jehovah Our God is One
The Logos Made Flesh
The Light and Life of Men
The True Light that Lighteth Every Man
JOHN 1:1c: "God," "divine" or "a god"?
in the Translating of QEOS in the New World Translation - A rebuttal of Clifton Burton's criticisms of the NWT.
More about the New World's Translation's
"...the Word was a god"-John 1:1
Discusses the NWT criticisms of Mantey, Metzger, Mikolaski, Kaufman, Feinberg, and others concerning the NWT rendering of John 1:1.
"Inconsistencies in the Translating of QEOS
in The New World Translation Bible"
Critique of claims made by Cliff Burton.
Metzger, Colwell , John 1:1 and the New World Translation
An Example of 'Blatant Ignorance'?
An examination of claims concerning the NWT and John 1:1 made by Ian Brown in the book: "Sixty Questions Every Jehovah's Witness Should Be Asked"
A Refutable "Irrefutable" Argument
Discusses the alleged paraphrase of John 1:1,2: "In the beginning was EVE, and EVE was with MAN, and EVE was MAN. SHE was in the beginning with MAN."
John 1:1c "a god" and Deuteronomy 32:39
Harmonizing these scriptures.
How Monotheism and the "a god" rendering of the anarthrous QEOS at John 1:1 is theologically (biblically) sound
John 1:1c, Wallace, Countess and the New World Translation
Colwell's Rule and the "a god" Rendering
EIMI of John 1:1 - 'eternal existence' re the "Word"?
Dr.J.Beduhn and R.Hommel: A Discussion upon the translation of John 1:1c.
(originally on the Christian Apologetics Research Ministry JW discussion board during Jan/Feb, 2002 and continuing later elsewhere. There are 4 parts in total to this discussion.
"The Word was a god" and Qualitative Nouns
"and the Word was divine"
Jason BeDuhn
John 1:1c, "a god" and Isaiah 43:10
Is It Grammar or Interpretation?
"Don Hartley's Misunderstanding of My View of Qualitative Nouns and P. B. Harners JBL Article
by Greg Stafford
Partial Response to Hartley
by Greg Stafford
Greg Stafford's Response to Hartley's Theory
by Greg Stafford
Greg Stafford to Hartley: Clairy, Please
Greg Stafford's reply to Robert Hommel, regarding Dr. J. R. Mantey's letter to the WTB&TS, concerning matters relating to the use of his grammar, and various issues concerning translations found in the NWT.
Part 1: Greg Stafford's Second Reply to Robert Hommel, in response to his submission regarding issues relating to Dr. J. R. Mantey's letter to the WTB&TS
Part 2: Continuation of the above

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