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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

John 1:1c - English translation: "The Word was a god."

John 1:1c - English translation: "The Word was a god."
                     - NT Greek: qeoV  hn   o   logoV 
                      "god      was     the       word."

A. In NT (New Testament) Greek the word used for "God" and "a god" is theos (qeoV).  [BSTGreek font (and symbol font) used at times]

B. The Gospel writers (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) always used the article "the" (o with a tiny "c" above it in NT Greek: oJ  ) with theos when they intended "God."  That is, when they meant to say "God" they would always write ho theos (oJ qeoV). [This does not always hold true for other Greek forms of "God" e.g. theou (qeou) or theon (qeon) or theo (qew).]

C. The only exceptions in these inspired writings (Matthew, Mark, Luke, Acts, John, 1 Jn, 2 Jn, 3 Jn, and Revelation) are those things which can (and do) cause ambiguous or erratic use (or non-use) of the article ("the"). These things, as noted by most NT grammarians, include added phrases (usually prepositional in meaning, like "god of israel,"  "the god of me," or "god to you"), numerals ("one God"), appositives, abstract nouns, personal names, etc. But, fortunately, John 1:1c has none of these exception-causing things.

D. Therefore, if we restrict our examples to those used by John only and which are closest in construction to John 1:1c, we should thereby avoid any and all honest dissension concerning definite article use (and non-use) and different grammatical constructions, etc.

E. Here, then, are all the constructions which are most closely parallel to John 1:1c (a single non-abstract, unmodified, singular predicate noun without a definite article coming before the verb and a single non-abstract, unmodified noun (or pronoun) used as a subject coming after the verb) found in all the writings of John:   1. John 4:19 - indefinite ("a prophet") - all Bibles.   2. John 8:48 - indefinite ("a Samaritan") - all Bibles.   3. John 18:37 (a) - indefinite ("a king") - all Bibles.   [4. John 18:37 (b) - indefinite ("a king") - Received Text only] 

F. Trinitarian NT Greek experts Dana & Mantey specifically give us an example of "a parallel case to what we have in John 1:1"! Yes, these prominent trinitarian scholars have translated "market was the place" in the literal ancient Greek as "and the place was a market." They even described this example as a parallel to John 1:1! - p. 148, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament, Macmillan Publ.

G. We are dealing exclusively with nouns as found in John 1:1c. That is, a singular noun which is a person, place, or thing and which can be used with both an indefinite article ("a" or "an" - in English only: Greek has no indefinite article) and a definite article ("the") and which can be properly changed into a recognizably plural form: e.g., "WORD": "a word"/"the word"/"words;" - "GOD": "a god"/"the god"/"gods;" - "HOUSE": "a house"/"the house"/"houses;" etc.

H. So we can see that words like "pretty," "holy," or "true," for example, cannot normally be made plural ("trues") and do not use articles by themselves alone ("a pretty," "a true") and are, therefore, not nouns as found at John 1:1c and cannot be used as proper examples in an attempt to interpret John 1:1c.

I. Also, this singular, concrete noun, to be a proper example (equivalent to John 1:1c), must be without additional phrases joined to it: "a man of the world," "a house of bricks," etc. (pp. 780, 781, A.T. Robertson, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research, Broadman Press;  p. 175, C. F. D. Moule, A Grammar of New Testament Greek, 2nd ed., Cambridge University Press;  p. 137, Dana and Mantey Grammar) and, possibly, not even modified by any adjectives (Robertson, p. 763).

J. To be most certain, we need such proper examples to have a subject (a single noun or pronoun "doing" the verb) coming after the verb and the predicate noun (a singular noun as described above and which is the same thing as the subject) coming before the verb in the NT Greek exactly as found in John 1:1c. "god was the word."

K. To find such examples we need a Greek-English New Testament Interlinear Bible (available in any "Christian" book store or from any Jehovah's Witness). Then we search through all of John's writings to find all the predicate nouns (also called predicate nominatives) which come before the verb (and meet the above requirements) in the NT Greek. Since we are concerned about John's use (or non-use) of grammatical rules in order to determine the intended meaning of John 1:1c, we must use only examples from John's writings as proper evidence.

L. The easiest way to do this is to carefully read through all the full-English portion of the writings of the Gospel writers in an interlinear Bible and find all the verbs which could take a predicate noun ("is," "are," "am," "was," "were," "be," "become," "became"). Then determine if a noun (as described in our requirements above) comes after that verb in the English. If it does, and if it is "equal to" the subject, we have found a predicate noun, e.g., "the bird was an eagle." In English, then, the noun "bird" comes before and is "doing" the verb "was" and is therefore the subject. The noun "eagle," in English, comes after the verb "was" and is the same thing as the subject and is therefore a predicate noun (p.n.).

M. Then, after finding a proper predicate noun (p.n.), we must look at the NT Greek text (which has the equivalent English word written above each Greek word in the interlinear Bible) and see if the predicate noun we found in the English translation on the other page ("eagle" in the example above) actually comes before the verb in the Greek. If it comes before the verb, and if it is anarthrous (that is, without the article, "the") and meets the other requirements above, then we may have found a proper example to compare with John 1:1c.

N. So when all the proper examples (those most closely equivalent to the actual grammatical usage found at John 1:1c) found in John's writings are examined in the most-respected trinitarian Bibles (KJV, RSV, NASB, NIV, etc.), we find they are always translated with indefinite concrete nouns such as "you are a prophet" (Jn 4:19) which perfectly corresponds with a rendering of John 1:1c as "The Word was a god"! (Compare `the Prophet' at Jn 1:21 & Robertson, p. 768: article used when noun is only one of its kind.)

O. Such a rendering is not such a surprising concept as many modern members of Christendom might think. Other righteous persons and faithful angels have been called "gods" or "a god" by the inspired Bible writers. This understanding was also found in most of the writings of the Christians of the first three centuries after the death of Christ and, in fact was even taught by famed trinitarians Athanasius (4th century) and St. Augustine (5th century A.D.)

P. Even the most knowledgeable of the early Christian Greek-speaking scholars, Origen (died 254 A.D.), tells us that John 1:1c actually means "the Word was a god"! - "Origen's Commentary on John," Book I, ch. 42 - Bk II, ch.3.

Q. In fact, even certain trinitarian scholars have correctly admitted that those very first readers for whom John wrote his Gospel were already aware of the `Logos' concept even before John wrote to them. This was the concept of famed Jewish scholar and writer, Philo. In this best-known Jewish concept of the Logos of that time, the Word ("Logos") was "the Son of God" and "with God" and "a god" in his own right, but he was certainly not God nor equal to the one true God!

R. The fact that John provided no further explanation of the Word (`Logos') proves that he intended the Logos concept that his readers were already familiar with: "The Word (Logos) was a god."!

S. And, of course, John himself recorded the following prayer by Jesus: "Father,.... This is eternal life: to know thee who ALONE art truly God..." - John 17:1, 3, NEB.

If we examine every place in John's (and the other Gospel writers) writings where he has used theos (the form which is used for subjects and predicate nouns and ends with an `s') to mean "God," we find he always uses the article (ho, `the') with it, unless it is accompanied by a "prepositional" modifier: "of you"; "to us"; with him"; "for all"; etc.
In other words, when a proper example (comparable to John 1:1c) is used (as it very often is), theos will have the article "the" (ho or oJ  in the NT Greek) with it to mean "God" (o  qeoV,  `the god').  For example:

Jn  3:2;  Jn  3:16;   Jn  3:17;   Jn  3:33;  Jn  3:34;  Jn  4:24;  Jn  6:27;  Jn  8:42;  Jn  9:29;  Jn  9:31;   Jn 11:22;  Jn 13:31; Jn 13:32; etc.

When proper examples do not have the article, "a god" is intended!  Here's one way to look for all the uses of theos in John's and also note whether o (the) is used with it.  Half way down the following page are the instructions for finding theos in the NT:

For comparison, look at the examples of "man" (anthropos in NT Greek).  John uses the article "the" (oJ) with anthropos (anqropoV) to indicate a certain, definite "man."  But when he uses it alone (and, again, without "prepositional" additions such as "of the world" "in the house"; "with the Lord"; etc.),  it simply means "a man."  For example:

John 1:6;  Jn 3:4;  Jn 3:27;  Jn 7:23;  Jn 7:46;  Jn  9:16;  Jn 10:33;  Jn 16:21; etc.

Trinitarian scholars, in desperation, have invented "grammar rules" in the last century or two in order to "make" John 1:1c say "and the Word was God [ho theos]."

One, which initially makes the most sense, but is completely false, nevertheless, is "Colwell's Rule." It says that when the predicate noun comes before its verb (theos coming before `was' in John 1:1c) in the original NT Greek, the definite article may be "understood" to be with it!  This is provably false as I have shown in my article on John 1:1c.

The other "rule" is that when the predicate noun comes before its verb (as in John 1:1c, of course), the predicate noun (theos in John 1:1c) is understood to be qualitative, and, therefore, for some reason, that makes the Word equal to God!  This is also provably wrong.

The trinitarian scholars who want to believe "Colwell's Rule" say that the `qualitative' rule is false.  And those trinitarian scholars who believe the `qualitative' rule say that "Colwell's Rule" applied to John 1:1c is heresy!

But it matters little since both made up `rules' are completely false when proper examples (comparable to the actual usage at John 1:1c) are used!

For example, look at John 10:33.  The predicate noun "man" (anthropos) comes before its verb "being," and yet we do not find it consistently translated, even by trinitarian scholars and translators as: "you, being human" (qualitative) or "you being the man" (Colwell's Rule").

If they truly believed the "qualitative" rule or "Colwell's Rule," they would not have rendered it "you, being a man," as they so often do!

(For much more information about John 1:1, see the research files "DEF"; "QUAL"; "PRIMER"; "LOGOS"; "SEPTGOD"; "HARNER"; "BOWGOD".

ALSO see:
How does the Coptic text render John 1:1?

Is the New World Translation the only Bible to phrase John 1:1c as "the Word was A God"?

The Coptic Language and John 1:1

What About Trinity "Proof Texts"? (Scroll down to "The Word Was God")

IF God is a trinity, then how is it that “the Word (Jesus) was WITH God”? (John 1:1)

NWT - John 1:1

Is Jesus God?
If Jesus is not God, how can he be a god?

For more concerning Trinity 'Proof' Texts, see
Examining Trinity 'Proof Texts'