In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (John 1:1).

Overview

John 1:1 is an important verse in the dispute about the deity of Christ.  Some view this verse as the clearest declaration of His deity.

This article serves as an introduction to the series of articles on the translation of John 1:1.  The dispute over the translation of John 1:1 centers on the lack of the definite article (the) before the word GOD (THEOS) in John 1:1c.  Some see this omission as grounds for an indefinite translation: “the Word was a god.”  This article discusses the following:

● Alternative translations of John 1:1c;
● Why Jesus is called “the Word?
● What is “the beginning?
● The word “with” in the phrase “with God;
● The phrase “the Word was with God” seems to make a distinction between Jesus and God.
● The verse does not say that Jesus was created in the beginning.

Introduction

Nicene CreedThe second phrase in John 1:1 (“the Word was with God”) makes a distinction between Jesus and God, but the third phrase (“the Word was God”) identifies the Word (Jesus) as God.  How can the Word be God if He is distinct from God?

This question resulted in much dispute over the past 2000 years.  In the fourth century, Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, and the emperor effectively took control of the Church.  The first church council was called by Emperor Constantine, specifically to address the prevailing dispute in the Church over the deity of Christ.  That council, under Constantine’s influence, resulted in the Nicene Creed of 325.  For a discussion of the major role which Emperor Constantine played in the formulation of the Nicene Creed of 325, listen to Kegan Chandler on the term “homoousios.”

John 1:1 has had a significant impact on the development of church doctrines on the nature of Christ.  The proper translation of this verse is at the center of debate between Trinitarians and non-Trinitarians.  Some view it as the clearest declaration of the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ to be found anywhere in Scripture.  John 1:1 is the best known of the about seven verses in the New Testament in which Jesus is called THEOS (GOD).  The other verses refer to Jesus as THEOS in the time when the New Testament was written, but John 1:1 refers to Him as THEOS in “the beginning;” when “all things” were created (1:3).

The dispute over the translation centers on the lack of a definite article (the) before the word GOD (THEOS) in John 1:1c.  John included the article before THEOS in 1:1b (literally, AND THE WORD WAS WITH THE GOD), but omits it before THEOS in 1:1c.  Since ancient Greek did not have an indefinite article, some see this omission as grounds for an indefinite translation: “the Word was a god.”  The purpose of the current series of articles is to discuss what John 1:1 means and how it is best translated.

Purpose of this article

Jehovah Witnesses The majority of Christianity has a one-sided focus on the verses that emphasize the divinity of Christ.  Jehovah’s Witnesses err to the other side and focus only on verses that show that Jesus is distinct from and subordinate to God.  To find the truth, we need to find an explanation that satisfies all statements about Jesus, as found in the Bible.

To write this article, the Jehovah’s Witnesses defense of their translation of John 1:1c was read.  Various other website resources were studied to identify the main principles.  Many experts are quoted on these websites, but the current article does not always quote such experts.

Three Phrases

John 1:1The current article often refers to the three phrases of John 1:1.  Below the majority translation is given, together with the Greek transliteration.

To understand John 1:1 requires some understanding of some Greek words and grammar.  However, this article is intended for people that do not understand Greek.  Therefore, and since in the original Greek language there was no differentiation between lower and upper case letters, this article presents the Greek literally using CAPITALIZED ENGLISH WORDS:

(a) In the beginning was the Word,
(En arkhêi ên ho logos =
IN BEGINNING WAS THE WORD)
(b) and the Word was with God,
(kaì ho lógos ên pròs tòn theón =
AND THE WORD WAS TOWARD THE GOD)
(c) and the Word was God.
(kaì theòs ên ho logos =
AND GOD WAS THE WORD)

Preliminary Observations

Article: In the Greek, there is no article before BEGINNING, but the translation inserts the article (“the”).  In 1:1b the Greek has the article before THEOS, but the translation omits it.  There is no article before THEOS in 1:1c, but it is translated the same as 1:1b.

In the Greek, the word order in 1:1c is reversed.

The Greek word for GOD in 1:1c is THEOS, but in 1:1b the word appears as THEON.  THEON has the exact same meaning as THEOS.  Each Greek noun normally has 8 or 9 forms (cases) in which it can appear.  These forms do not change the meaning of the words but define the roles which the words play in sentences, for example, to differentiate between the subject and the object.

The implications of these observations are explained below.

Alternative Translations of John 1:1c

Three alternative translations may be considered:

The Word was God” is the majority translation. “God,” with the capital G, is the name we give to the Almighty.  We do not use “God,” with a capital G, for any other being.  “The Word was God” therefore identifies “the Word” as the Almighty.

The Word was a god” is primarily found only in the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ New World Translation. This translation implies that Jesus is one of a greater number of powerful but created “gods.”

The Word was divine” in Moffatt, Goodspeed and some other translations. This may be understood to imply that the Word has divine attributes, but that He is distinct from the Almighty.

The Word

LOGOSThe Word” (Greek LOGOS) in John 1:1 is widely understood as referring to Jesus, as indicated in John 1:14-17.  In the Book of Revelation, which was written by the same John, “His name is called The Word of God” (Rev. 19:13).

Matthew Henry proposed that Jesus is “the Word” because He was sent to earth to reveal His Father’s mind.  In John 1:18 we similarly read that “no one has seen God at any time,” but Jesus “has explained Him (God).”  Jesus therefore said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).  Jesus, as “the Word,” is God’s Communication to the universe.

The phrase, “the word of the LORD” is found many times in the Old Testament as an expression of divine power and wisdom.  By referring to Jesus as “the Word,” “we preach … Christ (as) the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:23-24).

In the beginning

The “beginning” (1:1a) must be linked to John 1:3, which states that God created all things through Jesus.

The first words in the Bible are: “In the beginning God …” John 1:1 contains the same Greek words for “in the beginning” as are found in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) of Genesis 1:1. “The beginning” in John 1:1a therefore refers to the Genesis creation account.

Genesis opens with “in the beginning God …,” but John elaborates on the creation account by saying “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God.”  Later in Genesis 1 God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (v26).  John 1:1 implies that Jesus was included in the “Us” that made man in Their image.

With God

The phrase THE WORD WAS WITH GOD (1:1b) means more than merely that the Son existed with the Father:

The term translated “with” gives “the picture of two personal beings facing one another and engaging in intelligent discourse” [W. Robert Cook, The Theology of John [Chicago: Moody, 1979], 49].

The NASB reads in 1:18 that He was “in the bosom of the Father.”  The NIV translation explains this as that He was “in closest relationship with the Father.”

In His prayer, Jesus spoke about “the glory which I had with You before the world was” (John 17:5).

Distinct From God

To say that “the Word was with God” (John 1:1b) makes a distinction between Jesus and God.  In other words, the title “God” here refers to the Father alone.  Another clear example of “God” referring to the Father alone is John 1:18, which reads, “No one has seen God at any time.” “God” here excludes the Son, for the Son has been seen.  This is a general principle of the New Testament:  Of the more than 1300 times that the title THEOS (GOD) is used in the New Testament, it almost always refers to the Father exclusively:

The Nicene Creed similarly starts with the words, “We believe in one God, the Father almighty …”

Paul wrote, “for us there is but one God, the Father …” (1 Cor. 8:6)

For a discussion of this important principle, see Jesus is distinct from God and Jesus is subordinate to God.

Jesus was not created, and always existed.

The opening phrase of John 1:1 reads “in the beginning was the Word.” The thought is repeated in John 1:2a: “He was in the beginning with God.”  It does not say that the Word was created or came into existence at the “beginning; He simply “was.”  The tense of the Greek word translated “was” expresses continuous action in the past.  This implies that the Word (Jesus) had no beginning, but always existed.  This seems to be confirmed by the following:

He is before all things” (Col. 1:17).

All things came into being through Him (Jesus)”, and “apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being” (John 1:3).  The Word therefore must have already existed prior to creation.

The Only Begotten

John 1:18 refers to Him as “the only begotten,” which seems to imply that Jesus had a beginning.  But some argue that the Greek word translated “the only begotten” (monogenēs) means “the one and only.”  This is how monogenēs is consistently translated in the NIV, and does not imply a beginning.

If monogenēs must be understood as “the only begotten,” which implies that Jesus had a beginning, then it is preferred here to understand this as follows:

He was not created, for God created all things through Him (1:3).  Rather, He was born, which implies that He came forth from the being of the Father.

Using the literal translation of Colossians 1:18, He IS THE BEGINNING.  In other words; He not only existed in the beginning; He Himself was the beginning of “all things.”  By giving birth to His Son, God created the universe.  This sounds mysterious, but when we talk about the creation, then we come face to face with eternity, which is a complete mystery.

The beginning” was also the beginning of time.  Therefore, if He was “begotten” in “the beginning,” then there was no time that “the Word” did not exist.

Articles in the Christology series: Is Jesus God?

   1.    The three views of the Son
  2.    Jesus existed prior to His birth in the form of God.
  3.    Jesus in Colossians
  4.    Does the book of Revelation present Jesus as God?
  5.    Jesus in Philippians: Did He empty Himself of equality with God?
  6.    Who is the Word in John 1:1?
  7.    Jesus is not God.
  8.    God is the Head of Christ.
  9.    Jesus is called God.
 10.   He is the Only Begotten Son of God.
 11.  God created all things through His Son.
 12.  Jesus is worshiped.  Does that mean that He is God?
Worship verses in the New Testament
 13.  Jesus has equality with God.
14. 
Firstborn of all creation (Col. 1:15) 
15. 
Summary of the series of articles

  Interpretation of John 1:1
16. 
Introduction 
17. 
The Word was a god.

 18.  But THEOS is a count noun.
  Jesus in the Old Testament
19.
  Jesus in the Old Testament

Is the New Word Translation of John 1:1c as “the Word was a god” appropriate?

Overview

John includes the article (the) before THEOS (GOD) in 1:1b, but omits it before THEOS in John 1:1c.  Jehovah’s Witnesses see this omission as grounds for an indefinite translation of this phrase: “the Word was a god.” 

The following objections to this translation are proposed:

1) The ancient Greek language only has definite articles, and how Greek uses these articles is very complex.  It uses them in unexpected places and omits them where we would expect to find them.

2) If John wished to say that “the Word was a god.” then there was another way in which he could have done that.  

3) The article is omitted for grammatical reasons, namely to identify THEOS as the predicate.

4) THEOS appears in other places without the article where it is clear that it must be translated as “God,” for instance, “No one has seen God at any time” (John 1:18). 

5) John 1:1c has a special grammatical construct, and in this construct predicate nouns without the article are more likely to be definite. 

6) Grammarians who have studied this special grammatical construct have concluded that predicates in such constructs are primarily qualitative in force.  That implies that 1:1c should not be interpreted as definite (“the god”).  Nor does John 1:1c mean that Jesus is one of a number of gods, and it therefore cannot be translated as “the Word was a god” in an indefinite sense, for a qualitative sense means that 1:1c describes god-like qualities to Him.

It is technically possible to translate 1:1c as “the Word was a god” to reflect a qualitative sense, but not in the context of 1:1c, for the Bible declares that only one God exists.  In general, if only one instance of a predicate exists, it cannot be translated to English by inserting the indefinite article “a.”

7) Lastly, Jesus is unique.  He is “the Only Begotten Son of God.”  “Through him all things were made.”  He is not just one of many such gods.  He is not “a god.”

Introduction

The Word was GodJohn included the article before THEOS in 1:1b (literally, THE WORD WAS WITH THE GOD), but omits it before THEOS in John 1:1c, (literally, GOD WAS THE WORD).  Jehovah’s Witnesses see this omission as grounds for an indefinite translation of this phrase: “the word was a god.”  This implies that Jesus is one of many similar created beings with divine qualities.  

If a translation was merely a matter of substituting words, 1:1c (THEOS EN HO LOGOS) could certainly be translated “the Word was a god.”  To pagan Greeks this would have been a perfectly sensible statement.  They would understand this as saying that “the Word” is one of the many Greek gods, such as Zeus, Poseidon or Apollo. 

The following objections to the translation “the Word was a god” are proposed:

This is a complex matter.

Firstly, how the ancient Greek language uses the article is a very complex matter.  It is notorious for not using articles where we would expect to find them: 

An example of a noun without the article that must be definite, is John 1:2.  In Greek, there is no definite article before BEGINNING.  It reads, HE WAS IN BEGINNING WITH GOD.  It makes sense to include the definite article “the” and to translate this phrase as, “He was in the beginning with God.”  If we insert “a,” it would imply that there was more than one beginning.

Greek also uses the article in places we never would.  For instance, a literal translation of John 1:12 reads: TO THOSE WHO BELIEVE INTO THE HIS NAME.  

Thomas Middleton has written an entire volume of over 500 pages solely on the uses of the Greek article in the New Testament [The Doctrine of the Greek Article, London: Rivington & Deighton, 1841].  Balz and Schneider concluded that THEOS is used either with or without the article “without any apparent difference in meaning” [Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans), Vol. 2. 140]

Thus, if an indefinite article (“a”) is assumed to be implied in every place where the definite article (the) does not appears in Greek, it will often corrupt the meaning of a passage.

Another way to say “the Word was a god.”

BibleIf John wished to say that “the Word was a god.” then there was another way in which he could have done that.  When the predicate without the article follows after the verb, then, as a rule, the predicate would be considered primarily indefinite.  Therefore, if John wrote HO LOGOS ÊN THEOS (THE WORD WAS GOD), that would have indicated an indefinite use.  But he reversed the word order and wrote, GOD WAS THE WORD.

The article is omitted for grammatical reasons.

In English the word order identifies the subject of the sentence, but Greek uses noun cases (word endings) for that purpose.  However, 1:1c is an example of a linking verb (“was”); as opposed to an action verb.  With linking verbs, the subject and predicate are in the same case.  In such instances, wherever the subject has the article and the predicate does not, the word with the article is the subject.  [Robertson, A. T. (2006). A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research (pp. 767–769).]

In other words, in 1:1c, where LOGOS has the article, the article was omitted before THEOS not to make it indefinite, but to identify it as the predicate.

THEOS without the article is many times definite.

The Word of God

THEOS appears 1343 times in the Greek New Testament.  In 282 instances it is without the article.  If THEOS without the article must always be translated as “a god,” then one would expect to find “a god” in each of these 282 passages. But in 266 of the 282 instances we find THEOS translated as “God” in the New World Translation; not as “a god.”  “God” is a definite interpretation of THEOS, for “God,” with a capital G, is our English name for the Almighty; it identifies one specific Being.  The question is then, is the NWT inconsistent when it translates THEOS without the article in John 1:1c as “the Word was a god?”

Genitive Form

Jehovah Witnesses correctly respond that in many instances THEOS is in the genitive form, e.g. “from God” (John 1:6) or “of God” (John 1:12).  In this form THEOS changes to THEOU, and does not require the article to be definite.

But there also are many instances where THEOS is (a) without the article and (b) not in a genitive form, and where all agree this must be translated as “God;” not as “a god.” For instance:

No one has seen God at any time” (John 1:18). 
He is not the God of the dead but of the living” (John 20:38).
God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself” (2 Cor. 5:19).

Since non-genitive forms of THEOS without the article in these instances are translated as “God,” the question remains whether the NWT is inconsistent in translating 1:1c as “the Word was a god.” 

Special Grammatical Construct

Jehovah Witnesses (JWs) further respond that John 1:1c is different from these instances because 1:1c has a special grammatical construct, and in this construct unique rules apply.  It is true that 1:1c is a special grammatical construct.  In this construct the predicate (THEOS in 1:1c) precedes the verb “to be” (“was” in 1:1c).  This construct has been researched extensively:

EC Colwell published his study of the use of the Greek article in 1933.  He selected predicates which he identified as definite by virtue of the context and found that 87% of such definite predicates in such special grammatical constructs were without the article.  He formulated the following rule:

“Definite predicate nouns which precede the verb usually lack the article” (Colwell, p. 20).  

He concluded,

“The absence of the article does not make the predicate indefinite or qualitative when it precedes the verb … 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.”   [E.C. Colwell, “A Definite Rule for the Use of the Article in the Greek New Testament,” JBL, 52 (1933), 12-21.] 

In another study, Harner found that 20% of the predicates in this special construct are definite. 

In conclusion, the absence of the article in such special constructs does not necessarily mean that such nouns are indefinite.  We cannot assume that John 1:1c must be translated “the Word was a god” simply on the basis of the absence of the article. 

The special rules which apply in the special grammatical construct of 1:1c is actually the opposite of what JWs would like it to be: 

As stated above, when a predicate without the article follows after the verb, the predicate is generally indefinite.  But the research mentioned above shows that THEOS (without the article) is more likely to be definite in this special construct than in the usual constructs.

Qualitative

Noun categories and the articles

Grammarians distinguish between:

Indefinite nouns, which identify any instance of a group or class.
Definite nouns, which identify a specific instance of a group.
Qualitative nouns, which attribute qualities of the noun to the subject of the sentence.

Qualitative nouns signify neither definiteness (a specific instance of a group), nor indefiniteness (any instance of a group).  It is, for example, possible to describe somebody, who is not actually a god, but who is a human being who is admired by many people for his or her god-like superhuman abilities, as “a god.”  In this case “god” is used in a qualitative sense; it does not identify the person as one of the gods.

The articles help to distinguish between definite and indefinite nouns.  For instance, “a god” is an indefinite use of the noun and “the god” is a definite noun.  But the articles do not distinguish between indefinite and qualitative uses.  For example, if “he” is one of the Greek gods, then “he is a god” is indefinite.  But, as explained above, “he is a god” may also be qualitative.

Probably Qualitative

Grammarians who studied the special grammatical construct of John 1:1c (predicate without the article before the verb “to be”) concluded that the predicates in such constructs are primarily qualitative in force:

Harner categorized such predicates in Mark and John and found [pp. 85, 87]:
     80% are qualitative.
     20% are definite.
     None are exclusively indefinite. 

He concluded: “anarthrous predicate nouns preceding the verb may be primarily qualitative in force.” (p. 75).  (Anarthrous means without the article.)

Dixon’s substantiated Harner’s findings: “When the anarthrous predicate nominative precedes the verb it is qualitative in 50 of 53 occurrences, or 94% probability.” (Predicate nominative is the case in which Greek nouns appear in such special constructs.  To simplify matters, this website uses the more generic term “predicates.”)

Hartley found that, in John’s Gospel, 56% of such predicates are qualitative, 11% are definite, 17% are indefinite and 17% are qualitative-indefinite. 

These findings mean that THEOS in John 1:1c is most probably qualitative.  If that is the case, then 1:1c does not mean that Jesus is one of a number of gods, and it cannot be translated as “the Word was a god” in an indefinite sense.  However, it may still be translated as “the Word was a god” in a qualitative sense.

Jehovah Witness response

To defend their translation of John 1:1c (“the Word is a god”) against the conclusion that this phrase is most probably qualitative in force, Jehovah Witnesses (JWs) point to other phrases in the New Testament with the same special construct as 1:1c, but that are translated by inserting the English indefinite article “a” before the predicate, for example:

The woman at the well said to Jesus, “I perceive that You are a prophet” (John 4:19; cf, 9:17; Mark 11:32).

When a snake bit Paul, but he did not die, the people said, “he was a god” (Acts 28:6).  This example is particularly relevant because the predicate in this phrase is also THEOS (GOD). 

Other examples are:
a liar” (John 8:44);
a Samaritan” (John 8:48);
a thief” (John 10:1; 12:6);
a hired hand” (John 10:13);
a man” (10:33);
a sinner” (John 8:24); and
a king” (John 18:37) 

JWs argue that 1:1c may similarly be translated as “a god” to convey the qualitative sense of THEOS. 

A may only be inserted if more than one exists.

It is only valid to insert “a” before the predicate if more than one instance of the predicate exists.  In other words, it is only valid to insert “a” before “god” if more than one “god” exist.  To illustrate:

The Son of man is Lord of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:28), also has the same special grammatical construct, cannot be translated as “a Lord of the Sabbath” because there is only one “Lord of the Sabbath.”

In Acts 28:6 “a god” is a valid translation because these pagan people believed that many gods exist.  When Paul did not die as result of the snake bite, they assumed he must be one of those gods. 

Since there are many prophets, it is also valid to say that somebody is “a prophet” (John 4:19; 9:17; Mark 11:32).

Similarly, because many murderers, ghosts, devils, thieves and robbers are believed to exist, it is also valid to say that somebody is “a murderer” (Acts 28:4) or “a ghost” (Mark 6:49) or “a devil” (John 6:70) or “a thief and a robber” (John 10:1).  The same principle applies to “a liar” (John 8:44), “a Samaritan” (John 8:48), “a thief” (John 10:1; 12:6), “a hired hand” (John 10:13), “a man” (10:33), “a sinner” (John 9:24) and “a king” (John 18:37).

These examples show that an “a” may be inserted in the translation of both indefinite and qualitative predicates:

The Jews said to Jesus “You are a Samaritan” (John 8:48).  This is an example of an indefinite use of the noun. 

Jesus said to the twelve, “one of you is a devil” (John 6:70) is an example of a qualitative sense, for Judas was not really a devil.

But irrespective of whether an indefinite or qualitative force is intended, “a” may only be inserted if more than one instance of the noun exist.

There is only one God.

This principle must be applied to John 1:1c.

If John 1:1c was found in an ancient Greek context, it would have been possible to translate 1:1c, as the New World Translation does, as “ the Word was a god.”  It would mean that the Word is one of the many Greek gods. 

But it is not valid to translate John 1:1c as “the Word was a god” because, in the context of the Bible, there is no group of true gods.  Both the Old and New Testaments teach monotheism; that only one God exists:

Before me there was no God formed; nor shall any be after me” (Is. 43:10).

I am the First, and I am the Last; and there is no God except Me” (Isaiah 44:6).

There is no god besides Me” (Deut. 32:39)

There is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him” (1 Cor. 4:6)

Jesus prayed to the “only true God” (John 17:3). 

Therefore, in the context of the Bible, Jesus cannot be described as “a god,” irrespective of whether “god” is used in an indefinite or qualitative sense. 

In exceptional instances the Bible does refer to people and angels as “gods” (John 10).  But those meanings cannot be applied to John 1:1 because this verse describes THE LOGOS, who existed with God in the beginning (1:1b), when he was WITH THE GOD (1:1b), and when God created all things through Him (1:3).

The Bible essentially is a book that tells about the one true God in contrast to a multitude of false gods.  In that context the translation “the Word is a god” actually implies that Jesus is a false god. 

Count Nouns

JWs have developed a sophisticated defense of their translation of John 1:1c, which argues that the word GOD is a count noun and count nouns must always be either definite or indefinite, even when used with a qualitative sense.  And since “the Word” is distinct from THE GOD in 1:1b, He cannot be “the god,” and must be “a god.” 

This argument is discussed in a separate article which agrees that the word GOD is a count noun, that GOD is used in a qualitative sense in 1:1c and that the New Testament presents Jesus as distinct from God.  But that article uses a number of examples, such as, “Jehovah is God,” to show that it is not always possible to insert the indefinite article when translating anarthrous count nouns that are used with a qualitative sense:

Jehovah is God” means that He is the only true God; a statement which only a worshiper of Jehovah would make.  To insert an “a” and to translate this as “Jehovah is a god” completely changes the meaning of the phrase.

Jesus is unique

A last reason why it would not be appropriate to describe Jesus as “a god” is that He is unique. 

Jehovah Witnesses translates the phrase with “a god” because they assume that Jesus is one of many powerful created beings with godlike (divine) qualities.  In their view Jesus may be the divine person with the most power, but He is still only one of many.  But there are no other being like Jesus.  For example: 

He is “the Only Begotten Son of God.

In Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form” (Col. 2:9). 

Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made” (John 1:3).  Through Him God continues to maintain all things (the universe – John 1:3; Col. 1:15).

The entire creation worships Him (Rev. 5).

UniverseIt is true that John 1:1b shows a distinction between God and the Word: As the Word was “with” God,” the Word could not be that “God.”   On the other hand, to refer to the Word as THEOS (GOD) in this context, which says that God began all things through Jesus, and which refers to the Father as TON THEOS (THE GOD), lifts the Word high above all other beings.  He is not just one of many such gods.  He is not “a god.”

Articles in the Christology series: Is Jesus God?

  1.    The three views of the Son 
  2.    Jesus existed prior to His birth in the form of God. 
  3.    Jesus in Colossians
  4.    Jesus in Philippians: Did He empty Himself of equality with God? 
  5.    Who is the Word in John 1:1?
  6.    Jesus is not God.  
  7.    God is the Head of Christ
  8.    Jesus is called God. 
  9.    He is the Only Begotten Son of God. 
 10.  God created all things through His Son. 
 11.  Jesus is worshiped.  Does that mean that He is God?  
                Worship verses in the New Testament   
 12.  Jesus has equality with God. 
 13. 
Who is Jesus? – Summary of the series of articles 
 14.  Where do we find Jesus in the Old Testament?   
 15.  But THEOS is a count noun.    

In the beginning was the Word (John 1:1). The Word is Jesus Christ.

In the BeginningJohn 1:1 reads, “in the beginning was the Word.”  Some propose that Jesus did not exist before He became a human being.  See, for example, Tuggy’s case against preexistence.  They hold that “the Word,” in these dramatic verses (John 1:1-2), does not refer to the Son of God, but simply refers to God’s eternal plan or wisdom by which He made all things.

For example, John 1:9-10 indicates that “the world was made through” “the true Light … coming into the world.”  People that to not believe in the preexistence of Jesus would argue that this simply means that the world was made through God’s wisdom, and that God’s wisdom, which is the true light, came into the world when God gave it to the mortal human being called Jesus.

Genesis 1 provides support for this view, for in that chapter God creates by speaking.  The phrase “God said” is found 10 times in that chapter.  For instance, “God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light” (Gen. 1:3).  Also:

By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, And by the breath of His mouth all their host” (Psalm 33:6).

But the Word is the Son of God.

This is indicated by the following:

The beginningWith God The Word is described as “with God” (John 1:1-2).  The Word must therefore be a Person; not merely God’s plan or wisdom.

Created through According to John 1:3, God created all things through the Word, but according to Colossians 1:16 and Hebrews 1:2, God created through His Son.  The Word is therefore His Son.

(Note: “Him” in John 1:3 is an interpretation.  The original Greek word means “the same”. The “Him” therefore cannot be used as proof that “the Word” is the Son of God.)

Word of GodBecame flesh But perhaps the clearest evidence is John 1:14, which states that “the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us”.  This can only be the Son of God.

Interestingly, His preexistence is not a clear teaching in the synoptic gospels, but there are also much evidence of His preexistence elsewhere in John and in Paul’s letters.  He “descended from heaven” (John 3:13; 6:38, 62).  He said, “I am from above … I am not of this world” (John 8:23).  See Jesus existed prior to His birth in the form of God.

Progressive Revelation

The synoptic gospels do not clearly teach His preexistence because revelation is progressive.  The apostles at first did not know about His preexistence.  That was only later revealed to John and perhaps to Paul.

The progressive nature of revelation should not be confused with the evolution of religious dogma.  Religious theories slowly develop over time.  The existence of the conflicting Christian schools of thought is proves that this development is mostly not from God, but from man’s corrupt mind.  God’s full truth does exist in the world, but is spread around among the different Christian denominations and movements.

Why is the Son of God called “the Word?”

He is the Word because He brings light.  He is called “the Word” in verse 1, but in verse 4 we read: “in Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.”  Verse 9 adds, “the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man” (v9).  So perhaps He is the “Word” because He brought the “Light”.  “The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it” (v5).

He is the Word because He is God’s creative power Perhaps there exists a mysterious connection between the Word which God spoke in creation, and His Son; a connection reflected in the phrase, “the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father” (John 1:18; NASB).

What is proposed is the thought that His Son was “begotten” when God spoke.  It is not proposed that He was created by the word which God spoke, but that He is the Word which God spoke to bring the universe into existence.  If so, this would be beyond human understanding.  Another article discusses the meaning of the Only Begotten Son of God.

NEXT:  The Meanings of the Word THEOS

God created and still upholds all things through His Son.

Word of GodGod is the Source of all creative power and wisdom.  All things came into being by His word.  But the Word is also a Person; God’s only begotten Son.  The Bible consistently draws a distinction God and the Son, but also describes the Son as The Beginning, through whom God brought all things into being, and who upholds all things by the word of His power.

This article has been replaced by some other articles.  Please see: In the beginning was the Word..

This is the third article in a series about who the Son of God is and what His relationship is with His Father, God Almighty.

The first article explains the three views of the Son.  Some people propose that the Son of God is a created being.  Others say that He was derived from the Father.  A third view is that He always existed; co-equal with the Father.

The second article shows that God is One, that the Bible contrast His Son with God, and that the Father is greater than the Son.

This third article discusses the Son as Creator and Upholder of the universe.

The Word in John 1

God’s word of creation

In the BeginningThe dramatic first verses of John 1 do not refer to “the Son” or to the “Son of God”, but to “the Word”.  Some therefore propose that “the Word” does not refer to the Son, but to the word which God spoke when He created all things.  Modern translations render “the Word” with a capital “W”, but all original documents have been written in capitals only.  Capitals and lower case therefore are only interpretations.

Let there be lightIt is possible that “the Word” in John 1:1-2 refers to God’s word, for “God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light” (Gen. 1:3).  The whole of Genesis 1 is about what God spoke, and it came to be.  The phrase “God said” appears 10 times in that chapter.

But the Word is also the Son

The Word is described as a Person.

What would be the logic of saying that “the word” which God spoke “was with God … was God … was in the beginning with God”? (John 1:1-2) These descriptions imply that “the word” is a Person.

God created through the Word, but God also created through His Son.

All thingsAccording to John 1:3 “all things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being”.  “Him” in this verse is also an interpretation.  The original word means “the same”.  What 1:3 is saying is that all things came into being through the Word.

However, both Hebrews 1 and Colossians 1 say that all things came into being through the Son (Col. 1:13; Heb. 1:2).  This implies that “the Word” is “the Son”.  Note the word “through” in John 1, in Colossians 1 and in Hebrews 1 (John 1:3; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2).

Since God created through His Son, it remains God that created.

The Word” is “the Light”, and “the Light” is the Son of God.

John 1:4 continues to explain “the Word” but changes the symbolism from “the Word” to “the Light of men”.  The subsequent verses continue to describe “the Light”, and do it in a way that refers to the Son:

John 1:6-8 says that John the Baptist came as a witness, to testify about the Light”.  John was the forerunner for the Son of God in human form.  John witnessed, “I am a voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘make straight the way of the Lord … among you stands One whom you do not know …” (John 1:23-26).  “The Light”, and therefore “the Word”, refers to Jesus, who is the Son of God in human form.

The True LightJohn 1:9-10 refers to “the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.  He was in the world, and the world was made through Him”.  These verses confirm that the One through whom “all things came into being” (1:3) is also “the light of men” (1:4), and this One came into the world (1:9).  How could this be anybody other than the Son?

The Word became flesh.

Tested unto death
Son of God

John 1:14 again refers to “the Word”, and says “the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us”.  This can only be the Son of God.  He “descended from heaven” (John 3:13; 6:38, 62).  “I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world” (John 8:23).  “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

But how can the Word be the Son?

There is therefore sufficient proof that “the Word” in John 1:1-2 refers to the Son.  But how must this be understood?  God did not create another Creator; He spoke the word.  All things came into being by the word of God.  But the Word is also a Person; “the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father” (John 1:18).  That Person later became flesh (John 1:14).  Not only was He “in the beginning with God” (John 1:1-2), He Himself Is “the Beginning“ (Col. 1:18; cf. 2 Peter 3:4; Rev. 3:14).  He is “the firstborn of all creation” (Col. 1:15). This is both a truth and a mystery.  Let us be content to accept that the God is beyond human understanding.

Comparing Three Key Creation Passages

Consider the following three quotations:

Gospel of JohnJohn 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God3 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.

Colossians 1:13 His beloved Son15 … is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18 … He is the beginning

Hebrews 1:1 God2 has spoken to us in His Son … through whom also He made the world 3 And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power.

This is what theologians call high Christology; explanations with a high view of Christ. Various conclusions will now be drawn from the three passages:

God brought all things into being through the Son. 

All three quotations claim that God made “all things” “through Him”:

John 1:3All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being”.
Through HimCol. 1:16By Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him”.
Heb. 1:1-2His Son … through whom also He made the world” (Heb. 1:2).

The presentation of the Creator as consisting of more than one Person is not unique to the New Testament.  On the first page of the Jewish Scriptures, describing the creation of this world (Gen. 1:1), God refers to Himself as “Us”, saying “Let Us make man in Our image”, which, with the knowledge we have from the New Testament, includes His Son.

We therefore conclude as follows:

A. God is the Source of all creative power and wisdom.
B. The Father is greater than the Son (John 14:29).

There was no time when the Son did not exist.

He is before all thingsHe is before all things” (Col. 1:17).  He is “from long ago, from the days of eternity” (Micah 5:2), “before the world was” (John 17:5).  Jesus said, “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58).

John 1:1 begins with the words “in the beginning”.  “The Word … was in the beginning with God” (John 1:2).  This phrase probably comes from the first verse in the Bible, which reads, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1).

John 1:1-3 links “the beginning” to the creation event.  The beginning is therefore when all things were brought into being.  Colossians also relate “the beginning” (1:18) to the creation of all things (1:15-16).  Before “the beginningnothing existed.  There was no time before that, so to talk about the Son existing with the Father before that time is an anachronism; time did exist.

While the universe had a “beginning”, God has no beginning, for He is eternal (Rom. 16:26).  God exists beyond time.

We can therefore conclude that there was no time when the Son did not exist, for God also created time through the Son.  But to make any statement that He always existed co-equal with God is treading into an area which is beyond human comprehension.

All things” include the universe and everything in it.

All three quotations claim that the Son made “all things”.  Hebrews 1:1 says He made “the world”, but then verse 3 says He upholds all things, which implies that “the world” is a synonym for “all things”.  Colossians 1:16 defines “all things” as “in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities”.  The ancient people had no idea how large the universe is.  (Neither do we.)  We therefore can conclude that the Son created the universe and everything in it.

God continues to uphold all things through the Word. 

The title “the Word” also indicates the Son’s permanent role as the One through whom God continues to speak to uphold all things.

Upholds all things
Upholds all things

Col. 1:17In Him all things hold together”.
Heb. 1:2-3His Son … upholds all things by the word of His power”.

He became a human being as part of His work to uphold all things.  He became a human being to redeem this world.

Col. 1:13 God, through the Son, “rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son”.
1 Tim. 1:16 “Just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself”.

The Son contrasted with God

As a child I was taught to think about God the Father and God the Son, but that is not exactly how the Bible presents the Son.  As shown in the previous article, the Bible consistently draws a distinction God and the Son, as if the Son is not God.  The three creation passages quoted above do the same:

The Word was with God” (John 1:1-2).
His beloved Son … is the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:13-15).
God …  has spoken to us in His Son … through whom also He made the world” (Heb. 1:1-2)

Consider some of Paul’s statements, randomly selected:

“Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father” (2Th 2:16)
God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess. 1:1)
Our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus” (1 Thess. 3:13; cf. v11)

But between such statements we find statements such as “the Word was God” (John 1:1).  And it is said that God made all things through Him and that the Son “upholds all things by the word of His power“.  This series of articles is evaluating three option, as mentioned above.  The last article will bring the evidence together into a conclusion.

Series

This is the third in a series of seven:

(1) The three views of the Son of God.
(2) God is One, the Son contrasted with God and the Father is greater than the Son.
(3) What the Son does: He made and still upholds all things by the word of His power.
(4) What the Son is: Fullness of Deity
(5) The Son is worshiped.
(6) The Son is Yahweh of the Old Testament.
(7) Conclusion: Is He created, derived or eternally co-equal?