Does John 1.1 mean ‘The Word was a god’?

This is a question I quite often get asked in relation to conversations with Jehovah’s Witnesses and the New World Translation (NWT). The NWT translates the end of John 1.1 as ‘the Word as a god’ in order to avoid the identification of Jesus with the God of the Old Testament, and avoid seeing Jesus as God incarnate, part of the Trinity, as does orthodox Christian belief.

As we will see, this is an incorrect translation of the Greek text. It is quite straightforward, though sounds a little technical to explain. Here goes.

The Greek of John 1.1 is as follows, transliterated into English letters:

En arche en ho logos, kai ho logos pros ton theon, kai theos en ho logos.

If you don’t read Greek, you need to know a couple of things. The first is that the word ho is called the ‘definite article’ which in English would be translated ‘the.’ The second is that Greek does not have an ‘indefinite article’ (English ‘a’), but instead simply omits the article. The term for this is ‘anarthrous’. The third is that, whereas in English we show what words are doing in a sentence by word order, in Greek this is shown by what case a word is in. Each word can be in one of four (or five) cases—the subject of a verb (often the thing doing an action) is always in the nominative case.

You can see near the end of John 1.1 that we have theos without an article, and logos throughout with the article.  The reason is that, in any phrase where the main verb is ‘to be’, there will not be a subject and an object (as in ‘I pat my dog’ where ‘I’ am the subject and ‘my dog’ is the object of the action), but only subjects in ‘apposition’, that is, agreeing with one another.  So when I say ‘My pet is a dog’ both ‘pet’ and ‘dog’ are subjects, and in Greek would be in the nominative case.

The question is: how can I tell the difference in Greek between the sentences ‘My pet is a dog’ and ‘My dog is a pet’ which have quite different senses. (The first is telling you which animal I have as a pet, the second is telling what kind of relationship my dog has to me.) In English, we do it by word order, but you cannot do this in Greek since, as an inflected language (ie one with different cases), it is flexible in word order. And you cannot do it by the usual trick of different cases, since both are in the nominative as subjects of the verb ‘to be’.

So Greek does it by making the word in apposition (the ‘dog’ in the first example) anarthrous, that is, without the definite article. In other words, theos en ho logos means ‘the word was God’, which tells us something about the nature of the word, whereas ho theos en logos would mean ‘God was the word’ which is telling us something about the nature of God.

In neither case does being anarthrous correspond to the English sense ‘a’, the indefinite article. So to translate this as ‘The Word was a god’ misunderstands the significance of omitting the article.

As this sounds rather technical, I always find it more fruitful to read with Jehovah’s Witness Romans 10.13, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ The Greek here uses the word kurios; in the Greek Old Testament that Paul is citing here, this refers to Yahweh, the god of Israel. But Paul here clearly means ‘The Lord Jesus.’ The NWT appears to be embarrassed by this, and substitutes the word ‘Jehovah’. But it is very clear that in doing so the NWT is changing the text of Scripture.

Something similar happens in 1 Cor 10.9, where the word Christos in Greek is also substituted in the NWT by ‘Jehovah’.

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34 thoughts on “Does John 1.1 mean ‘The Word was a god’?”

  1. It is my belief that, the main reason the NWT changed John 1:1 is because they don’t believe
    in the Deity of Jesus. They are entitled to believe anything they want; but NOBODY is entitled
    to change the Bible to suit their chosen beliefs! There is another change they made that disturbs
    me almost as much, In John 14:10, Jesus speaks of being “IN” the Father. JWs must have thought
    that simple word “IN” sounds too suggestive of the Deity of Jesus; so the changed it to say
    “IN UNION WITH” (meaning they merely agree).

  2. @Michael W. Gephart, I’m sorry but your belief/opinion, is false as Jehovah’s Witnesses do believe in Jesus and believe he was the man who set the example or path so to speak on how to properly worship Jehovah. Jesus told his Apostiles not to worship him. Jesus name means Jah/Jehovah is salvation. If God wanted to come in human form then he would not have done so through human birth. He came and spoke to Abraham in the form of a man before the Angels destroyed Soddom and Gomorrah.
    We believe Jesus is our Lord and Saviour and is GIVEN (as in it was given to him by someone else) the Kingdom of Earth. John saw him coming out of the Heavens with a commanding voice of an ARCHANGEL. Strange for John to think that God would have a voice of an Angel and not of…oh you know GOD?! In the book of Hebrews, it says Jesus what God’s 1st creation, so Jesus was Jehovah God’s 1st Angel. Trinity is 4th century Christianity, Coptic texts predate the Greek text and they do have a Definite article, which matches more closely to the 1st Century Christian teachings which would be more accurate.

    • Thanks for responding Juan. As a matter of interesting, how do Witnesses read verses like Matt 28.9 ‘they worshipped him’ (using language Jews would only use of God himself), and Thomas’ words ‘My lord and my God!’ in John 20.28?

      Even more significant is Paul’s central statement of faith in Rom 10.13 ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’. Here, the ‘lord’ (kurios in Greek) clearly refers to the Lord Jesus (from the phrase ‘Jesus is Lord’ in Rom 10.9). Yet Paul is quoting Joel 2.23, which says ‘Everyone who calls on the name of Yahweh will be saved’. So Jesus is now both the one that we call on when we call on God, and he is the one who saves us with God’s salvation. Paul is here directly identifying the person and work of Jesus with the person and work of the God of Israel.

      How do Witnesses read this verse?

      • Worship Jesus in the bible But,’ some may counter, ‘does the Bible not indicate that we must also worship Jesus?

        Did Paul not say at Hebrews 1:6: “Let all the angels of God worship him [Jesus]”?’ (King James Version) How can we understand this scripture in the light of what the Bible says about idolatry? Worship in the Bible First, we have to understand what Paul meant here by worship. He used the Greek word pro·sky·neʹo. Unger’s Bible Dictionary says that this word literally means to ‘kiss the hand of someone in token of reverence or to do homage.’ An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, by W. E. Vine, says that this word “denotes an act of reverence, whether paid to man . . . or to God.”

        In Bible times pro·sky·neʹo often included literally bowing down before someone of high stature. Consider the parable Jesus gave of the slave who was unable to repay a substantial sum of money to his master. A form of this Greek word appears in this parable, and in translating it the King James Version says that “the servant therefore fell down, and worshipped [form of pro·sky·neʹo] him [the king], saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.” (Matthew 18:26; italics ours.) Was this man committing an idolatrous act? Not at all! He was merely expressing the kind of reverence and respect due the king, his master and superior. Such acts of obeisance, or expressions of respect, were fairly common in the Orient of Bible times. Jacob bowed down seven times upon meeting his brother, Esau. (Genesis 33:3) Joseph’s brothers prostrated themselves, or did obeisance, before him in honor of his position at the Egyptian court. (Genesis 42:6) In this light we can better understand what happened when the astrologers found the young child Jesus, whom they recognized as “the one born king of the Jews.” As rendered in the King James Version, the account tells us that they “fell down, and worshipped [pro·sky·neʹo] him.”—Matthew 2:2, 11.

        Clearly, then, the word pro·sky·neʹo, rendered “worship” in some Bible translations, is not reserved exclusively for the type of adoration due Jehovah God. It can also refer to the respect and honor shown to another person. In an effort to avoid any misunderstanding, some Bible translations render the word pro·sky·neʹo at Hebrews 1:6 as “pay him homage” (New Jerusalem Bible), “honour him” (The Complete Bible in Modern English), “bow down before him” (Twentieth Century New Testament), or “do obeisance to him” (New World Translation). Jesus Is Worthy of Obeisance Is Jesus worthy of such obeisance? Most decidedly, yes! In his letter to the Hebrews, the apostle Paul explains that as the “heir of all things,” Jesus has “sat down on the right hand of the Majesty in lofty places.” (Hebrews 1:2-4) Thus, “in the name of Jesus every knee should bend of those in heaven and those on earth and those under the ground, and every tongue should openly acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”—Philippians 2:10,11.

        Outstandingly, Christ will soon use this exalted position and the extensive executive powers that go with it to transform this earth into a global paradise. Under God’s direction, and as a result of the ransom sacrifice of Jesus, he will rid the world of all sadness, pain, and sorrow for the benefit of those who submit to his righteous rule. Is he therefore not worthy of our honor, respect, and obedience?—Psalm 2:12

        • So how do you understand 1 Cor 8.6, where Paul applies the Shemah (Deut 5.4 ‘The Lord our God is one…’) and applies it to both God-and-Jesus, over against the pagan belief in many gods?

          Paul here seems to be unequivocally including Jesus *within* the identity of the one God?

          And what of Rom 10.13, where Yahweh on whom we call for salvation in Joel 2.23 is now the Lord Jesus?

          • I’m not a Jehovah’s Witness myself, although I think they do make some very good points about the New Testament’s teaching on the deity of Jesus.

            On 1 Corinthians 8:6: this text simply reinforces what is evident throughout Paul’s writings, i.e. Paul assumes a distinction between God, who is the Father and Creator, and Jesus, who is designated by the titles ‘Lord’ and ‘Christ’. Here as elsewhere it is evident that Paul only sees the Father as God, whereas Jesus is referred to by the titles ‘Lord’, ‘Christ’ or ‘Son of God’.

            I have responded to your point about Romans 10:13 elsewhere. It is established beyond doubt that the New Testament writers, including Paul, did not usually consider the literal sense or reference of the Old Testament texts they quoted from. And your argument here is that Paul must have understood the word ‘Kyrios’ in the literal sense it was meant in the Old Testament text. In view of the usual pattern of New Testament’s interpretation of the Old, I do not find that convincing.

          • It boggles my mind that most religious people just can not think of Jesus as the son of God. Why is it so difficult to understand? You get the Father and you get the Son. Two different persons. They look alike and the think alike. Why would God say that Jesus is his son, if they are the same person? What convinced me that Jesus is not the almighty God is that Jesus died. An Almighty person can not die or he is not Almighty. If Jesus was the almighty God then his sacrifice would have meant absolutely nothing.

          • Yes, except for two things. First, Jesus kept saying things like ‘I and the Father are one’, ‘If you have seen me, you have seen the Father’, and ‘Before Abraham was, I AM’. Secondly, Jesus kept doing the things that God alone did, like feeding the people, being the true shepherd, and so on.

            As a result, the first followers of Jesus saw in him the presence of the God of Israel in their midst, yet distinct from God. Paul expresses this in 1 Cor 8 by actually incorporating Jesus into the Jewish confession of the One God, the Shema in Deut 6.4. ‘For us there is one God…and one Lord’.

          • I’ll just pick up on one point here, i.e. where Jesus says ‘I and the Father are one’. I guess you take this in a sort of literal sense like ‘I and the Father are of one being’, whereas it would be perfectly natural to take it to mean: ‘I and the Father are in full agreement, closely united in purpose and love’. For example, we may consider Jesus’ prayer about his believers, ‘that they may be one, just as you and I are one’ (John 17:11). I think the vast majority would think Jesus is praying for close agreement, unity of purpose among believers. So if ‘being one’ can mean ‘close agreement’ when talking about believers, how could we be sure it means ‘unity of being’ when Jesus talks about himself and his Father being one?
            I think this comes back to the same question of interpretation: how can you distinguish when Jesus is talking in a literal sense and when he is talking in a symbolic sense? In this case you take Jesus in a literal sense e.g. meaning ‘one in being’ when he could just mean ‘united in purpose etc.’, even though elsewhere he clearly uses it in the symbolic sense. From where I’m standing it looks like you take something in a literal sense if that fits with conservative teaching, rather than because it fits the context of John’s gospel.

          • I think that is a good question, and I think you have put your finger on a key question.

            We need to read individual statements in the light of other parts of the text. Jesus says elsewhere ‘Before Abraham was, I am’. And ‘If you have seen me, you have seen the Father’. I don’t think he anywhere says something like ‘If you have seen me, you have seen Simon Peter, and you have seen Thomas’. And he repeatedly claims to do the things that only God does for Israel.

            So, yes, on its own this statement is not decisive. But it is decisive in the context of the whole of the gospel narrative.

          • Hi Ian, many thanks for your response – yes this does seem to me to be a key issue. You’re quite right Jesus doesn’t say exactly ‘If you’ve seen me you’ve seen Peter’, however I’m not sure you’re correct that he says nothing ‘like’ that. For example, Jesus says ‘What you did for the least of these my brethren, you did it for me’ (Matt 25:40) and ‘If anyone accepts you, they accept me’ (Matt 10:40). But nobody seems to see these in terms of literal identity, or as meaning that Jesus is of one being/substance with his followers etc.

            Indeed I agree that Jesus is portrayed as doing what God does, but again I think it makes perfect sense to say Jesus is an empowered representative of God, rather than that he literally is God. To me all the data seems to fit that model, and indeed it seems to give us a much more consistent interpretation.

    • Well the Bible disagrees with you and Jehovah witnesses. In the end brother you and all your false doctrine will be judged by God, Jesus. If you actually studied the Greek language outside if your false religion, you would discover that Christ is the God of the Bible. But see you can’t because your false religion won’t allow you to do this. John 1:1 states the fact that Jesus is God. I challenge you to go and tell your fake church that you would like to study Greek, koine. See what they say. Good luck and we’ll be seeing you bring judged by Christ.

      • Brian Alton, we as Witnesses of Jehovah God, we will uphold His sovereignty!

        Regarding John 1:1, first we have to bear in mind that there is only one true God as what Jesus said at John 17:3, “…You, the Only True God…” Jesus did not say that he is included in that true god. And in John 20:17 after he was resurrected, Jesus said that Jehovah, is his Father and his God as Jehovah is also our Father and our God. That truth that Jesus have said should be remembered.

        Was the Word “God” or “a god”? THAT question has to be considered when Bible translators handle the first verse of the Gospel of John. In the New World Translation, the verse is rendered: “In the beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.” (John 1:1) Some other translations render the last part of the verse to convey the thought that the Word was “divine,” or something similar. (A New Translation of the Bible, by James Moffatt; The New English Bible) Many translations, however, render the last part of John 1:1: “And the Word was God.”—The Holy Bible—New International Version; The Jerusalem Bible. Greek grammar and the context strongly indicate that the New World Translation rendering is correct and that “the Word” should not be identified as the “God” referred to earlier in the verse.

        Nevertheless, the fact that the Greek language of the first century did not have an indefinite article (“a” or “an”) leaves the matter open to question in some minds. It is for this reason that a Bible translation in a language that was spoken in the earliest centuries of our Common Era is very interesting. The language is the Sahidic dialect of Coptic. The Coptic language was spoken in Egypt in the centuries immediately following Jesus’ earthly ministry, and the Sahidic dialect was an early literary form of the language. Regarding the earliest Coptic translations of the Bible, The Anchor Bible Dictionary says: “Since the [Septuagint] and the [Christian Greek Scriptures] were being translated into Coptic during the 3d century C.E., the Coptic version is based on [Greek manuscripts] which are significantly older than the vast majority of extant witnesses.” The Sahidic Coptic text is especially interesting for two reasons. First, as indicated above, it reflects an understanding of Scripture dating from before the fourth century, which was when the Trinity became official doctrine. Second, Coptic grammar is relatively close to English grammar in one important aspect. The earliest translations of the Christian Greek Scriptures were into Syriac, Latin, and Coptic. Syriac and Latin, like the Greek of those days, do not have an indefinite article. Coptic, however, does.

        Moreover, scholar Thomas O. Lambdin, in his work Introduction to Sahidic Coptic, says: “The use of the Coptic articles, both definite and indefinite, corresponds closely to the use of the articles in English.” Hence, the Coptic translation supplies interesting evidence as to how John 1:1 would have been understood back then. What do we find? The Sahidic Coptic translation uses an indefinite article with the word “god” in the final part of John 1:1. Thus, when rendered into modern English, the translation reads: “And the Word was a god.” Evidently, those ancient translators realized that John’s words recorded at John 1:1 did not mean that Jesus was to be identified as Almighty God. The Word was a god, not Almighty God.

        Psalms 83:18 reads “May people know that you, whose name is Jehovah, You alone are the Most High over all the earth.” Jehovah is really the true God, Jesus is God’s first creation. Please read these verses Proverb 8:22-31, and take a look particularly at verse 24: Proverbs 8:24 “When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water.”(KJV)

        This phrase “I was brought”, clearly means that Jesus was brought forth by Jehovah God long before any other creations were made and Rev 3:14 affirms to this, “and unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God.” Also, Colossians 1:15 says that Jesus Christ is the firstborn of all creation.

        The time will come, and it is now that people and nations shall know that Jehovah God is only one true God and Jehovah God is one Jehovah.(Deut 6:4)

        And even the One True God Jehovah, said at Ezekiel 39:7(ASV)”And my holy name will I make known in the midst of my people Israel; neither will I suffer my holy name to be profaned any more: and the nations shall know that I am Jehovah, the Holy One in Israel.”

        Again, surely nations shall come to know that Jehovah is the only One True God!!!

        • I guess you are aware that ‘Jehovah’ is not a real word?

          And what do you make of Rom 10.13 ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’, where ‘Lord’ here clearly means ‘Jesus’ (‘Jesus is Lord’ Rom 10.9), yet the verse Paul is quoting says ‘Everyone who calls on the name of Yahweh will be saved’ (Joel 2.32)?

    • I’m not a Jehovah Witness, but after 44 years of study and asking the Holy Spirit for His Truth not man’s truth I’ve come to believe what you’ve stated. G-d, the Supreme Being has sent MANY revelations to man. Unfortunately, man has always turned the revelations into tradition and twisted His meaning to suit their dogma. I left mainstream religious denomination groups long ago.

  3. Very well, Paul!

    The erroneous translations and contradictions of Jehovah’s Witnesses exposed!

    Another verses with worship and adoration to Lord Jesus Christ:

    Mathew, 2, 8.
    Luke 24, 52
    John 9, 38
    Hb, 1, 6.

    Javier López Ureña.

  4. It would probably look like this, Kai ho Theo’s en logos. Putting the definite article on God and and thus changing the object of the sentence to God and not the Word, Logos. After that you would have to change the whole Bible, like Jehovah witnesses did!!

  5. And if the word order had been, kai ho logos en theos, that would have meant the word was a god (not God). That is word was a subordinate, demigod, or created one as taught by Arianism. But the biblical word order destroys Arianism. Lack of an article with theos destroys Jehovah’s witness and Jesus only cult. John produced an incredible theologically terse statement to destroy heresies.

  6. I would question this conclusion about Matthew 28:9. The word translated ‘worship’ is proskuneo and it is well established that this word does not just refer to worship of God / gods, it can also refer to honour given to human beings of superior rank. For example in 1 Samuel 25:23, the Greek Septuagint uses the same word ‘proskuneo’ for Abigail bowing down before King David. This is one of many examples in the Septuagint, which was the Greek translation of the Bible used by Jews in Jesus’ day. I think it’s wrong to say that Jews would only use this word to speak of the worship due to God.

    On John 1:1 (The Word was God) – how do you tell when the word ‘is / was’ means literal identity and when it has a more symbolic meaning? When Jesus said ‘This is my body’ I know Roman Catholics take this to mean literal identity but many other Christians don’t. Most take it to mean ‘this represents my body’ – so perhaps John 1:1 means ‘The Word was an exact representation of God’ (cf Hebrews 1:3)?

    I know the word ‘Lord’ is a title very often used of Jesus, but again this is a word which is very often used of human superiors, and I find it significant that the New Testament most often refers to Jesus as ‘Lord’ rather than ‘God’. I’m not really convinced that it must carry the same sense as it did it the Old Testament quotations, there are countless examples where New Testament quotations of the Old give the verse a different sense to what it had in the Old Testament. (e.g. Matt 2:15 quotes ‘Out of Egypt I called my son’ – in the Old Testament this refers to Israel but in Matthew it means the child Jesus – again there are many other examples of this sort of thing).

    • Thanks Matthew. These things all need to be read in their context. For example, this Sunday we are about to read Matt 25.31; in this passage Jesus depicts himself as the king on the heavenly throne, the true shepherd, and the one who judges the nations. These are all roles which, in the OT and first-century Jewish eschatological thinking, were ascribed to God. I think Matt 28.9 needs to be read in this context.

      • Hi Ian, thanks for your reply. Absolutely I would agree that these roles would have been ascribed to God, and they are now ascribed to Jesus. However, to me this makes sense in terms of ‘delegated authority’ rather than ‘literal identification’. So Jesus exercises this authority in God’s name, and as God’s appointed representative – in accordance with his status as the Son of God. So I would say ‘Jesus acts for/as God’ rather than ‘Jesus is God’.

  7. Matthew,

    brilliant comments!
    It is so refreshing to see that there are still people who do not uncritically accept what is served to them. Moreover, your comments are very well reasoned.


    not saying your aim is wrong but your reasoning has quite a few faux pas.

    1/ to prove your point, in your explanation of Greek sentence structure you do not hesitate to mark two words in nominative as subjects. You state: “when I say ‘My pet is a dog’ both ‘pet’ and ‘dog’ are subjects”, analogically later on you repeat: “both are in the nominative as subjects of the verb ‘to be’ “ , etc. In fact, this is not correct as the one and only subject in the sentence is ‘pet’. “Dog’ is a predicate nominative, a ‘complementum’ (lat.), if you wish, but not a subject.

    2/ you explain that the Greeks differentiate the subject from ‘the word in apposition’ by leaving out the definite article of ‘the word in apposition’. Yet, if I wished to state eg. that ‘Hades and Dionysos are the same’, that is ‘Ho aytos Haides kai Dionysos’, the complementum (or the ‘word in apposition’, should I use your vocab) is the only word with the definite article here. Neither must the subject in the Greek sentence retain the definite article, eg. nomos edone (leaving out both the definite article and the verb ‘to be’ which becomes tacit).

    3/ you further state that “(…) whereas ho theos en logos would mean ‘God was the word’” In fact, it would not, since you have omitted the ‘ho’ article in logos. Now, should the verse read as you’ve suggested, ie.: ‘En arche en ho logos kai ho logos (…) kai ho theos en logos’ then you clearly cannot translate last logos as THE word but A word, since HO logos is the word.

    Now, Ian, I understand the point you’re trying to make, it may even be correct, but the thing is, that you cannot justify your translation of the Greek text on Greek grammar, since from the grammar perspective, it is perfectly alright to translate the text as ‘the word was a god’. The anarthrous construction itself you’re using cannot be used to draw any conclusions about the translation whatsoever.

    Now there was a perfect question in the comments from Kamal, asking how the Greeks would then translate ‘the Word was a god” to which you gave no answer. The Greek text wouldn’t be any different, would it? It is the context not the grammar that makes the difference here. In my perspective, to conclude, you were close, when you wrote “In other words, theos en ho logos (…) which tells us something about the NATURE of the word.”, ie. the same nature, exactly like God, but distinct from God. The best translation in my view would be adjectival without using the adjective ‘theios’ / divine. It doesn’t belittle Jesus in any way.

    Now this brings me to the point that Matthew had regarding your conclusions drawn from the word ‘kyrios’. Now, the word ‘kyrios’ can surely be used without any connotation to God – see Festus calling Caesar his ‘kyrios’ in Acts 25,26 etc. What I find interesting is Matthew’s thought on Jesus being a representation of God, rather than his literal identification. Now, such idea could be substantiated not only from John 1.1 – you can see the Word is distinct, it is ‘pros ton theon’ and it is not ‘ho theos’, but see also Hebrews 1.3 “He [Jesus] is the radiance of His [God’s] glory and the exact representation of His [God’s] nature.” Furthermore, such idea is very close to Greek philosophy that was present in Galilee and Judea in the times of Jesus – see Filon: in his works that predate the written gospels, he describes logos as god’s representative on earth, a first-born son. It is a shame it remained without your comment.
    I might only add that also Aristoteles, Plato, Parmenides worked with the notion of logos. Logos becoming man vs. Aristoteles’ notion of ‘ho anthropos esti zoon logon echon’; his understanding of logos as a mean of revelation, etc.

    Similar happened to your interpretation of the word “proskyneo”, where you reference to Matt 28.9 “they (…) worshiped him” and conclude that it is the “language Jews only use of God himself”. To Matthew’s comment, that the Greek word “proskyneo” can be interpreted in a different way, you’ve replied that “these things need to be read in their context”. Now, tell me, if the language can be used in one way only, as you’ve formerly stated, why would you then need a context to understand?

    Now, to conclude, Ian, I believe your article should be more like an invitation to comment and not a lecture to prove others are wrong, since it is often ignorance that makes people confident of their truth. Nevertheless, I believe your intentions were right. Bona fide, RH

    • Hi rh,
      Sorry only just seen this. Thanks very much for your appreciative comments, I think you make some great points too. The key point you rightly make is that John 1:1 is ambiguous in its meaning – it could mean ‘The Word was God’ or just ‘The Word was a god / divine…’.

      On the use of ‘proskuneo’ – I thought Ian had tacitly conceded my point that the word ‘proskuneo’ does not in itself prove that Jesus was being worshipped as God – and so he supplemented his interpretation by appealing to the ‘context’. I disagreed with this, as I think the context only implies that Jesus represents God, rather than that he literally is God.

      I’m interested in your comment that Ian’s ‘intentions’ are right – what do you mean by this? Do you mean Ian is right to look for evidence in the Bible that Jesus is God? My problem is that Ian starts with the orthodox position of the deity of Christ and then tries to find evidence in the Bible to support this. Whereas I think we should be doing the very opposite of this, we should start by asking what the Bible itself teaches, we shouldn’t be making the assumption that it will support the orthodox view.

      Thanks again

      • Hi Matthew,

        I fully agree with you that we need to start from the Bible. On the other hand, the orthodox views have their important place especially today as I see too many of today’s scholars, PhDs, et al. making bold statements and new conclusions that defy the Scripture. I find a big difference between a statement and an opinion.

        To your question about the intentions: that phrase was not intended to present any conclusion on the deity of Jesus but to say that I was sorry to find the arguments in the article misleading but I clearly did not wish for such assessment to be extended on the author himself.


  8. Well said RH, although will take a few reads to absorb

    Can I ask, What do you think of Acts 28:6 translation from Greek to English using “a god”? Isn’t that the same construct as John 1:1 therefore, “and the word was a god”

    • Hi TC,

      As I see it, the construct corresponds to that of John 1:1 as the substantivum ‘theos/theon’ in both verses acts as a complementum with ‘eimi’. The difference is not in the construct per se but in the grammatical case of the substantivum, i.e. a predicate nominative in John 1:1 vs. a predicate accusative in Acts 28:6.

      Now, to your first question about the translation – that is a very good question! Does the change in the grammatical case of the predicate affect the semantics? In my opinion, no, it is generally accepted that they are semantically synonymous.


  9. Hi. I have to admit to getting a little dismayed by all of this proper greek, etc. To my mind, it’s not human language we should be focused on but the meaning of God’s word. Do we look to humans for answers or to God’s word? With that said…

    Here’s a simple point about Christ’s nature using the Bible alone as authority. 

    John, at 1:1, is looking back to when the Word was in heaven before coming to earth. Was he God or was he a god?

    Following the Bible’s own principle of only on the basis of two or more witnesses, a question arises…

    Is there a second Bible writer that agrees with “the Word was God” as many translations have it rendered?  Where does that message stand according to Bible canon? 

    Remembering that two witnesses are needed according to John 5:31, 8:17,18 – with a single witness being false, the rendering of John 1:1, “the Word was God,” needs to be examined more closely. 

    At John 5:31 Jesus set the standard himself when he said, “If I alone bear witness about myself, my witness is not true…”  

    He invokes it again at John 8:17,18 “Also, in your own Law it is written: ‘The witness of two men is true.’  18 I am one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.”

    Using this guidance, “the Word was God” cannot stand if it is not backed up in Scripture by a second witness. Continuing in this direction, is there another Bible writer, speaking on the nature of “the Word,” that supports “the Word was a god” or “the Word was divine” rendering? 

    Isaiah 9:6 says he will be called Mighty God. This is prophetic of his being elevated to that higher level as outlined in Philippians 2:9-11. Remembering that at no time is “Mighty God” equal to “Almighty God,” a question that results is – what would a “Mighty God” be before being elevated to such a position? 

    John 1:1 and Isaiah 9:6 both speak on the nature of “the Word,” one prophetically, one historically. They are two witnesses that must be in agreement. If they do not agree, then you have a flawed translation. So, “a god” after being elevated becomes what?  He becomes a “Mighty God,” whereas “Almighty God,” or the “Most High” over all the earth could never be elevated to a higher position. 

    Psalm 83:18 That men may know that thou, whose name alone is JEHOVAH, art the most high over all the earth.

    See also John 14:28, 20:17, 17:3

    Final thoughts…

    In all of the Bible translations that render John 1:1 as “the Word was God” it’s only John that says it, without a supporting second witness.  But in the translations that say “the Word was a god” or “the Word was divine”, the necessary supporting second witness does appear in Isaiah 9:6, thus revealing the true meaning of John 1:1.

    At the time of its writing, “the Word was a god” or “was divine” yet to receive his elevated position of Mighty God. So while still a prophecy, Isaiah also reveals Christ’s nature at the time.

    Those who look to human “scholars” for answers are missing this point…

    Two witnesses speaking on the nature of “the Word” are key to understanding what John was actually saying, using the Bible alone as authority. After all, God is the true scholar..

    Genesis 40:8 “…Do not interpretations belong to God?…”

    The Bible interprets itself.

    I might follow other comments but I have no interest in debatimg about language.

    Thank you.

    • Sorry for the delay in approving. I wanted to respond to your comments, but time has eluded me.

      My main response is to this: ‘ I have to admit to getting a little dismayed by all of this proper greek, etc. To my mind, it’s not human language we should be focused on but the meaning of God’s word. Do we look to humans for answers or to God’s word?’

      God’s word has come to us in Scripture in human words, so there is no other way to hear it other than to attend to what the human authors wrote. And in the New Testament, they wrote in Greek and not English. English is a translation of the Greek, and all translation is interpretation.

      So I am afraid we can never really escape the discussion about what the Greek terms mean, and the significance of Greek grammar and syntax. Sorry about that.

  10. Another strong argument for the deity of Christ (and trinitarian belief) comes from the “Identity of Jesus/ I am” passages in John 7-10. Who received the criticism of Jesus more than any other? The priesthood. Jesus reminds his listeners in chapter 10:4 of part of their duty. The shepherd is to “lead them out”, and to “go before” the sheep. The priests who “have Moses” according to Luke 16:29, would certainly know the prayer Moses prayed to YHWY on Mount Abarim in Numbers 27:17 – one who will “go out before them” and “lead them” so they would not “be as sheep that have no shepherd”.

    Joshua is the answer to that prayer, but what of the shepherds who would lead Israel afterward? Ezekiel has something to say about them. Below are two of numerous quotes of YHWY in chapter 34 regarding what will become of the priesthood – those who were to shepherd the spiritual well-being of YHWY’s chosen people:

    10 ….”Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require my sheep at their hand and put a stop to their feeding the sheep. No longer shall the shepherds feed themselves. I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, that they may not be food for them.”
    15 ”I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down”, declares the Lord GOD. 16 ”I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy.[a] I will feed them in justice.”

    In verse 10, YHWY states: “I will rescue my sheep”. In verse 15 God as the Father, states: “I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep”

    In John 10:11 Jesus, God as the Son, states: “I am the good shepherd.” At 21:15-17, the Son directs Peter to “feed” and “tend” “my sheep”. The priesthood understood this quite clearly as evidenced in 10:33, we are going to stone you “…because, you, being a man, make yourself God”.
    In Matthew 12:11-12 (withered hand) and in the parable of the lost sheep (Mt15 & Lk18) Jesus reminds his listeners what the duty of a good shepherd is – to rescue and feed the sheep, to seek the lost sheep, to lead the sheep per Num 27:17 and Ez 34:15. At Matthew 12:34, Jesus calls his listeners “a brood of vipers”, the very ones YHWY is against in Ez 34:10.

    Modern translators and readers of the NWT, may be confused about the identity of Jesus and whether he ever proclaimed himself to be God, but the priesthood of Israel in the first century were confused about neither.

    • Interesting arguments and interesting the way you have brought the texts together. However all these arguments seem to be flawed in a similar way. Basically you argue that because the Old Testament refers to God as the shepherd or looking after his sheep, and the New Testament refers to Jesus as a shepherd in a similar way – then this means that Jesus was himself literally God. But surely, just because the same metaphor was applied to two persons (Jesus and God), that doesn’t mean they must literally be identical. Surely it just means that they carried out similar or comparable roles – guiding, leading and looking after people in their care.
      For example, notice how Jesus says to Peter ‘Shepherd my sheep’ and ‘Feed my sheep’ – by your reasoning wouldn’t that mean that Peter was literally God! (John 21:16-17). And also note: 1 Peter 5:2 – ‘Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them’ – these Christian leaders were also referred to as shepherds not because they were literally God but because they were responsible for looking after Christians in their spiritual care. (See also Acts 20: 28 – Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God).
      So because Jesus was referred to as the Shepherd of the sheep, that doesn’t mean that he was literally God; it does mean that he was entrusted with the task of leading and caring for God’s people.

  11. I recently searched the Septuagint to see if I could throw further light on John 1:1 and was delighted to find a definitive passage in 2 Chronicles, specifically verses 7 and 8. In verse 7 the Greek for God is used without the article in a context where it could only mean God and, surprise, surprise, the NWT translates the word as ‘God’, not ‘a god.’ This shows that the NWT translators have little or no knowledge of Greek usage and no concern for consistency. Moreover, in verse 8 the Greek has the phrase προς τον θεόν exactly as in John 1:1 but translated in the normal way as ‘to God.’ In John 1:1 it would be hard to find any translation that does not render the same phrase as ‘with God.’ Even the modern Greek translation has παρα τω Θεω. What then was John trying to tell us when he wrote προς τον θεόν ? I have some ideas but I would like to know if anyone can answer the question for certain.


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