Back to John 1:1, 2
58. To what understanding regarding Jesus Christ does John bring us at the end of his first letter to Christians?
EVEN at the end of his first letter to Christians the apostle John brings us to the same understanding, namely, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that humans begotten of God are children of God with Jesus Christ. An American Translation presents the end of John’s letter as follows: “We know that no child of God commits sin, but that he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one cannot touch him. We know that we are children of God, while the whole world is in the power of the evil one. And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us power to recognize him who is true; and we are in union with him who is true.” How? “Through his Son, Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Dear children, keep away from idols.”—1 John 5:18-21, AT; RS.
59. How do various translations of John 1:1 read, but now what are we in position to determine?
59 Since the One of whom Jesus Christ is the Son is “the true God and eternal life,” and since Jesus Christ is “he who was born of God” and who protects God’s other children, how are we to understand John 1:1, 2, of which there are differing translations? Many translations read: “And the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Others read: “And the Word (the Logos) was divine.” Another: “And the Word was god.” Others: “And the Word was a god.” Since we have examined so much of what John wrote about Jesus who was the Word made flesh, we are now in position to determine which of those several translations is correct. It means our salvation.
60. What comment did Count Leo Tolstoy make on John 1:1, 2, according to the common translation thereof?
60 Take first that popular rendering by the Authorized Version or Douay Version: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God.” Here a few lines deserve to be quoted from the book The Four Gospels Harmonized and Translated, by Count Leo Tolstoy, as follows:
If it says that in the beginning was the comprehension, or word, and that the word was to God, or with God, or for God, it is impossible to go on and say that it was God. If it was God, it could stand in no relation to God.a
Certainly the apostle John was not so unreasonable as to say that someone (“the Word”) was with some other individual (“God”) and at the same time was that other individual (“God”).
61 John proves that the Word who was with God “was made flesh” and became Jesus Christ and that Jesus Christ was “the Son of God.” So it would be proper to say that the Word was the Son of God. For anyone to say that the Word was God, “the only true God,” would be contrary to what the apostle John proves by the rest of his writings. In the last book of the Bible, namely, in Revelation 19:13, John calls him “The Word of God,” saying: “And his name is called The Word of God.” (AV; Dy) Note that his name is not called “God the Word,” but is called “The Word of God,” or God’s Word. Hence John 1:1 must mean, at most, that the Word was of God.
62. What does the book entitled The Patristic Gospels say that the true reading of John 1:1 probably is?
62 At hand here we have a bookb entitled “The Patristic Gospels—An English Version of the holy Gospels as they existed in the Second Century,” by Roslyn D’Onston. The title page tells how this version was put together. In John 1:1 this version reads: “and the Word was God.” But it has this footnote: “The true reading here is, probably, of God. See Critical Note.”—Page 118.c
63. Why does the wording of John 1:1 in the Greek text make translators disagree as to what the Word was?
63 Now why is it that translators disagree as to what the Word was—“God,” or, “god,” or, “a god”? It is because the Greek word for “God” is at the beginning of the statement although it belongs to the predicate, and it also does not have the definite article “the” in front of it. Below, to illustrate this, we give on the first set of lines the Greek text according to the fourth-century uncial manuscripts; and then on the second line, how the Greek text is pronounced in our language today; and on the third line a word-for-word English translation. Note Greek abbreviations for “God.”
ΕΝ ΑΡΧΗ ΗΝ Ο ΛΟΓΟΣ ΚΑΙ Ο ΛΟΓΟΣ
EN ARKHEI ĒN HO LOGOS, KAI HO LOGOS
IN BEGINNING WAS THE WORD, AND THE WORD
ΗΝ ΠΡΟΣ ΤΟΝ ΘΝ ΚΑΙ ΘΣ ΗΝ Ο ΛΟΓΟΣ
ĒN PROS TON THN, KAI THS ĒN HO LOGOS.
WAS WITH THE GOD, AND GOD WAS THE WORD.
ΟΥΤΟΣ ΗΝ ΕΝ ΑΡΧΗ ΠΡΟΣ ΤΟΝ ΘΝ
HOUTOS ĒN EN ARKHEI PROS TON THN.
THIS WAS IN BEGINNING WITH THE GOD.
64. What did Bishop Westcott, as quoted by Professor Moule, say that the word “God” without the definite article “the” in front of it described?
64 Please note the omission of the definite article “THE” in front of the second “GOD.” On this omission Professor Moule asks: “Is the omission of the article in theós ēn ho lógos nothing more than a matter of idiom?” Then, in the next paragraph, Moule goes on to say:
On the other hand it needs to be recognized that the Fourth Evangelist [John] need not have chosen this word-order, and that his choice of it, though creating some ambiguity, may in itself be an indication of his meaning; and [Bishop] Westcott’s note (in loc.), although it may require the addition of some reference to idiom, does still, perhaps, represent the writer’s theological intention: ‘It is necessarily without the article (theós not ho theós) inasmuch as it describes the nature of the Word and does not identify His Person. It would be pure Sabellianism to say “the Word was ho theós”. No idea of inferiority of nature is suggested by the form of expression, which simply affirms the true deity of the Word. Compare the converse statement of the true humanity of Christ five 27 (hóti huiòs anthrópou estín . . . ).’d
65. In view of what Bishop Westcott has said, how have some translators rendered John 1:1, and what does this describe the Word as being?
65 The late Bishop Westcott, coproducer of the famous Westcott and Hort Greek text of the Christian Scriptures, speaks of the “true humanity of Christ” and yet he argues that Jesus Christ was not “true humanity” but a mixture, a so-called God-Man. However, note that the Bishop says that the omission of the definite article the before the Greek word theós makes the word theós like an adjective that “describes the nature of the Word” rather than identify his person. This fact accounts for it that some translators render it: “And the Word was divine.” That is not the same as saying that the Word was God and was identical with God. One grammarian would translate the passage: “And the Word was deity,” to bring out his view that the Word was not “all of God.”e According to trinitarians the Word was only a third of God, a coequal Second Person in a three-in-one God. However, our consideration of all that John has written has proved how false such a teaching is, a teaching that even the trinitarians themselves cannot understand or explain. The Word is the Son of God, not the Second Person of God.
66, 67. (a) How does Torrey’s translation print John 1:1? (b) How does The Emphatic Diaglott print it?
66 The Four Gospels, by C. C. Torrey, shows the difference between theós with ho (the definite article) and theós without ho by printing his translation as follows: “And the Word was with God, and the Word was god.” (Second edition of 1947)
67 The Emphatic Diaglott, by Benjamin Wilson, of 1864, shows the difference by printing its translation as follows: “And the LOGOS was with GOD, and the LOGOS was God.”
68. (a) What do translations printed in such ways indicate about the Word? (b) So what question now arises?
68 Even translations printed in those ways indicate that the Word, in his prehuman existence in heaven with God, had a godly quality but was not God himself or a part of God. The Word was the Son of God. So the question arises, What would we call such a Son of God who first of all had this godly quality among the sons of God in heaven? We remember that Jesus Christ told the Jews that those human judges to whom or against whom God’s word came were called “gods” in Psalm 82:1-6.—John 10:34-36.
“THE SONS OF GOD”
69. What does Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar say regarding the expression “the sons of God” in the Hebrew Scriptures?
69 The Hebrew Scriptures mention “the sons of God” (beneí ha-Elohím) in Genesis 6:2, 4; Job 1:6; 2:1 and Job 38:7. Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar, on page 418, paragraph 2, comments on those Bible verses and says the following:
There is another use of ben- [“son of”] or beneí [“sons of”] to denote membership of a guild or society (or of a tribe, or any definite class). Thus beneí Elohím [“sons of God”] or beneí ha-Elohím [“sons of The God”] Genesis 6:2, 4, Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7 (compare also beneí Elím Psalms 29:1; 89:7) properly means not sons of god(s), but beings of the class of elohim or elim; . . .
And then this Grammar goes on to explain the Hebrew expression in 1 Kings 20:35 for “sons of the prophets” as meaning “persons belonging to the guild of prophets”; and the Hebrew expression in Nehemiah 3:8 for “son of the apothecaries” as meaning “one of the guild of apothecaries.”—See also Amos 7:14.
70. How does The Lexicon for the Old Testament Books by Koehler and Baumgartner show agreement with Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar?
70 The Lexicon for the Old Testament Books, by Koehler and Baumgartner, agrees with Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar. On page 134, column 1, lines 12, 13, edition of 1951, this Lexicon prints first the Hebrew expression and then its meaning in German and in English and says: “BENEI ELOHIM (individual) divine beings, gods.” And then on page 51, column 1, lines 2, 3, it says: “BENEI HA-ELOHIM the (single) gods Genesis 6:2; Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7.”
71 In Psalm 8:4, 5 David speaks prophetically of how the Word of God became flesh and David calls the angels of heaven elohím or “gods,” using the same word that occurs in Psalm 82:1, 6. The Authorized or King James Version reads: “What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels; and hast crowned him with glory and honour.” Hebrews 2:6-9 applies those words to Jesus Christ, how in becoming flesh he “was made a little lower than the angels.” (AV) However, An American Translation renders Psalm 8:5 to read: “Yet thou hast made him but little lower than God.” The Book of Psalms, by S. T. Byington, translates it: “And you have made him little short of God.” Moffatt’s translation reads: “Yet thou hast made him little less than divine.”
72. How does the New World Translation render Psalm 8:5, and why is its rendering not a teaching of polytheism?
72 The New World Translation reads: “You also proceeded to make him a little less than godlike ones.” Is this last translation a teaching of polytheism or the worship of many gods? Not at all! Why not? Because the Hebrew Scriptures actually contain these things and apply the title elohím or “gods” to men and to angels, and still those Hebrew Scriptures did not teach polytheism to the Jews.
73, 74. (a) What were once Satan the Devil and his demons, and what have they become to this world and its nations? (b) Why was it not polytheism that Paul was teaching in 1 Corinthians 8:5, 6?
73 Do not forget that the Bible teaches that the spirit creature who transformed himself into Satan the Devil was originally one of those “sons of God” or one of those “godlike ones,” one of those elohím. Also the spirits that became demons under Satan were once numbered among those “godlike ones.” So it is no remarkable thing that the apostle Paul calls Satan “the god of this world,” or that he says that the pagan nations have made the spirit demons their gods and offer sacrifice to them.—2 Cor. 4:4; 1 Cor. 10:20, 21, AV.
74 Paul said: “Though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many)”; but Paul was not teaching polytheism thereby. For he added: “But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.” (1 Cor. 8:5, 6, AV) We worship the same God that the Lord Jesus Christ worships, and that is the “one God, the Father.” This worship we render to him through the Son of God, our “one Lord Jesus Christ.”
75. How does the New World Translation render John 1:1-3, and against what background does it do so?
75 Against the background of the teachings of the apostle John, yes, of all the Scriptures of the Holy Bible, the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures renders John 1:1-3 as follows: “In [the] beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god. This one was in [the] beginning with God. All things came into existence through him, and apart from him not even one thing came into existence.”
76. (a) Because of being used to bring into existence all other creatures, what must the Word or Logos in heaven have been? (b) Like a spoken word, what is the Word, and what rank does he hold?
76 Certainly the Word or Logos, whom God his Father used in bringing into existence all other creatures, was the chief or the firstborn among all the other angels whom the Hebrew Scriptures call elohím or “gods.” He is the “only begotten Son” because he is the only one whom God himself created directly without the agency or cooperation of any creature. (John 3:16, AV; AS; Dy) If the Word or Logos was not the first living creature whom God created, who, then, is God’s first created Son, and how has this first creation been honored and used as the first-made one of the family of God’s sons? We know of no one but the Word or Logos, “The Word of God.” Like a word that is produced by a speaker, the Word or Logos is God’s creation, God’s first creation. Since unjust judges on earth against whom God’s word of judgment came were Scripturally called “gods” (elohím), the Word or Logos whom God has appointed to be a just Judge and by whom God’s word has come to us is also Scripturally called “a god.” He is more mighty than human judges.
77. What does his title “The Word” mark him as being, and of what Abyssinian officer does it remind us?
77 His very title “The Word” marks him as the Chief One among the sons of God. Here we are reminded of the Abyssinian Kal Hatzè, described by James Bruce in Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile in 1768, 1769, 1770, 1771, 1772 and 1773:f
There is an officer, named Kal Hatzè, who stands always upon steps at the side of the lattice-window, where there is a hole covered in the inside with a curtain of green taffeta; behind this curtain the king sits, and through this hole he sends what he has to say to the Board, who rise and receive the messenger standing. . . . Hitherto, while there were strangers in the room, he had spoken to us by an officer called Kal Hatzè, the voice or word of the king. . . . exhibitions of this kind, made by the king in public, at no period seem to have suited the genius of this people. Formerly, his face was never seen, nor any part of him, excepting sometimes his foot. He sits in a kind of balcony, with lattice windows and curtains before him. Even yet he covers his face on audiences or public occasions, and when in judgment. On cases of treason, he sits within his balcony, and speaks through a hole in the side of it, to an officer called Kal Hatzè, “the voice or word of the king,” by whom he sends his questions, or any thing else that occurs, to the judges, who are seated at the council-table.
78. What does it mean for the president of a republic to be called the tongue of a people?
78 Somewhat suggestive of this is the article entitled “Indonesians’ Idol—Sukarno,” as appearing in the New York Times under date of September 12, 1961. Under his picture is the legend “Tongue of the Indonesian people,” and the article goes on to say:
. . . Almost without fail the speaker will add: “When I die, do not write in golden letters on my tomb: ‘Here lies His Excellency Doctor Engineer Sukarno, First President of the Republic of Indonesia.’ Just write: ‘Here lies Bung [Brother] Karno, Tongue of the Indonesian People.’”
In calling him “Tongue,” it means he speaks for the whole people.
79. (a) What like figure of speech does Exodus 4:16 use for Aaron? (b) By what statements to the Jews did Jesus show that he was God’s Word?
79 The Bible, in Exodus 4:16, uses a like figure of speech, when God says to the prophet Moses concerning his brother Aaron: “And he shall be thy spokesman unto the people: and he shall be, even he shall be to thee instead of a mouth, and thou shalt be to him instead of God.” (AV) As a spokesman for the godlike Moses, Aaron served as a mouth for him. Likewise with the Word or Logos, who became Jesus Christ. To show that he was God’s Word or spokesman, Jesus said to the Jews: “My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” Explaining that he spoke for God, Jesus also said: “Whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak.”—John 7:16, 17; 12:50, AV.
80 Since Jesus Christ as the Word of God occupies a position held by no other creation of God, we can appreciate why the apostle John wrote, in John 1:1: “And the Word was a god.” We can appreciate also John’s words in John 1:18, as recorded in the most ancient Greek manuscripts: “No man hath seen God at any time: an Only Begotten God, the One existing within the bosom of the Father, he hath interpreted him.” (Ro) Since he is “an Only Begotten God”g who has interpreted his heavenly Father to us, we can appreciate the proper force of the words of the apostle Thomas addressed to the resurrected Jesus Christ: “My Lord and my God.”—John 20:28.
81. Because of his being the Word of God, what was his chief purpose in becoming flesh and blood on earth?
81 Because Jesus Christ as “the Word of God” is the universal Spokesman for God his Father, the apostle John very fittingly presents Jesus Christ as God’s Chief Witness. The bearing of witness was the chief purpose of the Word or Logos in becoming flesh and dwelling among us creatures of blood and flesh. Standing before the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate when on trial for his life, the Word made flesh said: “To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.”—John 18:37, AV.
82 In view of his record when he was on earth as God’s chief witness, the “Word of God” in heavenly glory could say, in Revelation 3:14: “These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God.” (AV) Consequently the apostle John could pray for grace and peace to the Christian congregations from God and “from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth.” (Rev. 1:4, 5, AV) He is the Chief of the Christian witnesses of Jehovah God.
83. (a) Hence, what do we do well in doing, and why? (b) By doing so, as John did, what will we also be?
83 Since Jesus Christ is now the glorified “Word of God” in heaven, we do well to listen to what he says, for when he speaks it is as if Jehovah God himself were speaking. (Rev. 19:13) By listening to the voice of the glorified, living “Word of God” we prove that we are “of the truth.” By knowing his voice and listening and responding to his voice we prove that we are his “sheep.” (John 10:3, 4, 16, 27) If we hear his voice and open the door and let him in where we live, he will come in and have a spiritual supper with us. (Rev. 3:20) More than any other inspired Christian writer of the Bible the apostle John wrote of witnesses and of witnessing. If we, like John, listen to the voice of the royal “Word of God,” we too will be faithful witnesses, bearing witness to the truth that sets men free and that leads to life everlasting in God’s righteous new world. Finally, we say, Thanks to Jehovah God for using the apostle John to make known to us who the Word is.
a Quoted from page 30, paragraph 2, of The Four Gospels Harmonized and Translated, as translated from the original Russian by Professor Leo Wiener, copyrighted 1904, published by Willey Book Company, New York, N.Y. The author is the famous Count Leo Tolstoy, the Russian novelist and religious philosopher, who died A.D. 1910.
b The title page of this book says: “Collated from 120 of the Greek and Latin Fathers, from the Second to the Tenth Century, the 26 Old Latin (Italic) Versions of the Second Century; the Vulgate; 24 Greek uncials and some cursives; the Syriac, Egyptian, and other ancient versions and corrected by comparing all the critical Greek texts from Stephanus (A.D. 1550) to Westcott and Hort, 1881; all the English versions from Wiclif (Fourteenth Century) to the American Baptist Version of 1883; as well as every commentator English and Foreign, who has ever suggested a practicable rendering.—London: Grant Richards, 48 Leicester Square, 1904.”
c This Critical Note for John 1:1, found on page 156, says: There are three distinct reasons for believing of God to be the true reading. First, the manuscripts, as stated in that Note; secondly, the logical argument, because if the Evangelist meant ‘was God,’ there would have been no occasion for the next verse; thirdly, the grammatical construction of the sentence: for ‘was God,’ would he not have written ho lógos ēn theós, which would, at any rate, have been more elegant? But if we read it, kai theoû ēn ho lógos, the theoû is in its proper place in the sentence. I have refrained from correcting the text of this passage at the express desire of the late Bishop Westcott.”
The Greek word theoũ means “of God.”
d Quoted from page 116 of An Idiom-Book of New Testament Greek, by C. F. D. Moule, Lady Margaret’s Professor of Divinity in the University of Cambridge; edition of 1953.
e See the Appendix of the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures, page 774, edition of 1950, paragraphs 1, 2.
f Quoted from Volume 4, page 76, and from Volume 3. pages 231, 265, of this book, in five volumes, by James Bruce of Kinnaird, Esquire, Fellow of the Royal Society, Edinburgh, Scotland. Printed by J. Ruthven for G. G. J. and J. Robinson, Paternoster Row, London, England, 1790.
After making partial quotations from the above book by James Bruce, Calmet’s Dictionary of The Holy Bible goes on to say:
“On the use of this officer, Mr. Bruce gives several striking instances: in particular, one on the trial of a rebel, when the king, by his Kal Hatzè, asked a question, by which his guilt was effectually demonstrated. It appears, then, that the king of Abyssinia makes inquiry, gives his opinion, and declares his will by a deputy, a go-between, a middle-man, called ‘his WORD.’ Assuming for a moment that this was a Jewish custom, we see to what the ancient Jewish paraphrasts referred by their term, ‘Word of JEHOVAH,’ instead of JEHOVAH himself; and the idea was familiar to their recollection, and to that of their readers: a no less necessary consideration than that of their own recollection. . . . Shall we not, hereafter, acquit the evangelists from adopting the mythological conceptions of Plato? Rather, did not Plato adopt eastern language? and is not the custom still retained in the East? See all accounts of an ambassador’s visit to the grand seignior; who never himself answers, but directs his vizier to speak for him. So in Europe, the king of France directs his keeper of the seals to speak in his name; and so the lord chancellor in England prorogues the parliament, expressing his majesty’s pleasure, and using his majesty’s name, though in his majesty’s presence.”—Quoted from page 935 of Calmet’s Dictionary of The Holy Bible, as published by the late Mr. Charles Taylor, American Edition. Revised, with large additions, by Edward Robinson. Boston: published by Crocker and Brewster, . . . New York: Jonathan Leavitt, 1832.
A royal officer similar to the Abyssinian Kal Hatzè described above was used as an illustration on pages 85, 86 of the book The Atonement Between God and Man written in 1897 by Chas. T. Russell; also in his Scenario entitled “The Photo-Drama of Creation,” 1914 edition, page 54, paragraph 3. The illustration was used in connection with John 1:1.