Home » Eternal Life » Jesus the Jewish Messiah » John 1:1 “The Word was God” or “God was the Word”?

John 1:1 “The Word was God” or “God was the Word”?

A friend of mine, who lives in Israel, recently got an email from some one claiming that there are “myriads of errors” in the New Testament Hebrew translation which “relate to Jesus and His deity and His relationship with the Father.” Though the specific issue has to do with the Hebrew text, the larger issue has to do with the nature of Greek syntax and especially the nominative predicate. This of course is an issue that one must deal with when speaking with Jehovah’s Witnesses. The other email is quoted below (in red).
“And the God was the Word.” By adding the Greek article to “God” this teaches the identity of the Father with the Son as the same Person, confusing the persons of the Godhead. It expresses an ancient heresy known as Sabellianism.

“And the word was a god.” This ordering of the Greek words expresses the ancient heresy known as Aryanism—Jesus is merely an inferior deity not equal with God the Father. This heresy has been revived by many cults such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses. The word “God” without the article put at the end of the sentence causes it to lose its emphatic nature and makes it simply indefinite=”a god.”

The exact order of the words found here in John 1:1 is the only way John could have expressed the truth that Jesus is full deity, yet not the same identical person as God the Father. By putting “God” first John stresses the nature of the divine attributes characteristic of God—“All that God is, the Word is.” The Word possess all the fullness of the divine attributes. Adding the article to “God” would change the meaning to identity of God with the Word. (an email received by my friend in Israel)

Here is my response:

The issue has to do with the order of the words as they appear in Greek.

בראשית היה הדבר והדבר היה את האלהים ואלהים היה הדבר׃ (John 1:1)

​εν   αρχη   ην    ο   λογος   και   ο   λογος   ην    προς   τον   θεον   και   θεος   ην    ο   λογος    (John 1:1)

The Greek is very clear that the Logos is the subject – it is the subject all the way throughout the verse. The word God  has the article in front of it (in both Greek and Hebrew. Notice that in the last phrase the Greek has “God” first without an article and “word” has the article just  like it has throughout the verse. The subject of the verse is clearly “Logos”. “God” is being used in the predicate position (that is it is saying something about the subject). The last phrase is called a predicate nominative – where one noun is describing the other and both of the nouns are in the nominative case. Thus, in order to make clear which of the two nouns is the subject (case endings determine the role of a noun, not word order like in English), the article will go with the subject, and the one that has the (nominative article) is the subject and the other is relegated to the predicate position. Therefore, the Greek is extremely clear that “Logos” is the subject not because of word order but because it has the article and “God” is what we call anarthrous (no article). The translators of the Hebrew of John 1:1 followed the syntax of the Greek very closely. Notice that  היה את האלהים the word Elohim has an article. In the next phrase (the one your friend claims is wrong), Elohim does not have an article whereas hadavar does.  Thus, the translators were trying capture the style of the Greek as closely as possible. I believe that they are justified in doing so because normal usage of Elohim (generally) does not have an article – that is when it is being used  as a proper noun. However, they note the predicate use (when it is used accusatively) by using the article and when it is in the predicate nominative the word “Elohim” does not have the article.  So, the translation is actually quite accurate and I don’t believe that your friend is justified in wanting to redo it. Nor is he justified in saying that no article signifies “a god”.

About Douglas

3 comments

  1. Please I couldn’t understand clearly,give me the details. YAHUSHUA is Word ok I understand but YAHWEH is also Word ? Make me to understand, for I’m having doubt that which Word has become in the flesh? YAHUSHUA or YAHWEH. Continuously I’m searching, now fortunately I found this. Please help me. Are both called Word? If it’s Yes my doubt is clear. Thank you.

  2. Joshua Brandenburg

    The scripture should be rendered God was the word. Not the word was God and not the word was a god. This scripture has been reordered to render perceived doctrine rather than truth. It simply means that God was the message. Think of it this way. If I were to send a message to someone to tell them about myself, about my existence, it doesn’t mean I and the paper the message was written on are the same thing. In the beginning was the Word(Jesus/Yahushua), and the Word(Jesus/Yahushua) was with God(Yahuwah), and God was the Word(Who God is and his purpose and plan was the message, that message was physically sent via Jesus/Yahushua.) God was the message. Jesus/Yahushua was the paper the message was sent on. That’s why he is the word! Get it?
    We all will soon have to face our own before God. The truth shall set you free! Pray and ask for guidance, incite and knowledge with an honest heart and it shall be given to you. The day is almost upon us and there isn’t much time left for this charade.

    • Good stuff!! Let me add to this intriguing discussion on God was the word. Now if I and 2 others speak from 1 room while another is in a different room but can still hear us talking they are able to identify through sound how many and who is talking without seeing us actually move our lips. Jesus was the sound traveling from heaven speaking to people as God on earth. The sound told people who the Father really was and that he is the only one good. The sound/message/saying/ the word of God put on a body and walked among us and we didn’t know it. It wasn’t till after his ressurection that they fully understood. The word of God was the son of God and was a living walking talking human being at the same time. So my question is was he God. YES my words are not my full make up but I am no greater than my words if I’m telling the truth about myself that is and we know God cannot lie. So his word spoke to him and he spoke to his word. JW refuse to comprehend the fact that it’s possible for words to come alive and put on a body as if it were a suit. They are stuck on the name JEHOVAH but that name cannot heal, open the eyes of the blind ect… acts 4 12 no other name under heaven given to man can we be saved by and that’s the name of God’s word. Yahshua/Jesus

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers: