Search related sites

Sunday, September 27, 2009

DEFinite John 1:1c

The "Definite" John 1:1 (part 1 of 4)   (View Entire File)
(An RDB File)

(Note: I did the bulk of the personal research for this paper and wrote the first versions containing about 90% of the present one in the late 1970's. Since then I have changed some terms such as "possessive" to "prepositional" and "mass" or "amount" nouns to "non-count nouns," etc. – RDB [T2].)

1  Of all the evidence used by English-speaking[1] trinitarians to support their teaching of a three-in-one God, the one that is probably most used and declared to be the most straightforward and conclusive is found at John 1:1. Since we must believe that God would make such an essential understanding (John 17:3; 2 Thess. 1:8) of exactly who God is perfectly and unmistakably clear, we need to examine very closely this "clearest" evidence trinitarians are able to point to and see if it really is as clear as it must be in order to prove "the essential Christian doctrine" (Encyclopedia Britannica, p. 637, vol. 5, 14th ed.). And if this evidence should prove to be less than unmistakably clear, where would that leave all the rest of the trinitarians' "evidence"?

2  Here is John 1:1 as found in the trinitarian New International Version (NIV):

(1a) "In the beginning was the Word, (1b) and the Word was with God, (1c) and the Word was God." You can easily see that, although at first glance it seems to be saying that the Word (Jesus) was God, it does not say "(1) The Father, (2) the Son, and (3) the Holy Spirit are three Persons who equally make up the one true God." But that is the clear statement (or its equivalent) which should be repeatedly stated throughout the Bible if such an essential teaching were true. John 1:1c, however, is only a clear statement that two individuals are apparently called "God." But how clear is it even for that?

3  As usually translated it says Jesus, the Word (ho logos), was with God (ho theos). In the next breath it says he was God (theos). This is hardly a clear statement!

As Count Leo Tolstoy, the famous Russian novelist and religious philosopher, said:

"If it says that in the beginning was the ... Word, and that the Word was...with 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." - The Four Gospels Harmonized and Translated, p. 30.

Many trinitarian scholars, in fact, are forced to reject the interpretation that John 1:1c says that Jesus was the same "God" that he was with. Famed trinitarian scholars A. T. Robertson and B. F. Westcott, for example, were both forced to that conclusion - p. 96, Selected Notes On The Syntax Of New Testament Greek, Wallace, 3rd ed., 1981. Prof. Philip B. Harner also came to that conclusion, p. 85, JBL, vol. 92, 1973. (See the HARNER study.)

In fact, the best texts of the prologue [John 1:1-1:18] are so unclear and impossible [for trinitarians only] that some Bible scholars have even felt it necessary to say they believe there has been a copyist's error in a very early copy of this manuscript which has been copied and recopied into all the succeeding manuscripts which are still available today.

Professor Allen Wikgren (trinitarian) has shown one possibility for a copyist's error. Professor Wikgren commenting on a scripture (John 1:18) where Jesus is called "God/god" (theos) in the very oldest and best manuscripts now in existence writes:

"It is doubtful that the author would have written [`only-begotten god'], which may be a primitive, transcriptional error in the Alexandrian tradition (YC/QC)." - p. 189, A Textual Commentary On The Greek New Testament, 1971, United Bible Societies (UBS).

4  When trinitarian Prof. Wikgren said that a very early copyist's error may have been YC/QC, he meant that the Greek word "God" (and "god" - none of the earliest manuscripts used punctuation or beginning capitalization [e.g. "God," "Word," "Christ," etc.]) - is theos and in the earliest manuscripts this was written in abbreviated form (`QC,'[with a line over the top] an ancient manuscript form of `ths''). He is saying that the Greek word for "son" (huios) was also often written in abbreviated form as `YC' with a line over the top to show it is an abbreviation. This is the ancient form for 'us (huios, "son"). So his conclusion is that it is doubtful that Jesus would be called QC ("God" or "god") in this scripture (see the OBGOD study paper on John 1:18 for reasons why trinitarian scholars don't like Jesus being called the only-begotten god or God), but that it is more probable that a very early copyist made a slip and accidentally wrote QC ("god") for YC ("son"). (Trinitarian scholar Philip Schaff notes this same possibility in his History of the Christian Church, Eerdmans, vol. 1, p. 552, f.n. #2.)

Thus, instead of "only-begotten god (or `God')" which would occur only here at John 1:18, we would have the more familiar "only-begotten son." Whether this hypothetical error was the result of an eye-to-hand error or sloppy handwriting on the part of John (or a very early copyist) or some other reason is beside the point.

5  It is easy to see that a YC/QC change at John 1:18 could also account for the even stranger (in context) use of QC ("god") at John 1:1c. In other words, the very same copyist who, according to Wikgren, may have misread John's handwriting (or made a natural slip of the pen or had sloppy handwriting, etc.) at John 1:18 might have easily made the very same "error" at John 1:1c and so have written "and the word was a god (or `God')" instead of what John may have intended instead: "and the Word was a son."

It is also worth considering that QC would also be an abbreviated form for theios or "divine." This could be another explanation for those trinitarian Bibles which have translated Jn 1:1c as, "And the Word was divine."

And yet, as with all scripture, we must not assume that an error has been made at John 1:1c (or John 1:18) just because it is a possibility, and we may not like what it seems to be saying in the earliest manuscripts at hand. If all the oldest and best manuscripts that are available today say "and the Word was theos," then we must accept that as scripture until some older manuscript (or other real evidence) shows otherwise. I would not want to be guilty of knowingly teaching with false scripture!

Therefore, assuming, as we must for the present, that John actually wrote "and the Word was theos," we have to discover which of the actual meanings for theos was really intended: "God" or "a god."

6  Let's look at some Bible translations that differ from the majority of trinitarian translations. Some use the term "divine." (1) Trinitarian Moffatt's highly acclaimed New Translation of the Bible and (2) trinitarian Smith-Goodspeed's An American Translation both say that the Word "was divine." The translations by (3) Boehmer, (4) Stage, and (5) Menge all say the Word was "of divine being." (6) John J. McKenzie, S. J., writes in his Dictionary of the Bible: "Jn 1:1 should rigorously be translated `the word was with the God (equals the Father), and the word was a divine being.'" - p. 317, Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1965, published with Catholic Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur.

Why have these translators refused to make a more literal translation ("the Word was God"), as many other trinitarians have done? After all, if the original Greek of a scripture is written in such a manner that it can honestly be translated into English with several different meanings (as so frequently happens), an honest translator will invariably pick the meaning that is closest to his own beliefs and prejudices. And an honest trinitarian would, therefore, translate John 1:1c as "and the Word was God" If he felt he could honestly do so! So why have some trinitarian translators refused to so translate it?

7  The Greek words, grammar, and context clues used here by John have convinced them something else was clearly intended at John 1:1c. Rather than make a highly probable error (with extremely serious consequences - John 17:3 and 2 Thess. 1:8), they have very carefully selected a word ("divine") that has several meanings.

If they had honestly believed that John was saying that Jesus is God, they certainly would not have hesitated to say "the Word was God." Why, then, did some trinitarian translators of Christendom, some of the best Bible scholars and translators in the world, choose the word "divine"? Well, what does "divine" mean? According to the best authority on word meanings it means - "1a: of or relating to God: proceeding from God...b: of or relating to a god; having the nature of a god; like a god or like that of a god." - Webster's Third New International Dictionary, 1962.

Notice that the number one meaning is "of God" or "from God." It may be that these translators have honestly felt that this understanding is correct, and John originally wrote "and the Word was of God (QY –"of God" abbreviation - instead of QC)." Or they may even have believed that the abbreviated form of QC (ancient form of ths) found in all the earliest manuscripts of John 1:1c was an abbreviation for "divine" (theios) rather than "god" (theos).

We see that the #1b meaning for "divine" would make John 1:1c read "and the Word was like a god." If these translators had that definition of "divine" in mind, we could understand John 1:1c to mean "and the Word was like a god."

8  See how the word "divine" is used in the footnotes for Genesis 18:2-8 and Gen. 1:26 in the highly trinitarian New Oxford Annotated Bible, 1977 ed.: The three angels are "divine beings" and,

"the plural us, our probably refers to the divine beings who compose God's heavenly court (1 Ki. 22:19; Job 1:6)."

Nelson's Expository Dictionary of the Old Testament, Unger and White, p. 159, 1980 ed., speaking of an angel, says:

"... refers to a divine being or messenger sent to protect the three Hebrews (Dan. 3:28)."

9  Examine the explanation of the strongly trinitarian author of Christianity Through the Centuries which shows how the strongly anti-trinitarian Arius of the 4th century viewed God and Jesus:

"Arius believed that Christ was a being, created out of nothing, subordinate to the Father.... To Arius He was divine but not deity." - p. 143, Earl E. Cairns, Ph. D., 1977.

Even Arius' opponent, hyper-trinitarian Athanasius, believed that men can be divine: Speaking of Christ, "`He was made man,' said Athanasius, `that we might be made divine.'" [Some other trinitarian publications translate this as "that we might be made GOD" - A History of Christianity, Latourette, 1953.] - pp. 116-117, A Short History of the Early Church, Dr. H. R. Boer (trinitarian), 1976, Eerdmans Publishing. (Compare 2 Peter 1:4 TEV, GNB, JB, MLB, and the NT translations by Charles B. Williams, 1963 ed., and William F. Beck, 1964 ed.) Famous Christian of the 2nd century, Irenaeus, writing about certain exemplary Christian elders of the 1st and 2nd centuries, calls one of them "divine" (theios) - The Apostolic Fathers, Lightfoot and Harmer, Baker Book House, pp. 539 and 553.

And the Apostle Paul could feel a divine jealousy - 2 Cor. 11:2 RSV, MLB, CBW, NEB, Moffatt. Yes, even the greatest defender of the doctrine of the trinity of all time, Augustine, said that the Scriptures themselves "were truly divine" and he spoke of "our true divine," Moses - Book xviii, chapters 37 and 42, The City of God, pp. 646, 651, Random House, 1950. 

Notice what the Encyclopedia Britannica reveals about John 1:1, Jesus, and the word "divine."

"The Logos [`the Word'] which having been in the beginning, and with God, and `divine,' had entered human life and history as the Word `made flesh.' .... but the identification of Jesus with the Logos was not tantamount to recognizing him as `God.' Neither the `Word of God' in Hebrew nomenclature nor the Logos in Greek speculation was `God,' though it was definitely `divine.'" - p. 25, vol. 13, 14th ed.

10  Now let's see how some other translations have rendered John 1:1c.

(1) The New Testament in an Improved Version (1808) says: "the Word was with God, and the Word was a god."

(2) The New World Translation (Jehovah's Witnesses) says: "and the Word was a god."

(3) The Emphatic Diaglott by Benjamin Wilson (1865) says in the interlinear section: "a god was the Word."

(4) The Four Gospels - A New Translation by Prof. Charles C. Torrey says: "the Word was with God, and the Word was god."

(5) Das Evangelium nach Johannes by Siegfried Shultz says: "and a god (or, of a divine kind) was the Word."

(6) Das Evangelium nach Johannes by Johannes Schneider says: "and godlike sort was the Logos [Word]."

(7) Das Evangelium nach Johannes by Jurgen Becker says: "and a god was the Logos."

Notice how these 7 different translations use the word "god" (or `godlike'), clearly differentiating between it and the only true God!

Even the very trinitarian Greek expert, W. E. Vine, (although, for obvious reasons, he chooses not to accept it as the proper interpretation) admits that the literal translation of John 1:1c is: "a god was the Word". - p. 490, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1983 printing.

Equally trinitarian Professor C. H. Dodd, director of the New English Bible project, also admits this is a proper literal translation:

"A possible translation [for John 1:1c] ... would be, `The Word was a god.' As a word-for-word translation it cannot be faulted." - Technical Papers for the Bible Translator, vol. 28, Jan. 1977.

11  The reason Prof. Dodd still rejects "a god" as the actual meaning intended by John is simply because it upsets his trinitarian interpretations of John's Gospel! - See WT, p. 28, Oct. 15, 1993.

Rev. J. W. Wenham wrote in his The Elements of New Testament Greek: “Therefore as far as grammar alone is concerned, such a sentence could be printed: θεὸς ἐστιν ὁ λόγος, which would mean either, ‘The Word is a god, or, 'The Word is the god’.” - p. 35, Cambridge University Press, 1965.

(Of course if you carefully examine this study, you will find that the grammar really shows that ‘The Word is [or “was” in John 1:1c] a god’ is what John intended.)

Trinitarian NT scholar Prof. Murray J. Harris also admits that grammatically John 1:1c may be properly translated, ‘the Word was a god,’ but his trinitarian bias makes him claim that “John’s monotheism” will not allow such an interpretation. - p. 60, Jesus as God, Baker Book House, 1992. 

However, his acknowledgment of the use of “god” for men at John 10:34-36 and the use of “god/gods” for angels, judges, and other men in the Hebrew OT Scriptures contradicts his Trinitarian interpretation above. - p. 202.

Trinitarian Dr. Robert Young admits that a more literal translation of John 1:1c is "and a God [2] (i.e. a Divine Being) was the Word" - p. 54, (`New Covenant' section), Young's Concise Critical Bible Commentary, Baker Book House, 1977 printing.

Highly respected trinitarian scholar, author, and Bible translator, Dr. William Barclay wrote: "You could translate [John 1:1c], so far as the Greek goes: `the Word was a God'; but it seems obvious that this is so much against the whole of the rest of the New Testament that it is wrong." - p. 205, Ever yours, edited by C. L. Rawlins, Labarum Publ., 1985.

Professor Jason David BeDuhn tells us, “Grammatically, John 1:1 is not a difficult verse to translate. It follows familiar, ordinary structures of Greek expression. A lexical (‘interlinear’) translation of the controversial clause would read: ‘And a god was the Word.’ A minimal literal (‘formal equivalence’) translation would rearrange the word order to match proper English expression: ‘And the Word was a god.’ The preponderance of evidence, from Greek grammar, from literary context, and from cultural environment, supports this translation….” - p. 132, Truth in Translation, University Press of America, 2003.
And as we saw above, John J. McKenzie, S. J., writes in his Dictionary of the Bible: "Jn 1:1 should rigorously be translated `the word was with the God (equals the Father), and the word was a divine being.'" - p. 317, Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1965, published with Catholic Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur.

12  You see, in ancient times many of God's servants had no qualms about using the word "god" or "gods" for godly men, kings, judges, and even angels.

Yes, as trinitarian scholar Dr. Robert Young tells us in the preface to Young's Analytical Concordance in the section entitled "Hints and Helps to Bible Interpretation":

"65. God—is used of any one (professedly) MIGHTY, whether truly so or not, and is applied not only to the true God, but to false gods, Magistrates, judges, angels, prophets, etc., e.g. Ex. 7:1; ... John 1:1; 10:33, 34, 35; 20:28 ...." - Eerdmans Publ., 1978.

Notice how John 1:1 has been listed as an example of "God" (or "god") being applied to someone other than the true God (as in the case of "judges, angels, prophets, etc."). Dr. Young also specifically tells us that John 1:1 is literally "and a God (i.e. a Divine Being) was the Word." p. 54, Young's Concise Critical Bible Commentary. Certainly a trinitarian scholar such as Dr. Young would interpret John 1:1c to mean "the Word was the true God" if he could honestly do so! Obviously he felt there was something wrong with that interpretation.

New Testament Greek expert Joseph H. Thayer also defined theos:

"[Theos] is used of whatever can in any respect be likened to God or resembles him in any way: Hebraistically, i.q. God's representative or vicegerent, of magistrates and judges." - p. 288, Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament.

Angels are literally called "gods" (Hebrew - elohim) at Ps. 8:5, 6. We know angels are called "gods" here because this passage is quoted at Heb. 2:6, 7, and there the word "angels" is used in New Testament Greek. In fact, the highly trinitarian NKJV actually translates the elohim of Ps. 8:5, 6 as `angels' ("For you have made him a little lower than the angels.")

The very trinitarian New American Bible (1970), St. Joseph ed., states in a footnote for Ps. 8:6:

"The angels: in Hebrew, elohim, which is the ordinary word for `God' or `the gods;' hence the ancient versions generally understood the term as referring to heavenly spirits [angels]." So how does noted trinitarian Dr. James Moffatt translate (at Ps. 8:6) this word that means "God" or "gods" and which is here applied to angels? Again, as at John 1:1, he translates the word for "God/god" as "divine"! "Yet thou hast made him little less than divine [elohim]." ("Heavenly beings," NIV - see NIVSB footnote for Heb. 2:7.)

The equally trinitarian New Bible Dictionary tells us:

"Sons (children) of God" - "a. Individuals of the class `god'.... `Son of God' in Heb. means `god' or `godlike' rather than `son of (the) God (Yahweh)'. In Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7; Ps. 29:1; 89:6, the `sons of God' [angels] form Yahweh's heavenly train or subordinates." - p. 1133, New Bible Dictionary, (second ed.), 1982. Also note p. 1134. And see "Sons of God" in Today's Dictionary of the Bible, p. 591 and An Encyclopedia of Religion, p. 726, (1945 ed.).

The NIV Study Bible [1985 ed.] states:

"In the language of the OT ... rulers and judges, as deputies of the heavenly King, could be given the honorific title `god' ... or be called `son of God'." - footnote for Ps. 82:1. And, in a footnote for Ps. 45:6, this same highly-respected trinitarian publication says: "In this psalm, which praises the [Israelite] king..., it is not unthinkable that he was called `god' as a title of honor (cf. Isa. 9:6)."

And trinitarian Murray J. Harris also admits that Ps. 45 calls the ancient Israelite king "God" (Elohim).

"It should be observed, to begin with, that to address the king as Elohim ["God" or "god"] was not to deify him. As surely as Israelites believed that the king was distinct from other men, they believed he was distinct from Elohim ["God"]. In whatever sense the king was `divine,' it was not an actual or intrinsic divinity that he possessed. Nor was the king regarded as an incarnation of Deity. Rather, he was `Yahweh's anointed {"christ" or "messiah"},' in the sense that he served as Yahweh's deputy on earth, exercising a delegated yet sovereign authority.

{Harris' footnote here says: "[Mettinger] observes that since the king does on earth what God does in heaven `one is almost tempted to speak of the king as the "image and likeness of God on earth"' (263). According to A. R. Johnson (`Divine Kingship' 42), `in Israelite thought the king was a potential "extension" of the personality of Yahweh.'"} And as anointed leader {a "messiah"} of God's chosen people, the king was, by the gracious divine will, God's adopted SON (2 Sam. 7:14; Ps. 2:7; 89:27-28 [Engl. vv. 26-27]). Yet, in accounting for this unique application of the title Elohim {Ho Theos in the Septuagint} to a king, one must reckon with more than simply the king's divine election and his unique role in standing in loco dei {`in place of God'}. The king may exceptionally be addressed as `God' also because, endowed with the Spirit of Yahweh, he exhibits certain divine characteristics. .... {The psalmist} forestalls misunderstanding by indicating that the king is not elohim without qualification. Yahweh is the king's `God.' {Ps. 45:7, be sure to compare Micah 5:4 (esp. NIVSB f.n.); 2 Cor. 11:31; Eph. 1:3, 17; 1 Pet. 1:3; Rev. 3:12 where the Father is called Jesus Christ's God! - RDB} Such an explanation does not rule out the possibility that the {psalmist} is also stressing the intimate and unique relationship that exists between the king and Yahweh..." - pp. 200-201, Jesus As God.

And on p. 202 Harris also tells us:

"Another consideration that may partially explain this unique form of address {`God' or `god' in Ps. 45:6} is the relative fluidity of the term Elohim in the Hebrew Bible, where on occasion it is used of the heavenly beings around Yahweh's throne (Ps. 8:6 [Engl. v.5] [LXX, aggelous]; 97:7; 138:1), judges (Ps. 82:1, 6; cf. Ps. 58:2 [Engl. v.1] and also John 10:34-36), Moses (Exod. 7:1; cf. 4:16), and the apparition of Samuel (1 Sam. 28:13; cf. Isa. 8:19). It is also relevant to note that Isaiah 9:5 [Engl. v.6] combines the two terms used in Psalm 45 to address the king (viz., {`mighty' and `God'}) and applies the title to the ideal king of the future .... Because, then, Israelites regarded the king as God's viceroy on earth, his legitimated son who exhibited divine qualities, it is not altogether surprising that ... a Davidic king should exceptionally be given a title that was in fact not reserved exclusively for Deity." {The footnote for this point in the text says: "It is proper to speak of an `identity' between the king and God (as Egnell does, 175) only in the sense that ideally the king is godlike in his character and conduct. He is not `one' with God by nature but may become partially `one' with him in practice and may therefore not inappropriately, if only exceptionally, be called `God.'"} - p. 202, Jesus as God, Baker Book House, 1992.

Lest anyone should still think the ancient Israelite king should actually be considered absolutely equal with the one true God, Harris quotes another scholar:

"`Royal ideology reaches its highest point in this passage {Ps. 45:6}, but doubtless it is entirely right to remember in connection with this text that `one swallow does not make a summer,' and that Old Testament teaching viewed as a whole always clearly asserts the king's subordination to Yahweh'." - Harris quotes E. Jacob here in footnote #61, p. 200.

But many trinitarian apologists rarely take such sensible advice when it concerns the Bible's use of the same rarely-used terminology in connection with the king and Christ, Jesus! Carefully compare the explanations above for the ancient Israelite kings (who are also called "son," "christ," etc.) being infrequently called "God" with the equally infrequent use of that same term for Jesus.

13  Let's back up for a moment and look at Exodus 7:1 which Dr. Young (above) put in the same category as John 1:1c (i.e. "God" or "god" scripturally referring to one other than the true God). Ex. 7:1 is literally translated: "So he said, Yahweh to Moses, `See, I made you God to Pharaoh'" - The NIV Interlinear Hebrew-English Old Testament. The word "God" (or "god") here is elohim in Hebrew and is the same word used for "God" when describing the only true God, Yahweh (or `Jehovah' in the English form of His Name). However, it may also be translated "a god."[3]

That is why we see so many different versions of this scripture even in trinitarian Bibles: "I have made thee a god to Pharaoh" - KJV. "I appoint you a god to Pharaoh" - MLB. "I have made you like a god for Pharaoh" - NEB. "I have made you like God" - NIV. "I made you as God" - RSV and NASB. "I have made you as God" - NAB. The Greek Septuagint Version uses the very same Greek word for "God" (or "god") as is used at John 1:1b and it too is translated "I have made thee a god to Pharao" - Sir Lancelot C. L. Brenton translation published by Zondervan, 1980 printing.

Now if trinitarian Bibles can translate the literal "I made you God/god" at Ex. 7:1 into "I have made thee a god" or "I have made you like a god," then it is no less honest to translate John 1:1c as "the Word was a god" or even, "the Word was like a god" (cf. the #1b. definition for "divine" quoted above).

The meaning of Ex. 7:1 is perfectly clear to all Jews and Christians. God is telling how he made Moses a very powerful person, more powerful than any other human being at that time and a direct representative of the only true God. But suppose that some sect of Judaism or Christendom had decided to worship a multiple "God." They could have picked Moses to be one of the multiple personalities of that "God." Therefore they could worship both the Father and his Chosen One, Moses, (Ps. 106:23) as a "Binity" (two persons making up the "one" true "God"). To do this they would search the scriptures for justification. There are many they could use (or misuse); but let's examine Ex. 7:1 in this respect. They would, of course, translate it very literally: "I made you God to Pharaoh, and Aaron your brother is your prophet." So not only did the Father make Moses God, they would say, he even gave that God his own prophet. What could be a clearer statement, these "Binitarians" would say, of Moses' Godhood? One of them could even describe Moses who was "with God" (2 Chron. 15:2; Ex. 3:12; Josh. 1:5) in the beginning (of the formation of the nation of Israel) like this: "In the beginning was the Chosen One (Ps. 106:23), and the Chosen One was with God (Josh. 1:5), and the Chosen One was God (Ex. 7:1)." In view of the scriptures cited Moses could have been described that way in Biblical Greek or Hebrew, but the more appropriate translation would be "In the beginning was the Chosen One, and the Chosen One was with God, and the Chosen One was a god (or `like a god')."

14  The Hebrew word elohim is the word most often translated "God" in the Old Testament. It is also used at 1 Sam. 28:13. It is used to describe what the spirit medium told Saul that she "saw." In describing what she said was the "spirit" of the dead Samuel, she called it elohim.

Here is how that word (elohim) has been translated in various Bibles at 1 Sam. 28:13:

1. "gods" - KJV
2. "a god" - RSV - "the word `god' here [in the RSV] means a being from another world."
(footnote in The New Oxford Annotated Bible - An Ecumenical Study Bible, Oxford University Press, 1977).
3. "a god" - ("or `a divine being'." - footnote) Rotherham's Emphasized Bible.
4. "a godlike being" - The Holy Scriptures, JPS.
5. "a godlike being" - ("a divine being" - footnote) Englishman's Hebrew-English Old Testament, Zondervan.
6. "a preternatural being" - NAB.
7. "a godlike form" - MLB.
8. "a spirit" - NIV, GNB, and NKJV.
9. "a DIVINE BEING" ("or, god" - footnote, NASB) - NASB and NRSV.
10. "a god" - King James II Version; Moffatt; and Byington.

It's not too surprising, then, that even the famed trinitarian Lutheran Bible scholar, Franz Delitzsch, in his translation of Acts 28:6 into Hebrew has used elohim without the article for "a god"! Also, in that same translation Delitzsch has used elohim without the article at John 1:1c - "the Word was [elohim]" - Hebrew New Testament, Franz Delitzsch, The Trinitarian Bible Society, London.

15  We see influential members of Christendom calling other godly men "god" in the very early history of the Church.[1] (See the MYGOD study paper.) St. Augustine, for example, showed this understanding of the meaning of "god." Writing around 410 A.D. and speaking of godly men, he said:

"For created gods are gods not by virtue of what is in themselves, but by a participation of the True God." - The City of God, Book XIV, Chapter 13, as quoted in On The Two Cities, pp. 60-61. (Also see Book IX, Ch. 23, where Augustine says that godly men and angels are gods!)

Even earlier was the Christian who wrote the Epistle to Diognetus. Dr. Boer in his A Short History of the Early Church, p. 50, 1976 ed., says:

"The Apologists presented the Christian faith to their readers with dignity and simplicity. The author of the Epistle to Diognetus, writing about 150 A.D., describes the manner in which the Father sent the Word into the world in this way: `Did he send him, as a man might think, on a mission of domination and fear and terror? Indeed he did not, a King sending his own son who is himself a king; he sent him as God'."

16  Now trinitarian Boer himself admits that this letter was written long before the trinity doctrine had even been developed by "the Church" (see HIST study). And Boer further admits:

"Justin and the other Apologists [including, of course, the writer of the Epistle to Diognetus] therefore taught that the Son is a creature. He is a high creature, a creature powerful enough to create the world, but nevertheless, a creature. In theology this relationship of the Son to the Father is called Subordinationism. The Son is subordinate, that is, secondary to dependent upon, and caused by the Father." - p. 110, A Short History of the Early Church, Eerdmans (trinitarian), 1976.

"Before the Council of Nicaea (AD 325) all theologians viewed the Son as in one way or another subordinate to the Father." - pp. 112-113, Eerdman's Handbook to the History of Christianity (Trinitarian), 1977; and p. 114, The History of Christianity, A Lion Handbook, Lion Publishing, 1990 revised ed.

It is therefore more than a little strange that the author of this very early Christian letter would actually call Jesus "God"!

17  When we examine the actual Greek text of this very early Christian letter the mystery is solved. The writer of this letter has used theos without the article ("a god") at this verse (7:4) and at 10:6. In fact, the Encyclopedia Britannica translates verse 10:6 as

"If thou too wouldst have this faith, learn first the knowledge of the Father [see John 17:3]...knowing Him, thou wilt love Him and imitate his goodness; and marvel not if a man can imitate God: he can if God will. By kindness to the needy, by giving them what God has given to him, a man can become a god [theos without the definite article] of them that receive, an imitator of God." - p. 395, vol. 7, 14th ed. (Also see Early Christian Writings, Staniforth, Dorset Press, p. 181, and The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Roberts and Donaldson, p. 29, vol. 1, Eerdmans, 1993 printing.)

So, not only has this early Christian author taught that a Christian who truly helps his neighbor "becomes a god [theos without the article and coming before the verb in the Greek]," but at the verse in question (7:4) he clearly says about Jesus that the Father "sent him as a god [theos without the article]." - see The Apostolic Fathers, Lightfoot and Harmer, pp. 495, 498, Baker Book House.

Yes, when we see how this first (or second) century Christian used theos without the article for men (10:6), we then know that he really said at verse 7:4: "The Father sent the Word into the world in this way:....he sent him as a god"! - - - - - Compare this description of "the Word" with that of John 1:1.

Also, Clement of Alexandria (circa 150 A. D. - 215 A. D.) was "one of the most learned fathers of the church". - Encyclopedia Americana, 1957, vol. 7, p. 87a.

The Encyclopedia Britannica tells us that Clement of Alexandria taught that the object of Christ's incarnation and death

`was to free man from sin ... and thus in the end elevate him to the position of a god.' - p. 799, vol. 5, Britannica., 14th ed.

Yes, Clement wrote:

"that man with whom the Logos dwells...becomes ['a god']" (Compare John 1:1). And "the Logos of God became man that from [a] man you might learn how man may become ['a god']." - quoted in The Mystery Religions by S. Angus, p. 106, 1975 ed., Dover Publications.

This same publication explains,

"We should remind ourselves that though `God' [or, more properly, `a god'] is the literal rendering of theos [Greek] or deus [Latin], `Divine' might better convey to our minds what these terms conveyed to the minds of men living in the Graeco-Roman world [of the first centuries A.D.], to whom they were of a more fluid nature than they have since long become in scholastic theology." - p. 107.

18  All of this shows (for the first 400 years of Church history, at least) that many of those early writers (including Origen, Tertullian, Justin Martyr, Hippolytus[4], Clement of Alexandria, Theophilus, the writer of `The Epistle to Diognetus,' and even super-trinitarians Athanasius and St. Augustine of the 4th and 5th centuries) continued to use the term theos (without the article) as John sometimes did ("a god"). They saw nothing wrong with calling certain men "gods" if they were sincerely trying to follow God and be his representatives or ambassadors. Just because it sounds strange to our ears today in modern English is no reason to ignore the facts!

This is a fact acknowledged by even the most trinitarian experts:

Some of these trinitarian sources which admit that the Bible actually describes men who represent God (judges, faithful Israelite kings, etc.) and God's angels as gods (or a god) include:

1. Young's Analytical Concordance of the Bible, "Hints and Helps...," Eerdmans, 1978 reprint;

2. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, #430, Hebrew & Chaldee Dict., Abingdon, 1974;

3. New Bible Dictionary, p. 1133, Tyndale House Publ., 1984;

4. Today's Dictionary of the Bible, p. 208, Bethany House Publ., 1982;

5. Hastings' A Dictionary of the Bible, p. 217, Vol. 2;

6. The New Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew-English Lexicon, p. 43, Hendrickson publ.,1979;

7. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, #2316 (4.), Thayer, Baker Book House, 1984 printing;

8. The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, p. 132, Vol. 1; & p. 1265, Vol. 2, Eerdmans, 1984;

9. The NIV Study Bible, footnotes for Ps. 45:6; Ps. 82:1, 6; & Jn 10:34; Zondervan, 1985;

10. New American Bible, St. Joseph ed., footnote for Ps. 45:7, 1970 ed.;

11. A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures, Vol. 5, pp. 188-189;

12. William G. T. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, Vol. 1, pp. 317, 324, Nelson Publ., 1980 printing;

13. Murray J. Harris, Jesus As God, p. 202, Baker Book House, 1992;

14. William Barclay, The Gospel of John, V. 2, Daily Study Bible Series, pp. 77, 78, Westminster Press, 1975;

15. The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible (John 10:34 & Ps. 82:6);

16. The Fourfold Gospel (Note for John 10:35);

17. Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Jamieson, Fausset, Brown
(John 10:34-36);

18. Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible (Ps. 82:6-8 and John 10:35);

19. John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible (Ps. 82:1).

20. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament ('Little Kittel'), - p. 328, Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1985.

21. The Expositor's Greek Testament, pp. 794-795, Vol. 1, Eerdmans Publishing Co.

22. The Amplified Bible, Ps. 82:1, 6 and John 10:34, 35, Zondervan Publ., 1965.

23. Barnes' Notes on the New Testament, John 10:34, 35.

24. B. W. Johnson's People's New Testament, John 10:34-36.

25. The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Zondervan, 1986, Vol. 3, p. 187.

26. Fairbairn’s Imperial Standard Bible Encyclopedia, p. 24, vol. III, Zondervan, 1957 reprint.

27. Theological Dictionary, Rahner and Vorgrimler, p. 20, Herder and Herder, 1965.

28. Pastor Jon Courson, The Gospel According to John. 

29. Vincent’s New Testament Word Studies, John 10:36. 
30.   C. J. Ellicott, John 10:34, Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers.

(Also John 10:34, 35 - CEV: TEV; GodsWord; The Message; NLT; NIRV; David Guzik - )

19  Even distinguished NT scholar (trinitarian) Robert M. Grant, when discussing the writings of the noted 2nd century Christian, Theophilus, said that this respected early Christian wrote that if Adam had remained faithful, he would have become `perfect' and would have been `declared a god'! Dr. Grant then added that this corresponds with Jesus! So this highly respected trinitarian NT scholar admits that Jesus himself was called a god in John's Gospel. - p. 171, Greek Apologists of the Second Century, The Westminster Press, 1988. being `declared a god' elsewhere in the Gospel of John
A careful study of the Logos [Word] concept, as the first readers of John's Gospel were already familiar with it, shows that they clearly understood the Word [Logos] to be "the Son of God," "Firstborn of God," "with God," and "a god" but certainly not God Himself.

Remember what the Encyclopedia Britannica said about the Logos of Jn 1:1:

"The Logos [`the Word'] which having been in the beginning, and with God, and `divine,' had entered human life and history as the word `made flesh'. .... but the identification of Jesus with the Logos was not tantamount to recognizing him as `God.'

Yes, and this is highly significant for a proper understanding of Jn 1:1 - those Hellenistic Jews to whom John was first writing his Gospel were very familiar with the only Bible-based, Jewish concept of the Logos at that time.

20  The writings and teachings of the famed Jewish philosopher Philo were known throughout the world of the Hellenistic Jews. Philo taught that only the Father was God (ho theos - "the god") and that the Logos ("the Word") was "the Son of God," the "mediator between God and man," "the firstborn Son," the one "through whom the cosmos was created," the one who was created by God and who was "with God" in the beginning but was not God.

Philo used the word theos to describe this Logos, but he always used it WITHOUT the article: theos, "a god." And he always used theos WITH the article (ho theos), "the god" to describe the one who alone was truly God (the Father). - See the LOGOS study paper.

This is what was already understood by those for whom the Gospel of John was written. When they read the Prologue of the Gospel of John there was no mystery, no need of explanations. They already had a concept of the Logos, and that is why John made no explanations concerning his use of the term (which seems so baffling to so many trinitarian apologists today). And the understanding of these Hellenistic Jews was that "the Logos was with God in the beginning, and he was a god"!

If John didn't want this understanding, he would have made it very certain by carefully wording it and explaining that he was using the Logos concept differently from the way they would naturally understand it. But he makes no changes, no explanations! The Logos is"a god"!

21  William Barclay, "world-renowned Scottish New Testament interpreter, was noted as a profound scholar and a writer of extraordinary gifts. .... He was the minister of Trinity Church, Renfrew, Scotland, and later, Professor of Divinity and Biblical Criticism at the University of Glasgow."

Barclay comments on John 1:1c in Many Witnesses, One Lord, 1973 ed., pp. 23, 24:

"theos [at John 1:1c] has not got the definite article in front of it. When a Greek noun has not got the article in front of it, it becomes rather a description than an identification, and has the character of an adjective rather than of a noun.... John is not here identifying the Word with God. To put it very simply, he does not say that Jesus was God."

This world-renowned scholar, translator, and trinitarian minister of the Trinity Church has written a famous study guide on the New Testament called The Daily Study Bible Series.

Barclay, like a number of other respected trinitarian scholars and translators (see the QUAL and HARNER studies), has attempted to resolve the impossibilities of the "orthodox" trinitarian interpretation of John 1:1.

In his Daily Study Bible Series: The Gospel of John (volumes 1 and 2), Westminster Press, 1975, Barclay tells us:

"When John said `the Word was God' he was not saying that Jesus was identical with God; he was saying...that in him we perfectly see what God is like." - p. 39, vol. 1.
He further clarifies this understanding on pp. 143-144, 161-162, of vol. 2:

"An ambassador does not go out as a private individual armed with only his own personal qualities and qualifications. He goes out with all the honour and glory of his country upon him. To listen to him is to listen to his country; to honour him is to honour the country he represents; to welcome him is to welcome the ruler who sent him out." - pp. 143-144.

"Jesus goes on to say something else. One thing no Jew would ever lose was the grip of sheer loneliness of God. The Jews were unswerving monotheists [they believed God is one single person, the Father alone, Jehovah]. The danger of the Christian faith is that we may set up Jesus as a kind of secondary God. But Jesus himself insists that the things he said and the things he did did not come from his own initiative or his own power or his own knowledge but from God. His words were God's voice speaking to men; His deeds were God's power flowing through him to men. He was the channel by which God came to men.

"Let us take two simple and imperfect analogies, from the relationship between student and teacher. Dr. Lewis Muirhead said of that great Christian and expositor, A. B. Bruce, that men `came to see in the man the glory of God.' Every teacher has the responsibility of transmitting something of the glory of his subject to those who listen to him; and he who teaches about Jesus Christ can, if he is Saint enough, transmit the vision and the presence of God to his students. That is what A. B. Bruce did, and in an infinitely greater way that is what Jesus did. He transmitted the glory and the love of God to men."

".... Sometimes if a divinity student has been trained by a great preacher whom he loves, we will see in the student something of the teacher and hear something of his voice. Jesus did something like that only immeasurably more so. He brought God's accent, God's message, God's mind, God's heart to men.

"We must every now and then remember, that all is of God. It was not a self-chosen expedition to the world which Jesus made. He did not do it to soften a hard heart in God. He came because God sent him, because God so loved the world. At the back of Jesus, and in him, there is God." - pp. 161-162, vol. 2.

22  This particular trinitarian "defense" tells us that Jesus is not actually God himself but instead perfectly represents that God. The ambassador is representing the one who sent him and speaks that one's thoughts and commands, but the ambassador is not the ruler who sent him - merely a representative!

This type of defense by some of the very best trinitarian scholars probably explains such popular Bible translations of John 1:1c as: "What God was, the Word was." - NEB, and "He was the same as God" - TEV and GNB, and may also be the reason for "divine" in some translations of John 1:1c.

But, remember, no matter how well anyone (whether man, angel, or Jesus himself) represents God he is still not God! And if we want everlasting life we must know God (John 17:3) and not confuse him with his representative (no matter how good that representative may be)!

23  As this highly respected trinitarian scholar, Barclay, puts it:

"Jesus's glory lay in the fact that, from his life, men recognized his special relationship with God. They saw that no one could live as he did unless he was uniquely near to God [Jn 1:1; 1:18]. As with Christ, it is our glory when men see in us the reflection of God." - p. 220, vol.2.

Or, as he more succinctly states it: "in Jesus we see the picture of God" - p. 153, vol. 2.

But we must never forget: we must never give the worship due God himself to a picture of God!! No matter how good the picture, it is still idolatry! (See "Christ, who is the image of God")

John 1:1 and the Use of the Article With Theos

24  The importance of the definite article (the word "the" in English; ho in NT Greek) when it is used with the Greek word for "God"/"god" (theos in Greek) is a major point of disagreement between non-trinitarians and some trinitarians when they discuss John 1:1 where theos appears without the article.

A few trinitarians will even deny the significance of the article ("the") and say that theos is usually translated as "God" whether it has the article or not, and, therefore, even though there is no article with theos at John 1:1, the probability (they say) is very high that theos in John 1:1 means "God" and not "god" (or "a god").

25  Most trinitarian scholars, however, will admit the importance of the article when distinguishing between "the only true God" and "a god" ("a mighty one"). However, some of them will attempt to prove that the article is properly understood to be there because of the "peculiarity" of the Greek grammar used at John 1:1c. Therefore, they will tell you, since the article is "understood" to be with theos at John 1:1c, then the Word is the God (the "understood" article showing that the only true God was meant)!

26  Let's start by looking at the first statement. Is it true that the use of the article with theos (in the nominative case, theos, as used at John 1:1c) makes little or no difference in distinguishing between "god" and "God"? - (See the THEON ["RDB's Rule"] study for significance of the article usage in the accusative case - theon - and lack of significance of the article usage in the genitive case - theou.)

Here's what Professor J. G. Machen says in his New Testament Greek for Beginners, p. 35:

"The use of the article in Greek corresponds roughly to the use of the definite article in English. Thus [logos,] means `a word'; [ho logos] means `the word'."- Macmillan, 1951.

So, basically, the word "the" (the definite article, ho in NT Greek, when used with a singular masculine nominative case noun - such as theos) shows that the noun it is used with is one certain, special thing. "The boss" is one certain individual, whereas "a boss" is indefinite and could be any one of millions of individuals.

If we examine all the uses of "God" and "god" in the nominative case (theos - the same form found at Jn 1:1c, not theou, theo, etc.) in all the writings of the Gospel writers, we see that it always has the article ("the" or ho in NT Greek) with it when the inspired Bible writer is referring to the God of the Bible [5]. Therefore it is of essential importance to know if John intended that the definite article really should be "understood" to be with theos at Jn 1:1c.

Next Page (Part 2)

No comments: