And the Word was God?

Introduction
Chapter one of the Gospel of John is by far the most commonly used chapter to attempt to prove the deity and/or pre-existence of Yeshua. Whether it is the Trinitarian belief1, where there are three co-equal and co-powerful "persons" in a single "Godhead," the Binitarian belief2, where there two co-equal and co-powerful "persons" in a "God-family," or the Oneness belief3 where there is one "person" who can be manifested in one of three ways, John 1 is used to support it. But does this chapter, specifically verse 1, provide as much support as people think? The purpose of this study is to evaluate the literal Greek text of the first chapter of John to determine whether it is indeed useful as a proof text for the deity and/or pre-existence of Yeshua. Once all the evidence is presented I believe the argument, having been weighed, will be found wanting.


Verse 1
Those who believe in the deity and/or pre-existence of Yeshua the Messiah will say, "See, John 1:1 says, 'And the Word was God.' That proves it!" But there are several flaws to this statement that we need to evaluate.

- Capitalization -
Many ancient Greek manuscripts, such as those that compose the New Testament writings, are written in what are known as Uncials. The following image is an example of an Uncial.



This particular Uncial comes from the Codex Sinaiticus4 and contains John 1:1-2. Anyone who is semi-familiar with Biblical (Koine) Greek will recognize that there are no lowercase Greek letters. Uncials are Greek manuscripts that are written in only capital letters. What implication does this have to the text? Well, for one thing we need to recognize and acknowledge that any capitalizations contained in the English translations of the Bible are, to a small or large degree, the opinion of the translator(s). John 1:1 reads as follows.

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

Most, if not all translations of the Bible capitalize the word "Word" in this verse. But, as we can see from the manuscript above capitalization of this type is just an assumption. They are trying to make something a proper noun in English via capitalization when it may not have been a proper noun to begin with. So we must ask ourselves, why did the translator(s) capitalize it?

The simplest answer to this question is doctrine. The translator(s) capitalized "Word" to convey a message in the English that was in alignment with their doctrine. Typically this doctrine is to make the "word" mentioned in this verse equivalent with Yeshua, who is called the "Word of Elohim" in Revelation 19:13. But is this equivalence correct? Is it proper Biblical exegesis to read something revealed to us in a later text onto something revealed in an earlier text? The answer is no.

What we must be willing to do with this knowledge of the Uncial manuscripts is remove the capitalization of an English word as an argument for the doctrine of the deity and/or pre-existence or Yeshua. An English translator's opinion on whether a word in Greek should be capitalized or not should not be a determining factor in our doctrine. This is especially true when we know that the verse can be and was translated in a perfectly understandable and legitimate way that does not require the belief in a particular doctrine.

- Theos and Elohim -
The Greek word for "God" in John 1:1 is θεός, theos. θεός, similar to its Hebrew equivalent אֱלֹהִים, elohim, is by no means strictly limited to describing the one and only true Elohim, יהוה. θεός is used to describe the one true Elohim (Matthew 4:10), the devil (2 Corinthians 4:4), lesser elohim (1 Corinthians 8:5), and even men with great authority (John 10:34-35; Acts 12:22).5 Because of this widely expansive definition we can by no means restrict the word θεός in John 1:1c, "and the word was θεός," as referring to the identity person of the one and only true Elohim.

In fact, the Greek text of the previous section of that verse shows us a great example of how Koine Greek does convey specific identities.

"καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν Θεόν" - John 1:1b

Literally translated this reads, "and the word was toward the Elohim [God]." The Greek definite article (in the accusative form) is found in front of θεός (also in the accusative), τὸν Θεόν, ton theon. "The Elohim [God]" is the proper literal translation of this phrase. It is important to note this distinction in this part of the verse since later in the same verse, 1:1c, the word θεός is used without the definite article. The significance and impact of this fact will be detailed shortly.

The use of the accusative in 1:1b is the author's way of limiting the identity of the θεός in question to the θεός, or "the Elohim [God]." So if θεός in 1:1c is not identifying and/or equating the word with the Elohim, what does it really mean?

- Identity or Quality? -
Since the proper translation of John 1:1c is so essential to the proper understanding and therefore proper exegesis of the entire verse I have scanned a page detailing this concept from one of the most, if not the most widely used Biblical Greek Grammars6. It is shown below.




Because it is so important below is the exact wording of the pertinent portions of this section of the Grammar.

"As we have said, word order is employed especially for the sake of emphasis. Generally speaking, when a word is thrown to the front of the clause it is done so for emphasis. When a predicate nominative is thrown in front of the verb, by virture of word order it takes on emphasis. A good illustration of this is John 1:1c. The English versions typically have, 'and the Word was God.' But in Greek, the word order has been reversed. It reads,

καὶ     θεὸς    ἦν     ὁ     λόγος
and     God    was   the   Word.

We know that "the Word" is the subject because it has the definite article, and we translate it accordingly: 'and the Word was God.' Two questions, both of theological import, should come to mind: (1) why was θεὸς thrown forward? and (2) why does it lack the article? In brief, its emphatic position stresses its essence or quality: 'What God was, the Word was' is how one translation7 brings out this force. Its lack of a definite article keeps us from identifying the person of the Word (Jesus Christ) with the person of 'God' (the Father). That is to say, the word order tells us that Jesus Christ has all the divine attributes that the Father has, lack of the article tells us that Jesus Christ is not the Father. John's wording here is beautifully compact! It is, in fact, one of the most elegantly terse theological statements one could ever find."

I couldn't agree more with his final two statements! "John's wording here is beautifully compact! It is, in fact, one of the most elegantly terse theological statements one could ever find." Amein! But when the author's own theological sentiments are removed the true clarity and meaning of the verse comes out.

Did you notice the subtle way that the author inserted his own theology? This is no different than how many different scholars and theologians subtly introduce their own doctrines in their works, which has led to the deception of many. Pay close attention to the following sentences.

"Its lack of a definite article keeps us from identifying the person of the Word (Jesus Christ) with the person of 'God' (the Father). That is to say, the word order tells us that Jesus Christ has all the divine attributes that the Father has, lack of the article tells us that Jesus Christ is not the Father."

He introduces his own theology, and that of the majority of traditional Christianity, by placing "Jesus Christ" and "the Father" in parentheses after the words he is describing. He then proceeds to use his theological sentiments from that point forward, completely skewing the true interpretation. Let's look at the statement again without the author's theology being inserted (including the unfounded capitalization mentioned in a previous section).

"Its lack of a definite article keeps us from identifying the person of the word with the person of 'God'. That is to say, the word order tells us that the word has all the divine attributes that the Father has, lack of the article tells us that the word is not the Father."

Removing the author's theology from the statement completely changes the meaning and brings out the true meaning of the verse without bias. John 1:1c is not making some complex theological statement about how Yeshua is part of some mystical Trinity or Binity. On the contrary, John is making it extremely clear that the "word" is not to be identified with "God" in any way in this verse. John is emphasizing the qualities of the "word" as they relate to the qualities of Elohim [God].

Doesn't it just make sense? If יהוה our Elohim is holy, so is His word. If יהוה is powerful, so is His word. If יהוה is creative, so is His word. The attributes of the word of יהוה are the same as the attributes of יהוה Himself. The personification of the "word" in this verse is simply an assumption and incorrect eisegetical insertion into the text. There is no need to make such an assumption or insertion when the correct understanding of the Greek text is understood.

"In the beginning was the word, and the word was towards the Elohim, and what Elohim was, the word was." - John 1:1 (Literal)

- Conclusion -
What the literal translation above does is essential de-personify the "word." Removing the capitalization inserted by English translators and bringing clarity to the true meaning of the Greek text of John 1:1 allows us to have a much more truthful and solid foundation for understanding the rest of the chapter. We can now read the rest of the chapter without having the preconceived and programmed belief that the "word" is a separate being. It can simply be exactly what John says it is - a word. We read the following in Thayer's Lexicon.

"In several passages in the writings of John ὁ λόγος denotes the essential WORD of God, i.e. the personal (hypostatic) wisdom and power in union with God, his minister in the creation and government of the universe, the cause of all the world's life both physical and ethical, which for the procurement of man's salvation put8 on human nature in the person of Jesus the Messiah and shone forth conspicuously from his words and deeds."9

I echo what Thayer states. The λόγος, or the word of Elohim in the case of John 1:1, is the wisdom, power, and creative force of Elohim. Just as יהוה Elohim is holy, powerful, creative, and wise, so are the words that He speaks.


Verses 2-5
In light of the truth of verse one, we can now examine the next few verses. In most English translations verses two through five read as follows.

"He was in the beginning with Elohim [God]. {3} All things came into being through Him, and without Him not even one thing came into being that has come into being. {4} In Him was life, and the life was the light of men; {5} and the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overtake it." - John 1:2-5 (LITV)

Notice some similarities between these verses and verse one? The words "He" and "Him" are all capitalized. This, once again, is the translator's opinion. The underlying Greek text is written using Uncials, all capital letters. So once again this purposeful capitalization of certain words is intended to push the translator's doctrine onto the text.

There are some Greek words that we need to examine that reveal the truth about how these scriptures should read. The first word is the one translated "He" in verse two above. That Greek word is οὗτος, outos, and it literally means "this one, these, etc."10 Translating this word as "he" is just incorrect. There are translations that do render this word properly, though.11

The next word we need to examine is very similar to οὗτος. It is translated as "Him" in verses 3 and 4. The Greek word is αὐτός, autos, and it can be translated as "him, her, them; he, she, it; himself, herself, itself, themselves; etc."12 Yes, you saw that right. The same word that is translated as "he" and "him" throughout the New Testament can be and is also translated as "she" and "her." What impact does this fact have on the text of John 1:2-5? It allows us to follow the translation of the text in context, using the proper gender for the subjects in question. In other words, if we are speaking of a non-human or non-animal subject there is no reason for us to use male or female gender-specific words. The neuter gender should be used in these cases - "it, itself." So, let's take another look at John 1:2-5 with the proper gender-specific pronouns describing the non-human and non-animal subject of "the word."

"This one was in the beginning with Elohim [God]. {3} All things came into being through it, and without it not even one thing came into being that has come into being. {4} In it was life, and the life was the light of men; {5} and the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overtake it." - John 1:2-5 (LITV - modified)

How awesome is that? This passage, once so mystical and "out-of-this-world" is now in perfect harmony with the rest of the scriptures. After all, was it not by the word of יהוה that everything came into existence? יהוה literally spoke everything in creation into existence13, with the exception of mankind14. The words of יהוה have life in them.15 In them is the light that enlightens mankind.16

There is nothing in this verse, when properly translated and understood, that requires we interpret it or use it as a proof text for the deity and/or pre-existence of Yeshua.

- Ancient Witnesses -
It is all good and well that we have determined from the information above that the "word" being spoken of is not a being, but are there other sources that can confirm this determination? We have at least three ancient witnesses that tell us that this proper understanding and translation of these four verses was known long ago.

"The same was in the begynnyng with Elohim [God]. {3} All thynges were made by it: and without it, was made nothyng that was made. {4} In it was lyfe, and the lyfe was the lyght of men, {5} And the lyght shyneth in darkenesse: and the darknesse comprehended it not." - The Bishop's Bible - (1568)

"This same was in the beginning with Elohim [God]. {3} All things were made by it, and without it was made nothing that was made. {4} In it was life, and that life was the light of men. {5} And that light shineth in the darkenesse, and the darkenesse comprehended it not." - The Geneva Bible (1587)

"The same was in the beginning with Elohim [God]. {3} All things were made by it, and without it, was made no thing, that made was. {4} In it was life, And life was the light of men, {5} And the light shineth in the darkness, and darkness comprehended it not." - William Tyndale New Testament (1526)

As you can see it is clear that pre-KJV the truth of this scripture was recognized, utilized in translation, and widely distributed in these published editions. The translators of these three versions of the Gospel of John saw no need to insert a mystical belief onto the text. They simply translated it in the simplest, most logical and most contextually true way.


The Word Made Flesh
So in light of this truth how then was the word of Elohim made flesh in the man Yeshua? If there was not some pre-existent divine being living in the heavens before his earthly existence what other explanation is there? Well, the answer is actually quite simple. Once again there is no need to look into mystical and mysterious doctrines to explain this phenomenon. We have plenty of evidence in the scriptures to help us understand it.

"And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us. And we beheld His glory, glory as of an only begotten from the Father, full of grace and of truth." - John 1:14 (LITV)

Notice once again that the translator chose to use capitalization to express their personal doctrine, or that of traditional Christianity, through the text. We have already established that doing this is wrong. So we'll use the verse without the translator's theological sentiments.

"And the word became flesh and tabernacled among us. And we beheld his glory, glory as of an only begotten from the Father, full of grace and of truth." - John 1:14 (LITV - modified)

So, when we take the truth about what the "word" really is from what we established in previous sections and apply it here we can see that the word of יהוה somehow became flesh. But how can this happen? The answer is found all over the scriptures.

"And Elohim said 'Let there be light,' and there was light… {6} And Elohim said, 'Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters. And let it be separating between waters and waters.'... {11} And Elohim said, 'The earth will cause vegetation to sprout, plant sowing seed and fruit tree making fruit to its kind that has its seed in it upon the earth,' and it was so... {14} And Elohim said, 'Let there be luminaries in the expanse of the heavens to cause to separate between the day and between the night and let them be for signs and for appointed times and for days and years; {15} and let them be for luminaries in the expanse of the heavens, for the light upon the earth,' and it was so... {20} And Elohim said, 'The waters will swarm the swarmer, the living breather; and the flying creature will fly upon the earth, upon the face of the expanse of the heavens.'... {24} And Elohim said, 'The earth will cause the living breather to go forth to its kind, the beast and the creeper and the living thing of the earth to its kind,' and it was so." - Genesis 1:3, 6, 11, 14-15, 20, 24

In all of these passages in Genesis יהוה Elohim literally spoke creation into existence. His spoken word literally became the objects now existing in creation.

"By the word of יהוה heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host... {9} For He spoke and it was; He commanded and it stood." - Psalm 33:6, 9

Need we go any further? The word of יהוה caused the heavens and earth and their entire host to come into existence. This is exactly what John 1:3 proclaims, verbatim.

- Gabriel, The Messenger of יהוה -
So is it really beyond belief that יהוה could speak and cause his word to become flesh? Not at all. In fact, we have the answer as to how and when the word of יהוה became flesh right in the scriptures. We will look at this in a moment. But first we need to examine one of the ways in which the word of יהוה is delivered from Him in heaven to mankind here on earth.

"And while I was speaking and praying and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Yisrael [Israel] and causing my supplication to fall before יהוה my Elohim upon the holy mountain of Elohim, {21} and while I was speaking in prayer, then the man Gavriel [Gabriel] (whom I saw in the vision at the beginning), wearied in flight, was reaching unto me around the time of the evening offering. {22} And he caused me to understand and spoke with me saying, 'Daniel, now I come forth to you to teach you understanding, {23} at the beginning of your supplications a word came forth and I came to tell you, for you are precious; then understand the word and turn your mind to the vision.'" - Daniel 9:20-23

In this case we see a messenger (angel) of יהוה sent forth carrying a word of revelation of the future from יהוה. Angels are very frequently seen in the scriptures as the mouthpieces and message-carriers of יהוה. For example, we see the angel of יהוה appearing to Hagar in the wilderness in Genesis 16:7. But, the angel doesn't speak something that he, as another created being, has control over. This angel delivers a word of prophecy directly from יהוה to Hagar declaring that יהוה would greatly multiply her seed. We see in 16:13 that Hagar recognizes that the words the angel is speaking are not his own, but יהוה's, and therefore she speaks directly to יהוה instead of the angel. Another example is found in the famous story of the burning bush. In Exodus 3:2 we are told that the angel of יהוה appeared to Moses in a bush. Yet in 3:4 we see that it is actually יהוה speaking to Moses through the angel. Needless to say, an angel being used as a messenger and/or mouthpiece of יהוה is not an uncommon occurrence in the scriptures.

We see another occurrence of this in the instance of the word of יהוה becoming flesh in the person of Yeshua.

"And in the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by Elohim to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, {27} to a virgin who had been betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. {28} And entering, the angel said to her, 'Hail, one having received grace! [יהוה] is with you. You are blessed among women!' {29} And seeing this she was disturbed at his word, and considered what kind of greeting this might be. {30} And the angel said to her, 'Do not fear, Mary, for you have found favor from Elohim. {31} And behold! You will conceive in your womb and bear a Son, and you will call his name Yeshua. {32} This one will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. And [יהוה] Elohim will give him the throne of his father David. {33} And he will reign over the house of Jacob to the ages, and of his kingdom there will be no end.' {34} But Mary said to the angel, 'How will this be since I do not know a man?' {35} And answering, the angel said to her, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you, and for this reason that Holy one being born of you will be called Son of Elohim.'" - Luke 1:26-35 (LITV)

Once again we see the messenger Gabriel being used as a carrier for the words of יהוה Elohim. For the purposes of this study the pertinent words being delivered were, "You will conceive in your womb and bear a Son, and you will call his name Yeshua." This word of יהוה, delivered by Gabriel just as he had done numerous times in the past, literally became flesh in the womb of Mary. Though the scriptures are silent on the physiological details of this event, this author believes that the word of יהוה delivered through Gabriel caused Mary's egg to be fertilized and immediately become alive and start growing. This allows Yeshua to still maintain the necessary physical bloodline criteria for the Messiah and future King of Israel, while still holding true to the fact that he "came from heaven."17

- The Only Begotten Son -
Yeshua is called the "only begotten" Son of Elohim in John 1:18. In Greek that phrase is only one word, μονογενής, monogenes. It is derived from two different Greek words blended into one. The first word is μόνος, monos, and means "alone, only, merely."18 The second word is a form of the verb γίνομαι, ginomai, which means "to become, come into existence, be made."19 The proper definition of this word is "the only member of a kin, or kind."20

So how does this apply to Yeshua? Yeshua is the only human being ever created directly by the word of יהוה. Adam, the first man, cannot even say that. Adam was formed from the dust of the ground and then had the breath of life breathed into him. Yeshua is completely unique. He was literally created by the word of יהוה. When Yeshua calls himself the "first and the last"21 or any other similar title he isn't comparing or equating himself with the one and only true Elohim, יהוה. He is proclaiming the truth, as he always did. He is unique, the only one, the first and last in his class.

The use of the verb γίνομαι is also very telling in and of itself. This verb is used to describe things that come into being that did not already exist or come to pass that hadn't already come to pass. The fact that this verb is used of Yeshua to describe who he is and how he came into existence is even more proof of the fallacies that are the Trinitarian, Binitarian, and Pre-existence doctrinal beliefs. If Yeshua had existed prior to his earthly birth in any form whatsoever the verb γίνομαι wouldn't properly apply since he had already "become" or "come into being" in the past.


Conclusion
When all of the textual and theological evidence is properly weighed and examined the traditional understanding of John 1 falls apart. It cannot, once the truth is known and understood, be used as a proof text for any Trinitarian, Binitiarian, or Pre-existence doctrine. The "word" being spoken of in verse 1 is exactly that, a word, the very word of יהוה. At the perfect time in history יהוה sent his angel Gabriel forth with one such word. This word was brought and spoken to Mary. This word literally became flesh in the person of Yeshua. Mary's egg was provided with all of the necessary DNA and other stimuli necessary to become alive and start growing into the very Son of Elohim, Yeshua.

There is no need for the coming of the Messiah, by far the most prophesied and sought-after event in the history of the Jewish people, to be shrouded in mystery and mysticism. The answer as to how our Messiah came into existence is plain, clear, and readily available. Yeshua was spoken into existence by his Father, יהוה Elohim.

HalleluYah!



FOOTNOTES
  1. "Athanasian Creed." Wikimedia Foundation. 09 Sept. 2012 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athanasian_Creed  [back to study]

  2. "Binitarian." Wikimedia Foundation. 09 Sept. 2012 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Binitarian  [back to study]

  3. "Oneness Pentecostalism." Wikimedia Foundation. 09 Sept. 2012 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oneness_Pentecostalism  [back to study]

  4. "Codex Sinaiticus - See The Manuscript | John |." Codex Sinaiticus - See The Manuscript | John |. 09 Sept. 2012 http://codexsinaiticus.org/en/manuscript.aspx?book=36  [back to study]

  5. Elohim also used to describe the one true Elohim (Deuteronomy 6:4), other elohim (Exodus 12:12; 2 Kings 1:2), angels (Psalm 8:5, cf. Hebrews 2:7), and men with great authority (Psalm 82:6). See also the same verses in the Septuagint (LXX) which use θεός for אֱלֹהִים.  [back to study]

  6. Mounce, William D. Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003.  [back to study]

  7. Revised English Bible. Cambridge University Press and Oxford University Press, 1989.  [back to study]

  8. Thayers' statement here, that the word, to which he just previously referred to as inanimate and impersonal things (wisdom and power), should not be construed to say that the word had the power in and of itself to be made into a human. Elohim, by the very nature of the fact that He is the one speaking the words at creation, is, was, and always will be in control of His own word. More on how the word of יהוה can be and was made flesh will be detailed later in the study.  [back to study]

  9. Thayer, Joseph Henry. "Entry for λόγος." Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Code with Strong's Concordance Numbers. [S.l.]: Hendrickson Publishers,Inc., 2007.  [back to study]

  10. Thayer, Joseph Henry. "Entry for οὗτος." Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Code with Strong's Concordance Numbers. [S.l.]: Hendrickson Publishers,Inc., 2007.  [back to study]

  11. See: Young's Literal Translation (YLT), The Lamsa Aramaic Bible (LBP), The American Standard Version (ASV), The Word of Yahweh (WoY), and The King James Version (KJV) for some examples.  [back to study]

  12. Thayer, Joseph Henry. "Entry for αὐτός." Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Code with Strong's Concordance Numbers. [S.l.]: Hendrickson Publishers,Inc., 2007.  [back to study]

  13. Genesis 1.  [back to study]

  14. Genesis 2:7, 20-22.  [back to study]

  15. Psalm 119:25, 50, 107; Proverbs 4:22.  [back to study]

  16. Psalm 119:105, 130.  [back to study]

  17. John 6:38. In this passage Yeshua is explaining to his disciples and listeners that he is the true bread of life come down out of heaven. Yeshua can rightfully say that he came down out of heaven since that is where the origin of his creation was, that origin being the very word of יהוה. Yeshua's "coming from heaven" doesn't require some mystical or mysterious Trinitarian, Binitarian, or Pre-existence doctrine. He is the word made flesh. The word came from heaven. So Yeshua can legitimately say that he came from heaven.  [back to study]

  18. Thayer, Joseph Henry. "Entry for μόνος." Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Code with Strong's Concordance Numbers. [S.l.]: Hendrickson Publishers,Inc., 2007.  [back to study]

  19. Thayer, Joseph Henry. "Entry for γίνομαι." Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Code with Strong's Concordance Numbers. [S.l.]: Hendrickson Publishers,Inc., 2007.  [back to study]

  20. Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott. Entry for "μονογενής." A Greek-English Lexicon. Revised and augmented throughout by Sir Henry Stuart Jones with the assistance of Roderick McKenzie. Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press, 1940.  [back to study]

  21. Revelation 1:17, 2:8.  [back to study]



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