In the next couple posts I’m going to go over the prologue of John, going through the text itself, the grammar of it, its parallel ideas in Philo of Alexandria, and it’s Parallel ideas in other parts of scripture. In this post I’ll focus mainly on John 1:1, and a little bit of the John 1:3, in the next post we’ll look at some parallels in the works of Philo. Here’s the text in question from the NRSV.
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. 15 (John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’”) 16 From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.
And here’s the Greek for it:
1Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος. 2οὗτος ἦν ἐν ἀρχῇ πρὸς τὸν θεόν. 3 πάντα δι’ αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο, καὶ χωρὶς αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο οὐδὲ ἕν. ὃ γέγονεν 4 ἐν αὐτῷ ζωὴ ἦν, καὶ ἡ ζωὴ ἦν τὸ φῶς τῶν ἀνθρώπων· 5 καὶ τὸ φῶς ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ φαίνει, καὶ ἡ σκοτία αὐτὸ οὐ κατέλαβεν.
6 Ἐγένετο ἄνθρωπος, ἀπεσταλμένος παρὰ θεοῦ, ὄνομα αὐτῷ Ἰωάννης·7 οὗτος ἦλθεν εἰς μαρτυρίαν ἵνα μαρτυρήσῃ περὶ τοῦ φωτός, ἵνα πάντες πιστεύσωσιν δι’ αὐτοῦ. 8 οὐκ ἦν ἐκεῖνος τὸ φῶς, ἀλλ’ ἵνα μαρτυρήσῃ περὶ τοῦ φωτός. 9 Ἦν τὸ φῶς τὸ ἀληθινόν, ὃ φωτίζει πάντα ἄνθρωπον, ἐρχόμενον εἰς τὸν κόσμον.
10 ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ ἦν, καὶ ὁ κόσμος δι’ αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο, καὶ ὁ κόσμος αὐτὸν οὐκ ἔγνω. 11 εἰς τὰ ἴδια ἦλθεν, καὶ οἱ ἴδιοι αὐτὸν οὐ παρέλαβον. 12 ὅσοι δὲ ἔλαβον αὐτόν, ἔδωκεν αὐτοῖς ἐξουσίαν τέκνα θεοῦ γενέσθαι, τοῖς πιστεύουσιν εἰς τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ, 13 οἳ οὐκ ἐξ αἱμάτων οὐδὲ ἐκ θελήματος σαρκὸς οὐδὲ ἐκ θελήματος ἀνδρὸς ἀλλ’ ἐκ θεοῦ ἐγεννήθησαν.
14 Καὶ ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο καὶ ἐσκήνωσεν ἐν ἡμῖν, καὶ ἐθεασάμεθα τὴν δόξαν αὐτοῦ, δόξαν ὡς μονογενοῦς παρὰ πατρός, πλήρης χάριτος καὶ ἀληθείας. 15 Ἰωάννης μαρτυρεῖ περὶ αὐτοῦ καὶ κέκραγεν λέγων· οὗτος ἦν ὃν εἶπον· ὁ ὀπίσω μου ἐρχόμενος ἔμπροσθέν μου γέγονεν, ὅτι πρῶτός μου ἦν. 16 ὅτι ἐκ τοῦ πληρώματος αὐτοῦ ἡμεῖς πάντες ἐλάβομεν καὶ χάριν ἀντὶ χάριτος· 17 ὅτι ὁ νόμος διὰ Μωϋσέως ἐδόθη, ἡ χάρις καὶ ἡ ἀλήθεια διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐγένετο. 18 Θεὸν οὐδεὶς ἑώρακεν πώποτε· μονογενὴς θεὸς ὁ ὢν εἰς τὸν κόλπον τοῦ πατρὸς ἐκεῖνος ἐξηγήσατο.
For many people, this passage is the corner stone of their Christology, but what has been very often argued about was the very first verse, in the beginning was the word, and the word was with (or toward) the god, and god was the word (literally) or Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος.. Now we have a problem, the word was with the God, and the word was God. No notice the lack of the article in the second theos, a lack of the article very often means the word is indefinite, not always however, in this case many Greek scholars will say that the second “theos” is a predicate nominative, meaning that the word theos is describing ho logos, not straightforwardly identifying it. To explain it more simply I could say John is genius, or I could say John is the genius, the former describes what John is like, he’s a genius, the latter identifies John with an individual who is “the genius,” in that context we are identifying who John is, and in the former we are identifying what John is.
But let’s say for the sake of argument that “theos” is identifying who the Logos is. In that case what is John 1:1 saying and what do the instances of “theos” mean? Well, for a Trinitarian the term theos can have 4 different references,
- The Trinity
- The Father
- The Son
- The Holy Spirit
Let’s write off the Holy Spirit right away, I don’t think anyone would argue the Holy Spirit is making an appearance in John 1:1. So let’s say it’s the trinity, then we read “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with the Trinity, and Trinity was the word,” well that doesn’t work, that would mean Jesus was the trinity, and was with the trinity. So could it mean “the Father? Then we have the Logos being the Father. There you have some weird form of Sabellianism, How about the Son? Then as you can guess, the Logos was with the Son, which again makes no sense if we believe the Son was the logos. So we’re stuck with the predicate nominative for the verse to make any sense.
Very often Trinitarian apologists will say that the second theos describes the “nature” of the word, this is a philosophical argument, not a grammatical argument, a predicate nominative does not presuppose that entities have some inherent nature. This is why I believe the translation “A God” or “Divine” of even just god in the lowercase captures the meaning, distinguishing it from the previous instance of God being identified as who the Logos was with, by making it clear that the logos is being described as theos, not identified as such. Now we have another question, Does Jesus being described as theos mean he is now to be put in with the God head?
After all we have John saying 3πάντα δι’ αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο, καὶ χωρὶς αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο οὐδὲ ἕν. ὃ γέγονεν, everything through him came to be, and without him came to be nothing that is, of what has come to be. This looks like we’re talking about Jesus being the creator, Yahweh, God himself, but there’s one word we need to look at closely, and that’s the Greek “di” or “dia,” through, we never hear of something being done through YWHH, YHWH is the source of all his actions, not the means for someone else’s will. So what could John possibly be talking about? For that we may have to look into Philo, and we can look into that in my next post :).