1 John 1:1 “That which…” or “The One who…”?
It is not uncommon for Biblical Unitarians to claim that the “Logos of Life” in 1 John 1:1-2 who was “with the Father” was God’s Plan and not God’s Son. The basis for this claim is the very first word in John’s first letter, the Greek word “O.” Most English Bibles translate “O” as “that which” or “What” (as a neuter relative pronoun). Here is how the modern cursive Greek texts render the opening clause: Ὃ ἦν ἀπ᾽ ἀρχῆς, (Lit. “What was from beginning”).
However, biblical Greek presents a similar problem as is found in biblical Hebrew. The original autographs of the Hebrew did not contain the vowel points. These were added more than a millennium after the last of the Old Testament books were written by the Masoretic scribes. These scribal additions can make distinctions between words that were spelled exactly the same in the original Hebrew but can have different meanings. The choice of which vowel points to add is up to the scribes who interpreted the text and added the vowel points according to how they understood the text.
Biblical Greek has a similar situation. Certain words are spelled exactly the same in the old uncial (all caps) form of writing in which the New Testament was composed. The accent and breathing marks were added to cursive copies in the eighth or ninth centuries after the New Testament was composed. Occasionally two different words (which are spelled exactly the same) can provide two different meanings in a particular passage. That is the situation we face in the first verses of 1 John.
The Greek letter “O” (omicron) is a word in Greek, the first word in John’s first epistle. It can be either the nominative, masculine, singular, article (“the one”) or the accusative, neuter, singular, relative pronoun (“that which”). In much later cursive Greek, the relative pronoun had the accent mark added, but the masculine definite article lacked the mark. Frequently which of these was intended by the writer could be determined by the gender of the noun which it modified. However, this is complicated when the masculine definite article is used independently, as a masculine personal pronoun (he who), something that occurs relatively frequently in the New Testament. For example, 1 John 4:4 reads, μείζων ἐστὶν ὁ ἐν ὑμῖν ἢ ὁ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ (lit. “Greater the One who is in you than the one who is in the world”). Another example 1 John 2:13 ἐγνώκατε τὸν ἀπ᾽ ἀρχῆς (lit. “you know the One who is from the beginning”). The singular masculine definite article is exactly the same word, but ὁ is in the nominative case indicating the subject of the clause while τὸν is in the accusative case indicating the direct object of the verb “know.”
Most English translations render the first words of 1 John 1, (which was originally written in uncial – all caps) as O HN, as “That which was from the beginning” (supposing the neuter relative pronoun). However, the same words O HN are found in Rev. 1:4,8; Rev. 4:8; Rev. 11:17 & Rev. 16:5, where they are translated as “the One who was.” Each of these occur in the clause, ἀπὸ ὁ ὢν καὶ ὁ ἦν καὶ ὁ ἐρχόμενος (lit. “from the One who is, the One who was, and the One who is to come”). Given that this language was also from John, it is better to translate 1 John 1:1-2 as follows:
1 John 1:1-3 (LGV) 1 The One who was from the beginning, the One we have heard, the One we have seen with our eyes, the One we examined and our hands handled regarding Logos of Life, 2 (and the Life was made apparent, and we have seen, and we witness and report to you the age-enduring Life who was with the Father and was made apparent to us). 3 The One we have seen and have heard we report also to you so that you also may have fellowship with us. And yet this fellowship of ours is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus the Anointed. 4 And we write these things to you so that your joy may be having been filled.
Biblical Unitarians have also claimed that in John 1:1, the phrase, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν (“and the Word was with God”) cannot refer to the Word as a Person because the preposition πρὸς (with) is never used of a Person being with God. But they are incorrect. 1 John 2:1 states, παράκλητον ἔχομεν πρὸς τὸν πατέρα Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν (“advocate we have with the Father, Jesus Christ“). This clearly refers to Jesus’ present location at the Father’s right hand. In the above passage, “the age-enduring Life which was with the Father,” is Logos of Life. In John 1:1, the Logos was “with the Father” and yet Logos “was God” (a personal noun). The same One is now our “advocate with the Father.” The opening verses of 1 John are a commentary on the opening verses of John’s Gospel. And both, interpreted literally, require that “Logos” was a Person.
13 thoughts on “1 John 1:1 “That which…” or “The One who…”?”
My understanding of the opening of 1 John 1 is based on the language used throughout the book. The “promise” (1 John 2:25) and “testimony” (1 John 5:9-12) that “is in his Son” (1 John 5:11) refers to “the word” in 1 John 1-3.
The word” in 1 John 1:1-3 is the message of the gospel that has been proclaimed and heard, and receiving this message is the basis for having fellowship with the Father and with the Son, Jesus Christ (1 John 1:3), and therefore he and the word are not one and the same. The word of life is as accessible to those that never knew Jesus while on earth as to those who did. (Origen explained that the phrase “our hands have handled the word of life” is to be taken figuratively).
The language throughout the book refers to the word of life the Son brings and that gives life to those who receive it.
“The word” (John 1:1); “the word of life” (1 John 1:1); “the life” (1 John 1:1, 5:11); “the eternal life” (1 John 1:2, 5:11; i.e. “the words of eternal life,” John 6:63, 68) “which was with the Father” (“God” – John 1:1) “in/from the beginning” (1 John 1:1; John 1:1), that is God’s “promise” (1 John 2:25) and “testimony” (1 John 5:9-12) that “IS IN HIS SON” (1 John 5:11); having “manifested” (1 John 1:2), (“the word became flesh.. – [in]/”through Jesus” – John 1:14, 17) to us by “what we have seen and heard” (the Father’s works confirming the Father’s words through the Son—John 14:10) “is the word (logos) which you have heard” (1 John 2:24-25) because “what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you” (1 John 1:2, 3). Believing this “word” is the basis “THAT YOU TOO” [those who never knew Jesus personally] may have “fellowship with the Father and with the Son of Him, Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3), and as such “the word” is not a person but was/is intimately united to Jesus.
With this said, (as you know) I do believe the Son existed and was with the Father before the world was.
May God Bless,
I have to disagree. In 1 John 2:25 the “promise” is that which He has given to us, to inherit eternal life (immortality). In 1 John 5:6-8 there were three witnesses which God gave regarding His Son to unbelieving Israel. The first is the “Spirit” which descended as a dove at Jesus’ baptism, the second was the voice from heaven at His baptism (through water), and the third was the miracles which accompanied His crucifixion (through blood), the earthquake, sun darkened, and the Temple veil torn. In vss. 9-12, the “witness” is again what which God has provided. God bears witness to the promise to us of eternal life. The “life” is IN the Son, because one must be “in Christ” (have the Son) to have the life. But the “life” itself is from God not from the Son. God raised His Son to immortality, the Son did not raise Himself. And God will also raise the dead believers by His Spirit which dwells in us (Rom. 8:11).
The “Logos” in 1 John 1:1-3 is the same “Logos” in John 1:1 which says, “and Logos was God.” The word “God” is always a personal noun, so this predicate nominative construction requires that “Logos” was a Person. That John claimed that the disciples’ had heard, seen, and handled the “Logos of Life” is not to be taken figuratively, otherwise it demolishes the whole point of these verses in which the disciples claim to have been eyewitnesses. The point here is that the Son was “Logos” which the disciples saw, heard, and handled, and then they bear witness with the “word” (logos) of the Gospel message.
The testimony in 1 John 5:11 is a more specific restatement of the testimony in 1 John 5:6-9. There is a corresponding with John 3:31-36 where those who fail to receive the testimony of the Son convict God of falsehood. (He whom God has sent speaks the words of God. Jn. 3:34) I see that, along with “the promise of eternal life” (1 John 2:25) connecting with “the promise which He Himself made to us: eternal life” (1 John 1:2) so we differ there.
>>>You stated: “The “Logos” in 1 John 1:1-3 is the same “Logos” in John 1:1 which says, “and Logos was God.”<<<
I agree with this point and find the opening of 1 John 1 is a parallel to John 1 with different phraseology. Acknowledging the “logos” is the same both places, it only follows that “the word of life” that “was with the Father” in 1 John 1:2 is equivalent to “the word was with God' in John 1. Therefore God and Father are interchangeable, and John 1:1 can reasonably read: ‘the word was with the Father, and the word [the Son] was the Father,’ which doesn’t work well with the explanations given for ‘the word was God.’
I take this phrase to be qualitative: ‘what God was the word was.’ I’m sure you are aware of that reasoning.
I would like for you to consider a few thoughts on John 1 as it relates to 1 John 1.
God created all things “in,” “through,” and “for” the firstborn SON of his love (Heb. 1:2; Col 1:13-16), “by” (or through) His (God's) logos (‘it’) (Ps. 33:6, 9 LXX – “for he spake;” John 1:1-3; 2 Peter 3:5) OR rhema (Hebrews 11:3). Logos and rhema are used interchangeably showing it is not a person being spoke of.
The Son (the True Light) was coming (erchomai) into the world (Jn 1:9; v.8,10,34) “AND” the word (the gospel light) became flesh (Jn. 1:14). One could not come without the other. The logos (it) did not become flesh of a woman, rather the Son of (“out of”) the Father, sent away from the Father became (genomenon) flesh of a woman (Gal. 4:4). The word (full of grace and truth) became flesh through Jesus Christ (John 1:14, 17). “..lights.. ..to give light” (Gen. 1:16-17).
Just as the sun radiates sunbeams, Jesus Christ is “the sun of righteousness” (Mal. 4:2), “a light to the nations” (Is. 42:6), “the light of the world” (John 8:12) that “coming into the world” (John 1:9, 12:46, 16:28, 18:37; 1 John 4:9; 1 Timothy 1:15), sends out “the light of life” of the word (logos) of God (John 1:4, 8:12) so as to enlighten all men by it who will believe (Jn. 1:12, the opening for the light to pour in). Just as Moses was not the law, Jesus was not the word, but the word (“it”) (full of grace and truth) came through Jesus Christ (John 1:14, 17).
The word of God came to the prophets, in contrast the Son was ‘sent into the world’ (that is, with the word), (Luke 3:2; Jn. 10:35-36).
God (the Father) working through the Son through His (God’s) word (logos or rhema) is a theme in creation, redemption, judgment and reign. Erroneously, Onenessism and Unitarianism deny the Son existed at the time of creation. Meanwhile, Arianism and Trinitarianism interpret “the Word” (no capitalization is justified) in John 1:1 to be “the Son” (and thus ‘the God’ or ‘a god’) not recognizing that the Son comes from heaven bringing the word/the message (logos) with him and therefore they are not one and the same (John 1:9, 14, 17; John 3:34; John 8:55; John 14:24; John 17:14; Acts 10:36; Hebrews 1:3, 11:3). Still, Christ is the embodiment of the word full of grace and truth, and as such his name is rightly called “the Word of God” at the time of his Parousia (Rev. 19:13).
“The functions assigned by Jewish speculation to media like the Logos at creation are here [Heb. 1:2] claimed as the prerogative of the Son.” — A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, p.5, James Moffatt – 1924 (Hebrews 1:2)
It seems to me you are making two errors regarding John 1:1, in the predicate nominative clause, “and the word was God.” It does not follow that the word “God” in this clause refers to the Father. There are two distinct persons called “God” in this verse, just as there are two Persons called “God” in Psalm 45:6-7, quoted in Heb. 1:8-9. This is also no different than the Messenger of Yahweh repeatedly being called “God” and “Yahweh.” So I do not agree with your claim that if “Logos” here refers to the Son, this clause would mean that the Son was the Father. Secondly, taking the word “God” in this clause as “qualitative” (“what God was the Word was”) does not allow the interpreter to dismiss the meaning of the word “God” which is always a concrete, personal, relational noun. The word “God” ALWAYS refers to a being holding sovereignty. It is always a PERSON. The sovereignty of the Son was delegated to Him by His Father. The Son was “God” and “Yahweh” to those whom He interacted with personally with as God’s Agent (Exod. 23:20-23). That “Logos of Life” in 1 John 1:1-3 was the Son is required by the fact that the disciples heard, saw with their eyes, and handled with their hands. Again, this statement cannot be figurative because that would completely nullify the main point of this passage, that John and the other disciples were eyewitnesses of His Person. The primary point John was making was that the disciples were absolutely reliable witnesses to Jesus Himself, not only to His message.
The interpretation of John 1:1 is a subject of intense debate and disagreement among students, and it has become something of a gridlock in the field of exegesis. I find context concerning it in what I presented. Throughout the New Testament presentation, the Father, the Father’s Son, and the Father’s word are in view. The Son, as well as the logos or rhema, were relevant when the Father created all things.
Also, while Hebrews 1:8-9 does refer to the Son as “God,” I don’t see this as equivalent to the matter of John 1:1. Each passage must be understood in its own context and in light of the overall message of the Bible. That is discussion in and of itself.
It is important to recognize that while there may be some borrowed terms from Greek philosophy, the concepts laid down in the New Testament are original. The speculations of Jewish philosophy in recent times, which are comparable to the time of the Hebrew writer, do not reflect what was spoken to the fathers long ago by the prophets.
The Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria, who was a non-believer, sought to harmonize Hebrew Scripture with Greek philosophy and introduced the concept of the logos as a divine being, which he called “the first-born of God.” He also originated the “Logos” and “Wisdom” combined formula. His “doctrine of the Logos” influenced the Early Church Fathers, who, drawing on his writings (without Scriptural foundation), interpreted the New Testament logos (such as John 1:1) to be the Son, introducing the heretical and pagan ‘Eternal Son’ or ‘God the Son’ dogma. The Greek Logos of Philo and the Ante-Nicene Fathers would replace the simple word (logos, i.e., spoken word, speech, etc., Ps. 33:6,9) in the prologue of the Apostle John’s gospel (John 1) and have far-reaching tentacles and negative implications.
“The theory of Philo and of the Alexandrian thinkers generally may be regarded as the connecting link between the Greek and the Christian forms of the doctrine.” (The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, p.1912 [Logos])
“The Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek uses the terms rhema and logos as equivalents and uses both for the Hebrew word dabar, as the Word of God.” (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Volume 1 by Gerhard Kittel, Gerhard Friedrich, Geoffrey William Bromiley 1985 ISBN 0-8028-2404-8 p. 508)
Philo of Alexandria (c. 20 BC – c. 50 AD), a Hellenized Jew, used the term logos to mean an intermediary divine being or demiurge.” (Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy (2nd ed): Philo Judaeus, 1999)
It is said that God created all things “IN wisdom” (Ps. 104:24) and “IN the Son” (Col. 1:16), but it is never said that God created “in word” or “in the/his word,” but rather “by” it. As previously stated, the account is: God created all things “in,” “through,” and “for” the firstborn Son of his love (Heb. 1:2; Col 1:13-16), “by” (or through) His (God’s) logos (‘it’) (Ps. 33:6, 9 LXX – “for he spake;” John 1:1-3; 2 Peter 3:5) OR rhema (Hebrews 11:3).
“Though coeval with the beginning of the divine activity, Wisdom is created at a definite point of time, and thus differs from the Logos of Philo and the Fourth Gospel.” (A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Proverbs, p.174, Crawford Howell Toy, 1904)
Thank you for the discussion, Tim. May God bless.
Your objection to our interpretation of John 1:1 “and the Word was God” claimed that this would mean that the Word was the “Father” (God). My point was that this is not a valid objection because it does not follow logically that “God” in this clause must be the Father since the Son is also called “God” on occasion, AND both the Father and Son are each and independently called “God” in Psalm 45:6-7. I also must insist that the predicate nominative clause “and the Word was God” requires that “Logos” is a PERSON, because the word “God” is a personal noun. Taking this as qualitative does not remove the PERSONAL or CONCRETE nature of the noun “God.” It also cannot refer to the Father because of the previous clause, “the Word was with God,” requires that the “Word” was external to God exactly as in 1 John 2:1, “we have an advocate with [pros + stative verb] the Father.” The only possible conclusion consistent with the grammar and the normal meaning of the masculine noun “God” is that the Word was a second Person with God, who is also called “God” by John. The reason why is explained in verse 18, since no one has ever seen God. They have instead seen “the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15).
Secondly, the Son is called “Logos” (Word) in Rev. 19:13 as a proper name or title. Therefore, John 1:1 makes perfect sense when “Logos” is taken as a proper name or title simply because of His primary mission as Yahweh’s Messenger.
Third, Colossians 1:15-20 says the same thing about the Son as John 1:1-3 says about Logos. Through Him all things were created.
Fourth, the “Logos doctrine” is not the product of Greek syncretism from Philo, but was already common knowledge among the Jews before Philo as the “Memra” (Aramaic for the Greek Logos) in the Targums. https://4windsfellowships.net/articles/God/Logos_Judaism.pdf
I don’t believe the conjunction “and” joining John 1:1b and c, allows for a segregation of the clauses. The sentence structure of the verse indicates that “the word” and “God” are both in the same category, and that the statement is describing a quality or characteristic of “the word.”
The Greek phrase used in John 1:1c is “kai theos en ho logos” which literally translates to “and God was the word.” This sentence structure places “God” in the same grammatical category as “the word,” indicating that “God” is describing a quality or characteristic of “the word” rather than a separate entity (person).
In addition, the fact that the verse states that “the word was with God” in the preceding clause indicates that “God” is being used as a reference to the Father. This is further supported by the fact that throughout the Gospel of John, the term “God” is consistently used as a reference to the Father.
Therefore, I don’t believe it is valid to suggest that “God” in the final clause refers to the Son rather than the Father. The verse is affirming that the word is fully expressive of God the Father, while also distinguishing it from the Father. This is consistent with the word of life (it) [“the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life”] being with the Father in 1 John 1 which helps to reinforce the proper context in John 1:1, just as light is said to be ‘with God’ (Daniel 2:22).
It is generally true that in Greek grammar, when the predicate nominative (such as “God” in the phrase “the word was God”) is a personal noun, it requires that the subject (such as “the word”) is also a person. However, this rule does not apply in the case of John 1:1 when we understand “God” to refer to a quality or characteristic of the word, rather than a separate person. In this interpretation, the phrase “the word was God” does not necessarily mean that the word is a person with a separate identity from God, but rather that the word expresses all of God
Here are some examples of scriptures that demonstrate that the use of a predicate nominative in Greek grammar does not always require the subject to be a person, but can also refer to a concept, object, or metaphorical representation:
John 6:48 – “I am the bread of life.”
John 8:12 – “I am the light of the world.”
John 10:9 – “I am the door.”
John 15:5 – “I am the vine.”
1 Corinthians 10:4 – “And that Rock was Christ.”
Galatians 4:24 – “These things are an allegory: for these women are two covenants.”
Should John 1:1 mean ‘the Son was the God’ without qualification (because I don’t think you are saying ‘a god’), it would not have parallel in the NT as far as I know (not Heb. 1:8-9 where “your God” [the one true God] qualifies the reference to the Son showing he is not himself the one true God). (I also don’t subscribe to “Begotten God” in John 1:18.) I believe such an unqualified statement/idea of John 1:1c would confound the Father and the Son (as does the language ‘two Gods’) and is not the manner of the NT, for the distinction of the Father and the Son are explicitly and intentionally carried throughout. The Son though begotten of God and of his life does not possess the innate qualities that are unique to God (the Father) alone such as being eternal, sovereign, omnipotent, omniscient, inviolate — the reasons there is no God beside him (Is. 44:6) and it is imperative that the distinction made in the NT be retained. John does not dissolve that here.
The Scriptures do indeed affirm that God created all things through the Son, through the logos as an instrumentality. The powerful logos is often referred to as an impersonal in Scripture, emphasizing its role as a tool or instrument used by God in creating all things “in,” “through,” and “for” the Son. Colossians 1:15-20 and John 1:1-3 both testify to the activity of the Son as well as the logos in respect to the creation of all things by God. As we know many pre-King James Version English translations of the Bible, such as the Tyndale Bible and the Geneva Bible, used the pronoun “it” to refer to the word in the opening of John 1. It wasn’t until the King James Version was published in 1611 that the Word was consistently referred to as “he.”
I went through your document and did not find any support from the OT prophets to assert the Logos is a person. The prophet David indicated otherwise in Psalms 33:6, 9 LXX. I don’t believe the NT varies from that inspired declaration, defining the logos in reference to creation, in its presentation of ‘logos,’ by yielding to the influence of Jewish speculation, interpretation and philosophy.
While it is true that the Son is called “Logos” in Revelation 19:13, it is important to note that this passage is speaking of the future Parousia of Christ, and it is in the context of describing his appearance and the inscription on his robe. It does not necessarily provide evidence that “Logos” should always be taken as a proper name or title in all contexts, including John 1:1.
Another point is the interchangeability of logos and rhema which is consistent between the OT and the NT.
Hebrews 11:3 By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word (rhema) of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.
2 Peter 3:5 For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word (logos) of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water,
The mention of the logos in reference to creation in John 1:3, recalls the numerous “And God said..” in Genesis (1:3,6,9,11,14,20,24,26,28,29).
Other verses in John that correspond with the distinction that is made between the Son (the True Light) and the word in John 1:
John 3:34 For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God; for He gives the Spirit without measure.
John 8:55 I do know Him and keep His word.
John 14:24 He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me.
John 17:14 I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
Earlier you wrote: “I take this phrase to be qualitative: ‘what God was the word was.’ I’m sure you are aware of that reasoning.”
In the above statement, which refers to the argument that “God” in this clause is “qualitative,” this interpretation depends on “Logos” being the subject of the verb, and “God” being the predicate (which is correct). Now your latest claim is exactly the reverse, which makes “God” the subject of the stative verb and takes “Logos” as the predicate.
But the rules of Greek grammar do not allow that interpretation. In Greek, word order is NOT the determining factor for identifying the subject in a predicate nominative construction as it is in English. In a predicate nominative construction in Greek, since both the subject and the predicate are in the nominative case, the subject is identified by the use of the definite article and the predicate always lacks the article.
καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος
Since the article is used with Logos (ὁ λόγος) and since Theos (God θεὸς) lacks the article, it is clear that “Logos” is the subject and “Theos” (God) is the predicate, telling us something about “Logos.” Therefore, it cannot be correctly translated as you have it, “And God was the Word.” English requires that the subject is placed before the stative verb and the predicate after the verb. So to properly translate this into English, it must be “and the Word was God.” This is why NO English translations render this clause as “and God was the Word,” making “God” the subject of the stative verb and “Logos” the predicate.
John 1:1 simply cannot accommodate your interpretation of “Logos” without violating either the Greek grammar or the lexical meaning of the word “God.” Since “Logos” is the subject, and “God” is the predicate, this statement tells us that “Logos was God,” a PERSON (since that is required by the meaning of the word “God”). And since it is clear that “Logos was with God” this requires that Logos is not “the God” of the clause “Logos was with the God” who is the Father. Logos must be a second person, God’s Agent in creation, who can also rightly be called “God.” There really is no valid alternative.
Thanks Tim. What I was saying is that the sentence structure of the verse indicates that “God” is describing the quality or characteristic of “the word” rather than the word being a separate entity (person). I do take the phrase “the Word was God” to be qualitative, meaning that “the word” is fully expressive of God the Father while also being distinct in sense from the Father.
The lack of a definite article before “theos” in John 1:1c is consistent with this interpretation. In Greek grammar, the presence or absence of the article can indicate whether a noun is functioning as a proper name or as a descriptive noun. The absence of the article before “theos” in this verse suggests that it is not being used as a proper name to refer to a specific person, but rather as a descriptive noun to convey the idea that “the word” possesses the qualities of God.
Therefore, while I agree that Greek grammar does not allow for “God” to be interpreted as a separate person from “the word,” I maintain that the rules of Greek grammar do not prohibit the interpretation that “God” in this verse is qualitative, describing the nature or character of “the Word” rather than referring to a separate person.
I understand your emphasizing the importance of the definite article in the Greek text and its implications for the subject and predicate of the clause. However, I would respectfully disagree with your conclusion that the translation “and God was the Word” is incorrect. While it is true that the definite article is used with “logos” and not with “Theos,” this does not necessarily mean that “logos” is the subject and “Theos” is the predicate.
As I mentioned earlier, in Greek, word order is not always the determining factor for identifying the subject in a predicate nominative construction. The context and meaning of the sentence also play an important role in determining the subject and predicate. In this case, the sentence structure of John 1:1b-c and the context of the Gospel of John support the understanding that “God” is describing the quality or characteristic of “the word.”
Furthermore, while it is true that English requires subject-verb-object word order, this does not mean that the Greek construction must always conform to English syntax. Translators often have to make choices between more literal translations that preserve the original word order and more idiomatic translations that convey the meaning more clearly in English. In this case, many respected translations, such as the King James Version and the New American Standard Bible, have translated the clause as “and the Word was God,” while others have translated it as “and the Word was divine” or “and what God was, the Word was.”
In summary, while I respect your expertise in Greek grammar, I would respectfully disagree with your conclusion that “and God was the Word” is an incorrect translation of John 1:1c.
It seems you are misunderstanding what “qualitative” means in a predicate nominative construction. It does NOT deny the core meaning of the term “God” which is said to be qualitative, which is what your interpretation is doing. “What God was the Word was” begs the question, “what is ‘God’?” In order to take this as qualitative, you first must identify what the term “God” means, and then apply that to the “Word.” You are not free to pick and choose some arbitrary and abstract quality of “God” and apply that to the “Word.” First and foremost, the word “God” describes a BEING, one holding sovereignty over a dominion. “God” is not some abstract quality. “God” is a concrete noun, a PERSON, whether referring to pagan gods who are demons, or to the Son who is called “God” several times, or to God the sovereign over all. The word “God” NEVER refers to an abstract thing. Therefore, in the predicate nominative statement, “and the Word was God,” the Word MUST be a PERSON.
You are completely mistaken about whether the definite article defines whether the noun it modifies is a person or not. That is simply not true. The article has many different functions. What is critical here is what the function of the definite article is in a predicate nominative clause. That is the ONLY grammatical point that matters in this clause. Word order means nothing except emphasis. Your translation “and God was the Word” is not possible, because it turns the predicate nominative backwards. Context means nothing IF you are violating the grammar. You must have harmony between the grammar and the context.
Even IF one grants that English can translate this clause as “and what God was, the Word was,” this still requires that the “Word” is a PERSON because the word “God” requires personhood. Even in this awkward English, “the Word” is still the subject of the verb and “God” is the predicate. It would be better English (without changing the meaning) to say “and the Word was what God was.” But also keep in mind that there is no relative pronoun “what” in this clause. The “Word” cannot be what “God” was without being a PERSON. The translation “and the Word was divine” is NOT incorrect. Taking the term “God” as an abstract thing (divine nature) is fudging the meaning of the word God. Nowhere in the entire Bible does the word “God” ever refer to an abstract nature, but always to a PERSON. You are falling for a trick used by a few Trinitarians whereby they attempt to claim that “God” can mean “divine nature” in passages that refer to “one God” in order to claim one divine “nature” shared by three persons. So all of the “one God” statements for them do not refer to one PERSON as “God,” but to one divine essence. But by giving in to this Trinitarian trick, which is absolutely false, you are allowing Trinitarians to escape all of the “one God” statements. This is also my beef with Biblical Unitarians. They are giving up the silver bullet that can take down Trinitarianism by their faulty interpretation of John 1:1.
Granting that “God” in John 1:1b is understood to refer to the Father, it is crucial to recognize that the opening verse of the Book provides no immediate context to introduce or establish that “the Son” is the subject or under consideration. Without such contextual recognition of the Son, it is impossible to identify the Son as either the Word in 1b or God in 1:1c.
It is a well-established principle in language and literature that when a term is introduced into a text, it is usually defined or clarified within the context of the text itself or within preceding context. In other words, for the Son to be identified as God in John 1:1c, there must be prior context within the text that establishes the Son as the subject. The Son cannot be simply assumed into the text.
In addition, it would be improper to appeal to a statement that comes later in the narrative or in a different chapter to establish the context of 1:1c as the Son. The context of a particular verse should be determined by the preceding and immediate context, and then as well by the broader context of the chapter and book as a whole.
Future, It being granted that God in John 1:1b refers to the Father, then it must be emphasized that there is absolutely nothing in the immediate or preceding context that would warrant a shift in the referent of ‘God’ in John 1:1c. The context maintains consistency in identifying God as the Father in both 1b and 1c.
In summary, introducing the Son as the word in John 1:1b or God in John 1:1c without any prior reference to the Son in the text violates linguistic conventions and principles. To assume that the Son is the referent of ‘God’ in John 1:1c without any contextual justification is not a valid exegetical practice and should be avoided.
“God” is John 1:1c (and the Word was God) CANNOT refer to the Father, period. It is not possible for the Word to be WITH God (which requires external accompaniment) and also be the same Person as God. The only valid English translation of this clause is either “and the Word was God” (as in almost all English translations) or “and the Word was a God” (as in the New World Translation – JWs). Either saying that “the Word was divine” (as some Trinitarians attempt) or “and the Word was a Plan” as Anthony Buzzard attempts, are both incorrect.
Tim, I appreciate your engagement on this topic. However, I respectfully disagree with your interpretation of John 1:1c. Your conclusion that “God” in John 1:1c cannot refer to the Father is based on the assumption that the Son must be read into the text, which is not permissible. As I previously mentioned, it is crucial to recognize that the opening verse of the Book provides no immediate context to introduce or establish that “the Son” is the subject or under consideration. Without such contextual recognition of the Son, it is impossible to identify the Son as either the Word in 1b or God in 1:1c, and your interpretation fails. To assume that the Son is the referent of ‘God’ in John 1:1c without any contextual justification is not a valid exegetical practice and violates linguistic conventions and principles.
I would like to mention that there were other points I made beyond the text of John 1:1 that I hope will also be taken into consideration.
Moreover, as we’ve discussed, there are other possible interpretations of the Greek phrase in John 1:1c that have been put forth by scholars, including the qualitative interpretation. While we may not agree on the best interpretation, it’s important to approach the text with an open mind and an awareness of different perspectives.
Tim, I want to reiterate that the crux of our disagreement lies in your assumption that the Word in John 1:1c refers to the Son. This unfounded concept is what your thesis rests on, and it leads to an interpretation that violates the basic principles of exegesis and language. Without contextual justification for the Son, it is not permissible to read him into the text and claim that “God” in John 1:1c refers to the Son. I hope you will consider this point.
Thank you for a respectable discussion and I hope we can continue to engage in good dialogue on matters of faith and interpretation in the time to come, God willing. Thank you. Steve