Does John 1:1 Indicate that God and
Christ (the Logos) are One-And-The-Same?


(greeklatinaudio.com   Austin TX June 2000)

Satisfactorily resolving this question requires that one have a clear understanding of THREE simple, yet rarely-understood, concepts relating to the exercise of language translation in general; and Greek-to-English translation in specific. These are:

Concept A:
The comparative use of DEFINITE and INDEFINITE articles in translation from Greek to English.


Concept B:
The necessity of varying degrees of "LITERALNESS" in language translation in general, such that aesthetics may be maintained without compromising accuracy.


Concept C:
The subtle treatment which language accords to common titles of intimacy, and how this must be handled in translation from Greek to English.



These three concepts and how they relate to one another (and to a proper understanding of John 1:1) will be explained fully in this narrative.


To this end, and...
to keep issues clear and manageable for the reader...

this narrative is presented in 5 progressively-developed segments below, with each segment providing a clear and solid foundation for its successor segment - with the end result being a coherent and easily-understood presentation of the question at hand.

Although the language translation concepts presented here are applicable in many language translation contexts, they are discussed here specifically in the context of translation from Greek to English as it applies to John 1:1.

There will be short illustrative passages of Greek presented here. However, this need NOT cause any concern, because these passages are fully translated and clarified such that, even those who know no Greek will have no problems following the concepts presented...

Thus, one need NOT be a scholar, a linguist, a Greek grammarian, etc., to follow along. It is absolutely unreasonable to think that God would impose such requirements on anyone who is seeking to get to the truth of the matter under consideration here. (Matthew 18:1-6) Furthermore, inasmuch as God undertook very personal and painful measures to open the way to accurate knowledge concerning himself and his son Jesus Christ, (John 17:3) one may safely presume that such knowledge is fully intended to be attainable and clearly understandable.


The 5 progressively developed segments comprising this commentary are summarized as follows:

Segment 1:
A clarification of the question introducing this commentary, and WHY the question is even asked: Does John 1:1 indicate that God and Christ (the Logos) are one-and-the-same?


Segment 2:
A discussion of Concept A:
The comparative use of DEFINITE and INDEFINITE articles in translation from Greek to English.


Segment 3:
A discussion of Concept B:
The necessity of varying degrees of "LITERALNESS" in language translation in general, such that aesthetics may be maintained without compromising accuracy.


Segment 4:
A discussion of Concept C:
The subtle treatment which language accords to common titles of intimacy, and how this must be handled in translation from Greek to English.


Segment 5:
Review and obvious conclusion.



SEGMENT 1:

A clarification of the question introducing this commentary, and WHY the question is even asked:   Does John 1:1 indicate that God and Christ (the Logos) are one-and-the-same?


John 1:1 in the original Greek follows:
en arch hn o logoV kai o logoV hn proV ton qeon
kai qeoV hn o logoV


An acceptable variation of the most common English translation of this verse is:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God
and the Word was God


An acceptable variation of the opposing English translation of this verse is:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God
and the Word was a god

The not-so-subtle difference between the above opposing translations is:

- The former suggests that Christ (the Logos) is God himself.
- The latter suggests that Christ (the Logos) is a god (i.e., NOT God himself, but one like God)

Obviously(!) the implications raised by these opposing translations of John 1:1 are enormous. One is, therefore, absolutely justified in asking: "Which one is correct?"

And, in actuality, the REAL point of contention here is the little red "a" in the latter translation...DOES IT BELONG THERE? - OR NOT?

The issue raised, of course, has to do with getting to know the very nature of God and his son Jesus Christ. (They are either one-and-the-same...or they are not!) The warning raised by the apostle Paul at 2nd Thessalonians 1:6-8 attaches a mortal tempo to this issue.

The remaining 4 segments of this narrative deal with the little red "a" and the propriety or impropriety of its presence in the English translation of John 1:1. (Once this minor logistics problem is solved, everything else falls into place.)



SEGMENT 2:

A discussion of Concept A:
The comparative use of DEFINITE and INDEFINITE articles in translation from Greek to English.


[The little red "a" mentioned in the previous segment is known grammatically as an "article." More specifically, it is an "indefinite article." Because the controversy being discussed here cannot be apprehended intelligently without having a clear understanding of articles and their role in English and Greek expression, the following is provided...]

Webster's dictionary defines an "article" as "...the words "the" and "a," (or "an") in English, that are linked to nouns and that typically function in identifying nouns as nouns and in indicating definiteness or indefiniteness of reference."

As mentioned here, English has two articles: The DEFINITE article "the," and the INDEFINITE article "a." (or "an") These articles are invariable in form, i.e., they always occur as "the," and "a." (or "an") They do not change.

Greek, on the other hand, has only ONE article, the DEFINITE article. This article is quite variable in form, i.e., it changes (or morphs itself) regularly into as many as 30 different variations of itself. REGARDLESS, it is STILL Greek's single DEFINITE article, and in all of its forms, it is translated simply as "the."

Thus, in both English and Greek, the article, as Webster's definition above suggests, assigns the notion of grammatical "definiteness" or "indefiniteness" to associated nouns.

In the material immediately following, we will examine the difference between HOW English and Greek use their respective articles to assign the notion of grammatical "definiteness" or "indefiniteness" to associated nouns.

English first...

Notice the subtle shades of meaning generated by use of these articles in the sentences below as they express grammatical "definiteness" and "indefiniteness" with regard to the man and the woman being discussed...

AND, to provide a beneficially meaningful dimension to these sentences, imagine that you are in a park in an unfamiliar locale, and you encounter two tourists whom you do not know. One of the tourists is telling the other about an event he witnessed at a picturesque gazebo in the park. With this in mind, imagine that the tourist who witnessed this event tells 4 different one-sentence versions of what he saw...as follows:

"A man married a woman."
Notice what is implied by the indefinite article preceding both man and woman in this sentence: Neither tourist knows the man or the woman. That is, they are indefinite entities. All we know about them is that they are human and of opposite gender.

"The man married a woman."
Now notice what is implied by the definite article preceding man and the indefinite article preceding woman in this sentence: Both tourists know the man. They don't necessarily know him well, but they know who he is, e.g., the man in the room down the hall at their hotel. Thus, the man becomes a definite entity. He has a prior contextual place in the minds of the tourists. They recognize him! On the other hand, neither tourist knows the woman. She is still an indefinite entity.

"A man married the woman."
In this example, we have the exact opposite of the previous example: Neither tourist knows the man. HE is now the indefinite entity...and now both tourists know the woman. SHE is the definite entity. She has a prior contextual place in the minds of the tourists. They recognize her! (e.g., from the hotel, etc...)

"The man married the woman."
And finally, notice what is implied by the definite article preceding both man and woman in this sentence: Both tourists know the man and woman. Both are now definite entities with a prior contextual place in the minds of the tourists. The tourists recognize them! (e.g., from the hotel, etc...)


Regarding the 4 examples above, there is absolutely nothing foreign or mystical about their meaning. They simply illustrate HOW the English language uses its definite and indefinite articles to express notions of "definiteness" and "indefiniteness."


Now, Greek...

In the Greek language, however, there is a different variation on this theme: As stated above, Greek has only the definite article. IT DOES NOT HAVE THE INDEFINITE ARTICLE! Therefore, although Greek can use the same grammatical mechanism as English to express definiteness, it MUST obviously (!) use a DIFFERENT grammatical mechanism to express indefiniteness.

This will be clearly illustrated in the following examples. These examples will take advantage of the park wedding scenario given above. However, we will experience it from the Greek perspective, via the accompanying word-for-word LITERAL English translations. Note that, because we are thinking in Greek, ALL of the articles here are DEFINITE articles - and they will be high-lighted in blue so that their comparative use may be immediately evident.

AGAIN, remember that, because Greek DOES NOT HAVE AN INDEFINITE ARTICLE, its grammatical mechanism for expressing the notion of "indefiniteness" will be seen here to be DIFFERENT from English.

ALSO, BEAR IN MIND THAT THE GREEK SENTENCES WHICH FOLLOW ARE PROPER GREEK. DO NOT be put off by their seeming "incompleteness." If you are not used to thinking in Greek, then that is the way they will sound...incomplete! This is perfectly normal. Simply keep in mind that you are experiencing proper Greek thought via word-for-word literal English translation.


WITH THIS IN MIND... We will repeat the park wedding scenario above - thinking in Greek this time! It will be seen that we come to exactly the same conclusions about the man and the woman as we did in the previous English scenario. The conceptual pattern is the same - only the grammatical mechanism is different. It is Greek.

anqrwpoV egamhse gunaika
man married woman
Notice what is implied to a Greek speaker by the LACK OF Greek definite articles preceding anqrwpoV and gunaika: Neither tourist knows the man or the woman. That is, they are indefinite entities. All we know about them is that they are human and of opposite gender.

o anqrwpoV egamhse gunaika
the man married woman

Now, notice what is implied to a Greek speaker by the Greek definite article preceding anqrwpoV and the LACK OF the Greek definite article preceding gunaika: Both tourists know the man. They don't necessarily know him well, but they know who he is, e.g., the man in the room down the hall at their hotel. Thus, the man becomes a definite entity. He has a prior contextual place in the minds of the tourists. They recognize him! On the other hand, neither tourist knows the woman. She is still an indefinite entity.

anqrwpoV egamhse thn gunaika
man married the woman

In this example, we have the exact opposite of the previous example: Neither tourist knows the man. HE is now the indefinite entity...and now both tourists know the woman. SHE is the definite entity. She has a prior contextual place in the minds of the tourists. They recognize her! (e.g., from the hotel, etc...)

o anqrwpoV egamhse thn gunaika
the man married the woman

And finally, notice what is implied by the Greek definite articles preceding anqrwpoV and gunaika in this sentence: Both tourists know the man and woman. Both are now definite entities with a prior contextual place in the minds of the tourists. The tourists recognize them! (e.g., from the hotel, etc...)

At this point the reader should see clearly that, inasmuch as Greek does NOT have an INDEFINITE article, it can, nevertheless, perfectly express the notion of "indefiniteness" by simply NOT using its DEFINITE article! This mechanism is very typical of Greek's many elegant efficiencies of expression.

However, as seen in our examples above, this peculiarity of Greek, if conveyed literally in English translation, can present aesthetic problems to English speakers. This is simply because English here utilizes a different grammatical mechanism for expressing "indefiniteness," and the failure to employ that mechanism in translation to English (i.e., by NOT using the English indefinite article where appropriate) is quickly "sensed" by the English speaker, such that he feels something is "incomplete." There is an aesthetic glitch which must necessarily be fixed by the translator before his job is done.

This necessary fix is discussed in the next segment, SEGMENT 3.



SEGMENT 3:

A discussion of Concept B:
The necessity of varying degrees of "LITERALNESS" in language translation in general, such that aesthetics may be maintained without compromising accuracy.



Given the park wedding scenario illustrated in the previous segment, we saw that, as it pertains to "indefinite" expressions, conveying LITERAL Greek thought in English leaves a bit to be desired.

With this in mind, it is important to understand that, in general, NO word-for-word literal translation of thought from one language to another will do aesthetic justice to the source language (e.g., Greek) when conveyed thus in the target language. (e.g., English) Therefore, the concept of "literalness" with regard to language translation must be understood as a relative concept.

In view of this, it should be clear that, even the best "literal" English translation of the Bible is only relatively literal. If it were word-for-word literal, then its English would sound strange and "incomplete" to the English reader, as was the case in our Greek park wedding scenario above.


To avoid this, translators must ROUTINELY exercise their considerable expertise to balance literalness with aesthetics by the application of a connective linguistic "glue"...

This linguistic "glue" is quite simply the addition of "connective" language to (or the omission of "disconnective" language from) a base literal translation such that, the result is a relatively literal translation which conveys full aesthetic soundness to the target language speaker, WITHOUT compromising accuracy.

This application of linguistic "glue" is a very serious matter in the realm of language translation. And it occurs in many varied and complex circumstances. In this commentary, however, we are discussing ONLY its application to the problem of transferring correct notions of definiteness and indefiniteness from Greek thought to English thought - via the proper use of articles.

To see examples of this, we will recall the park wedding scenario above with its Greek expressions and their literal English translations. All articles, as previously, will still be high-lighted in blue . In addition, however, we will now include a 2nd English translation for each Greek expression. This 2nd translation will illustrate the use of the linguistic "glue" necessary to make the 1st translation (the word-for-word literal translation) sound correct to the English speaker. You will notice that the "glue" in this case is simply the application of the indefinite article (the little red " a ") where appropriate...

anqrwpoV egamhse gunaika
man married woman
a man married a woman


o anqrwpoV egamhse gunaika
the man married woman
the man married a woman


anqrwpoV egamhse thn gunaika
man married the woman
a man married the woman


o anqrwpoV egamhse thn gunaika
the man married the woman
the man married the woman
(no change necessary)


Notice that in the 2nd translation for each Greek expression above, (except the last) English indefinite articles (i.e., little red "a"s) were added to provide the linguistic "glue" which gives proper sound and feeling to the English translation. NOTE that these English indefinite articles were added by the translator, EVEN THOUGH NO SUCH ARTICLES EXIST IN THE GREEK EQUIVALENT. Remember! Greek has no such (indefinite) articles.

This translational practice is perfectly acceptable, ROUTINE, and indeed necessary, if the translation is to convey correct thought in correct English.

As a matter of fact, bearing the above concept in mind, it should be clear to the reader that EVERY TIME HE SEES THE INDEFINITE ARTICLE IN THE ENGLISH NEW TESTAMENT, he is seeing an application of the above-mentioned linguistic "glue!" (i.e., the little red " a ") added by the translator!

Now, as a formative conceptual exercise, please open your English Bible and browse randomly through the New Testament and contemplate the number of times you encounter the indefinite article. (i.e., the little red " a ") And REMEMBER! That little "a " has NO literal equivalent in the Greek language! It is necessary linguistic "glue" added by the translator to help convey Greek thought in palatable English without compromising translational accuracy. Thus, the little red "a" has an honored, necessary, and abundant place in the process, and in each case of its insertion into the English translation, the translator is called upon to make a conscientious and informed decision about its placement there because it has no equivalent articular infrastructure in the Greek!


HOWEVER!
The translator's job is still not complete! We must now consider a sterling rule of conduct in language translation which has critical applicability to our discussion:


This sterling rule of conduct states, in essence, that aesthetics MUST take a back seat to accuracy of meaning IF accuracy of meaning is critical...ESPECIALLY if it affects doctrinal understanding!

With this rule of conduct in mind, and applying what we have learned thus far, we will again recall JOHN 1:1 in Greek and this time provide the word-for-word literal translation in English.


We will also apply the color scheme introduced earlier to modify our optic of the language of JOHN 1:1. (At the moment, we will be looking at this verse from the Greek perspective. So REMEMBER: Greek has only the DEFINITE article! There is no indefinite article. Therefore, our color scheme (as above) will high-light the definite article in blue .)


John 1:1 in the original Greek:
en arch hn o logoV kai o logoV hn proV ton qeon
kai qeoV hn o logoV


John 1:1 literally translated from the above:
in beginning was the word and the word was with the god
and god was the word



Note that, because we are dealing with actual Greek along with a word-for-word literal English translation to express the equivalent Greek thought, the only articles we see high-lighted are DEFINITE articles.

AND, we notice immediately that, because we are experiencing literal Greek thought here, we see (from an English perspective) at least two aesthetic irregularities which will require fixing with our linguistic "glue:"

The 1st irregularity:
"in beginning"
sounds a little strange to an English speaker.

The 2nd irregularity:
"with the god"
also sounds a little strange to an English speaker.

The translator must, therefore, apply his linguistic "glue" to these two irregularities such that they may sound aesthetically proper to the English speaker. AND he must bear in mind his sterling rule of conduct as well: Accuracy of critical meaning must NOT be compromised...

So what did the Apostle John mean when he said "en arch?" (that is, "in beginning")

He was thinking in Greek, therefore we may assume that he was thinking of an indefinite "beginning" because he did NOT use the Greek definite article here. Based on what we learned earlier, the translator would, therefore, put the little red "a" before "beginning." to convey accurately what John (thinking in Greek!) meant, e.g., "in a beginning."

But that STILL sounds strange to an English speaker! However, if the translator puts the DEFINITE article "the" before "beginning," then it sounds correct. (e.g., "in the beginning")

But this is NOT what John said or meant!

So... If the translator leaves the "the" there for aesthetic purposes, will it compromise critical meaning?

Surprisingly enough, NOT REALLY! This is because the difference in meaning can be shifted semantically in English to mean what John said anyway.

Thus, even though a very subtle difference in meaning is conveyed now to an English speaker, (a meaning which John did not really intend) it is, nevertheless, aesthetically sound, AND the difference in meaning is not really critical - it can be compensated for semantically. Therefore, the translator may apply his "glue" here (depicted in red) and we end up with a satisfactory phrase in English: "in the beginning."


NOW, what about the 2nd irregularity?:
"with the god" which also sounds a little strange to an English speaker.

What did John (thinking in Greek) mean by "with the god?" He used the Greek Definite article. Therefore, he meant his God, the one and only God Almighty. (In the NEW TESTAMENT, this Greek construction ("god" preceded by the Greek definite article) ALWAYS means the one and only God Almighty.) However, it sounds strange to the English speaker! English speakers with a Christian background ROUTINELY refer to the one and only God almighty as simply "God!" There is no need for the definite article here to convey to the English speaker what John (thinking in Greek) meant...

Therefore, the translator may again apply his "glue:" "with * god." (The red asterisk here simply reminds us, for the sake of this discussion, that "glue" was applied, by virtue of the omission of a definite article.)


At this point, we have satisfactorily dealt with the two irregularities mentioned above, and the resulting English translation, with linguistic glue in place, now appears as follows:

in the beginning was the word and the word was with * god
and god was
the word


However, having thus dealt with these two irregularities, we have touched upon yet a 3rd irregularity, far more subtle, which is the subject of our next SEGMENT...



SEGMENT 4:

A discussion of Concept C:
The subtle treatment which language accords to common titles of intimacy, and how this must be handled in language translation from Greek to English.



It was demonstrated in the previous SEGMENT that English speakers ROUTINELY refer to God Almighty as simply "God" (without a definite article) and, in so doing, leave no ambiguity as to WHO is meant.

This peculiar mode of address in English is at the crux of the controversy swirling around John 1:1. (And English is certainly not the only language which evokes this controversy!) To appreciate the subtle translational disaster which this causes with regard to understanding John 1:1 properly, we must carefully contrast the way that English treats the following three forms of nouns when assigning notions of "definiteness" or "indefiniteness" to them via articles...(or the LACK of articles):

These three forms of nouns are:

1. TITLES,

2. COMMON NOUNS, and

3. PROPER NAMES

Let's be clear on what these are:

TITLES are special nouns which convey a categorical or functional notion to the subjects which they "tag." For example, the following are TITLES. Notice how these titles clearly convey category or function to those who might be "tagged" by them...e.g., Mayor Smith. (Mr. Smith is "tagged" with the title of mayor. (We know his category (of office) or function by virtue of his TITLE. The same applies to the other TITLES in this list.)

mayor
policeman
father
mother
teacher
professor
god
etc.
etc.

COMMON NOUNS are nouns which are slightly more generic than TITLES. We need only understand here that there is considerable conceptual overlap between these two types of nouns, (e.g., all of the above are common nouns as well as titles...) Some examples of other common nouns are:

dog
cat
boy
ball
cab
etc.
etc.


PROPER NAMES are nouns which uniquely "tag" their subjects as identifiable in a crowd of like nouns of the same category or function. For example,

Tom
Canada
Paris
Mary
Texas
etc.
etc.

Now notice carefully in the following sentences how differently English treats some of the nouns taken from the above lists - particularly, with regard to assigning notions of "definiteness" and "indefiniteness" to them via articles...(or the LACK of articles)

The dog bit mayor.
The dog bit policeman.
The dog bit cat.

The dog bit mother.
The dog bit father.
The dog bit TOM.
The dog bit God.

Notice that, in English, the 1st three victims of the dog require either an indefinite or a definite article before them in order to meet English aesthetic standards, e.g.,

The dog bit (a/the) mayor.
The dog bit (a/the) policeman.
The dog bit (a/the) cat.

Contrastingly, however, the last four victims of the dog require no such "articular" intervention to meet English aesthetic standards! (Note particularly, that one of these victims is God.) WHY do these nouns not need an article?!

Theories and variations of theories abound on matters such as this. The bottom line, however, is that such nouns or titles DON'T NEED ARTICLES IN ENGLISH - or in many other languages. This undoubtedly has to do with the implied intimate linguistic contexts in which such titles have been developed over thousands of years of language evolution...such that, they have acquired the near status of PROPER NAMES, (WHICH ALSO DON'T NEED ARTICLES IN ENGLISH) e.g., TOM, MARY, PARIS. For the sake of discussion, we may simply refer to such titles as titles of intimacy.

Now note another subtle peculiarity regarding such titles of intimacy:
As stated, they DON'T need articles to be aesthetically correct in the contexts which we have discussed above. HOWEVER, THEY MAY FREELY TAKE ON ARTICLES AT ANY TIME AND NOT SUFFER ANY LOSS OF AESTHETIC CORRECTNESS IN SUCH CONTEXTS! In so doing, however, they lose a degree of intimacy. AND, their MEANING in context is definitely altered. For example...

The dog bit Mother.
(The speaker's mother is implied here: quite intimate! Notice that no article is used.)

The dog bit a mother.
(...as opposed to a policeman. (How rude and unfeeling!) The speaker's mother is NOT implied here: less intimate. Notice that an indefinite article ("a") is used.)

The dog bit the mother.
(...as opposed to her child. The speaker's mother is NOT implied here either, however, there is slightly more specificity of meaning. This example too, is less intimate than the 1st example. Notice that a definite article ("the") is used.)

The sole purpose of this little exercise is to show the special status which such titles of intimacy enjoy in the English language context. AND that, with regard to the use of articles and concomitant meaning, they are quite flexible. Therefore, in translation from Greek to English, they must be treated very carefully if correct meaning concerning them is to be conveyed across these languages...

To illustrate this clearly using the pattern of examples immediately preceding, and applying it to the title of intimacy "god," in JOHN 1:1, notice what happens:

[Following are Greek variations on the JOHN 1:1 theme, with literal translations into English:
(Note that the 1st of the following examples is the actual ending of John 1:1 in Greek, which incorporates the title of intimacy, "god" (qeoV). The other three examples are clones of the 1st example. These clones use nouns which are NOT titles of intimacy.)]

kai qeoV hn o logoV
and god was the logos

kai telwnhV hn o logoV
and tax collector was the logos

kai maqhthV hn o logoV
and disciple was the logos

kai paiV hn o logoV
and child was the logos


Regarding the preceding examples, as well as those which follow, continue to bear in mind TWO things:

1. Based upon our discussion in Segment 2 above, the literal English translations given here represent PROPER Greek thought, strange as it may sound.

2. Based upon our discussion in Segment 3 above, because the Greek definite article was NOT used with the 1st noun in each of the preceding phrases, (i.e., qeoV, telwnhV, maqhthV, paiV (god, tax collector, disciple, child; respectively)) we understand that the Greek thought assigned to these nouns would therefore be indefinite. Thus, the translator would convey this indefiniteness correctly in translation to English by applying his linguistic "glue," i.e., the little red "a." This would ESPECIALLY be done in the 1st example using qeoV even though it does not appear necessary. e.g.,

kai qeoV hn o logoV
and god was the logos
and a god was the logos

kai telwnhV hn o logoV
and tax collector was the logos
and a tax collector was the logos

kai maqhthV hn o logoV
and disciple was the logos
and a disciple was the logos

kai paiV hn o logoV
and child was the logos
and a child was the logos



DO WE APPRECIATE THE FULL IMPACT OF WHAT HAS JUST BEEN DEMONSTRATED HERE?...particularly with regard to the 1st example using "god" (i.e., a title of intimacy) as the noun in question?

As observed earlier regarding such titles and the effect of applied "articular" intervention on them, the title "god" has now lost a degree of intimacy - AND its meaning has very definitely been altered(!) in a fashion which is not at all amenable to commonly accepted Christian theology: Our complete corrected translation of John 1:1, with linguistic glue in place, now stands as follows:

in the beginning was the word and the word was with * god
and a god was the word


This brings us to our final segment in this commentary...



SEGMENT 5:

Review and obvious conclusion.


Distilling the essence of the previous 4 segments, we recall the following:


SEGMENT 1:
The original Greek of John 1:1 has commonly been translated to suggest that God and Jesus Christ (the Word) are one-and-the-same, e.g.,

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God

Contrastingly, this verse has far less commonly been translated to suggest that God and Jesus Christ (the Word) are distinct and separate beings - that the Word is "a god," or a god-like (or divine) one, e.g.,

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god

The very valid question is then posed: Which of these translations is correct?

Or, more succinctly: Does the little red "a" belong there or not?


SEGMENT 2:
Because the critter in question (the little red "a") is an indefinite article, a discussion of the concept of the comparative use of DEFINITE and INDEFINITE articles in Greek and English was presented.

We learned that, although English has BOTH a definite AND an indefinite article, by stark contrast, Greek has ONLY a definite article. Therefore, the mechanisms which both languages use to convey the notion of indefiniteness MUST, of necessity, be functionally different - and this functional difference must always be taken into careful consideration by the translator whenever he is called upon to convey intended meaning in context.


SEGMENT 3:
We learned that Greek indefinite nouns in literal translation will generally cause aesthetic irregularities which must be treated carefully by the translator via the judicious and honest application of "linguistic glue" in English...AND that this must be done WITHOUT compromising meaning.


SEGMENT 4:
And finally, we learned that this is true particularly with regard to titles of intimacy (such as god) which, if NOT treated carefully by the translator, can freely bounce back and forth between Greek and English, switching their noun status from indefinite to definite, WITHOUT even being noticed, while at the same time significantly altering intended meaning.


However, if the translator does his duty and "catches" this potential "in-transit costume-change" by applying the little red "a" when applicable, then the apostle John's intended meaning at John 1:1 is accurately conveyed to the English reader, i.e., THAT JESUS CHRIST IS A GOD-LIKE ENTITY DISTINCT AND SEPARATE FROM GOD HIMSELF: HE IS A GOD. As such, his role as God's son takes on a completely different and far more sensible meaning than that commonly presented in "acceptable" Christian theology: He becomes, quite simply, God's son, WITHOUT all the usual mystic doctrinal accoutrements...



ADDENDUM
Some applicable material which applies to the arguments presented in this commentary:


Following is a short list of translations whose translators have understood the issues inherent in correctly translating John 1:1:

The New Testament, in An Improved Version, Upon the Basis of Archbishop Newcome's New Translation: With a Corrected Text
1808, LONDON
Rendering: "...and the word was a god"

The Monotessaron; or, The Gospel History, According to the Four Evangelists
1829, BALTIMORE (by John S. Thompson)
Rendering: "...and the Logos was a god"

The Emphatic Diaglott
1864, NEW YORK, LONDON (by Benjamin Wilson)
Rendering: "...and a god was the Word"

The Bible - An American Translation
1935, CHICAGO (by J.M.P. Smith and E.J. Goodspeed)
Rendering: "...and the Word was divine"

New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures
1950, BROOKLYN (by Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.)
Rendering: "...and the Word was a god"

Das Evangelium nach Johannes
1975, GOTTINGEN (GERMANY) (by Sigfried Schulz)
"...und ein Gott (oder, Gott von Art) war das Wort"
Rendering: "...and a god (or, of a divine kind) was the Word"

Das Evangelium nach Johannes
1978, BERLIN (GERMANY)(by Johannes Schneider)
"...und goettlichen Wesens war das Wort"
Rendering: "...and god-like sort was the Word"

Das Evangelium nach Johannes
1979, WURZBURG (GERMANY) (by Johannes Schneider)
"...und ein Gott war das Wort"
Rendering: "...and a god was the Word"

The preceding list is by no means exhaustive, but it is sufficient to indicate clearly that debate concerning the matter is alive and well.



The following incident recorded in the Book of Acts, Chapter 28, lends interesting insight into the fact that translators are CLEARLY aware of the issues discussed in this commentary, but in the case of John 1:1, most choose to ignore them:

VSS 1-6 of Acts 28 relate the apostle Paul's encounter with a venomous snake on the island of Malta. He is bitten by the snake, and the Maltese residents present at the time expect that Paul will surely die. When he does not die, then according to most translations, the residents "began saying that he was a god."

The original Greek for this phrase follows:
elegon auton einai qeon

Notice that there is no definite article before qeon. ("god") Therefore, we may assume that the Greek writer (as in John 1:1) intended indefiniteness, which indefiniteness would be conveyed in English via an indefinite article. (the little red "a") Translators have ROUTINELY demonstrated that they understand this by translating this phrase as follows:

they were saying he was a god

Remember, however, that because the word "god" has special status as a title of intimacy, the translator could easily choose to leave the English indefinite article out of this phrase and nobody would notice...It would sound and look natural, despite the obvious alteration in meaning! (Ironically, it doesn't make a whole lot of difference here because we're talking about Paul and NOT Jesus Christ. (i.e., If the Maltese islanders want to think that Paul is "God;" or if they want to think that he's "a god," it's not a doctrinal issue of the immense proportions of John 1:1.) )

- FINIS JOHN 1:1 -


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