John 1:1 — “it is not simply that the Word was with God” from Holloman’s Apologetics Commentary on the Bible

 

XPIn the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (John 1:1):

In this opening verse of John’s Gospel, God is set in relation to the Word. The Word, which in verses 14-18 is clearly identified as Jesus Christ, is an eternal being that existed prior to creation. However, it is not simply that the Word was with God (so, too, was Isaiah’s personified Word and Wisdom), but John refers to the Word itself as God. This is quite a claim coming from a Jewish monotheist. From the patristic era (Arius) to the present (Jehovah’s Witnesses), some have argued that, because there is no definite article in front of theos, this verse merely identifies Jesus as a god rather than as God. Interestingly, around 1950 there was a change in how Jehovah’s Witnesses dealt with this verse. Before 1950, they carried a copy of the American Standard Version of the Bible. However, the problem they faced was that the ASV rendered verse 1 accurately with the phrase “the Word was God.” In an effort to resolve the difficulty this rendering posed for its theology, the Watchtower Society (the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ publishing group) issued its own translation of the Bible, which rendered the verse as “the Word was a god” (Reed 1986, 71). However, there are several reasons why this translation is inaccurate.
First, John, as a monotheistic Jew, would not have referred to another person as “a god.” The Jews had no place for demigods in their belief system. Second, if John had placed a definite article before theos, he would have abandoned the distinction between the two persons he established in the previous clause (“the Word was with God”). Third, the view defended by Jehovah’s Witnesses misunderstands Greek syntax. It is common in Greek for a predicate noun to be specific without having an article. For example, later in this chapter reference is made to Nathanael’s confession of Jesus, “you are the King of Israel” (1:49), with no article being before “King” in the Greek (for other NT examples of this construction, see 8:39; 17:17; Rom 14:17; Gal 4:25; Rev 1:20). From these examples, it is clear that the lack of an article in Greek does not necessarily imply indefiniteness (“a” god). Finally, John could have used the word theios if he were simply trying to say that Jesus was “divine” (i.e., that he had God-like qualities) rather than being God himself. The anarthrous (article-less) theos is most likely used to explain that Jesus “shared the essence of the Father though they differed in person” (Wallace 1996, 269). As D. A. Carson explains, “In fact, if John had included the article, he would have been saying something quite untrue. He would have been so identifying the Word with God that no divine being could exist apart from the Word. In that case, it would be nonsense to say (in the words of the second clause of this verse) that the Word was with God” (1991, 117).
The Word was with God, and the Word was God (1:1): Critics often say that the Christian doctrine of the Trinity is unbiblical. While it is true that no verse specifically spells out that God is “three divine persons in one essence,” as our historic creeds have stated, the fact is the biblical witness demands the Trinitarian doctrine. The present verse disproves any monistic model of God, for the Word is at one and the same time “with” God, meaning there is some way of making distinction between Word and God, while at the same time the Word is God. Hence from this verse one would conclude that there are at least two personal beings united in the one godhead. A sampling of other verses supporting Trinitarianism includes Genesis 1:26; Isaiah 9:6; Matthew 28:19; 1 Corinthians 2:10; and Colossians 1:17.

Holman Apologetics Commentary on the Bible – Gospels to Acts.
page 505

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About James Ross Kelly

Posts are meant to share an aspect of the universal Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. James Kelly is a Christian seeking the Mercy of God (i.e., His Goodness and Loving Kindness) and daily more of the Grace of His Holy Spirit. Posts of other authors are meant for review of salient points made by said authors and are credited and meant to share light with others and encourage others to read their works, and when possible, by providing links to where their works may be purchased.
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3 Responses to John 1:1 — “it is not simply that the Word was with God” from Holloman’s Apologetics Commentary on the Bible

  1. johnoneone says:

    Jesus’ words at John 10:34, 35 establish clearly the following observations:

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    Taken from: Lindars, Barnabas (b.?-d.?). The Gospel of John. From Series entitled: The New Century Bible. The Bible references used in this work are taken from the: Revised Standard Version. (London, England: Oliphants, 1972), pp. 84, 374 (respectivly). BS2615.3 .L54 / 74-169047.

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    Taken from: Blomberg, Craig L. (b.?-d.?), Distinguished Professor of the New Testament, Denver Seminary, Colorado. The Historical Reliability of John’s Gospel: Issues and Commentary. (Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter Varsity Press, 2002), p. 163. BS2615.6 .H55 B56 2002 / 2001051563.

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    • Seems the argument is missing in the reply, however John 10:34, 35 in no manner counters John 1:1. In context John 10:34 presents a rabbinical argument relating to Jewish judges (He was quoting Psalm 82 as an admonishment of unjust judges cf below;), and the notion that God can speak through humans with God given tiles of commendation it was in no way attributing deity to the Judges. Jesus ends the argument by saying do not accept my words but accept my deeds. His answer ultimately was the deed of resurrection. An accomplishment of the Creator. John 1:1 is the thesis statement of the Gospel of John. If this was countered by statements of Jesus thereafter, it would have been discredited centuries ago. Instead the Gospel of John lived up to being the spiritual Gospel of the four Holy books, the others relating what He said, and John relating what He meant, namely that each man and woman no matter their station in life or past actions can have a loving relationship with their Father God who will inhabit them with His Spirit, and that they may walk hand and hand with His Son Jesus as He leads them through life–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Thank you for your comment and blessings to you and yours this day.

      Psalm 82:6-7New King James Version (NKJV)

      6 I said, “You are gods,[a]
      And all of you are children of the Most High.
      7 But you shall die like men,
      And fall like one of the princes.”
      Footnotes:

      [a]Psalm 82:6 Hebrew elohim, mighty ones; that is, the judges

      New King James Version (NKJV)

      (see also cf. Barclay, The Daily Study Bible, John Vol 2 “Inviting the Acid Test,” pp 88 )

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