John 1:1 - "was God" vs "a god"

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Jeremy White | Forum Activity | Posted: Tue, Mar 16 2010 3:32 PM

As promised in my other post, let's practice having a theological discussion that stays within the boundaries of the forum guidelines and helps people understand more about how they can use the functions in Logos.

How can I use Logos to investigate further the issue often raise by Jehovah Witnesses (and maybe others) in regards to John 1:1 and whether it should be rendered "was God" or was "a god".

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Robert Kostenbauder | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Mar 16 2010 4:24 PM

Thank you for starting this thread.  I have, over the years heard many address this question and have always been enlightened by their thoughts.  However I have never studied this on my own and now you have given me impetus to do so. 

Stay tuned. 

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Praiser | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Mar 16 2010 4:25 PM

I would suggest the following Logos books I have marked with stars. If trying to rescue a relative check into the last book too.

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Mark Barnes | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Mar 16 2010 4:30 PM

If you want something in depth, using only the Bible, try this: http://community.logos.com/forums/t/4835.aspx (the discussion gets slightly less technical if you persevere with it).

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Robert Pavich | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Mar 16 2010 4:34 PM

Well....IMHO...we are blessed to have two things here in the forum.

1.) Great software which gives us the ability to create searches specific to our question...

2.) Lotsa people who know Greek very well, and they can give some really good answers.

I'll see what I can dig up....

Robert Pavich

For help go to the Wiki: http://wiki.logos.com/Table_of_Contents__

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Robert Pavich | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Mar 16 2010 4:41 PM

Mark,

that was the thread I was thinking about.

It ends weird...it seems that Alan never got  ahold of me but he did.

 

I provided him with a somewhat long answer and never heard from him.

 

The short version is this: the misunderstanding of what the function of the article is is the crux if it all.

 

I have a PDF if anyone wants it.

I can't take credit for it....Mike Porter; one of Dr. James White's students (i think he's a student) did all of the leg work for me.

 

Just email me at rpavich (at) gmail (dot) (com)

Robert Pavich

For help go to the Wiki: http://wiki.logos.com/Table_of_Contents__

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Jeremy | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Mar 16 2010 6:30 PM

Jeremy White:

As promised in my other post, let's practice having a theological discussion that stays within the boundaries of the forum guidelines and helps people understand more about how they can use the functions in Logos.

How can I use Logos to investigate further the issue often raise by Jehovah Witnesses (and maybe others) in regards to John 1:1 and whether it should be rendered "was God" or was "a god".

Daniel Wallace's "Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics" has a great 5 or 6 page discussion on that passage and the Greek exegesis that goes into making a reasoned decision. Logos has the book, but they only publish the shortened version of Wallace's work and I don't know if that one has the longer discussion. The short version that is Colwell's rule has a probability factor of 80-90% that "god" is meant to be taken qualitatively (Jesus' divinity was a quality he has). The problem is that Jehovah's Witnesses over time changed their interpretation of that passage. They now too say that Jesus had the quality of divinity, but just a lower quality than God the Father has. The entire theology of John and the rest of the NT is going to have to argue for or against JW's.

 

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Kevin Becker | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Mar 16 2010 6:33 PM

The NET Bible footnote is a good place to start. It references "Colwell's Rule" so a basic search for it might be helpful to gain a fuller understanding of that rule in relationship to John 1:1. This search ("divinity of Jesus" NEAR John 1:1) and this search ("a god" NEAR <John 1:1>) bring up some interesting information.

Posts 229
Jeremy White | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Mar 16 2010 8:22 PM

Thanks Kevin and you're now getting us into more (a little at least) controversial territory - namely - how are we to understand the divinity and nature of Christ. How can I use Logos to explore the claims of people who proscribe Jesus as both fully human and fully God versus those who have an alternate understanding. And of course that leads to a whole discussion regarding the Trinity.

So remember the rules people - the only way to state your case (and stay within at least my humble interpretation of the forum guidelines) is to do it in the context of how you have used Logos to delve deeper into the topic.

As I have said in the other post I started dealing with "What is God's love" - I'm volunteering to turn what people contribute into tutorials to share with everyone.

Scripture set to music for worship and aid memorization. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-DojPa0TlpCGhtUJq1e3Pw

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steve clark | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Mar 16 2010 8:56 PM

In the Apologetics Study Bible on page1570

1:1 There is no definite article (“the”) in the Greek before “God,” so the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ New World Translation reads, “The Word was a god.” But sentences of this form in Greek (two nouns joined by a form of the verb “to be”) normally placed the article only before the subject of the sentence, regardless of word order. So the traditional translation, “The Word was God,” is to be preferred.

Ted Cabal, Chad Owen Brand, E. Ray Clendenen et al., The Apologetics Study Bible: Real Questions, Straight Answers, Stronger Faith, 1570 (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007).

 

Edit: found using Basic Search and the term "jehovah witness" AND <jn 1:1>

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Mar 16 2010 9:14 PM

Jeremy White:
So remember the rules people - the only way to state your case (and stay within at least my humble interpretation of the forum guidelines) is to do it in the context of how you have used Logos to delve deeper into the topic.

Come on, have a sense of humor & perspective - Kevin was clearly using Logos and scarcely controversial. okay party hat doesn't show so: Cake

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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steve clark | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Mar 16 2010 9:45 PM

Also found in The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge page 1181

was God. Not “a god,” for the lack of the Greek article here does not make “God” indefinite but determines which term (“Word” or “God”) is to be the subject of the linking verb “was.” Greek word order is somewhat more flexible than English, for in English statement sentences the predicate nominative always follows the linking verb. But the literal order of the Greek words here is “and God was the Word” (kai theos een o logos), the subject “Word” follows the verb and the predicate nominative “God” precedes the verb, the reverse of English word order. Since this clause uses a linking verb, both the subject and the predicate nominative are in the nominative case, so case endings do not serve to identify the subject in this construction; rather, the article “the” points out the subject of the clause. Greek uses the article “the” to accomplish what English does by word order. Thus, if John had placed the article “the” before “God,” the meaning would be “God was the Word;” if he had placed the article “the” before both “Word” and “God,” the meaning would be convertible or reversible: it would mean equally “God was the Word,” and “The Word was God,” but this John did not do. By placing the article “the” before “Word,” “Word” must be the subject of the linking verb “was,” and the statement can only be rendered “the Word was God.” Just as mistaken is the rendering “the Word was divine,” for “God,” lacking the article, is not thereby an adjective, or rendered qualitative when it precedes a linking verb followed by a noun which does have the article. See the note on Mt 27:54 for scholarly documentation and an explanation of this construction known technically as the anarthrous noun. Translators and translations which choose to render this phrase “a god” or “divine” are motivated by theological, not grammatical, considerations. The phrase “a god” is particularly objectionable, because it makes Christ a lesser god, which is polytheism, and contrary to the express declaration of Scripture elsewhere (Dt 32:39). For clearly if Christ is “a god,” then he must be either a “true god” or a “false god.” If “true,” we assert polytheism; if “false,” he is unworthy of our credence. John’s high view of Christ expressed throughout his gospel, climaxing in the testimony of Thomas, who addressed Christ as “my Lord and my God,” is asserted from this opening statement, “the Word was God.” There is no legitimate basis for understanding his declaration in any lesser sense than affirming the full deity of our Savior. Jn ✓5:18. 8:+*35, 58, 59. +*10:30, 33, ◐+34. 14:7. +✓20:28. Dt +*32:39. Jb +*19:26. Is *43:10. ✓44:6. Je ✓23:5, 6. Mi +*5:2. Ac ◐12:22. ✓20:28. Ro 9:5. 2 Co ◐*4:4. Ep 5:5g. Ph 2:6n. 2 Th 1:12g. Ti ✓2:13g. He +*1:8. 2 P ✓1:1g. Re 21:7.

 

Jerome H. Smith, The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge : The Most Complete Listing of Cross References Available Anywhere- Every Verse, Every Theme, Every Important Word, 1181 (Nashville TN: Thomas Nelson, 1992).

 

Edit: found under John 1:1

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Jeremy White | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Mar 16 2010 9:49 PM

MJ. Smith:
Come on, have a sense of humor & perspective - Kevin was clearly using Logos and scarcely controversial. okay party hat doesn't show so

Oh, I agree - he totally was within "the rules" and I think it was a good first base to start from. Sorry if I sounded (readed? ) bossy or something.

In some circles I minister in, the divinity of Christ is a very controversial topic - but I'm not trying to steer us away from anything controversial - I'm thinking that it is likely in engaging in some of the more divergent areas of belief as well as some of the deeper fundamentals in the context of how Logos can be used to explore them will provide some very compelling learning experiences.

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Damian McGrath | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Mar 17 2010 12:21 AM

Jeremy White:
how are we to understand the divinity and nature of Christ. How can I use Logos to explore the claims of people who proscribe Jesus as both fully human and fully God versus those who have an alternate understanding.

A search of one's library for Chalcedon will provide a wide range of articles and references to how the classic definition of the "one person" with "two natures" of Christ was understood on the basis of Scripture. 

I was recently doing something on the top ten moments in Church History, in which Chalcedon figured as one of them, and did this search. I was amazed by how much I had in my library and how much I was able to further my understanding.

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Lynden Williams | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Mar 17 2010 3:01 AM

Here is someting else that contributes to it. Run a syntax search on the word God.

http://blog.logos.com/archives/2008/05/god_or_a_god_a_look_at_nt_greek_syntax.html

Lynden Williams Communications https://www.lyndenwilliams.net 

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Alan Macgregor | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Mar 17 2010 3:44 AM

Here's my tuppence worth.

The verb to be does not take an object, which would normally be in the accusative; it takes a complement which is in the same case as the subject of the verb that is nominative. In Greek the complement is normally anarthrous, it doesn't have the definite article. We have this well illustrated in the three clauses which make up John 1:1. (The verb to be is indicative, active, imperfect, third person, singular here: ἦ.)

 Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος.

In the first clause ὁ λόγος (the word) is the subject and is in the nominative case and ἐν ἀρχῇ (in the beginning) is a complementary phrase whose dative case is governed by its preposition ἐν (in).

In the second clause ὁ λόγος (the word) is again the subject and πρὸς τὸν θεόν (with God) is a complementary phrase whose accusative case is governed by its preposition πρός (towards, with).

In the third clause ὁ λόγος (the word) is the subject yet again but this time θεός is the complement, and as such it takes its case, number and article from the subject ὁ λόγος (the word) which is nominative case, singular number, governed by the article ὁ (the). To indicate that θεός (God) is the complement in this clause  it precedes the verb, as is normally the case, and the subject ὁ λόγος (the word) follows it.

So the ESV is perfectly correct in translating: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

In all exegesis there is an order which, if followed will help us avoid pitfalls and fallacies.

Analyse before you theologise, before you moralise.

Every blessing

Alan

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Robert Pavich | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Mar 17 2010 4:07 AM

Alan,

thanks very much for that explanation....I had to read it several times to get it...lol...

Here are my thoughts (as a "non-pastor" , "non-theologian")

1.) I've never heard that argument; that's unusual...

2.) I guess I'd need to construct a syntax search to confirm what you say about the compliment being anarthrous.

 

Both of those concerns make me hesitant at this point...(i'm not saying you're wrong at all..I'll never be as learned as you...but I have to do my own checking to feel like I can cite it.)

does that make sense? (I MEANT NO OFFENSE) by what I said...ok?

Robert Pavich

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Friedrich | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Mar 17 2010 4:25 AM

Robert Pavich:

I have to do my own checking to feel like I can cite it.)

does that make sense? (I MEANT NO OFFENSE

it makes sense and it is how I think, too.  I don't care if there is a "Collwell's Rule" or someone just says 'in this passage you must translate such and such".  I want to see examples that back it up.  If possible, examples that are not theological hotpoints, where we can clearly see such a "rule" being in effect.

Besides that, I agree with the poster that said you must consider the theology (in this case, of John) as a whole: in context, are there other verses and saying and OT allusions, etc, that support that Jesus is = LORD, God, Yahweh, etc.  Those will also lend support to John 1:1, even if one can not definitively exclude the possible translations "was a god." (and I am not saying you can't.  I just look for multiple "evidences")

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Kevin Becker | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Mar 17 2010 4:42 AM

Dan DeVilder:
it makes sense and it is how I think, too.  I don't care if there is a "Collwell's Rule" or someone just says 'in this passage you must translate such and such".  I want to see examples that back it up.  If possible, examples that are not theological hotpoints, where we can clearly see such a "rule" being in effect.

Absolutely. I mentioned Colwell's Rule because it is an example of someone who has done a lot of legwork says "this is the way NT Greek functions." Thus there should be a description and a list of examples to begin the evaluation process. It's wise to double check but frequently the "rules" will at least jump start your study.

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spitzerpl | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Mar 17 2010 5:22 AM

I must admit I haven't explored 4.0 search strings as much as I would like, but could anyone improve upon "John 1:1" WITHIN 20 words "Jehovah's witness". In my library of 2,257 resources I found 24 articles that matched and they seemed to be informative hits.

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