The Correct Translation of John 1:1c

Was the Word “God,” or “a god”?
(By: Lesriv Spencer, 07/27/2010. Updated: March 1, 2015)

(Unless noted, Bible citations below are from the King James Version. Greek citations* are from The Greek
New Testament: SBL Edition (“SBLGNT,” courtesy of Society of Biblical Literature and Logos Bible Software,
Michael W. Holmes, Editor, 2010. *You may have to download Greek fonts to see the Greek characters.)

Perhaps no other scripture of the Bible provokes as much emotional discussion. Why is this so?
Simply because John 1:1 centers around the person of Jesus Christ. Most Bible versions at John 1:1 tell
us: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” For most
“Christians,” Christ is the object of worship, for he is said to be “God” himself, God Almighty. For a
smaller number of “Christians,” Christ is only seen as the “Son” of God, subordinate to God, as a
separate entity of God Almighty. The majority view accepts the Trinity teaching, whereas, the minority
group who supports that Christ is always subject to God in power and position rejects the Trinity as a
pagan concept. In this article, I will not focus on the rightness or wrongness of the Trinity doctrine,
though the subject cannot be dismissed entirely when considering this scripture. Instead, I will fix my
attention on whether Greek grammar and biblical context allow any translation of John 1:1c other than
the traditional one shown above. For instance: “the Word was a god” (or, “divine”). These translations
are accepted by a few minority groups of “Christian” followers. They are likewise accepted by some
Catholic and Protestant scholars who understand the translation issues of John 1:1 similarly, though
perhaps with a different interpretation. (For a consideration of the Trinity subject:

This information is provided for the benefit of anyone sincerely interested in expanding their scope of a
much discussed scripture. I have no affiliation to any religious group, nor do I attend religious services
of any kind. I do have a keen interest in the Scriptures and their import. Truth matters to me, and I feel
compelled to express some observations on the controversy surrounding John 1:1.

One translation that has received an unusual amount of attention and publicity is the New World
Translation of the Holy Scriptures (NWT), published by the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society of
Jehovah's Witnesses since 1950. From the beginning of publication, this Bible translation has triggered
numerous discussions, not only around the person of Christ, but whether a translator can technically
render controversial passages where Christ is said to be described as “God” the way the NWT does.
This version makes a distinction throughout between God and Christ. Little it matters, it seems,
whether they were the first or the last (in fact, they are not) to bring out this distinction in the

Because of its wide circulation (upwards of 200 million in 120 languages, in whole or in part, according
to the NWT Revised Edition, Sept., 2013), the NWT translation is apparently seen as a threat to
orthodoxy, that must be stopped at any cost. Hence, the relevance to the subject. The relentless attacks
to this Version time and again has brought up the subject of who or what the Logos (Word) really is at
John 1:1. Is it “God,” or “a god”? Surely, there has not been a more controversial Bible translation in
the last half century or so, than this one. This may be due in part, to the continuing presence of this
translation worldwide with its ensuing publicity, and/or, to the admittedly intrinsic quality of the
translation that provokes much discussion. Otherwise, why make it the focus of attacks, when other
Bible versions render these very same controversial passages that deal with the person of Christ in a
similar manner? If anything, the greater the controversy surrounding this translation, the wider its
distribution will likely be. So efforts to suppress this Bible version have had the opposite effect, it
seems. For further consideration of the NWT controversy see:

This turmoil reminds me of the controversy that arose when The Living Bible was first published.
Many pundits dismissed it as a real Bible, since it was more of a paraphrase than the norm of versions
being published. The Living Bible was a runaway success, with sales in the millions, and it motivated
scholars to freshly approach new Bible translation work. We all have benefited from the controversies
that surrounded The Living Bible, whether we realize it or not.

A positive result of the hectic discussions brought about by the power of the Internet is that it has led to
greater scrutiny in the interpretation and translation of John 1:1. This in turn has led many to
reconsider their translation choices for the text. Sadly, many online discussions end up distorting truth,
and twisting facts. A review of pertinent facts is in order.

John 1:1, “Capital” letters, the Greek “article”, and “predicate” nouns:

The original text at John 1:1 literally reads: “in beginning was the logos [word], and the logos was
toward the god (ho theós), and god (theós) was the logos.” In the original Greek, all letters appeared in
the form of “upper-case” or “capital” forms (uncials). In English, we use lower-case more often than
capital letters. So it is up to the translator or writer to decide when to employ “capital” letters to aid the
reader. As a consequence, “interpretation” of the Bible text can come into play in the translation
process. Another important matter to consider in this scripture is the presence or absence of the Greek
article (commonly referred to as the “definite” article, somewhat corresponding to the English “the”).
Both “Koine” Greek (“common,” Bible Greek) and English, use the “definite” article (“the”) as needed.
Greek, however, does not use the “indefinite” article (“a”), so the translator must rely on personal
interpretation to supply one in the target language as needed.

Some scholars, due to theological issues, seem to downplay the significance of the article in John 1:1c.
Admittedly, there is no strict rule that can be applied in every instance where the article appears. In
fact, the Greek word for “God” (theós) in the Bible is generally used in reference to the true God,
whether it appears with the article or not, since “God” in Scripture is often used as a proper name. At
the same time, we cannot conclude that the use or non-use of the article by Bible writers was done
carelessly. Many scholars, if not most, acknowledge that in John 1:1, in contrast with other Scriptures,
the presence of the article or its absence, does play a role in the exegesis of the scripture. As to the
significance or function of the Greek article throughout the Greek text, we read:

“The Purpose of the Article...It defines, limits, points out from horízo {cf. our horizon}. The Greek
article is a pointer. […] The Greek article points out in one of three ways. {a} Individual from Other
Individuals. This is its most common use. […] {b} Classes from other Classes. […] {c} Qualities
from Other Qualities […].” (A New Short Grammar of the Greek Testament*, 10th Ed., by A.T.
Robertson and W. Hersey Davis, pp. 275-276.)
“The basic function of the Greek article [the, in English] is to identify.” (Essentials of New
Testament Greek, p. 129, by Ray Summers*, B.A., Th.M., Th.D.)
“The primary function of the article is to make something definite.” “A qualitative force is often
expressed by the absence of the article [“the,” in English]...” (An Exegetical Grammar of the Greek
New Testament, pp. 57, 58, by Williams Douglas Chamberlain*, M.A., Ph.D., D.D. Presbyterian.)
“The article does not so much make another term definite as it specifies or points out a given entity,
calling attention to it […]. (New Testament Greek, by James Allen Hewett, p. 43)
“[The] original force [of the article] was to point out something. It has largely kept the force of
drawing attention to something. […] In terms of basic force, the article conceptualizes. In terms of
predominant function, it identifies. […] The Greek article also serves a determining function at times–
i.e., it definitizes.” (Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, by Daniel B. Wallace, pp. 208-210, Italics his.)
“In general, the presence of the article [“the”] emphasizes particular identity, while the absence of the
article emphasizes quality or characteristics.” (Learn To Read New Testament Greek, p. 30, by David
Alan Black*, professor of NT and Greek at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest,

Accordingly, in the reading of John 1:1 above, you will find the first instance of “theós” (God) with the
article (“the,” called, arthrous), making the reference to the Supreme God specific, while the second
instance of “god” preceding a verb has no article (“anarthrous”), which highlights a qualitative aspect
of the noun.

For the benefit of those not keeping up with grammar, “predicate” nouns, which are mentioned
throughout this article, is defined as: “The word or words that say something about the subject of a
sentence or clause.” (Webster's New Word Dictionary for Young Readers) In John 1:1c, the subject is
the Logos or “the Word” (presumably, Jesus Christ), clearly indicated by the article “the” before
“Word.” The Word is said to be “God,” the predicate, indicated by the omission of the Greek article.
But translators are not unanimous in their handling of this verse. Some add (“a”) to the phrase, thus:
“The Word was a god.” Others say, “the Word was divine.” Obviously, these readings can alter the
meaning of the statement. Hence, the controversy.

Can the “indefinite” article (“a”) be added to John 1:1c?

Randolph 0. Yeager is one scholar who believes it should not be added, judging by the following
deriding comment he made public: “Only sophomores in Greek grammar are going to translate ...‘and
the Word was a God.’ ” (The Renaissance New Testament, Vol. 4, Renaissance Press, 1980, p. 4.) He is
not alone in claiming so. Yeager's statement, do not in any way help bridge the schism between
Trinitarians and non-Trinitarians. More relevant to the subject at hand, is whether such statements
actually hold up under scrutiny or not. They do not, as the evidence presented below will demonstrate.

Technically speaking, the indefinite article can be included in the rendering of John 1:1c. Although
most scholars traditionally support the translation, “the Word was God,” as does Trinitarian William D.
Mounce, he acknowledges: “When the article is not present, the emphasis is on the quality of the
substantive.” (Biblical Greek: A Compact Guide, p. 15) In explaining his view of John 1:1, Mounce in
Basics of Biblical Greek (36.5; 36.8), cites Daniel B. Wallace (professor of New Testament Studies at
Dallas Theological Seminary), where Wallace states: “The most likely candidate for θεός [theós] is
qualitative.” (Wallace: op. cit., p. 269) And with keen discernment The Translator’s New Testament, a
book published to help translators, noted: “....It is difficult to believe that the omission [of the article at
John 1:1c] is not significant.” (The British and Foreign Bible Society, p. 451).

Modern English translations use the indefinite article (“a”) hundreds of times, even though neither
Hebrew or Greek used any. Latin had no articles, but early translations into English from Latin did use
them. For example, Wycliffe who translated from Latin into English (c. 1384) inserted both the definite
(“the”) and the indefinite article (“a”) throughout into the Bible text,. Others followed suit. When done
properly in translation, the practice of adding the indefinite article into the rendered text is not only
acceptable, in some contexts it becomes necessary to convey the appropriate meaning in English.
Basically, ‘the use of the indefinite article (a) in translation is a matter of individual judgment,’
says scholar Alfred Marshall, D. Litt. He adds: “We have inserted ‘a’ or ‘an’ [in our translation] as a
matter of course where it seems called for.” (The Zondervan Parallel New Testament in Greek and
English, 1982, p. xxx of Introduction) Likewise, James Allen Hewett wrote: “Since Greek has no
indefinite article, the English translation of a Greek word that does not have an article may be preceded
by the indefinite article ‘a’ or ‘an’.” (op. cit. Hewett, p. 43) That being the case, why is there so much
objection when a particular translation (NWT) does so at John 1:1c?

Obviously, the use of the indefinite article in translation can cause great controversy in places where
doctrine comes into play, since the “interpretation” of the passage can change due to it. The same is
true by not employing it in some cases. John 1:1c is a clear example where using the indefinite article
(“a”) may bring passionate voices to the fore. The matter is actually more of a “theological” than a
grammatical issue, though some scholars would have you believe otherwise. My aim is not to prove
that John 1:1c cannot be rendered “God,” but to hopefully bring a level of fairness on the subject.
Grammatically speaking, it is possible to translate word-for-word, and come up with the basic
rendering, “God.” If so, why not continue using the traditional reading which appears in most Bibles?
Simply because it is misleading. Says a respectable source (Murray J. Harris): “...Few will doubt that
this time-honored translation [the Word was God] needs careful exegesis... The rendering cannot stand
without explanation.” Harris, a Trinitarian, admits that the traditional translation is troublesome since
‘in normal English usage God is a proper noun, referring to the person of the Father, and not to Christ.’
As he says: “The Word is neither the Father nor the Trinity.” (Murray J. Harris in Jesus as God: The
New Testament Use of Theos in Reference to Jesus, 1992, p. 69, Baker Books.)

When someone applies “God” to Christ in a definite sense as if he were the Sovereign God, it results in
communicating a different meaning to the modern reader (from a different culture and mindset) than
John intended. God's people were accustomed to the “Shema” doctrine, the first two words in Hebrew,
and the words that follow it at Deuteronomy 6:4: “[Shema Yisrael, (Hear Israel)] Hear, o Israel:
Jehovah our God is one Jehovah.” (American Standard Version) These words epitomize the core
monotheistic essence of Judaism. Applying the word “God” to Christ at John 1:1 in a trinitarian sense
(a doctrine admittedly not established in Bible times), would, arguably, break the monotheistic imprint.
Others, however, believe sincerely that the rendering “a god” appearing in some versions in reference to
the Logos promotes “polytheism”. These issues are discussed further ahead.

Why the confusion surrounding John 1:1?

One good reason there is great confusion on whether “theós” (God) at John 1:1c is definite or not, is
due to the publication in 1933 of a prominent article written by Trinitarian Professor E.C. Colwell from
the University of Chicago, titled: “A Rule for the Use of the Article in the Greek New Testament”
(Journal of Biblical Literature, 52). Colwell’s argumentation, as he explained it, was convoluted,
because many scholars have misunderstood and abused his ‘rule’ since then. Daniel B. Wallace,
mentioned earlier, wrote the following regarding this “rule”: “Almost immediately many scholars
(especially of a more conservative stripe) misunderstood Colwell’s rule. They saw the benefit of the
rule for affirming the deity of Christ in John 1:1.” (op. cit., Wallace: p. 257)
Wallace goes on to mention that scholars of the like of Turner, Zerwick, Bruce Metzger, Walter Martin,
Moule, C. Kuehne, L. Morris and even Colwell himself (since the article in JBL was written) ‘have
misunderstood the rule.’ Wallace reiterates: “Our point is that Colwell’s rule has been misunderstood
and abused by scholars.” (op. cit., Wallace: pp. 257, 258, 260) To this list we can add David Alan
Black, (mentioned earlier, who as recent as 2009 in his Grammar) commits the same error, when he
wrote: “The result [of Colwell's Rule] is that θεός is almost certainly definite in meaning: ‘the Word
was God’–not merely ‘a god.’ ” (Learn To Read New Testament Greek, p. 200)

Professor Robert Hanna (Maracay, Venezuela), was another scholar who allowed Colwell's theory to
influence his interpretation of John 1:1 when he declared: “The fact that Θεός has no article does not
transform the word into an adjective [such as, “divine,” as translated by Dr. Moffatt]. It is a predicate
noun, of which the subject is λóγος [lógos], and it is a fairly universal rule [Colwell's] in New
Testament Greek that when a predicate noun precedes a verb it lacks the definite article.” (A
Grammatical Aid to the Greek New Testament, p. 147) On this, Max Zerwick (S.J.), wrote: “The
theory [Colwell's] has its appeal, but it is not easy to admit that the reason for the use of the article is to
be found in a circumstance (order of words) which seems to belong to an altogether different category.”
(Biblical Greek, p. 56. Rome)

So, in essence, what we have here, is an artificial rule, “elaborated” by a prominent Trinitarian
Methodist, for the trinitarian masses, with the blessing of numerous enthusiastic Trinitarian supporters
in line. Regrettably, ever since Colwell's article was published, many individuals have placed far more
weight on Colwell’s theory than is warranted. Big mistake! More on this later.

Interestingly, although Professor Hanna, seeking to affirm Christ's deity, zealously applied Colwell's
theory at John 1:1, we find that he did not follow such at John 8:44, which has similar syntax to John
1:1c, but where Christ's deity is not in focus. At John 8:44, we have a couple of instances where a
predicate noun precedes a verb which lacks the definite article just as we have in John 1:1c. He quotes
Turner's Grammatical Insights into the N.T., and says: “The second segment of this verse should be
translated ‘your father the Devil was a murderer from the beginning...’ ” And: “The latter part of this
verse should be translated ‘he is a liar...” Note the use of “a” here. This suggests that ‘a god’
translation which he labels “utterly unsuitable translation” is not only feasible from the point of
grammar, but depending on one´s interpretation, ‘suitable’ as well. In English, sometimes, as is the
case in John 8:44, the only way to communicate the qualitative state of a noun well is by using the
indefinite article, as Hanna himself did. This suggests, that a predicate noun before the verb serves the
function of an adjective, just as Moffatt brought out in his translation, contrary to Hanna's assertion on
John 1:1c.

The big question then, is: Does Colwell's rule prove in any way that an anarthrous predicate noun
before the verb is “definite”? Scholar Paul S. Dixon answers: “Colwell’s rule cannot be applied to
[John 1:1] as an argument for definiteness...The rule says nothing about definiteness.” (Th.M., “The
significance of the Anarthrous Predicate Nominative in John,” 1975) Richard A. Young adds: “The
problem in applying the Colwell rule is to determine when the predicate nominative is definite. The
rule itself does not establish the definiteness of a noun, an observation sometimes ignored when
applying it to John 1:1.” (Intermediate New Testament Greek – A Linguistic and Exegetical approach,
p. 65)
And Wallace wrote: “On the one hand, Colwell’s rule, as applied to John 1:1, has been played as a
trump card by Trinitarians in many christological debates, even though the rule really says nothing
about the definiteness of θεός.” (Wallace: op, cit., p. 290) Wallace, a Trinitarian himself, concludes:
“Indeed, an examination both of pre-verbal anarthrous predicate nominatives and of the Christology of
the Fourth Gospel strongly suggests a qualitative force to θεός (a view which affirms the deity of Christ
just as strongly but for different reasons).” (Ibid, p. 290, Italics his.) Philip B. Harner had stated in his
noteworthy article: “In John 1:1 I think that the qualitative force of the predicate is so prominent that
the noun cannot be regarded as definite.” (“Qualitative Anarthrous Predicate Nouns: Mark 15:39 and
John 1:1,” p. 87, published in Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 92, 1973.)

Notwithstanding, others are adamant in the belief that the reading “God” is appropriate in John 1:1c,
and condemn the use of any other rendering, and paint any alternative reading as inconsequential in the
academic sphere. It goes without saying that anyone who translates the Bible in a way that goes against
mainstream usage, can quickly become the target of heavy criticism, even when they are right. The
New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge mentions that when a prominent Protestant
Bible translation by Marc J. H. Oltramare first rendered John 1:1c back in 1872, as “dieu” with a
small “d,” he received quite a bit of opposition for it. The publication noted: “His rendering of John
i:1, “La Parole était dieu [The Word was god],” was very sharply criticized by the orthodox on account
of the small d. ” (Vol. 8, p. 239)

There could hardly be anything more disquieting for Catholics and Protestants than having a prominent
Bible translation in John 1:1 describing Jesus Christ as “a god,” instead of “God.” This was made
manifest when a reputable scholar from the University of Glasgow, Scotland, Dr. William Barclay,
publicly accused the publishers of the New World Translation of ‘intellectual dishonesty’ for translating
John 1:1 as they have: “The deliberate distortion of truth by this sect is seen in their New Testament
translations. John 1:1 is translated: ‘...the Word was a god,’ a translation which is grammatically
impossible … It is abundantly clear that a sect which can translate the New Testament like that is
intellectually dishonest.” (The Expository Times, vol. 65, October, 1953, Edinburg: T. & T. Clark)
Strong accusation, indeed!

However, two decades later, Barclay himself, in a private letter (later made public: Dated, “20 May
1974”), to a Mr. David Burnett from Australia conceded: “You could translate [John 1:1c], so far as
the Greek goes: ‘the Word was a God’; but it seems obvious that this is so much against the whole of
the rest of the New Testament that it is wrong.” (Ever yours: A Selection from the Letters of William
Barclay, edited by C. L. Rawlins, Labarum Publ., 1985, page 205) Thus, the NW translators went from
being “intellectually dishonest,” to ‘theologically unfavored.’ As far as I know, Dr. Barclay never
issued a public apology to the NW translators for openly denouncing their translation effort as
‘intellectual dishonesty,’ having conceded later that the rendering, “the Word was a God,” so far as the
Greek goes, was grammatically plausible. Who was “intellectually dishonest” here? A snapshot of the
letter is available at the end.

Another trinitarian scholar, Dr. Thomas L. Constable, chimed in on the controversy of John 1:1: “They
[the JWs] translate it ‘the Word was a god.’ ” “Jesus was not a god. Jesus is God.” Nevertheless, he
acknowledged: “Grammatically this is a possible translation since it is legitimate to supply the
indefinite article (‘a’) when no article is present in the Greek text, as here. However, that translation
here is definitely incorrect because it reduces Jesus to less than God.” (Dr. Constable's Expository
Bible Study Notes, Notes on John, 2012 E d i t i o n, Dr. Constable, Th.M; Th.D., Senior Professor
Emeritus of Bible Exposition Dallas Theological Seminary, Dallas, Texas)

Thus, there are a growing number of scholars who acknowledge that the translation “a god” at John 1:1
is grammatically viable. Those who recognize the viability of such rendering and still oppose it, do so
with the comprehension that context is on their side. Others insist that grammar is in their favor.

What then, is the most fitting translation to bring out the qualitative force of the anarthrous noun
theós? Although there is no agreement, some scholars make it sound that John 1:1 is extremely
complex to translate. That could be true if one seeks to avoid one logical translation (albeit a
controversial one) of the last clause. Having said that, the correct translation of John 1:1 is not that
difficult to determine. There is enough information available on the subject from which we can
establish a firm conclusion. As noted above, having a singular anarthrous noun theós preceding a verb
is indicative of a quality about the subject in discussion. In such construction, according to the
NABRE Bible, theós is not used to identify the Word with the God he was with. It is used to describe
something about the Logos: This work says: “Was God: lack of a definite article with ‘God’ in Greek
signifies predication rather than identification.” (New American Bible Revised Edition, 2011)

Dr. Ray Summers (a Baptist) explains: “At this point an important differentiation should be observed.
When the article is used with a construction, the thing emphasized is ‘identity’; when the article is not
used, the thing emphasized is quality of character... ὁ νόμος [‘ho nomos’] means ‘the law.’ It points out
a particular law and gives specific identity. νόμος [‘nomos’] means ‘law’ in general...The difference is
clearly seen in the use of ó Θεός [‘ho Theós’] and Θεός [‘Theós’]... Thus ‘in the beginning was the
Word and the Word was with God (τοὸν Θεóν) and the Word was divine (Θεός)’ gives the sense.”
(Essentials of New Testament Greek, pp. 129-130.) The Translator’s New Testament agrees: “There is
a distinction in the Greek here between ‘with God’ and ‘God’... In effect [the absence of the definite
article in the second instance of Theós] gives an adjectival quality to the second use of Theos (God) so
that the phrase means ‘The Word was divine.’ ” (Page 451) Some object to the use of “divine” for
“theós,” stating that if John wanted to communicate the idea of ‘divineness’ he would have used the
available Greek word “theios” instead of “theós.” However, one scholar pointed out that “theios” was
more common with literary Greek, hence foreign to the Gospel of John. (See Ernst Haenchen/Funk, A
Commentary on the Gospel of John, 111.)

These divergent views indicate the need for caution at the time of taking scholars' interpretations as
facts, without analyzing the matter further. Another danger we do well to avoid is becoming overly
reliant on the inconclusive testimony of the “early church fathers,” although they certainly have a
deserved place in the historical analysis. The Bible is ultimately our best guide in this matter. There
are certain syntactical patterns in Scripture, that when analyzed, can help us determine who is right and
who is wrong. There are numerous cases in the Greek text, similar to John 1:1c, where singular
anarthrous predicate nouns precede the verb, and translators regularly insert the indefinite article (“a”)
within the translated text, either to bring out the indefiniteness of such nouns, or to emphasize a quality
or characteristic of the subject in discussion. Some employ an initial lower-case letter, where the
subject is clearly not being identified or made definite. Here is a list of instances in the gospels of Mark
and John: See Mark 6:49, 11:32; John 4:19, 4:24, 6:70, 8:44 twice, 8:48, 9:17, 9:24, 10:1, 10:13,
10:33, 12:6, 18:35, 18:37 twice. Some of the selections were chosen from documentation on the
subject by Dr. Philip B. Harner: “Qualitative Anarthrous Predicate Nouns: Mark 15:39 and John
1:1,” Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 92, Philadelphia, 1973, 75-87.
To illustrate, I will provide the reader with seven (7) examples which show singular anarthrous
predicate nouns preceding the verb, five from the New Testament, one from Xenophon, and one from
the Septuagint, an important Greek translation from the Hebrew OT text used by NT Christian writers,
to determine how Bible scholars deal with this syntactical structure. (For other examples see: )

1st Example (Acts 28:4):

Greek: Πάντως φονεύς ἐστιν ὁ ἄνθρωπος οὗτος
By all means murderer is the man this

This case deals with the apostle Paul and his companions being shipwrecked near Malta during a rainy
and cold day, a small island 58 miles south of Sicily. When they made it to shore, the islanders were
very kind to them and built a bonfire to warm them up. Paul willing to keep the fire going, gathered
some sticks, and as he placed them on the fire, a poisonous snake fastened itself on his hand. When the
islanders saw what struck him, they uttered the words above. And how do Bible versions translate this
clause which is similar to John 1:1 in construction?:

“This man must be a murderer [Dieser Mensch muß ein Mörder sein]” (M. Luther Bible, 1545)
“This man surely is a murtherer” (Geneva Bible, 1560)
“No doubt this man is a murtherer” (Bishops Bible, 1568)
“This man is certainly a murderer” (John Worsley New Testament)
“Certainly a murderer is the man this” (The Emphatic Diaglott, Interlinear)
“That man must be a murderer” (New Jerusalem Bible)
“There is no doubt that this man is a murderer” (The Eastern / Greek Orthodox Bible, NT)
“This must be some murderer” (Ronald A. Knox)
“This man must be a murderer!” (James Moffatt New Testament)
“Certainly this man is a murderer” (Greek and English Interlinear NT, Mounce)
“No doubt this man is a murderer” (Kenneth S. Wuest)
“Beyond a doubt this man is a murderer” (Charles B. Williams New Testament)
“This man is probably a murderer” (Holman Christian Standard Bible)
“This man must be a murderer!” (Common English Bible)
“The man must be a murderer” (New English Bible)
“This man is certainly a murderer” (Living Oracles New Testament)
“This man must certainly be a murderer” (New American Bible)

In this clause, the subject is “the man” (Paul), indicated by the article “the”, while in John 1:1 the
subject is “the Word,” preceded by the article likewise. In this verse, you have a singular anarthrous
predicate noun “murderer” preceding the verb “is,” just as in John 1:1 there is an anarthrous noun
“god” preceding the verb “was.” As seen above, none of these translations render the predicate noun
without the article in Acts 28:4 in a definite sense, as if Paul were being identified as “The Murderer”
they all been warned about. Rather, the superstitious islanders presumed the man was “a” murderer, or
“some” murderer (Knox) who got the snake bite he deserved. Thus, the emphasis is on the
indefiniteness or qualitative aspect of the anarthrous noun, not on identification.

This text alone shows the frivolousness of the claim that ‘only sophomores in Greek grammar are going
to translate John 1:1c [and similar constructed clauses] with an indefinite article.’ If is not “grammar”
at fault, “theology” then must be the culprit for such ludicrous comments. Does John 1:1 demand a
definite translation for the article-less noun theós to make it read “God” as Colwell suggested? Neither
grammar nor the context of John chapter one make such demand. An assertion that John 1:1c must be
rendered, “the Word was God” in our language would be just as improper as postulating that Acts 28:4
must be translated: “This man must certainly be [the] Murderer.” And who does that in Acts 28:4?

2nd Example (John 8:48):

Greek: ὅτι Σαμαρίτης εἶ σὺὺ
that Samaritan are you

Jewish leaders wrongly accuse Jesus of having a demon and for being “a Samaritan.” “Samaritan”
here is used, perhaps, to suggest that Jesus was a “heretic” or one with faulty worship.

“that thou art a Samaritan” (King James Version)
“that you are a Samaritan” (New Revised Standard Version)
“that you are a Samaritan” (Today's English Version)
“that you are a Samaritan” (New International Version)
“that you are a Samaritan” (Laicester Ambrose Sawyer)
“that you are a Samaritan” (Jerusalem Bible)
“that you are a Samaritan” (New English Bible)
“that You are a Samaritan” (James L. Tomanek)
“you are a Samaritan” (New Century Version)

This clause, as in Acts 28:4 above, and John 4:19 in the following example, have the predicate noun
without the article ahead of the verb and the subject, thus, are exact parallels to John 1:1c. Would it
make sense to render this definitely: “You are the Samaritan*”, as if Jews were actually identifying a
particular Samaritan in town? No! (*Jesus was of Jewish lineage, not “Samaritan.”)

3rd Example (John 4:19):

Greek: θεωρῶ ὅτι προφήτης εἶ σύ
I am beholding that prophet are you

These words were pronounced by a Samaritan woman after hearing Jesus divinely perceive personal
things about her life, even though they had just met.

“I perceive that thou art a prophet” (William Tyndale's New Testament, 1534. Daniell edition.)
“I perceive that thou art a prophet” (Douay–Rheims Bible)
“I perceive that thou art a prophet” (King James Version)
“I view that a prophet you are” (Charles Van der Pool, 2006)
“I perceive that a prophet art thou” (Alfred Marshall, D. Litt., The Interlinear Greek-English NT)
“I see that thou art a prophet” (Confraternity Version)
“I see that you are a prophet” (New Revised Standard Version)
“Oh, so you're a prophet!” (The Message)
“I perceive that a prophet are You” (Interlinear, Farstad, Hodges, Moss, Picirilli, Pickering)
“Are You a prophet?” (The Clear Word)
“I can see that you are a prophet” (NIV)
“I see you are a prophet” (Christian Community Bible)
“I perceive that You are a prophet” (NASB)
“I see you are a prophet” (The Authentic New Testament, Hugh J. Schonfield)
“I can see that you are a prophet” (Jewish New Testament, David H. Stern)

Here most English translations have no objection in adding the indefinite article (a) before the
anarthrous (article-less) noun, “prophet.” It is appropriate to do so. The grammatical construction of
John 4:19 is a “parallel” to John 1:1c. Take notice of the initial lowercase letter in “prophet,” not
“Prophet,” used by the various versions. In English the a is required before the noun “prophet,” used
above in an indefinite-qualitative sense. This is so because, it is describing an attribute about the
Master as a prophet, not identifying him as ‘their Prophet.’ The Samaritan woman, of another religion,
who accepted no more than the Pentateuch, and as the account shows, did not have sufficient
knowledge of the male stranger she had just met (Jesus), to conclude at that point of the conversation
that he was ‘the Prophet,’ or the promised “Messiah.” Nevertheless, she discovered he had special
insight and could describe him as “prophetic,” or “a prophet” of some kind. Jesus was able to have this
prophetic ability, because God had empowered him with his spirit. (Acts 10:38)

By the way, those of you who are familiar with a Latin derived language such as French, Italian,
Romanian, Portuguese, or Spanish, may find it a tad easier to follow this discussion regarding the use
or absence of the indefinite article. In everyday speech, the person making use of one of the
“Romance” languages does not have to employ the indefinite article as frequently as the English
speaker would to mark the qualitative force of the noun. Consequently, the connection of the
qualitative force of singular anarthrous nouns between Greek and the Latin languages may be easier to
grasp. A comparison of modern translations of such nouns between English and one of the Latin-based
languages will bear this out:

For instance, in Spanish, whether one employs the indefinite article or not, you are still able to retain
the qualitative force of singular anarthrous nouns. (See El Griego Bíblico Al Alcance De Todos by J. A.
Septién, p. 122, Editorial CLIE, Barcelona) At John 4:19, you can have the woman say to Jesus: “Me
parece que tú eres profeta [I perceive that you are prophet],” as the Protestant Reina-Valera does, or
have her say: “Veo que tú eres un profeta [I can see that your are a prophet],” as the Catholic Torres
Amat does. Actually, it is a common practice in Spanish Bibles to use “profeta” without the “un”, but
some translators do add the (un, the equivalent of a) to make it indefinite, “un profeta.” Not only are
both acceptable translations from Greek to Spanish, it sounds natural either way, unlike English.

Similarly, in French, you can say: “Je vois que tu es prophète” (I see that you are prophet, Segond),
or, you can say: “Je vois que tu es un prophète” (I see that you are a prophet, Darby, French). The
first French reading does not use the indefinite article, while the second one does. In Italian: “Io
veggo che tu sei profeta” (I see that you are prophet, Diodati), or, “Tu sei un profeta!” (You are a
prophet, La Parola è Vita). The first Italian version lacks the indefinite article, and the second one
adds it. Both renderings are acceptable. One stresses the qualitative aspect, and the other the indefinite
status of the predicate noun. Even Wallace acknowledged: “It is nevertheless difficult to distinguish
indefinite from qualitative nouns at times (just as at other times it is difficult to distinguish qualitative
from definite nouns). The very fact that any member of a class is mentioned highlights to some degree
that particular class–hence, making some kind of qualitative statement.” (op. cit., Wallace: p. 266,
footnote.) Wallace adds: “Although the translation [of John 4:19] is most naturally ‘Sir, I perceive
that you are a prophet,’ the sense may be better characterized as indefinite-qualitative.” The same can
be said of John 1:1c. (Ibid, p. 266)

At John 4:19, natural spoken English requires the use of the “a” before prophet to bring out the Greek
sense into our language, and most English Bibles do so without hesitation. To be consistent, Bible
versions which render John 4:19 in an indefinite sense (a prophet) in English, or with a lowercase letter
“prophet” in other languages, could do likewise in John 1:1c, a parallel construction. One really has to
wonder why some individuals who claim to have competence in the Greek language fail to understand,
or acknowledge publicly, that in translation work, there is often, more than one way to render some
biblical passages. They let religious feelings get in the way, clouding their judgment. This becomes
apparent when they seek to convince others that those who render a certain passage differently from the
norm, are being “ignorant” in the Greek department.

4th Example (John 6:70):

Greek: και ὺ ἐξ ὑμῶν εἷς διάβολός ἐστιν
and out of you [plural] one devil is

In this text, Jesus is addressing his twelve closest disciples, when he anticipates that Judas Iscariot
would later betray him. Jesus referred to Judas as “dia'bolos” (devil), or slanderer. Like other verses
under consideration, the word “dia'bolos” lacks the Greek article (“the,” in English) and precedes the
verb, “estin” (is). Surprisingly, a few scholars taking part in Holman Christian Standard Bible, and the
NET Bible* mistakingly add the English the before “devil” under the premise that this is one of those
nomadic (one-of-a-kind) nouns indicating definiteness. This (one-of-a-kind) view for this scripture has
no solid foundation. Jesus here is not identifying Judas as the Satan, the arch-opposer of God, but
expressing a leaning spirit of defection on Judas part. He could discern an inclination of satanic
qualities, such as envy, and malice, and hence, could rightly call him, a devil, a betrayer, a slanderer.
The indefinite force is so prominent here, that adding the article the before “devil” has no justification
whatsoever. (*The explanation by grammarian Daniel Wallace, senior editor of the NET Bible, is not
convincing here. Other translators clearly understand this differently, as shown below.)

“And yet, from among you, one, is, an adversary” (Rotherham)
“and one of you is an accuser” (NT, James L. Tomanek)
“Yet one of you is a devil” (Common English Bible)
“and one of you is a devil?” (Douay-Rheims Bible)
“Yet one of you is an adversary” (The Gospel of John, F.F. Bruce*)
“Yet one of you is a devil” (International Standard Version)
“and one of you is a devil” (American Standard Version)
“Yet one of you is a slanderer” (New World Translation)
“And even of you, one is an informer” (Edgar G. Goodspeed)
“and of you -- one is a devil” (Young's Literal Translation)
“and of you one an accuser is” (The Emphatic Diaglott)
“Yet is not one of you a devil?” (New American Bible)
“Yet one of you is a devil!” (New International Version)
“Yet one of you is a devil” (Greek-English Interlinear NT, William and Robert Mounce)
“Yet one of you is a devil” (New Jerusalem Bible)
“Yet one of you is an adversary” (Jewish New Testament, David H. Stern)
“but out of you one is a slanderer ” (21st Century New Testament, Left column)
“Yet one of you is a betrayer” (21st Century New Testament, Right column)
“and of you one a devil is” (Alfred Marshall's Greek-English Interlinear)
“And of you, one is a devil” (Kenneth S. Wuest's New Testament)
“Yet one of you is a devil” (The Translator's New Testament)

*F. F. Bruce says that, “One of them [of the twelve] was diabolos – the Greek word means a ‘slanderer’
or ‘calumniator’ or ‘false accuser,’ but it is probably used here as the counterpart to Heb. [satan],
‘adversary’ [“Yet one of you is an adversary,” Bruce].” I side with the translators above, and with
grammarians P.B. Harner and P.S. Dixon who argue that the qualitative force of dia'bolos (devil) is
more prominent than its definiteness. Dixon says: “It is best, therefore, to take διάβολος qualitatively.
A good rendering might be: “one of you is a devil.” (The Significance of the Anarthrous Predicate
Nominative in John, 50. Dallas Theological Seminary, 1975) (Harner: Qualitative Anarthrous
Predicate Nouns: Mark 15:39 and John 1:1, JBL 92, 1973, 75-87.)

5th Example (John 10:1):

Greek: ἐκεῖνος κλέπτης ἐστι νὺ και ὺ λῃστής
that (one) thief is and robber

Here, Jesus talks about how he as a fine shepherd protects his sheep from dangerous individuals that
resemble wolves. The man, he says, who does not enter the sheepfold through the door, but climbs in
by some other way, is ...

“the same is a thief and a robber” (William Tyndale's NT, 1534. Daniell edition)
“the same is a thief and a robber” (Douay–Rheims Bible)
“the same is a thief and a robber” (New King James Version)
“is a thief and a bandit” (New Jerusalem Bible)
“is a thief and an outlaw” (Common English Bible)
“that one is a thief and robber” (The Apostolic Bible Polyglot)
“that man is a thief and a robber” (English Standard Version)
“is a thief and a robber” (New American Bible)
“that one is a thief and a robber” (Greek and English Interlinear NT, Mounce)
“that man is a thief and a robber” (Revised Standard Bible)
“is a thief and a rogue” (Phillips Modern English)
“he is a thief and a brigand” (A New Translation, by William Barclay)
“is nothing but a thief or a robber” (New English Bible)
“he is either a robber or a bandit” (The New Testament in Plain English)
“is a thief and a robber” (William F. Beck-NT)
“that one is a thief and a robber” (Literal Translation Version)

Smooth English requires the use of the indefinite article (a) before either thief and robber, or both.
Most English translations do this. If Bible translators are reluctant to use the indefinite article at John
1:1c, they could at least rendered the anarthrous noun “God” in such way to bring out the descriptive
nature (as an adjective) of such nouns by rendering it “the Word was god (or, divine),” to be consistent
with their other renderings of similar pattern. By the way, some translations do this:
“and the Word was god” (Professor Charles C. Torrey, Yale University, 1947)
“and the Logos was god [était dieu]” (Herbert Pernot, 1925, Paris)
“and the Word was divine” (E. J. Goodspeed)
“and the Word was god [était dieu]” (Traduction du monde nouveau, 1987)
“The Word was god [était dieu]” (Marc J. H. Oltramare, 1872, University Professor, Geneva)
“So the Word was divine” (Hugh J. Schonfield)
“and the Word was a god” (Reijnier Rooleeuw, M.D.)
“and god was the Word [y dios era la Palabra]” (J.J. Bartolomé, Madrid, 2002)

A word of observation: In English versions, it is not uncommon to denote the qualitative factor in
anarthrous predicate nouns by making use of the indefinite article (“a”), unless, predicate adjectives,
such as “divine,” etc., are chosen instead. On this, Professor Arthur W. Slaten wrote: “That qualitative
character which is in Greek denoted by the absence of the article is in English frequently expressed by
employment of the indefinite article.” (Qualitative Nouns in the Pauline Epistles and Their
Translation in the Revised Version, p. 5.) Amazingly, critics of the rendering, “the Word was a god” at
John 1:1c frequently miss this very fact, or worse yet, fail to acknowledge it – taking the gullible ones
with them.

6th Example (1 Kings 18:27, Septuagint, LXX. In the Hebrew reading below, read from right-to-left.):

Greek: ὅτι θεός ἐστιν Hebrew: ‫הוא‬
‫ה‬ ‫כ י ־ אאללה הים‬
for god is (he) he god for <

“For he is a god” (Sir Lancelot C. L. Brenton's translation from the Greek LXX)
“for he is a god” (Septuagint, LXX, Charles Thomson)
“for he is a god” (The Apostles' Bible: A Modern English Translation of the Greek Septuagint,
by Paul W. Esposito, 2004)
“For he is a god” (New English Translation of the Septuagint, [NETS], 2007)
“for he is a god” (The Orthodox Study Bible, St. Athanasius Academy Septuagint, 2008. LXX)
“for he is a god” (Orthodox England, Michael Asser, 2001-2010, based on the Greek text [LXX] of
the version published by the Greek Orthodox Church, Apostoliki Diakonia)
“because god (he) is [porque dios es]” (La Sagrada Biblia, G. Jünemann B., 1992. Greek LXX)

“for a god; he” (Interlinear Hebrew Old Testament)
“for god he” (The Hebrew-English Interlinear ESV Old Testament)
“for he is a god” (Jewish Publication Society, 1917. Translated from the Hebrew)
“for he is a god” (The Holy Bible from Ancient Eastern Manuscripts [tr. Syriac], George M. Lamsa)
“for he is god” [pues él es dios] (La Biblia Peshitta en Español, translated from the Aramaic)

“for Baal is youre god [for Baal is your god]” (John Wycliffe's Translation, transl. f. Latin, c. 1384)
“for he is a god” (Douay-Rheims Bible, translated from the Latin Vulgate: “deus enim est.”)

In this account, we read of Elijah mocking Baal, a false god. Just as in the other instances of theós
without the article (“the”) preceding the verb, translators find it necessary in English to add the
indefinite article (a) to complete the sense in our language. Had the speaker used the article before
theós, it could be taken then, as a reference of Baal being “God,” not “a god.” Would it not? Observe
that John Wycliffe's Translation from Latin did not capitalize the “g” in “god.” Also, two Spanish
translations above, one from the Greek LXX by Jünemann and the other, a Peshitta from the Aramaic,
did not capitalize the “g” in “god,” Actually, in Spanish it is not required to use the indefinite article (a)
in this construction to obtain nearly the same effect as the English statement, “for he is a god.” Surely,
the translators of this Spanish version were not suggesting that Elijah was calling Baal “God.” In
Hebrew, we find the reading, ‫הוא‬ ‫( כ י־ אאללה הים ה‬ki-'elohim hu, Literally: because god [is] he), likewise
translated in our English versions as: “For he is a god.” Thus, Bible translations from both the Hebrew
and Greek (LXX ) texts here, and from Latin and Syriac versions as well, all reflect indefinite or
qualitative renderings – good pointers which show us how John 1:1c, with similar syntax, should be
translated. Colwell's theory, if applied, would mistakingly lead one to believe the reference of theós to
be definite.

If you have carefully followed the discussion to this point, you may have observed that the indefinite
translation of anarthrous predicate nouns (using “a”) similar in construction to John 1:1c is a valid
option to consider. Why is this significant to mention? Because Trinitarian scholars work hard to
disengage the likelihood of the indefinite notion in the discussion of John 1:1c. They often say that a
grammatical construction such as we find in John 1:1 should be rendered definite, and more recently,
qualitatively, usually ignoring or denying the probable, but very likely indefinite nuance of anarthrous
predicate nouns before the verb. However, in the samples set forth herein, we see a pattern where
translators freely use one of the two aspects (indefinite or qualitative) in their translations, sometimes
alternating between the two. Something to be noted here too, is that those translators who choose to not
to employ the indefinite article, may do so because their translations are what you call, ultra-literal
translations, that is, word for word renderings of the original languages, as the ones shown above for 1
Kings 18:27. However, when translators wish to convey this message in idiomatic English, they
usually resort to the indefinite article... “for he is a god,” etc. All told, theology is a factor in their
denial of this fact in regards to John 1:1.

7th Example (Xenophon's Anabasis, 1:4:6):

Greek: εμπóριον δ’ ην το χωρíον
market and was the place

“ and the place was a market ” (Translation by Dana & Mantey)

A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament, by Dana and Mantey had this to say, (under the
heading: “With the Subject in a Copulative Sentence”): “The article sometimes distinguishes the
subject from the predicate in a copulative sentence. In Xenophon's Anabasis, 1:4:6, εμπóριον δ’ ην το
χωρíον, and the place was a market, we have a parallel case to what we have in John 1:1, καιὸ θεοὸς ἦν
ὁ λόγος and the word was deity. The article points out the subject in these examples. Neither was the
place the only market, nor was the word all of God, as it would mean if the article were also used with
θεός. As it stands, the other persons of the Trinity may be implied in θεός.” (Page 148, paragraph «3».
Italics theirs) I agree with the above comment with the exception of their statement, “the other persons
of the Trinity may be implied in θεός,” which I find superfluous. This is clearly a case of two Baptist
grammarians reading far more into the text than is warranted. John chapter 1 is not speaking of three
persons in the Godhead. Actually, the whole Gospel of John makes no mention whatsoever of “three
persons” in one God. This language is totally foreign to the New Testament.
To run parallel with Xenophon's statement and the place was a market, this Grammar could have
translated John 1:1c, and the word was a god. I am aware that Dr. Julius R. Mantey has been openly
opposed (to put it mildly) to the NWT rendering, “the Word was a god.” Nevertheless, the example
they set forth seems to contradict Mantey's statements. Compare for yourself the literal Greek reading
of Xenophon's statement with the suggested translation by Dana and Mantey of which Mantey says is
“a parallel case” to John 1:1c:

“and the place was market ” (Literal reading in English order, Anabasis, 1:4:6)
“and the word was god ” (Literal reading in English order, John 1:1c)

“and the place was a market ” (Suggested translation by Dana and Mantey)
“and the Word was a god ” (Controversial translation, criticized by Mantey)

The translation offered by scholars Dana & Mantey, “and the place was a market,” as indicated above,
is an unintended admission that the rendering “the Word was a god” is just as proper, even though, as
Trinitarians, they preferred another: and the word was deity. Note too, that their suggested translation
of John 1:1c: and the word was deity, is not the same thing as saying that the word was entirely God, as
they admitted: “nor was the word all of God.” Additionally, the use of “may” as modifier in the
statement, “the three persons may be implied,” suggests a theological speculation, not a fact. The
biblical truth is that Jesus himself spoke of his Father, God, as “the only God.” (NIV; New King James
Version, John 5:44) If Jesus is not “the only God,” who is he then? Christ is time and again described
as “God's Son,” hence, a reflection of God's glory, “godlike,” “divine”. The Bible itself says: “The Son
reflects God's own glory, and everything about him represents God exactly.” (Hebrews 1:3, New Living
Translation) This focus on Christ by Christian Writers throughout the New Testament led William
Barclay to caution: “To say that the Word was God is too much; to say that the Word was Divine is too
little.” (“Great Themes of the New Testament: II John 1.1-14,” Expository Times 70 (1958-59): 114.)

Additionally, much has been made of the publication of a letter Mantey wrote to the publishers of the
NWT (WT Society), where Mantey asked the WTS to stop quoting him by name, since he felt they
were misquoting their Grammar. Many have seized this incident to lash out slanderous statements at
the WTS for alleged “scholastic dishonesty.” I feel this attack has no merit. It is in the main, a
theological motivated objection. For the benefit of those who do not have these two publications, I will
reproduce here what the NWT said right before and after quoting the Grammar of Dana and Mantey:
“Careful translators recognize that the articular construction of the noun points to an identity, a
personality, whereas an anarthrous construction points to a quality about someone. That is what A
Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament by Dana and Mantey remarks on page 140, paragraph
vii [Which says: “The articular construction emphasizes identity; the anarthrous construction
emphasizes character.”]. Accordingly, on page 148, paragraph (3), this same publication says about the
subject of a copulative sentence: [… quoted above ...]. Instead of translating John 1:1, and the word
was deity, this Grammar could have translated it, and the word was a god, to run more parallel with
Xenophon's statement, and the place was a market.” (NWT, Appendix, page 774)

In my opinion, the NWT quote of the Grammar was sufficiently accurate, with one exception. The
NWT Committee omitted this sentence: “As it stands, the other persons of the Trinity may be implied
in θεός.” And it is this omission which Dr. Mantey most likely objected to. I too believe this sentence
was not critical in the context of the grammar being considered to prove the author's point, but whether
the NWT translators were actually “dishonest” or not by omitting this one sentence in their quote, I
leave it for the reader to decide. Apparently, the NW translators were hoping to avoid the dogmatic
Trinity subject in their Appendix at that point. When quoting Dana & Mantey, the NWT Committee
could certainly have been more explicit, by implying, for example, that in their opinion, the authors
used an argument that in effect granted the reading, “the word was a god”, as a “parallel case” to
Xenophon's statement, “the place was a market”, instead of insinuating by mode of silence, that the
Trinitarian authors approved of such reading. (To read more about the practice of WTS “quoting
sources,” see Note 1 at the end of the article.)

Interestingly, Dana & Mantey's Grammar says on pages 138, 139, 140: “When identity is prominent,
we find the article; and when quality or character is stressed, the construction is anarthrous [without
the article].” And: “The use of the articular and anarthrous constructions of θεός is highly instructive.
A study of the uses of the term as given in Moulton and Geden's Concordance convinces one that
without the article θεός signifies divine essence, while with the article divine personality is chiefly in
view.” Furthermore, on page 140, on the use of the article in the Greek text it says: “The articular
construction emphasizes identity; the anarthrous construction emphasizes character.”

Surprisingly, Dr. Julius R. Mantey included the following statement in his letter of repudiation to the
WTS mentioned earlier: “Prof. Harner, Vol 92:1 in JBL, has gone beyond Colwell's research and has
discovered that anarthrous predicate nouns preceding the verb function primarily to express the nature
or character of the subject.” (July 11, 1974) Instead of advocating a trinity, this statement of Mantey
quoting Professor Harner oddly supports some of the arguments published in the 1950 and the 1984
NWT Editions.

From the principles expounded in their Grammar by Dana & Mantey on the articular and the anarthrous
constructions of θεός on pages 138-140, and page 148, we may conclude that the following three
renderings are potentially in agreement with such: “the place was a market,” “the Word was a god
[divine],” and “the word was deity.” Of course, this assumption is made without their expressed
admission on it. Again, let us not forget their printed message: “Neither was the place the only market
[the place was a market], nor was the word all of God.”

Coming back to translation issues, we can see that, generally, modern translations do make an effort to
convey a difference in translation between predicate nouns, with and without the article, preceding the
verb. In John 6:51, the predicate has the article: “The bread but which I shall give, the flesh of me is.”
At John 20:15, we have: “the gardener it is” with the article. In 2 John 1:6: “This the commandment
is. And Bible translations generally reflect that.

In The Martyrdom of Polycarp, 12:1, (Irenaeus tells us that Polycarp was a disciple of John and the
Bishop of Smyrna), we have the proconsul proclaiming this herald:

Greek: Πολύκαρπος ὡμολόγησεν ἑαὺτοὺν Χριστιανοὺν εἶναι
Polycarp has confessed himself Christian to be

“Polycarp has confessed himself to be a Christian.” (Translated by Charles H. Hoole, 1885)
“Polycarp hath confessed himself to be a Christian.” (Translated by J. B. Lightfoot)
“Polycarp has confessed that he is a Christian.” (Translated by Kirsopp Lake)
“Polycarp has confessed that he is a Christian.” (Translated by Michael W. Holmes)
“Polycarp has confessed that he is a Christian.” (Translated by Roberts-Donaldson)
As seen above, various translators freely insert the indefinite article (a) into their English renderings.
However, at John 1:1, many translators are unwilling to produce a translation that shows the fact that
the second instance of “theós” in this verse lacks the article. Why? Is it because Greek grammar
demands the rendering “God”? Not at all! The seven (7) submitted samples clearly indicate that it is
not grammar, but doctrine for the reluctance. Even Greek scholars teach, that, “when a Greek noun
lacks the definite article, it normally* will be translated as indefinite.” (A Primer of Biblical Greek, by
N. Clayton Croy, assistant professor of NT at Trinity Luther Seminary, Columbus, Ohio, p. 15. *Note
the use of “normally” here, because the author is aware that there is ‘no hard rule’ that can be applied at
all times in regards to the use of the article, or lack of. But his statement holds generally true, as in
here.) At John 1:1, translators in their drive to make Jesus appear identical to God, will use a capital G
when Jesus is spoken of. Patterns of Greek grammar as seen in the above examples and elsewhere, are
swayed aside to sustain their theology.

John 1:2, in fact, would be pointless tautology if John meant that the Logos was identical to God in
verse 1, as some translations suggest. Some explain that the traditional reading would amount to
“Sabellianism” or “Modalism.” It is also misleading to translate John 1:1, “the Word was fully God,”
as the NET Bible does. If we were to use the NET Bible's reasoning which appears in their note of John
1:1, and apply it to samples discussed above with similar syntax, we would get the following
translations: “This man [Paul] must be fully Murderer”; “That one [climbing over the fence] is fully
Thief and fully Robber”; “for he (Baal) is fully God”; “and the place was fully Market”.

Does that make sense? Baal, a pagan god, was certainly not ‘fully God’ in the sense of him being the
Supreme God. But Elijah could depict Baal as “a god,” for he was not ‘the only god’ among the
heathens. And to say “the place was fully market” is meaningless. In fact, Dana and Mantey argued
against the place being The Market, the only market. They conclude that the Greek construction
demands, “the place was a market.” And Dana & Mantey pointed out that the Greek construction of
John 1:1 tells us that ‘the word was deity [“divine,” but] not all of God.’

In Mark's account (6:49), when Jesus disciples became terrified* after seeing what they thought was an
“apparition” or “phantom” of some sort walking over the waters next to their boat during a storm, they
screamed out: “It's a ghost! [“a spirit,” KJV],” according to some Bible versions. (*They were
unaware it was Jesus they had seen.) The grammatical structure of Mark 6:49 and John 1:1 are similar,
so how do Bible translations deal with this? Do they have the disciples crying out: “He is fully Ghost?
Or, would they scream instead, “He is Phantom”? No! Most Bibles have the disciples saying, it was
“a ghost”...or “a phantom”... or “an apparition” of some sort. At no time, do translators argue that it
should be translated as they do at John 1:1c, by capitalizing the predicate noun, and omitting the
indefinite article “a.” John 1:1 is no exception to the norm. Bible translators generally follow the
pattern described by Professor Clayton Croy: “When a Greek noun lacks the definite article, it
normally will be translated as indefinite.” (op. cit., A Primer) In the examples above, Bible translators
have shown us how they really deal with syntax similar to John 1:1c. Additionally, at John 18:37 we
have “a king” twice. English Bibles do not have Pilate asking Jesus if he was the “King”? Instead,
English translations follow the pattern described above, and render Pilate's question as: “Art thou a
king, then?”

In the cases listed, a predicate noun without the Greek article precedes a verb, just as we have in John
1:1c. Accordingly, then, why not reflect this pattern at John 1:1, especially so when two entities are
being spoken of in the verse, and the second occurrence of θεός lacks the article? We cannot by whim
ignore the statement published by a distinguished grammarian: A “most common use” of the Greek
article is to point out … “Individual from Other Individuals.” (op. cit., Short Grammar, p. 275)

Although another grammarian David Alan Black, a Trinitarian, objects, not surprisingly, to the
rendering “a God” at John 1:1, he takes a page from Dana & Mantey's Grammar when he writes: “If
the article were also used with θεός, the statement would mean that all of God was expressed in the
Word. As it is, the Word is neither ‘a God’ nor equal with the sum total of God.” (It's Still Greek to
Me, p. 79.) This statement by Black appears to contradict the NET Bible's translation of John 1:1c.
Black's conclusion is similar to Dana's & Mantey's, that is, “the Word was Deity [θεός].” (Brackets
his.) In similar vein, The New Testament in Plain English translates John 1:1c as: “the Word was
God.” However, a footnote says: “Or, Deity, Divine (which is actually a better translation, because the
Greek definite article is not present before this Greek word).” (Underline added. 2003) Now, this
footnote begs the question: If the rendering “the Word was Deity, Divine” is actually a “better
translation,” why not use that in the main text? In fact, their previous edition of this version called, The
Simple English Bible, rendered John 1:1c true to the message of their revised edition footnote: “The
Message was deity.” It seems that Trinitarian translators have a special attachment to the traditional
reading, and find it difficult to display other renderings even when they acknowledge there are ‘better
translations’ for the anarthrous θεός in John 1:1c.

In English, using a capital letter “G” in the statement “the Word was fully God” in John 1:1 of the NET
Bible is misleading for someone brought up in trinitarian teaching. A trinitarian believer would likely
take that rendering in the sense that Christ is Almighty God himself, a concept in conflict with what
Christ himself stated at John 17:3 and John 20:17. Daniel Wallace, wrote a most interesting comment
which reveals how theology plays a big role at the time of translating John 1:1, “Although I believe
that θεός in 1:1c is qualitative, I think the simplest and most straightforward translation is, ‘and the
Word was God.’ It may be better to clearly affirm the NT teaching of the deity of Christ and then
explain that he is not the Father, than to sound ambiguous on his deity and explain that he is God but is
not the Father.” (Ibid, p. 269. Italics his.) What? Is he serious?

What's the point of claiming that θεός in 1:1c is “qualitative” in John 1:1c as Wallace emphatically does
in his Grammar, and then go on to suggest that ‘the Word was God’ which implies “identity,” a
“personality”, the opposite of “character,” or “quality”, and be forced to explain that it does not mean
what it actually says? The end result would then be, no less “ambiguous” than the alternatives he is
obviously trying to avoid. Would the reader not rather have a “better translation,” such as, “the Word
was divine,” which requires no additional explanation? The NET Bible, (Wallace, senior editor) prefers
a rendering other than “divine,” because he states that “divine” “as a descriptive term is not used in
contemporary English exclusively of God.” However, on the word “divine” Murray J. Harris responds:
“But if θεοὺς bears a qualitative sense, the rendering ‘divine’ should not be dismissed as altogether
inappropriate ... Only if ‘divine’ is taken to mean ‘having the very nature of God’ does the word
accurately convey John's meaning.” (op. cit., Jesus as God, p. 68) The argument that “divine” is too
generic is weak, because, really, the same argument can be made of the term “god.” Jesus applied the
term “gods” to humans (John 10:34-36), and Paul acknowledged that “there are many gods and many
lords.” (1 Corinthians 8:5) So Wallace's objection appears to be more an effort to equate Christ with
God at John 1:1.

The truth is that the Greek Text does not say that Christ is the one-and-only God. What the Greek does
say is, that “the Word was with the [True] God, and the Word [himself] was of divine preponderance (a
divine being),” thus able to perfectly represent the character of God. (Hebrews 1:3) The only way one
could justify the rendering “God” with a big “G” at John 1:1c is if the original text had the article
before the second instance of theós as well. Why? Because John is talking about two individuals
within the text, and deliberately differentiates between the two instances of “theós” by placing the
article before the first instance of “theós,” and not with the second. Max Zerwick (S.J.) wrote in this
regard: “...ὁ Θεοὺς ἦν ὁ Λόγος [if John had written, “the God was the Logos”] at least in NT usage,
would signify personal identity of the Word with the Father, since the latter [the Father] is ὁ Θεοὺς [the
God].” (Biblical Greek, p. 55. Rome)

John obviously wrote the words appearing in verse two to clear any potential misunderstanding that
could arise from his bold statement in verse one. Marinus de Jonge* remarks, “The author of this
Prologue clearly wants to identify ‘the Word’ and God as closely as possible without infringing the
belief in the One God.” (Christology in Context: The Earliest Christian Response to Jesus,
Philadelphia: Westminster, 1988, p. 198. *Jonge is Professor Emeritus of New Testament and Early
Christian Literature at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands.) So in effect, John was saying that
the Logos was like God in every permissible sense within the Jewish monotheistic background. Hence,
the New English Bible rendering: ‘What God was, the Word was.’ The statement does not mean they
were the same individual.

Dr. Jason David BeDuhn explains: “In John 1:1, the Word is not the one-and-only God, but it is a god,
or divine being. I know that sounds strange and even seems impossible coming from the pen of a
Christian writer. But the fact remains that that is what John wrote. His purpose in doing so was, at
least in part, to avoid the notion that God the Father himself incarnated as Christ. The one who
incarnated was somehow distinct from ‘God’ while still being ‘a god.’ ” (Truth in Translation, pp. 122,

Why then, are translators so unwilling to render John 1:1c “and the Word was a god”? A few reasons
can be given. Translators mention grammar as one problem, an issue addressed throughout this article.
Others view the rendering “a god” as polytheistic. I will mention two others: First, is the domino effect
of the Trinity doctrine developed centuries after Christ as a means to clamp down raging Christological
debates, to the point that the doctrine has been taken for granted as “truth” by most “Christian” people
since. Secondly, the role in tradition played by the Latin Vulgate must be mentioned. This Latin
translation has greatly influenced many translators since its inception from c. 405 CE. That includes
the authors of the early translations of the 16th and 17th Century. In fact, back then, translators were
more likely to be familiar with the Latin Vulgate than they were with the Greek itself. The Latin
Vulgate used no articles (as seen below), and that in conjunction with the Greek lacking the indefinite
article (“a”), and we can see why so many have misunderstood John 1:1. The Christological debates of
past centuries did not improve this state of confusion, it made it worse. I kindly ask the reader to
consider the following Latin and Greek readings as helpful pointers in our discussion. Notice in
particular the bold letters relevant to our discussion.

– LATIN (John 1:1):
“In principio erat Verbum et Verbum erat apud Deum et Deus erat Verbum”.
In beginning was Verb and Verb was with God and God was Verb
– GREEK (John 1:1):

Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, και ὺ ὁ λόγος ἦν προὺς τοὺν θεόν, και ὺ θεοὺς ἦν ὁ λόγος
In beginning was the logos and the logos was toward the god, and god was the logos

First of all, please notice that Latin makes no distinction between the two occurrences of “God” in the
text (i.e. both without the article). However, Greek, being a more specific, descriptive language, does,
by using the article (“the”) before the first occurrence, and omitting it before the second. Keep in mind
what The Translator’s New Testament, previously quoted, said: “It is difficult to believe that the
omission [of the Greek article before the second theós in John 1:1] is not significant.” (p. 451.) As A.
T. Robertson pointed out, “The article is never meaningless in Greek, though it often fails to
correspond with the English idiom. […] Its free use leads to exactness and finesse.” (A Grammar of
the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research, p. 756) And Buttmann: The use of the
article [ho, “the”] has everywhere its positive reason.” (Buttmann's Grammar of New Testament Greek,
Bt. 88) And another: “For the present, the presence or absence of the Greek article should always be
carefully indicated in the English translation.” (New Testament Greek For Beginners by J. Gresham
Machen, D.D., LITT.D., p. 35, # 67.) It is the responsibility of the translator to transmit, whenever
possible, this critical difference of the Greek text within the English translation.

Which reading of the two languages above (Latin and Greek), shows the greater similarity with the
English traditional rendering of John 1:1c? It's Latin, is it not? In fact, some Bible translations in other
languages* have even borrowed the latin word “Verbum” from the Latin Vulgate at John 1:1, as does
the ubiquitous Spanish Reina-Valera which uses “Verbo” (Verb) instead of “Word” used in English
versions. (*Also using “Verbo”: Scío de San Miguel; Versión Moderna; Gómez, 2010; Nueva Biblia
Latinoamericana de Hoy; and the Nueva Versión Internacional. Other international versions following
the translation pattern of the Latin Vulgate at John 1:1c, include: French Darby; Crampon; German
Luther Bible; Italian Diodati; and the Portuguese Almeida.)

It is evident that most English Bibles at John 1:1 are translations done in the spirit of the Latin Vulgate,
rather than the Greek text, regardless of what they claim. As you will see in the submitted list of
alternate readings at the end of this paper, there are some translations, though not as popular, that are
actually closer to the Greek above, than the best-selling versions which end up following the Latin
Vulgate instead. Although John 1:1 has long been a favorite text to quote by traditionalists within the
English world as “proof” of Jesus' deity, it may surprise some people, that a modern Greek Bible reader
will not likely appeal to such scripture in support of the traditional view.

Notwithstanding, some Bible translators either disagree with the traditional viewpoint of the Logos as
“God,” or may simply feel that the message conveyed by the original Greek language (as demonstrated
by the 7 samples above), demands a different translation at John 1:1c. Some would have you believe
that only a few insane, unschooled translators with diabolical intentions, would ever attempt to deviate
from the traditional reading. Not true. I believe most translators offering a different version of John
1:1 are most sincere in their effort to get to the core of the Greek meaning, and to adequately transmit
the intended message of the biblical author. The submitted list of alternate readings at the end is not
intended to be a complete list, but to be ample enough to show a variety of renderings and viewpoints.
Keep in mind too, that, due to its theological significance, other Scriptures do not have as many variant
translation renderings as John 1:1 does.

A careful review of the alternate readings list of John 1:1 and other related material at the end of the
article leads to this question: Can anyone legitimately exclude the rendering “a god” as a valid option
found in some Bible versions? We have seen that grammar alone cannot condemn the use of such
translation, though many will keep trying to do just that. Seven examples were provided which clearly
show how translators render predicate nouns without the article occurring before the verb. In addition,
note that these seven examples make reference to one person or one thing, while John 1:1 is speaking
of “two” entities. Verse 2 accentuates the fact, by repetition, that the Logos was in a beginning with
God.’ Yes, twice we are told in the first two verses in John's Prologue, that “the Word was with God.”
This concept must then be significant. With greater reason, translators should render this grammatical
structure in John 1:1c in such a way that it brings out a distinction between the Logos and the God he
was with. An indefinite rendering does that well. Any attempt to blur this distinction, like Colwell's
“theory,” will not hold up under biblical scrutiny.

As Count Leo Tolstoy, the famous Russian novelist and religious philosopher correctly observed: “If it
says that in the beginning was the ... Word, and that the Word was..., with God, it is impossible to go on
and say that it was God. If it was God, it could stand in no relation to God.” (The Four Gospels
Harmonized and Translated, p. 30.) Normally, when someone speaks of ‘a person being with another,’
the listener does not reach the conclusion that both individuals are identical persons. Then, why insist
on a different conclusion here in John 1:1,2? As we have it, most translations make it appear that the
Word and God are identical. They are not!

A Grammar states: “John was not saying that ‘the word was the Father’; but that ‘the word was God
(divine).’” (Gramática Griega-Sintaxis del Nuevo Testamento [Greek Grammar-Syntax of the NT], by
Daniel B. Wallace & Daniel S. Steffen, Parentheses theirs, p. 182) Consequently, if the translation “the
word was God” must be understood in the adjectival sense, as “divine,” why not translate it so? It is
therefore reasonable to make a distinction between the term “theós” with, and without, the article here.

In all, the more accurate Bible translations do make a distinction between “theós” (God) with, and
without the article in John 1:1. Does yours? Some argue that John did not have to employ the article
before the second instance of “theós” to imply that the Word was “God.” Do you believe that? If so,
why then was the Greek article used with the nominal predicate before the verb in John 15:1, which
literally says: “I am the vine, the true, and the father of me, the farmer is”? Please observe that the
article is used 4 times in this statement. The fourth occurrence of the article would have been dropped
if the author intended to say that the Father was “a farmer,” either in the qualitative or indefinite sense.
Would it not? The fact that the article does appear in the text for the fourth time is indicative of the
author's intention. It is a definite reference. In the illustration, Jesus' Father is being singled out as “the
farmer.” It is evident that Bible writers usually employed the article with specific intention, and when
they omitted it, it was equally significant as well. Other examples are provided in my other article on
John 1:1, listed at the end.

Anyways, would it not be better to simply adopt the majority view, and thus, free oneself from religious
tension experienced by those who sustain a minority view? First of all, it is dangerous to adopt a
majority view, if this one is in error. A majority view held by “scholars” of itself, does not
automatically make a matter “true.” Why? Because scholars are not infallible, nor immune to human
tradition. Were they in Jesus' day? They were not! Scholars today may find themselves in error, just as
many scribes were in Jesus' day, as Matthew chapter 23 clearly demonstrate. (Matthew 15:9) We are
warned that “the whole world lies under the power of the evil one.” (1 John 5:19, New Revised
Standard Bible) We should not dismiss “religion” as being beyond the scope of Satan. We all need to
be in guard of evil influence at all times, being careful of not becoming “stone-blind” by “the god of
this world.” (2 Cor. 4:4, The Message) Again, a majority view does not always represent the truth.
The doctrinal foundation for Christians should be based, not on what the majority believe, but rather, on
what the Bible itself teaches.

What does the Bible really say about Jesus Christ?

Simply put, Jesus is said to be “Son of God,” not “God the Son.” (Luke 1:35, NRSV) There is a vast
difference in meaning between these two expressions. There are more than two hundred references
(200x) in the New Testament that explicitly declare that Jesus Christ is the “Son of God” (not “God the
Son”), or that ‘God is the Father of Jesus Christ’. (For a list of instances, see: The Preachers Outline
and Sermon Bible, “John”, p. 27) This in itself is very significant. Yet, Christendom prefers to dwell
on a handful of disputable texts which are said to describe Jesus as God. None of the disputed texts are
really explicit in declaring Jesus' equality with God. In Scripture, Jesus' place in the broad picture is
one of sonship, namely, as Son of God, not God. Furthermore, the word “son” is never used to describe
God, or “holy spirit.” Why?

Christ is biblically described as “the image of the invisible God [not God], the firstborn of all creation.”
(Colossians 1:15); the “mediator between God and men.” (1 Timothy 2:5) Of course, it is possible to
spin these clear statements to make them say something else, but is that what we seek? Someone who
plays the role of “mediator” cannot, in the name of justice, be one and the same person as one of the
two parties he is representing while staying impartial at the same time. Scripture says ‘a mediator is
needed if two people enter into an agreement.’ (Galatians 3:20, New Living Translation) Moses, being
a separate entity, was able to serve as “mediator” of the Law Covenant between God and Israel. (Gal.
3:19, NLT) Now, if Jesus, the greater Moses, happens to be the one-and-only “God,” what “justice”
could he convey as “mediator” between himself and mankind? But no! Jesus spoke of his Father as
“my God” and as ‘the God of everyone else.’ (John 20:17) It was this God (“the only God,” John
5:44, NKJV; NIV) according to Jesus himself who ‘revealed’ things to Christ. (Mark 13:32; Revelation
1:1) The very thought of the exalted Christ receiving a ‘revelation’ from God should sound odd for
anyone believing that Christ is the equal of God in every sense. Scripture calls Christ, ‘the Word of
God.’ (Revelation 19:13) And the record shows that it was this Word who was “with God in the
beginning, not that he was “God,” but like God. (Hence the description of Christ as “divine,” or “a
God,” in John 1:1, according to Bible translators Hugh J. Schonfield and James L. Tomanek. Compare
with Hebrews 1:3.)

Bible writers always note Jesus’ orientation as one of subordination to the Father rather than Christ
being at the center of it all. Thus we read in Ephesians 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our
Lord Jesus Christ”; 1 Corinthians 15:28: “The Son also himself shall be placed in subjection to him
[God] who put all things in subjection to him, that God may be all in all.” (Darby); Colossians 3:1,
“Keep on seeking the things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.” (Williams). Jesus
himself made it clear to others: “I seek, not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent
me.” (John 5:30)
Do Scriptures allow for a secondary sense of the words “god” and “savior”?

In the Scriptures the term ‘god’ has various connotations that cannot be narrowed to one single meaning
as some wish to do. A few scholars sustain that the notion of Jesus Christ as “a god” as if there were
other gods beside God, is incompatible with Jewish “monotheism,” the belief in one God, and that it
implies polytheism. Nevertheless, the concept itself that God as an entity is composed of three coequal
persons runs counter with Jewish monotheism. “...The Jews have always regarded the doctrine of the
Trinity as one irreconcilable with the spirit of the Jewish religion and with monotheism,” so states the
Jewish Encyclopedia. The teaching of the “Shema,” consisted as noted, in that “Jehovah our God is
one Jehovah.” (Deuteronomy 6:4, ASV) What purpose would there be for the “Shema” to stress that
Jehovah is “one,” and then explain, to confound the matter, that the statement must mean the Divine
One is “three persons” in “one”? It is explained frequently that the teaching of the Trinity is a
“mystery.” The problem with such reasoning is that nowhere in Scripture are we lead to believe in such
a concept. The fact that many are exposed to the Trinity dogma for a long time, may explain why some
see “insinuations” of it in the Bible. In any case, it is wise to question whether the disputed doctrine is
based on biblical “facts,” or is instead based on human “tradition” and emotional fancy.

Certain Scriptures are frequently cited as proof by supporters of the Trinity doctrine that Christ is God.
Isaiah 44:6 and Hosea 13:4 are two such examples, which have God Jehovah saying: “I am the first,
and I am the last; and beside me there is no God.” “And thou shalt know no god but me: for there is no
savior [Hebrew: ‫ש שיע‬
‫( ומו ה‬u˙moshia')] beside me.” These words are strictly taken literally out of their
setting to mean that there can be no “god” or “savior” other than God almighty. By implication, they
portray God as an impotent God unable to appoint others to represent him as such. In the context in
which these words were pronounced, Israel, God's people, were inclined to worship vain hand-made
idols. (Isaiah 42:17) Hence, God's warning in Isaiah and Hosea. People brought up in trinitarian
dogma, tend to restrict the meaning of the term “God” to those statements found within the context of
Isaiah and Hosea, leading them to the conclusion that anyone other than the True God, must be a “false”
god. They define the word God within the context of modern trinitarian mentality, instead of ancient
Scriptural doctrine. Trinitarians reason that if the appellative “God” is applied to Jesus Christ, then,
reasonably, Jesus could be no other than the Lord God himself.

However, such trinitarian reasonings are missing an important element. It has to do with the fact that
the word “god” can be biblically applied to others, since the term itself appears to be related to someone
with power and authority. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia explains: “This word
[’elōhîm] can in fact, be used for other gods (Gen. 31:30) and even for men (cf. Ex. 4:16; 7:1; cf BDB,
p.43)....The derivation [of ’elōhîm] is obscure, but the implied sense seems to be that of strength or
authority.” (Vol. II, pg. 497, italics added.) The Expository Dictionary of Bible Words says: “The
word itself [ֵ‫אל‬
‫’( א‬ēl), Hebrew word for God] derives from a root term meaning ‘power,’ ‘strength,’ or,
‘might.’ (Stephen D. Renn, p. 439) And the Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible adds: “Common to these
four suggested root meanings [of El, ‘God’] is the idea of strength, power, and of supreme excellence
and greatness.” (Vol. 1, p. 881) This may explain why, instead of finding the traditional reading “God”
at John 1:1c, various Bible versions describe the Logos as ‘a powerful divine being,’ or something to
that effect. When the whole context of Scripture is considered, it is evident that the words spoken by
God found in Isaiah and Hosea are very true in a specific sense, namely, that there is but one Supreme
God, and one Main Savior. This truth, however, does not rule out the appointment of saviors by God in
his representation, or the existence of ‘godlike ones’ under God as the biblical record shows. (Job 38:7;
Psalms 29:1; 89:6)

Is it possible to speak of divine beings (“gods”) existing alongside God?

Scholar John Macquarrie in Jesus Christ in Modern Thought, claims that the Jewish monotheistic
culture would never tolerate the idea of the Logos belonging to a class of divine beings. (Page 110)
Correspondingly, Dr. William Loader, sensed a conflict between the translation “a god” at John 1:1 of
some versions, and Jewish monotheism. He nonetheless concludes: “It is true, on the most natural
reading of the text, that there are two beings here: God and a second who was theos but this second is
related to God in a manner which shows that God is the absolute over against which the second is
defined. They are not presented as two equal gods.” (The Christology of the Fourth Gospel: Structures
and Issues, Doctor of Theology – Gutenberg University, Mainz, Germany, 1972, and more recently,
Professor of NT at Murdoch University in Perth, Western Australia. – 2 ed. New York: Peter Lang, 1992,
p. 155)

Nevertheless, Ernst Haenchen asserts: “...In the period in which the hymn [at John 1:1] took its rise, it
was quite possible in Jewish and Christian monotheism to speak of divine beings that existed
alongside and under God but were not identical with him. Phil 2:6-10 proves that.” (A Commentary
on the Gospel of John, John 1. Transl. by Robert W. Funk from Das Johannesevangelium. Ein
Kommentar, p. 109.) Another source adds: “On the other hand, it was a matter of general knowledge,
and one which the Bible itself shares and does not attempt to conceal, that recognition and worship have
often been extended to others than the Jewish-Christian God, and the term ‘god’ or ‘gods’ is used for
them also, as are the respective Greek and Hebrew words. It is the custom to use a capital letter G for
the God of the Jewish-Christian tradition and a small letter for the others.” (Dictionary of the Bible,
James Hastings. Revised Edition, 1963, Page 333: Grant & Rowley. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York)

In view of the above, let's briefly look at how the Bible itself employs the words for “God” in Scripture:
At Exodus 7:1, we read that God made, a man, Moses, “a god” (Hebrew, ’elohim) before Pharaoh. God
said to Moses: “See, I have made thee a god [Others: “a God”; “God”] to Pharaoh: and Aaron thy
brother shall be thy prophet.” Using standard trinitarian reasoning applied to Jesus Christ elsewhere
could lead one to believe that Moses himself became an intrinsic part of the Great Divinity, by virtue of
being called “God” or “a god” by the Lord Jehovah himself? But that´s not the case, is it?
Consequently, other translations see fit to clarify the meaning of “God” used here by the LORD. The
English Standard Version expresses it this way: “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh.” And the
International Standard Version has the LORD saying: “Listen! I've put you in the role of God to

And in Exodus 4:16, God, making reference to Aaron, tells Moses: “You shall be as God to him.”
(ESV; NAB. Hebrew: le'lohim, “as God”; Darby: “God”; Leeser: “a God”; LXX: theón, “God”;
Vulgate: “Deum”). A logical explanation for this declaration would be that Moses was simply given a
powerful role as God's emissary who represented his will. So too, in Psalm 45:6, when a “man”
(perhaps Solomon), who became ‘king of Israel’ was addressed literally, in divine terms: “Your throne
God forever and ever.” Obviously, this human king was not the One True God. Neither was he a false
God, as trinitarian reasonings articulate. Simply put, Solomon's throne was “divine,” in the sense that
he represented God in a position of authority over others.

In the Scriptures we find that Jesus is described in Isaiah 9:6 as “Mighty God*,” and as “Son of God” in
other places. (John 1:34) What about angels? What do we call them? Humans? Not! Angels are in
nature, heavenly beings closer to God than they are to men. They are powerful divine spirits that reflect
God's glory and Godship. They are “sons of God.” (Job 1:6) They are “gods” themselves. What do
we call a “son” of a “human”? This “son” is himself a “human,” is he not? Just as there is a family of
human beings sharing “humanity,” there is also a family of celestial beings, yes, “divine beings,” or
“gods,” sharing “divinity.” A “son” of “God” is “a god,” or a ‘reflection’ of God. Or, simply explained:
“One who shares a close relationship with God.” (The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary) Whatever, the
expression “son of God” is never synonymous with God. (* Some argue that the expression
“Almighty” in Revelation 1:8 applies to Christ, but there is no concrete evidence to sustain the claim.)

Psalm 82:1 tells us that, “God standeth in the congregation of the mighty [Brenton: “gods”]; he judgeth
among the gods.” The Syriac Peshitta here has “angels” instead of “gods,” while Tanakh has “divine
beings.” The Targums offer the alternate reading of “judges.” Whether we apply the term “gods” in
Psalm 82 (vv., 1,6) to angels, or to human judges serving as God's representatives, it still proves that in
the Bible other living beings other than God Almighty are spoken of as “gods,” or “sons of God” with
no hint of polytheism by such use. In harmony with this, the Andrews Study Bible explains under
Psalm 82:1: “gods. Term designates earthly rulers, leaders, mighty ones, judges, and/or princes (v. 7)
who were God's representatives, and whose work was divinely appointed (Ex. 22:28; Deut. 1:17;
16:18; 2 Chr. 19:6; compare with Heb. 13:7).”

And The NIV Study Bible has this footnote on Psalm 82:1: “gods. See v. 6. In the language of the OT
—and in accordance with the conceptual world of the ancient Near East—rulers and judges, as
deputies of the heavenly King, could be given the honorific title ‘god’ [….] or be called ‘son of God’
[....].” See also the Psalm 82:1 footnotes of: The Believer's Study Bible; The Wesley Bible; and the
HCSB Study Bible.

Thus, mighty angels, and powerful human rulers or judges, called “gods” in Scripture, were considered
“divine” or “godlike” when they acted on behalf of God. As the Lord told Moses: “I will make you
seem like God to Pharaoh.” (Exodus 7:1, NLT) Even the people of biblical times used the term “God”
freely in reference to powerful human leaders, and of those who displayed “supernatural” feats. Acts
12:22 informs us that when king Herod put on his royal robes and gave a public speech, the crowd
cheered him on, shouting: “It is the voice of a god and not of a man.” On another occasion, the people
of a small island called Paul “theós,” that is, “a god,” when they witnessed his superhuman powers.
(Acts 28:6; Compare with Acts 14:11) With this information at hand, Robert Young, a master of
various ancient languages concluded: “God—is used of any one (professedly) mighty, whether truly so
or not, and is applied not only to the true God, but to false gods, Magistrates,judges, angels, prophets,
etc., e.g. Ex. 7:1; ...John 1:1; 10:33, 34, 35; 20:28 ....” (Young's Analytical Concordance to the Bible,
Eerdmans Publ., 1978)

Then, why do religious writers postulate that no one can be called “divine,” or “a god,” but God? For
them, anyone other than the true God is a false god. They are confining themselves within a box with
the Scriptural context of Isaiah chapter 43, 44 and 45 discussed above, where they refuse to see that the
term “god” is used throughout Scripture in a more broadly manner than their biased restricted sense
allows them to admit. In fact, even Satan is called “the god [Greek, ho theós] of this world,” because
he actually ‘rules’ this wicked world, by the power he exerts over mankind. (2 Cor. 4:4; John 12:31; 1
John 5:19) Was calling Satan “the god of this world”, or any other biblical reference of “god”
regarding others, meant to promote polytheism? Of course not! Hence, the original words for “god” of
themselves do not signal whether a god is true or false. The Inspired Scriptures often affixes the
definite article (“the”) before the word “God” to distinguish the Supreme God from other gods. This
holds true for both the Hebrew and Greek Bible portions.

The biblical record makes it evident that in ancient Jewish culture, people had no problem speaking of
“divine beings” under the Supreme God. For them it was not exclusively a matter of whether they were
true or false gods. In their cultural mindset, the term “gods” when applied in a positive manner to
others beside the Most High God meant that they were powerful representatives of God, whether it was
Christ spoken of, angels, or human judges. When speaking of powerful heavenly beings in glory, the
term “sons of God” was fully acceptable. There is no record of Jesus ever displaying discomfort when
claiming he was “God's Son.” (John 10:36, NIV) Why should we then?

Hence, anyone else other than God labeled “god” in Scripture in a positive light are simply divine
beings created in the image of the True God, belonging to the heavenly family of “godlike” ones. The
term “god” may also be Scripturally used to describe human beings holding a position of power and
authority when appointed by God. When the term is used this way, “polytheism” is not an issue.

What about the Christ?

At John 10:33-36, Christ himself appealed to Psalm 82, where the term “gods” was applied to persons
other than God. Jesus was refuting the charge of blasphemy that he was making himself “G/god” as
invalid, because he was only claiming to be not God, but “God's Son,” which is totally different. Jesus
had an excellent opportunity here, to claim once and for all, that he was “God,” but once again, he did
not do so. Jesus Christ holds a much higher position than the angels or man, but he is still subordinate
to his Father, God. (1 Corinthians 11:3; Hebrews 3:2; Colossians 1:3) Angels were made subject to
Christ after he himself was placed at God's right hand. (1 Peter 3:22)

Although angels and Christ are both described as ‘sons of God,’ only Jesus Christ is distinctively called
“the only-begotten God,” or “the one-begotten God,” according to some manuscripts. (John 1:18,
Murdock; Noyes; Concordant Literal Version; Etheridge) The Word Study Greek-English New
Testament, an interlinear translation, describes the Logos as the “only born God.” (John 1:18, Paul R.
McReynolds) Oddly, only Christ is called “the firstborn of all creation,” which according to
Trinitarians, can only mean that Jesus is “foremost” or “superior” above all creation. (Colossians 1:15)
Ironically, the term is never used to convey the ‘superiority’ of God or holy spirit, which is what one
would expect if the traditional explanation was the correct one. Could Trinitarians answer the
following question: If Christ was not created, as often claimed, who then, was the first creation by
God? Also, who is “the only-begotten God”? Surely, someone ‘created first’ in the universe would be
honored with the title ‘the firstborn of all creation.’ Is there any other way to express such event? The
Bible simply points to Christ as such, of which is said: “These things saith the Amen, the faithful and
true witness, the beginning of the creation of God.” What does ‘the beginning of God's creation’ really
mean? Another Bible renders it in a very simple, but correct manner: Christ is called, “the First of
God’s creation.” (The Message)

Could there be any “savior” other than God?

The Sovereign Lord God is the main Savior, but he may allow others to act as “saviors” or “deliverers”
on his behalf in certain situations. We find that the term is applied to Christ as the prime agent of
salvation. (2 Peter 2:20; 1 John 4:14; Titus 1:4) We are told, that men too, like Oth'niel and E'hud,
were used as “saviors,” or “deliverers” of their people. (Judges 2:16; 3:9,15, Hebrew: moshia', same
word used for God at Isaiah. Compare with: Isaiah 45:2, Hebrew: u˙moshi'a; Nehemiah 9:27,
Hebrew: moshi'im, plural of moshia') Would this mean then, that those men called “saviors” in
Scripture, form part of the Supreme Divinity? No, there is a better explanation found in the NIV.

The NIV Study Bible has this to say of Israel's leaders, or judges: “Their principal purpose is best
expressed in [Judges] 2:16: ‘Then the LORD raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of …
raiders.’ Since it was God who permitted the oppressions and raised up deliverers [saviors], he himself
was Israel's ultimate Judge and Deliverer [Savior] (11:27; see 8:23, where Gideon, a judge, insists that
the Lord is Israel's true ruler.” (p. 325) The Bible uses the same original words (“god” and “savior”)
for God, Christ, and men. Does this mean they are all the same, or co-equal? No. The context, then, is
what determines the correct application for each occurrence of those terms.

Who made Jesus “Savior”?

In contrast to others, who were called “saviors” of the people of Israel, Jesus is called, “Savior of the
world.” Jesus can potentially save, not only Israel, but all of mankind from bondage to sin, and from
death itself. (John 3:16; 1 John 4:14) Although Christ is undoubtedly a greater Savior than any man,
he is still subject to the Grandest Savior of all. (Isaiah 43:11; Acts 4:12; 1 Corinthians 15:28). Christ
himself came to be in a dire situation where he had to cry out with a loud voice for salvation. Right
before his death, he implored: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” The true God would
never do that! Instead, Jesus had to be saved by God. (Matthew 27:46; Hebrews 5:7; Psalm 28:8)

Significantly, Acts 5:31 tells us who was the One who made Jesus “Savior”: “God exalted him at his
right hand as Leader and Savior that he might give repentance to Israel.” (NRSV) According to this
scripture, whatever role Jesus played as “savior,” was due to God. There is no doubt that Jesus Christ
is above men, and even angels. But to claim that Jesus is “God” on the principle that he is described as
“savior,” then we could as well conclude that lesser men, such as Othniel and Ehud, called saviors,
were also “God.” Again, “context” should be the guiding principle for the right comprehension of
biblical terms.

Jesus as “Son of man”:

Jesus spoke of himself in the Gospels nearly 80 times as “the Son of man,” indicative of his “human”
nature while on earth, in direct conflict with the “God-man” description often proclaimed by
traditionalists. (Matthew 8:20, etc.) According to Hebrews 2:9, Jesus “was made a little lower than the
angels” so he could taste death for everyone. God cannot ever become “lower than the angels” he
created. John 1:14 clearly tells us that it was ‘the Word who became flesh,’ not God. The doctrine of
the “incarnation” as commonly taught actually twists the meaning of John 1:14, because this text never
said that ‘God became flesh.’ Instead, it says “the Word” did. Plain and simple! 2 John 7 only
confirms this. In other words, the Logos, Jesus Christ, became “human,” or “a human being.” Another
scripture often misused to prove that God was made flesh, is 1 Timothy 3:16, but this text did not
originally say: “God was manifest in the flesh,” as it reads in a few Bible versions, since such reading
is defective. Other translations of the Bible have corrected this blatant error in translation, saying
instead: “He [or, “Who”] was manifested in the flesh,” allowing for the ‘Christ as the One being
manifested in the flesh.’ For a consideration of 1 Timothy 3:16, see:

In an effort to simplify the meaning of the expression “Son of man” in reference to Christ in our
culture, a modern Bible version employed instead the expression “the Human One” repeatedly.
(Common English Bible) “The general use of ‘son of man’ occurs in poetic texts in which the phrase
functions as a synonym for ‘man’ or ‘human being...’ ” (The Baker Illustrated Bible Dictionary) The
NIV at Daniel 7:13 confirms the meaning of the expression “son of man” in a footnote: “The Aramaic
phrase bar enash [son of man] means human being. The phrase son of man is retained here because of
its use in the New Testament as a title of Jesus, probably based largely on this verse.” (2011 Edition)
The apostle was very familiar with this much used expression of Jesus. If “Son of man” was meant to
indicate that Christ was a “human being” on earth, then John would expectedly use the expression, a
son of God (or, God's Son), in a way humans would naturally understand it. That is, that Christ was ‘of
divine origin,’ without any foreign trinitarian speculation of a later era of which Jesus' disciples were
unaware of. (John 10:33-36) Jesus' divine sonship is closely linked to his messiahship. As future co-
heirs in the kingdom of Christ, human creatures too are designated as “sons of God,” but they will
never become identical to the Sovereign God. “Polytheism” is not an issue here either.

Why does the Bible speak sometimes as if Jesus Christ himself was “God”?

I will mention two reasons. First, the Bible version we use can make a difference in the way certain
Scriptures are understood. For instance, the Revised Standard Version, a “trinitarian” version, has been
criticized for excising the deity of Christ. I am sure the RSV translators would dispute such claim.
Some renderings in the RSV do not support the deity of Christ as some are accustomed to reading in
other versions. The NWT mentioned previously, unlike the RSV, goes further. It does not convey the
Trinity at all in its rendered text. These versions are not the only ones reading differently from the
traditional ones, but are the most prominent. Needless to say, the translators for both of these versions
felt that accuracy, not theology, was the main reason for their translation choices. The information
presented in this essay seems to support their exegesis.

Secondly, we have to consider the full biblical context to understand why Christ is given so much
emphasis in the New Testament. The Jewish nation already believed and sought ‘to honor’ the Father
of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This monotheistic culture adhered to the Mosaic Law as they worshiped
the true God. But many prophecies which appeared in the Hebrew code identified the Messiah as
‘emancipator’ of their bondage to sin. The Jewish people where hoping the foretold Messiah would
rescue them from the Roman yoke. Instead of getting involved in worldly politics, Jesus repeatedly
spoke of ‘God's kingdom,’ hence, comparatively, few believed in him. In contrast to the few who
believed in Jesus as being “sent” by God, the majority of Jews could look no further from the man they
considered their Father, Abraham. They were blind in their self-sufficiency. Therefore, Jews overall
saw no reason to assimilate Christ in their lives – a “savior” who produced no tangible results in their
liberation from the Roman stronghold.

There was thus, an urgent need to communicate to the Jewish people that putting faith in Christ was
essential to their salvation. But, how would one do that? For a start, by making them see that Jesus
Christ was greater than any man known to them, even greater than Abraham and David. (John 8:58;
Matthew 22:41-45) Also, that Christ is above angels in heaven, and far superior to any human
philosophy that men could ever devise. (Hebrews 1:4; Colossians 2:8-10). They urgently needed to
comprehend that Jesus is the “only begotten Son” of God; “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin
of the world.” (John 3:16; John 1:29) And since Jesus Christ resembled his Father in every way, yes,
acknowledged as “Mighty God.” (Isaiah 9:6) When glorified, this Jesus was placed ‘at the right hand
of God,’ becoming the “one mediator between God and men,” much greater than the admired Moses.
(1 Timothy 2:5) The Jews, like the rest of the world, needed to understand that Christ is ‘the exact
representation of God,’ hence, obedience to Him was now necessary. (Hebrews 1:3, NIV; 5:9)

When the birth of God's Son was announced, in addition to his personal name, Jesus was given a
prophetic name: Em-man'u-el = “God with us.” (Matthew 1:23) Some eagerly see a description of
Jesus' deity in these words, but it should be noted that the expression was also applied to humans. The
point is that God can be with mankind by means of his representatives. On several occasions during
biblical history, it was said that ‘God was with his people,’ or that ‘God was with some servant of his.’
(2 Samuel 5:10; 2 Chronicles 1:1; 13:12; Isaiah 8:10; Zechariah 8:23) Of Joseph, son of Jacob, for
instance, it was said, that “God was with him.” (Acts 7:9) None of those men were ‘deities.’ No one
physically saw “God” next to these men, and there is no reason to believe that God was physically in all
his glory inside these men. (John 1:18; 1 Kings 8:27) However, he could be with them, by simply
leading his attention toward them, by guiding them, and by fulfilling his will through them. The same
idea is portrayed prophetically of ‘God being with mankind’ – in the last book of the Bible. (Revelation

Many erroneously believe that Jesus Christ was both “God” and “man” at the same time because he
manifested superhuman power. But the Bible clearly says that God was the source of his power.
Scripture can rightly say that ‘God was with mankind’ through Jesus Christ, because it is through Jesus
Christ that God accomplishes his will of the salvation of mankind. Religious fanatics have a regrettable
habit of twisting simple biblical statements. The Bible clearly states that “God was with him [Jesus],”
not that ‘God was him’ physically inside of Christ. (Acts 10:34,38)

Since ‘God was with Christ,’ everyone could finally see what God is like through Christ. (John 5:19;
10:30) In fact, the Father and the Son are very “one” in will and purpose. (John 10:30) ‘Anyone who
looks at Jesus indeed, is like looking at God himself.’ Being in God's image, he can make ‘the Father
known’ unlike anyone else. (John 14:9; 1:18; Col. 1:15) “Everything of God gets expressed in him, so
you can see and hear him clearly.” (Colossians 2:9, TM) There is no doubt then, that this Logos was
powerfully “divine.” (Revelation 19:13)

But Jesus never implied he was the Father in flesh. He declared: “He who does not honor the Son does
not honor the Father who sent him.” (John 5:23, NIV) And: “You believe in God; believe also in me.”
(NIV) Consequently, we must all ‘honor the Son as we honor the Father.’ (John 5:23) After God
presented “the only begotten Son” as “Savior” to the world, and after ‘placing everything under the
power of Christ, the Son himself must submit to the power of God.’ (Titus 1:4; 1 Corinthians 15:27,28)
When the Inspired Writers spoke of God's Son in Scripture, they saw fitting to employ the loftiest
language possible to describe this prominent Divine Being. But he is never equated with God. A few
centuries after Christ's death, due to pagan influence, a state of confusion arose where many strongly
argued about Jesus' identity. The controversy was finally won by those supporting the doctrine that
Christ was equal to the Father. However, those victors went beyond Scripture. On the one hand, the
Jews never gave Jesus the place befitting of Christ, of “Lord” and “Savior,” while “Christian”
followers, who centuries later adopted the Trinity doctrine, went the other way, by attributing to the Son
a position only belonging to God, one he never claimed. The truth about the person of Christ is
somewhere between these two extreme points of view. This ‘Father-ignoring,’ ‘Christ-centered’
approach is the one commonly taught in churches and colleges today. True, the New Testament centers
around the life of Jesus Christ, but it does so consistently in this manner: Only Christ provides “the
way” to the Father, in order for mankind to be saved. But it is never stated in Scripture, that God and
Christ are one and the same.

Even after Christian efforts were spent trying to convince the Jewish people to accept Christ as “Son of
God,” “the Messiah,” and as their “Savior,” for the most part, they rejected him. To this day, Jews
overall have not accepted Christ as their Messiah, to their loss. With so much emphasis placed on
Christ in the New Testament, later “Christian” followers picked up on this, and influenced by Greek
philosophers, who eloquently spoke of “threes,” ended up placing Christ on equal footing with God
himself. Not long after that, they introduced the “Holy Spirit” into the trinitarian equation. Jesus
Christ never taught the Divinity consisted of three coequal partners. He affirmed: “The Father is
superior to myself”. (John 14:28, The Authentic New Testament) Jesus always did the will of his
Father, and not his own. (John 5:30; Luke 22:42) Even after Jesus’ ascension to heaven, he is depicted
as second only to God: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:3) As
One ‘reflecting God's bright glory, and stamped with God's own character...[having] sat down at the
right hand of the Majesty on high.’ (Hebrews 1:3, Moffatt) “For it was God's good pleasure to let all
completeness [“fullness of the Godness,” Colossians 2:9, McReynolds] dwell in him [Christ].”
(Colossians 1:19, Knox)

Scripturally speaking, the rendering of “a god” (or, “a God”) as applied to Jesus found in various
versions at John 1:1 may not be the most attractive rendering available, but is not demeaning or
disgraceful in any way, nor does it promote “polytheism” in the biblical sense. The Father of Jesus
Christ is still Supreme, and holds “the only true God” designation, worthy of absolute worship. (John
17:3) Jesus himself asked others to worship his Father. (John 4:23) Jesus himself said that he ‘lived
because of the Father, but whoever feeds on Christ will live because of him.’ (John 6:57) The Grand
Creator has no need to feed or live of anyone - ever. After all, he is Almighty God. But he gave life,
power and authority to his Son, Jesus Christ, offering Him as the “bread of God” so others can feed of
him and live. (John 5:26; Matthew 28:18; John 6:33) There is no doubt that when Christ ‘was sent to
do his Father's will,’ ‘he received much power and authority,’ and after accomplishing his God-given
mission, God “supereminently exalted Him to the highest rank and power.” (John 6:38; Philippians
2:9, Kenneth S. Wuest)

The “Trinity”; “Colwell's Rule” revisited; and the indefinite article (“a”):

Since the Trinity teaching is not explicitly taught anywhere in Scripture, their advocates go to great
lengths in their search of anything they can use to prop up the doctrine. In their obsession to discredit
the viability of the translation “a god” at John 1:1c, some scholars mentioned earlier, and their legion of
followers, have seized the so-called “Colwell’s rule,” with great fondness, I must say, which seemed to
favor the traditional rendering “God,” and used it for decades as if it were Inspired Scripture. Why?
Dr. Rodney J. Decker pointed out one motive: “[Colwell's rule] has often been misused by well-
intentioned defenders of the deity of Christ.” (Colwell's Rule, February, 1995) Good intentions though,
are not enough to convert an extraneous doctrine into a “biblical” one.

Though Colwell’s study provides interesting data for technical discussion, it should not be seen as final
biblical truth, but as one person's exegesis. Only the Bible is final word. Those individuals who used
the artificial rule to bolster their own dogmatic views were wrong. Those who zealously pushed
Colwell’s rule to the front-line were fallible, not inspired. And those who fell for it were misled. After
more studies were done on the subject, other scholars have questioned the validity of Colwell’s rule,
and have argued against it in some areas. (See published works by Harner, Dixon, Wallace, and Hartley
on the subject. In my opinion, Professor David Alan Black is therefore incorrect citing Colwell for
support as recent as 2009.) Certainly, the misuse and abuse of Colwell’s rule has certainly become an
embarrassment for a segment of the scholarly community.

Even though Daniel B. Wallace successfully reported the mishandling and abuse of “Colwell’s rule” by
scholars who “saw the benefit for affirming the deity of Christ in John 1:1,” Wallace himself could not
resist misusing another scholar's conclusion on the NWT, a translation not supportive of the Trinity
doctrine. Wallace writes: “The grammatical argument that the P[redicate] N[ominative of John 1:1c]
here is indefinite is weak. Often, those who argue for such a view (in particular, the translators of the
NWT) do so on the sole basis that the term is anarthrous. Yet they are inconsistent, as R. H. Countess
pointed out: ‘In the New Testament there are 282 occurrences of the anarthrous θεός. At sixteen places
NWT has either a god, god, gods, or godly. Sixteen out of 282 means that the translators were faithful
to their translation principle only six percent of the time....The first section of John 1:1-18 furnishes a
lucid example of NWT arbitrary dogmatism....’ ”. (Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, quoting from
The Jehovah's Witnesses' New Testament: A Critical Analysis of the New World Translation.
Presbyterian. Italics belong to Countess. Page 267.)

Wow! The stats above may sound impressive to someone unfamiliar with Greek grammatical patterns,
but it is a totally flawed conclusion. How so? It is strange that Wallace quoted Robert Countess, who
endeavored to take advantage of “Colwell's rule” to condemn the NWT, after exposing various scholars
for the same practice. Both Wallace (p. 262) and Rodney Decker, agreed that Colwell´s rule does not
prove definiteness at John 1:1c. Decker wrote: “Note that the [Colwell's] rule does not help by
determining definiteness! (Colwell's Rule, Feb., 1995) Furthermore, Wallace is cognizant, as his
Grammar shows, that predicate nominatives preceding the verb are for the most part “qualitative.” He
himself said so: “...When one sees an anarthrous preverbal P[redicate] N[ominative], he should
consider its force to be most likely qualitative, and only to be definite if the context or other factors
strongly suggest otherwise.” (op. cit. p. 261. Italics his.) Wallace should know that Scriptures used by
Robert Countess to condemn the NWT do not fit in the same category as John 1:1c does.

Considering the evidence, Rolf Furuli, lecturer of Semitic languages at Oslo University (who also
studied Greek. He is said to be a JW.), wrote: “Countess ascribes to the NWT translators rules for
translation which they have never expressed, and then he shows inconsistently the translators have
followed these rules.” Furuli adds: “His account of the NWT, therefore, is not a balanced, scholarly
presentation; rather, it surrenders both to emotionally inspired caricature and a partisan spirit.” (The
Role of Theology and Bias in Bible Translation, pp. 294-295) Even Evangelical Robert M. Bowman
Jr., a harsh critic himself of the NWT, had this to say of Countess' book: “Evangelical critique; some
good information, but (in my opinion) not entirely accurate.” (Jehovah's Witnesses Bibliography) And
here is Dr. BeDuhn's view of Countess' book: “I have read Dr. Countess' book. While I found a few
good points in it, its argument is mostly tendentious and disputable.”

Countess, for instance, in page 55 of his book went over the first eighteen verses of John chapter one
noting eight occurrences of theós without the article. Apparently, Countess was expecting the NW
translators to employ the indefinite article “a” with all 8 instances of theós (Actually, no other translator
does that in John chapter one.). Of the 8 occurrences of theós in those verses of chapter one, 5 of those
instances appear in verses 1, 2, & 18, so that would leave only three other instances of theós, in verses
6, 12 & 13. But guess what! Those 3 occurrences are in the genitive construction (the “of” case).
Now, Wallace, and other grammarians have noted that ‘there are several constructions in which a noun
may be definite though anarthrous.’ (op. cit., p. 245) This includes proper nouns, and the genitive
construction which appear in chapter one of John. This is public knowledge. The other five
occurrences are translated similarly by most translations, with the exception of John 1:1c, which is the
controversial clause being discussed throughout. Countess even criticizes the NW translators for using
the definite article in the second instance of theós (anarthrous) in John 1:18, when most other
translators do the same thing. It should be observed, that some manuscripts do include the article with
the second part of the verse, others do not. Translators generally add the definite article there even
when they follow the anarthrous construction of theós in some manuscripts. One reason for that
perhaps, besides the context implication, is that the words monogenēḗs theós (“only-begotten god”) of
verse 18 (unlike 1:1) are followed by an articular participial clause which suggests that the reference of
monogenēḗs theós is specific.

What we have here is a case where a Trinitarian scholar is trying to undermine the credibility of the
NWT (Non-trinitarian) by attacking their translation choice of John 1:1c by noting inconsistencies in its
application of the article in those 18 verses of John chapter one. What Countess does not say, is that,
with the exception of John 1:1c, almost all translators handle the presence or absence of the article in
those verses nearly the same way as the NWT does. In regards to John 1:1c, Countess wants his readers
to believe that Colwell's theory* assumptions on the Greek article clearly rules out the viability of the
rendering “a god” as it appears in the NWT. It does not! (*Colwell's own admission, p. 15. When
explaining his formulated rule, Colwell used, in addition to the word “theory,” the following modifying
expressions in his article: “There are bound to be mistakes in the list”; “suggests”; “probable”;
“probabilities”; “would seem to indicate”; “may be tentatively formulated” and “loosely speaking.”
These expressions clearly indicate the rule is ‘tentative,’ not absolute by any means.)

Colwell concludes: “The opening verse of John's Gospel contains one of the many passages where this
rule suggests the translation of a predicate as a definite noun...The absence of the article does not make
the predicate indefinite or qualitative when it precedes the verb; it is indefinite in this position only
when the context demands it.” Colwell's presbyterian theology led him to believe “the context” of
“John” demanded a definite rendering for John 1:1c. We respect his religious views. But how reliable
is his formulated rule? A Grammar of New Testament Greek, by James Hope Moulton & Nigel Turner
notes: “So that while the canon [Colwell's rule] may reflect a general tendency it is not absolute by any
means; after all, it takes no account of relative clauses or proper nouns, and he has also omitted a
considerable class of ‘qualitative’ nouns like that in ὁ θεοὺς ἀγάπη ἐστίν [ho theós agápē estín, ‘the
God love is.’ -1 John 4:8]. Moreover, he [Colwell] is the first to admit the lack of objectivity in his
method of counting: he professes to include only definite nouns among his anarthrous predicates and
the degree of definiteness is extremely difficult to assess.” (Vol. III, Syntax, 1963, p. 184)

More importantly, Countess, and Wallace, for that matter, did not mention that outside of the first two
verses of John, and verse 18 of the same chapter, none of the samples have a context where theós is
used of two individuals who are said to be with each other. On top of that, in verse one, an instance of
theós has the article, the other does not. How many times do you find that grammatical structure in the
New Testament within that context? (John 1:18 is no counterpart to John 1:1 in structure, even the
manuscript evidence for verse 18 is inconclusive.)
Therefore, every effort to point out the number of times theós (or any other noun) is used elsewhere
without the article (which may, or may not suggest definiteness), are ineffectual, simply because the
contextual structure of John 1:1 is unique. It can only be said of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, to be in
the beginning with God. So we are not going to find another single text which matches John 1:1 in
conveying the thought of someone else other than Jesus Christ being with God from the very start.
With good reason the Bible speaks of Christ Jesus as “the only-begotten Son of God.” What is noted
here though, is that, a certain grammatical pattern found in John 1:1c and elsewhere (where anarthrous
predicates occur before the verb) may justify an indefinite or qualitative translation within the context
of John 1:1.

Wallace in his criticism of the NWT also failed to acknowledge that Countess, as Furuli noted,
attributed a “translation principle” (of nouns with and without the article) to the NWT translators which
they never expressed. Countess took a statement from the NWT Appendix regarding the significance of
the article by Dana & Mantey out of context. Using the same methodology, anyone could cunningly
pick a statement on the subject from Dana & Mantey's Grammar out of context, and arrive at a similar
flawed conclusion that Countess did with the NWT. Would it be right to do so? No! The full context
of Dana & Mantey’s publication would show that the authors did not formulate a rigid rule on the
Greek article. But in various places they made it sound like there was a general principle that could
apply, but in other places they made clear there was no fixed rule. Dana & Mantey wrote: “There are
no [fixed] ‘rules’ for the use of the article in Greek, but there is a fundamental principle underlying its
significance – as we have seen in the foregoing section – and this gives rise to a normal usage.” (Page
141) The same with the NWT. The NW translators merely quoted Dr. Harner (1984) and Dana &
Mantey's Grammar earlier (1950) to point out that these scholars sustained a “fundamental” principle
(Or, “normal usage,” not a fixed rule) that anarthrous predicate nouns (pre-verbal, per Harner) are
indicative of character, or quality, not identity (or definiteness). The NW translators have never
inferred, or stated, that such principle was inflexible. Not in 1950, and not in 1984, or ever after that.

The NW translators were not responsible for coming up with the “fundamental principle” (that every
noun without the Greek article must always be translated with an indefinite article) attributed to them
by Countess and those who quote him. No translator, not even the NWT, will follow such a “rule.”
Interestingly, when someone posted a question to the NWT publishers on whether their rendering of
John 1:1 violated any rules of Greek grammar, they candidly wrote the following in relation to the
Greek article not appearing with certain nouns (anarthrous): “This does not mean, however, that every
time an anarthrous noun occurs in the Greek text it should appear in English with the indefinite article.
Translators render these nouns variously, at times even with a ‘the,’ understanding then as definite,
though the definite article is missing.” (The Watchtower, 1975, p. 702. Italics theirs.) So if the NWT
Appendix comments concerning the Greek article (1950) were not clear enough for Countess, the one
published in 1975 was definitely explicit, leaving no doubt of their intention. Countess (who wrote his
book in 1982 ignoring the WT published statement of 7 years prior), and his horde of followers who
labor to communicate the same senseless claim over-and-over again are flogging a dead horse. The
outcome is already decided. No one has claimed to follow a strict grammatical rule on the article 100%
percent of the time. Not even Colwell! And none of the Bible translators do so either.

If anyone was instrumental in fueling a debate of Greek nouns without the article appearing before the
verb, it was perhaps, these two scholars, E.C. Colwell and Philip B. Harner, with their provocative
articles, who were most responsible for it, instead of those quoting from their respective studies
afterwards. It was Harner who concluded in his study: “In John 1:1, I think that the qualitative force of
the predicate is so prominent that the noun cannot be regarded as definite.” (op. cit., ‘Qualitative
Anarthrous Predicate Nouns’ in JBL, p. 87) Incidentally, isn't the opposite of definite, “indefinite”?

Thus, the only thing “lucid” in Wallace quoting Countess' analysis, is that two prominent scholars made
an embarrassing simple mistake by attributing and applying a “rule” to the NW translators which they
never expressed. The NW translators never stated that Harner, Dana & Mantey postulated ‘a strict rule’
which must be followed slavishly at all times. One could only wish the scholarly community would
rectify their errors. Hence, the claim of Wallace and Countess had no relevance whatsoever with the
reasoning posited by the NWT when they quoted these scholars. Since this “drama” has been exposed,
I ask: Was Countess justified in publishing his book, when both Colwell and the Watchtower people
concluded long ago that context is ultimately the deciding factor in determining the translation of
various Scriptures? And to the segment of the religious community who enjoys reading books
attacking the integrity of the NWT, is it really honest to view these sources as dependable authorities
when the publications themselves are frequently based on superficial or hollow premises? Are these
cases of, “my interpretation is better than yours, so I'm going to prove you false at the expense of

Coming back to the subject, another scholar, Paul S. Dixon, added the results of his own study of
predicates without the article, where in John 1:1c, it precedes the verb: “The use of the anarthrous
predicate nominative in John is significant. It is qualitative in 65 of 74 occurrences, or 88% probability.
When the anarthrous predicate nominative precedes the verb it is qualitative in 50 of 53 occurrences, or
94% probability. When it follows the verb the anarthrous predicate nominative is qualitative 13 of 19
occurrences, or 68%.” (The Significance of the Anarthrous Predicate Nominative in John) Because of
the theological implications surrounding John 1:1, Trinitarian scholars are disinclined to express the
fact that in some cases the semantic difference between the indefinite and the qualitative factor is not
always clear. As Wallace acknowledged in a footnote: “It is nevertheless difficult to distinguish
indefinite from qualitative nouns at times...” (op. cit., Wallace: p. 266) Although, Dixon, a Trinitarian,
does not welcome an indefinite translation for John 1:1c, he acknowledges the following: “Often, the
only way to effectively communicate a qualitative noun in the English idiom is by prefacing the noun
with ‘a.’ ” (Page 47) In other words, some predicate nouns without the Greek article can be described
in English as “indefinite-qualitative,” as demonstrated in previous examples (i. e., John 4:19 to name
one, according to Wallace).

Also, Dana & Mantey's Grammar claims there is “a parallel case” between John 1:1 and Xenophon's
statement in Anabasis. The authors suggest the following rendering for John 1:1c, “and the word was
deity,” to correspond to Xenophon's statement: “and the place was a market.” But Xenophon's Greek
statement has a similar grammatical construction to John 1:1c, where Dana & Mantey find it perfectly
adequate to render it with an indefinite article in English. But when it comes to describing the Word as
theós, Dana & Mantey chose a rendering emphasizing “character,” or “quality” (“deity”), rather than
indefiniteness. This is an unintended admission that both options are grammatically acceptable, except,
of course, for the theological implications that each could potentially convey to those of trinitarian or
non-trinitarian persuasion. The point is that Wallace did not criticize Dana & Mantey at all for
translating the Greek in Xenophon's statement, which “parallels” John 1:1, with an indefinite article.

In spite of his theological objection, other authoritative Greek Grammars regularly point out that a noun
lacking the Greek article can be rendered as indefinite (with an “a”) in English, context allowing. For

Basics of Biblical Greek: “If there is no [Greek] article you may insert ‘a’ before the noun if it makes
better sense in English.” (William D. Mounce, p. 37. Note: Mounce is against the “a god” rendering.)
Learn to Read New Testament Greek: “Where no article appears in Greek, the indefinite article ‘a’ or
‘an’ may be used in English when the context suggests this translation.” (David Alan Black, p. 30)
New Testament Greek For Beginners: “There is no indefinite article in Greek, and so ἀδελφός
[adelphós] means either brother or a brother (usually the latter). Greek has, however, a definite article,
and where the Greek article does not appear, the definite article should not be inserted in the English
translation. Thus ἀδελφός does not mean the brother.” (Page 23, # 26) “The use of the article in
Greek corresponds roughly to the use of the definite article in English. Thus λόγος [lógos] means a
word; ὁ λόγος (ho lógos) means the word...” (J. Gresham Machen, p. 35, # 67)
The Elements of NT Greek: “There is no indefinite article in Greek. When, therefore, a word like
λογος stands alone, it usually means ‘a word.’ But it can also mean simply ‘word’. The right
translation is nearly always obvious from the context.” (J. W. Wenham, Cambridge Univ. Press, p. 30.)

Countess, Wallace, and Mounce, among other scholars, are not being equitable by targeting the NWT
alleged mishandling of the Greek article or lack of, in translation, when other scholars have made it
clear that it is a matter of personal choice. It bears repeating something many folks would love to
ignore in regards to John 1:1: ‘The use of the indefinite article (“a”) in translation is a matter of
individual judgment.’ (Alfred Marshall, D. Litt., in his Interlinear NT.) He adds that ‘the indefinite
article is used in translation where it seems called for.’ A charge of “arbitrary dogmatism” could then
be leveled at every translator we don't agree with in their handling of the article. That being the case,
one wonders why so much effort is spent in repeated attempts to use grammar to “prove” that those
who translate John 1:1 differently are wrong, when grammar alone is not totally decisive in this.

It is standard practice to translate singular anarthrous predicate nouns preceding the verb in an
indefinite manner where they occur, as in: Mark 6:49, “a spirit”; “a prophet,” 11:32; “a prophet,”
John 4:19; “a devil,” 6:70; “a murderer,” 8:44; “a liar,” 8:44; “a Samaritan,” 8:48; “a prophet,”
9:17; “a thief,” 10:1; “an hireling,” 10:13; “a man,” 10:33; “a thief,” 12:6; “a king,” 18:37 twice;
“a murderer,” Acts 28:4. Could it be that those who ignore this fact, seek to fit their preconceived ideas
with Scripture and have everyone else support their personal beliefs? Admittedly, translators who
choose to use the (a) in John 1:1 as “a god,” “where it seems called for,” based on grammar and Bible
context, do so making use of their “individual judgment,” a prerogative shared with other translators,
no less.

In view of the discussion, Wallace citing Countess' flawed conclusion does not change the fact that an
anarthrous “predicate nominative preceding the verb” can also be rendered in an indefinite manner, no
matter how many Trinitarian scholars gang up against the concept. Additional examples are provided in
my other article which illustrate this: John 1:1, List of Alternate readings.

Does word order change the meaning of predicate nouns?

Some writers, like Dr. Richard B. Ramsay (citing Colwell & Hanna), bring out the fact that theós in
John 1:1c is emphatic, claiming that placing a predicate noun before the verb in John 1:1c makes Jesus
emphatically “GOD.” (Griego y Exégesis, p. 108, Editorial CLIE.) Greek truly offers more freedom in
word order than other languages. It has been duly noted: “The first word or phrase normally carries the
greatest emphasis.” (Introduction to Attic Greek, Mastronarde, p. 59) That said, it is misleading for
anyone to claim that Christ is “God” based on this emphasis. Emphasis alone does not transform
qualitative or indefinite nouns into “definite” ones.

The examples provided earlier clearly demonstrate this. For example, at Acts 28:4, Paul was not being
called “The Murderer” by the islanders, he was said to be at most, “a murderer.” At 1 Kings 18:27
(LXX), Baal was not being called “GOD” by Elijah (similar syntax with John 1:1c), but was only
making an emphatic reference to Baal as “a god.” At Mark 6:49, when Jesus unexpectedly appeared
walking over the stormed waters, the frightened disciples in seeing what they thought was a phantom,
did not scream: “It's The Ghost” (or “The Phantom”). Instead, they emphatically cried out in fear: “Its
‘a ghost,’ or ‘a phantom.’ ” Did they not?

In John 8:48, Jewish leaders emphatically accused Jesus of being “a Samaritan,” certainly not “the
Samaritan.” And in Acts 28:6, we find Paul being called “a god” (accusative case) by the islanders of
Malta. Some Greek manuscripts have “θεόν” (“a god”) before the verb, and some others after the verb.
In this case, the meaning does not change whether θεόν appears before or after the verb. Simply, the
account describes the islanders as saying emphatically that Paul was “a god,” not that Paul was being
identified as “GOD.” In English, one would naturally translate both syntactical structures like this:
“And [the islanders] began to say he was a god.” Likewise, at John 1:1c, the writer was not identifying
the Word with God. He simply was emphatically stating that the Word, like God, was ‘divinely
powerful,’ but not that he was the Almighty God. John 1:1 is not about who the Word was, but what
the Word was. Thus, the NEB rendering: “What God was, the Word was.”

“Truth” sacrificed in the altar of fat profits:

Nowadays, selling Bibles is big business. Accordingly, some religious leaders and their publishing
corporations do not hesitate to introduce popular beliefs right into the text of their Bible translations, if
it results in increased sales. One commercial strategy that drives Bible sales is to make them more
Christ-centered. We have whole segments of “Christian” population rejecting Bible versions that don't
emphasize this “Christ-centeredness” enough. They demand that Bible publishers cater to their wants.
It is not all that rare for Bible translators to modify their versions to make them more popular. And that
includes modifications to Scriptures such as John 1:1, and John 8:58*. This is made evident when
many scholars call attention to the fact that “God” in John 1:1c should not be interpreted as generally
understood and preached. Regardless, they still forge ahead publicly with this confusing rendering in
their speeches and writings for fear of being criticized. This brings up a question: Should Bible
readers dictate by demand how theologically-driven Scriptures are to be translated? Should “truth” be
compromised by such measures? For a consideration of John 8:58, look here:

Another popular move is to remove the Divine Name (YHWH) from the Bible text. Please, don´t take
Bible publisher's claims too seriously for not supporting the Divine Name which often appear in their
versions. The fact is: No one knows with certainty how Bible names were pronounced thousands of
years ago. Even if we knew with certainty how those names were pronounced, would modern
translators rush to reflect the “original” pronunciations in their English versions? Not likely! In the
interest of promoting the Trinity doctrine, removing the Divine Name from Scripture makes it easier to
focus solely on Christ, creating further confusion about who Christ really is. (Matthew 22:41-46; Psalm
110:1) Whenever a Bible version removes the Divine Name from Scripture for petty reasons, it is a
telling sign that “tradition” (Or, “profits.” Take your pick!) rules over truth in their version. Although
many are passionate about their favorite Bible translation, the thought of translation teams quietly doing
adjustments in their versions to keep their customers happy is disturbing, to say the least. Bible
versions are marketed just like any commercial product, like mouthwash, or automobiles, to name two.
The difference here is that this business is done in the name of Christ. Many a times, “truth” is
sacrificed in the altar of fat profits. This is something to keep in mind before we go out and
passionately argue in defense of a Scriptural rendering from our favorite Bible version. I am glad to
find some Bible translations resisting popular trends, standing steadfast for what is right.

In search of a counterbalance in interpretation:

One tactic used by opponents of translations which support the reading “a god,” is that of engaging in a
mission of destruction of “character.” That is, they do everything within their might to discredit the
scholarship of the divergent translators, and to justify their charges, quote some “reliable” Greek
authority agreeing with their view as if that was the final word. Have you noticed that? The truth is
that if we go digging for human flaws, we're going to find plenty of them, in both camps. Humans fall
short of perfection. Period! So we don't want to go around looking for personal issues to carp about.
What is most sad, though, is finding so many “Christian” writers stooping so low, unscrupulously
twisting the facts and using half-truths to smear their dissidents. Reader, beware! Gladly, other writers
avoid such unchristian behavior. The reader is advised to get a second opinion.

It is a challenge nowadays to see what the Bible basically says on the subject without mixing a post-
biblical mindset with Scripture. The religious people of Jesus' day could not perceive the simple truths
he preached them. So today, many would rather have the intricate philosophies of higher learning than
plain truth. Greek philosophers would look down at the “unlearned.” Some Jewish groups too would
speak of common people as “`am ha-aretz,” (“people of the land,” or perhaps, “dirt people”) a
pejorative term insinuating “ignorance,” “uneducated.” Yet, there are times when “unschooled” people
are right, and the “learned” folks are not.

I want to make something clear: It is not my intention to draw away, in any way, from the exalted
glorious position that Christ holds as the Logos of God, “the only begotten Son” who has explained the
invisible Father, God, to us. (John 1:18) Likewise, I would not want to err by endeavoring to assign
Christ a position he never claimed to hold, namely, that he was equal to God Almighty. He stated
clearly that ‘the Father was greater than he was.’ (John 14:28) Even in heaven, Christ speaks of his
Father as ‘his God’ in harmony with John 1:1. (Revelation 3:12) And how about this? The apostle
Peter proclaims before the world who the exalted Christ really is in relation to God: “Blessed be the
God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:3) Christ appears second after God. If we
compare this scripture with Psalm 41:13 which says: “Blessed be Yahweh, the God of Israel” – should
we conclude that Israel is God, Yahweh almighty? (New Jerusalem Bible) Just as Israel was a separate
subordinate entity from God, so is Christ a separate entity from God, subordinate to the Supreme God,
as Peter shows. Thus, the God of Israel, Yahweh, is the same God of Christ. (John 20:17)

I find religious groups going to extremes here: Some undermine the important role Christ played in
God's purpose. They either do not ‘honor him as they honor the Father’, or they relegate him to a
position equal to, or below a human, (or human organization). (John 3:16; 5:23) At the other extreme,
we find plenty of people making Jesus the equal of God, a charge Jews of his day made, a charge Christ
denied. (John 5:18; 10:33-36) One would think that “Christians” would have learned a lesson from
chapters 5 and 10 of John, but no, they have become guilty of committing the same error that Jews
made in Jesus' day.

I simply accept the Bible statements as they were inspired. I accept Jesus Christ as my Savior, as “the
Son of God,” not “God the Son,” which is a different and incorrect statement. The Father, God, is never
registered in Scripture as saying, “my God” to someone else. In fact, never is the Father God, spoken
of as subordinate to the Son, or to anyone else. Ever! Neither is “holy spirit” ever spoken directly of as
“God,” or even seen in heavenly visions at the throne, or nearby. Although there is no hard rule on
Greek gender, the “holy spirit,” with few exceptions, is generally referred to as an “it” (not a “he”) in
the neuter gender, used mostly for impersonal things, rather than the masculine gender used throughout
for the Father and his Son. See Matthew 28:19 and other places in the Greek text. So why should we
add our own ideas into Scripture?

It was stated earlier that the renderings “the Word was god [divine]” and “the Word was a god” are
both grammatically possible, just as one could both say of John of 1:14, that “the Word became flesh
[i.e., human],” or, “the Word became a human being.” In John 8:48, a parallel of John 1:1, we have the
Jews accusing Jesus of being samaritan, normally rendered “a Samaritan” in English Bibles. The
emphasis in these statements fall on the descriptive (quality) force, or the indefinite status of the subject
noun at hand. Identity is not the issue. The same with John 1:1c.

As others have aptly observed: “Grammar alone cannot prove how the predicate in this verse [John
1:1c] should be translated, whether ‘God’ or ‘a god’.” (The Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Vol. XIII, No.
4, Oct. 1951). Trinitarians are correct when they claim that the Greek can be rendered word by word,
“god was the Word.” In fact, this is the rendering that appears in the left column of the Kingdom
Interlinear Translation, an acknowledgement by the New World Bible translators that such rendering is
acceptable. What is clearly incorrect though, is the common interpretation among traditionalists that
the literal reading can only mean, “the Word was God,” in the sense that the Word was himself
Almighty God. Bible versions which transmit this thought are misleading. Verse 2 argues against such

A case was made in this article, that grammatical patterns (not a hard rule), and contextual matters favor
a qualitative or indefinite translation at John 1:1, where various examples were given. The fact is that
most English Bible translators use the indefinite article (“a”) freely in translation with anarthrous
predicate nouns throughout the New Testament. The claim by Dr. Yeager mentioned earlier, that ‘only
sophomores in Greek grammar’ are going to translate John 1:1c, ‘the Word was a God,’ is evidently
false. It is above all, an emotionally charged assertion dressed under scholarship disguise intended to
mislead. On the other hand, the rendering “a god” will survive the best of scrutiny. In the case of the
NWT rendering at John 1:1, I see their translation choice as one attempt to further clarify a distinction
between the Father and the Son within the context of John to their projected audience.

John's own conclusion (the author of John 1:1) about the Logos.

If John wanted to establish the Logos as ‘God’ in the last part of John 1:1, he could have added the
definite article (“the”) before “theós” (as “ho theós”) in this clause just as he did before in the verse, as
Zerwick aptly noted. In other places, John did not hesitate to repeat the article when necessary. (John
15:1) But in John 1:1c, he chose not to. Being brought up in a monotheistic society (“Shema,” Deut.
6:4), John offered no suggestion of Christ being a second part of a trinitarian Godhead, a teaching that
admittedly was established centuries later to stop controversies around the person of Christ. And by no
means was he suggesting polytheism in pagan style by ascribing the appellative theós (“god”; divine) to
the Logos. Rather, the Apostle wanted to tell the world that the Word was very much like God, in the
same manner that the author of the Bible book of Hebrews was telling us: “[Jesus] is the reflection of
God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being...” (1:3, New Revised Standard Version) Other
Bible versions express the second part of this statement as follows:

“The Son...expresses the very character of God” (New Living Translation)
“His Son is... the exact likeness of God’s being” (GOD'S WORD)
“The Son is as God is in every way.” (New Life Version)
“He is just like God himself.” (Worldwide English New Testament)
“He's exactly like God.” (The Clear Word)
“God's like him [God] in every way.” (Contemporary English Version)
“The Son...shows exactly what God is like.” (New Century Version)
“[Christ] is... the perfect copy of his nature.” (Jerusalem Bible)
“He is... “the precise counterpart of his very being.” (God's New Covenant, Cassirer)

Thus, if Christ is very much like God, described by one version as an “exact replica” of God, is this
fundamentally different from describing the Logos as “Godlike,” “divine,” or “a god”? (21st Century
New Testament)

After everything was said and done, John summed up his gospel by saying: “But these are written, that
ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ [=anointed by God], the Son of God; and that believing ye
might have life through his name.” Notice the Apostle did not say: “These are written that you may
believe that Jesus is God.” Big difference! The statement that Jesus Christ is the ‘Son of God’ appear
dozens of times in the Gospel of John alone. Trinitarians can only come up with two significant texts in
“John,” in which it is said, Jesus is God (John 1:1 & 20:28). But, according to many scholars, the
traditional interpretation of these two texts is questionable. In other words, the claim that Christ is
“God” as Trinitarians understand it, is highly unlikely. However, what is certain, and not open to
debate at all, is the fact that the Bible writers often speak of Christ as ‘God's Son,’ repeatedly, and not
as “God,” which is completely different. We are better off imitating the apostle John than someone else
contradicting him. Truth-seeking Bible readers agree with those who teach that what God offered the
world as a Savior, was not God himself incarnated, but the Son of him, a God, a Powerful Being,
Divine, but always subordinate to the-one-true-God. (Luke 1:32, 35; John 1:14; 3:16; 1 Corinthians
15:28; 2 John 7) The submitted list showing alternate readings of John 1:1 indicate there are a good
number of voices seeing not a mystery, but a simpler truth.

Concluding Remarks:

Do you remember William Barclay mentioned earlier, a scholar who once claimed the translation, “the
Word was a god’ at John 1:1c was a ‘grammatical impossibility,’ but later came to admit that the Greek
language did allow for such rendering? Well, Barclay also had this to say about the Greek structure of
John 1:1:

“When the definite article is removed from a noun in Greek, as in English, the noun becomes the
equivalent of an adjective. Take the following example in English. If I say ‘John is the man’, I identify
John with some particular man; if I say ‘John is man’, omitting the definite article, I simply describe
John as a man. What that particular sentence of John says is that the Word was in the same class as
God. God is an adjective rather than a noun, and the perfect translation is the New English Bible
translation: ‘What God was, the Word was.’ ” (op. cit. “Ever Yours”, p. 205.) (Note: The NEB
translation of John 1:1c is preferred over the traditional rendering, but is not “perfect” either, because it
is ambiguous, not to mention that it is a paraphrase.)

Accordingly, we can interpret Barclay's reasoning as following:

Barclay: John is the man = John is ‘identified with some particular man.’
Barclay: John is man = John is a man.
Jn 1:1c: The Word was god = The Word was a god.

Barclay concludes: “When John said [in traditional translations] the word was God he was not saying
that Jesus was identical with God; he was saying that Jesus was so perfectly the same as God in mind,
in heart, in being that in him we perfectly see what God is like.” (The Gospel of John, Vol. 1, p. 39.)
(Barclay himself translates John 1:1c: “and the nature of the Word was the same as the nature of
God.”) Truly, Jesus is ‘the reflection of God's glory.’ (Hebrews 1:3)

Whether we strongly prefer one particular rendering over the other in John 1:1c (be it, “God,” “divine,”
or, “a god”), it is proper to note, that due to human limitations, it is most wise on our part to be
reasonable and respectful of others who harbor a different understanding from ours. No one on earth
knows it all. Moreover, God's Word aptly said: “Kind mercy wins over harsh judgment every time.”
(James 2:13, TM) In the end, only God and Christ, as Divine “Judges,” have the faculty and authority
needed to issue the final verdict.

What then, is likely, the correct translation of John 1:1c?

The traditional translation of this verse (‘And the Word was God’) is a good representation of the Latin
Vulgate, itself a translation, instead of the Greek text as source. It leads to great confusion, as seen by
the many calling on this Scripture as a “proof” text in support of a doctrine that is generally accepted as
post-biblical dogma. Herein, I will list some Bible translations which correctly convey what John said
as it appears in the Greek Text:

“the Word was a divine being ” (La Bible du Centenaire, Société Biblique de Paris)

“ a god was the Word” (The Sahidic Coptic Version, c. 200)

“the Word was a god ” (New World Translation)

“the Word was god ” (Professor Charles Cutler Torrey)

“God of a sort was the Logos” (Ernst Haenchen)

“godlike sort was the Logos” (Johannes Schneider)

“the Word was divine ” (The Original New Testament, by Hugh J. Schonfield)
“the Logos was divine ” (James Moffatt)

“the Word was divine ” (J.M.P. Smith and E. J. Goodspeed)

“what God was, the Word was” (New English Bible, acceptable paraphrase)


After a careful analysis of John 1:1, one scholar arrived at this conclusion:

“The preponderance of evidence, from Greek grammar, from literary context, and from cultural
environment, supports this translation [“the Word was a god”], of which ‘the Word was divine’ would
be a slightly more polished variant carrying the same basic meaning.” (Professor Jason BeDuhn, op.
cit., Truth in Translation, p. 132.)

Thus, the translation of “a god,” as applied to Jesus (“the Word” at John 1:1c), the Son of God,” ,
though controversial, does no violence to Scripture and is fully in accord with it.

“Who can defeat the world? Only the person who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.”
– 1 John 5:5, Good News Translation.

- End -


Note 1: (About WTS quoting other sources.)

In a WT letter to CARIS in response to a question related to their quote of Dana and Mantey's
Grammar they said:

“Dana and Manty [sic] may have their personal views about the trinity, but their work allows for the
rendering found in The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures at John 1:1.” [...]

” But it must be borne in mind that in quoting a person's statement or presentation of the facts, one does
not have to agree with the interpretation put on those facts .... We, in quoting the facts, do not oblige
ourselves to agree with the conclusions or interpretations presented by the authorities we quoted.
Similarly, in quoting the ‘rule’ set out by Dana and Manty [sic], we are not obliged to accept their
interpretation of how this rule might bear on the trinity concept.”

In another case, when a reader* asked Dr. Jason BeDuhn if he was quoted fairly by the WTS
(Watchtower, Feb. 1, 1998, p. 32) BeDuhn replied: “I wrote a letter to the WBTS, thanking them for
providing copies of the KIT free of charge to my class. I did this as a gesture of appreciation. I also
took the opportunity to praise what I found to be the merits of the book. The sections of my letter
quoted in the Watchtower accurately reflect my views. Naturally left out of the article were the few
comments I made about individual passages I thought they should reconsider, because I found their
translation weak. I personally don't find any fault with them quoting the positive statements and
leaving out the negative ones; this is standard editorial practice and I do not think it to be deceptive […]
As for the use of [quoting] ‘experts’ -- you will find that all denominations cite anyone who agrees with
them and dismisses whoever disagrees.” [*In a 1998 letter to G---- Tosken of Bloomington.])


Here's a list of alternate readings to John 1:1c, in contrast to the traditional reading:

c. 200 “and a god was the Word” - The Sahidic Coptic Version (an early Egyptian text based on the
Greek alphabet). Unlike common Greek, Coptic has both the
definite article, and the indefinite article (a). The Coptic translators of the Greek text chose
to employ the Coptic indefinite article in their translation of it. This interpretation of the Greek
text represents a very early understanding of John 1:1 free from later ecclesiastical decrees of
the 4th and 5th centuries CE, which were instrumental in establishing the Trinity doctrine.
Hence, the Sahidic Coptic Version is a significant translation which cannot be ignored.

1660 “and the Word (Speech) was a god ” - Jeremias Felbinger, DAS NEUE TESTAMENT.
(und di Rede___war ein Gott*) (*Note: German nouns are commonly capitalized,
but in translation capitals may be dropped.)

1694 “and the Word was a god ” - Reijnier Rooleeuw, M.D., The New Testament of Our Lord Jesus
Christ, translated from the Greek.
1822 “the Word was a God” - Abner Kneeland, The New Testament in Greek and English, Phil.

1829 “and the Logos was a god ” – John Samuel Thompson, The Monotessaron; or, The Gospel
History, According to the Four Evangelists, Baltimore.
1864 “an a god was the Word” - Benjamin Wilson, The Emphatic Diaglott, (Interlinear reading) –
New York and London.
- “and the LOGOS was with GOD, and the LOGOS was God.” - Right hand column reading. Take
note of size and capitalization of
“GOD” versus “God” in this rendering here. Some websites are misleading here.
Wilson did show a difference where the article “the” was used and where it did not.

1872 “The Word was god ” - The Translation of the New Testament, Marc Jean Hugues Oltramare,
(La Parole était dieu) (Professor of New Testament Exegesis, University of Geneva).

1879 “the Word was a god ” - Louis Segond* and H. Oltramare, La Sainte Bible, Geneva and Paris.
(la Parole était un dieu) (*In Segond’s individual version of 1910, he uses “Dieu.”)

1885 “an a God (i.e. a Divine Being is the Word) – Robert Young, Young's Concise Critical Bible
Commentary, (also author of Young's Literal Translation of the Bible
of 1862, which rendered John 1:1 as “and the Word was God.”
However in his later commentary, he explained it as above. Grand
Rapids, MI. Baker Book House.
1896 “and the Word was itself of divine being ” - Das Neue Testament, by Curt Stage, Leipzig,
(und das Wort war selbst göttlichen Wesens) Germany.

1908 “the Word was of divine essence ” - Marc J. H. Oltramare, La Sainte Bible, Geneva and Paris.
(et la Parole était d'essence divine)
1911 “and [a] God was the word” - George W. Horner, The Coptic Version of the New Testament in
the Southern Dialect, Vol 3 (Oxford, The Clarendon Press. Brackets his.)

1919 “and god of a sort was the Word” - Ludwig Thimme, Das Neue Testament, Stuttgart, Germany.
(und Gott von Art war das Wort)

1922/1934 “the Logos was divine ” - James Moffatt, D.D.; D. Litt; New Translation of the Bible, New
York, Evanston and London.
1925 “and the Logos was god ” - Hubert Pernot, Pages choisies des Évangiles — Paris, France.
(et le Logos était dieu)

1928 “the Word was a divine being ” - La Bible du Centenaire, Société Biblique de Paris.
(la Parole était un être divin)

1935 “and the Word was divine ” - J.M.P. Smith and E. J. Goodspeed, The Bible-An American
Translation, Chicago.
1947 “and the Word was god ” - Professor Charles Cutler Torrey, The Four Gospels-A New
Translation, (2nd edit., 1st edit. 1933, (Yale Univ.), New York & London.

1950 “and the Word was a god” - New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures, Brooklyn.

1958 “and the Word was a God ” - James L. Tomanek, The New Testament of Our Lord and Saviour,
Jesus Anointed, Pocatello, Idaho, USA.
1961 “and what God was, the Word was” - New English Bible, New Testament, (1970), Oxford and
Cambridge & New York.
1975 “and a god (or, of a divine kind ) was the Word” - Siegfried Schulz, Das Evangelium nach
{und ein Gott (oder: Gott von Art) war das Wort} Johannes, Das Neue Testament Deutsch,
Göttingen, Germany.
1978 “and godlike sort was the Logos” - Johannes Schneider, Das Evangelium nach Johannes, Berlin.
(und göttlicher Art war der Logos)

1979 “and a god was the Logos” - Jürgen Becker, Das Evangelium nach Johannes, Gütersloh and
(und ein Gott war der Logos) Würzburg, Germany.

1980 “and god of a sort was the Logos” - Ernst Haenchen, Das Johannesevangelium, Tübingen, Ger.
{und Gott (von Art) war der Logos}

1982 “And a God was the Project [Lógos]”- El Evangelio de Juan. Análisis lingüístico y comentario
“Y un Dios era el proyecto” exegético, (alternate reading) by Juan Mateos and Juan
Barreto, Cristiandad, Madrid, p. 54. Brackets mine.
1985 “So the Word was divine”- The Original New Testament, by Hugh J. Schonfield, Aberdeen,
1989 “The Logos was in the sphere of God ” - Lectura del evangelio de Juan, 1 (alternate reading),
(El Logos estaba en la esfera de Dios) by Xavier León-Dufour, ediciones Sígueme, 59,
Salamanca, Spain.
1989 “and what God was, the Word was” - Revised English Bible, Oxford and Cambridge Presses.

1997 “the Word was divine ” - Los escritos originales de la comunidad del discípulo “amigo” de
(la Palabra era divina ) Jesús, El evangelio y las cartas de Juan., 1997, by Senén Vidal
García - University Professor of New Testament, Valladolid, Spain.
2000 “and the Word was divine ” - 21st Century Version of the Christian Scriptures, Mark H. Miller.

2001 “and the Word was a powerful one ” - 2001 Translation – An American English Version.

2002 “and god was the Word” - Cuarto Evangelio. Cartas de Juan, Juan José Bartolomé, Filología
(y dios era la Palabra) Griega, Madrid: CCS, D.L.
2006 “and the Verb was powerful ” - Versión Israelita Nazarena, (Holman Publishers, Nasville, TN.)
(y el Verbo era poderoso)

2007 “and the Word was {what} God {was}” - The Eastern Greek / Orthodox Bible, NT, parenthesis

For additional sources, click here:
Readings )

======================COMMENTS MADE BY SCHOLARS====================

185-254 CE. “the Word was a god ” - ( Origen's Commentary on John, Book I, ch. 42 - Bk II,
ch.3.) Adamantius, died 254 CE
1901 “The Logos was divine , not the divine Being himself.” - J. Henry Thayer (died, 1901), author of
1938 Divinity professor John Martin Creed, D.D. - “[T]he Prologue [John 1:1] is less explicit with the
anarthrous [theós without the article ho (the)] than it appears to be in English.” - The Divinity
of Jesus Christ, p. 123. Cambridge.
1962 Catholic theologian Karl Rahner: “In none of these instances [of theós, such as Romans 9:5;
John 1:1, 1:18, 20:28; 1 John 5:20; and Titus 2:13] is ‘theós’ used in such a manner as to
identify Jesus with him who elsewhere in the New Testament figures as ‘ho theós,’ that is,
the Supreme God.” - The Bulletin of the John Rylands Library of England, January 1962.

1965 Jesuit John L. Mackenzie, S.J. “Jn 1:1 should rigorously be translated ‘the word was with the
God [=the Father], and the word was a divine being’.” - DICTIONARY of the BIBLE, 317.
Brackets his.

1970 “New American Bible” - “In John 1:1 the Word is called ‘God,’ but the original Greek term used
here, theos [God], is not the usual word for God, ho theos [the God].”- “Biblical Terms Explained.”
1977 C. H. Dodd: “If a translation were a matter of substituting words, a possible translation of θεοὸς
ἦν ὁ λόγος; would be, “The Word was a god.” As a word-for-word translation it cannot be
faulted.” (Director of the New English Bible project. Note: Dodd believes such rendering,
although valid in translation, runs counter with Johannine and Christian thought as a whole.
Thus his preference for the ambiguous rendering: “what God was, the Word was.”)

1984 “and divine (of the category divinity) was the Logos” - Ernst Haenchen, Das
Johannesevangelium. Ein Kommentar. John 1, translated by Robert W. Funk, p. 108.

1992 Murray J. Harris: “Accordingly, from the point of view of grammar alone, θεοὺς ἦν ὁ
λόγος [theos en ho logos] could be rendered “the Word was a god....” (Page 60)
“From this brief survey of proposed renderings of John 1:1c, I conclude that the most common
translation (“the Word was God”) remains the most adequate, although it requires that ‘God’ be
carefully defined or qualified. Harner's paraphrastic translation ‘the Word had the same nature as
God’, or the paraphrase ‘the Word was identical with God the Father in nature,’ most
accurately represents the evangelist's intended meaning.” (Page 70) (Note: Harris believes
“...the theological context, viz., John's monotheism, makes this rendering [“a god”] of 1:1c
impossible...” (Jesus As God – The New Testament Use of Theos in Reference
to Jesus. Page 60.)

1992 William Loader: “Grammatically this [“the Word was God”] is a possible translation, but not the
only one. The statement's meaning, and so its translation, must be determined by its context. It could
also be translated: ‘the Word was a god’ or ‘the Word was divine.’ ” (Christology of the Fourth
Gospel: Structures and Issues, 2 ed. New York: Peter Lang, p. 155)

For other sources, click here:
Readings )


For further reading, check the links below (For Spanish, further down):
For a discussion of Hebrews 1:6,8, see:
For a briefer consideration of John 1:1, but with additional samples, click:
For a discussion of Acts 20:28, Whose blood?:
For Colossians 1:16 (“all other things”):
For a consideration of the Trinity subject, click:
For John 8:58:
For John 17:3 (‘knowledge’):
Did the NW translators know Greek?:
For Exodus 2:25:
For John 1:14 (“grace”):
For 1 Timothy 3:16:

Para una consideración de otros temas por el mismo autor, vea los siguientes enlaces:
Para Juan 1:1 (“un dios”), vea:
Para Hebreos 1:6,8, vea:
Para Juan 8:58 (“yo soy”; “yo he sido”):
“¿Acaso tiene sentido la Trinidad?”:
¿Sabía griego el Comité de la Traducción del Nuevo Mundo?:

Para Colosenses 1:16, “todas las otras cosas”, vea:
Para Juan 17:3 (‘adquirir conocimiento’):
Para 1 Timoteo 3:16:

(To submit comments, suggestions or corrections: )
Final Note: This document was written using the free open LibreOffice Writer, using Croscore Tinos
Font, Main Font Size 12 – originally in the .odt (Open Document Text) format.

Following is a snapshot of William Barclay's private letter to David Burnett where he admits (See point
# 1.) what he had publicly denied earlier: “You could translate, so far as the Greek goes, ‘the Word was
a God.’ ” Notwithstanding, his theology does not allow for such interpretation.

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