Zachary Gillock ACS- Section 1 MSC #113 Analysis of John 1: A Proof Text for the Christ’s Deity?

The Gospel of John begins with the statement: In the beginning was The Word (Logos), and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God1. He (Logos) was with God in the beginning2. Now, most Trinitarian Christians believe that “the Word” (Logos) is Jesus. Logos is an allusion, a symbol for Jesus Christ. However, the question arises, “where does this idea come from?” Those who oppose the doctrine of the Trinity would say that people just assume Logos is symbol for Jesus because in verse 14 the Logos becomes Jesus. Their point is that Logos doesn’t become Jesus until then; before that the word Logos can mean a variety of things. However, I will attempt prove the contrary and show why “the Logos” in the first two verses is in fact Jesus Christ; and thus, accordingly prove that Jesus pre-existed with God (in some way) as well as is God. In order to do this, I will be viewing scholarly research (from both sides of the argument) that focus primarily on John 1 and the doctrine of the Trinity or the Deity of Christ. In addition, I will be approaching John as literature; I will treat it like literature should be treated. Much of the techniques I will use or mention I have learned from the book Read Your Bible for a Change by Ray Lubeck and from the Bible Study Methods and Advanced Bible Study Methods classes. I’m going to begin with John 1:14 and rebut a common point made by Biblical Unitarians and

then begin at the end of John’s prologue (1:1-18) and work backward through the passage proving the focus in fact Jesus Christ. it just disproves a fleshly.14” It is clear that (within that verse) Logos is referring to Jesus. Jesus was not “eternally in the flesh. Logos became FLESH. Here is the general breakdown of this passage and how it will be approached. it opens the door to the possible interpretation of Jesus being the Logos from 1:1. one cannot argue that the verse proves Jesus did not pre-exist. that does not disprove the pre-existence of Jesus. However. Thirteen verses after Logos is initially used. Yet. the word Logos reappears. but only from the time of His incarnation” (Zodhiates. Rather. physical Jesus who pre-existed and lived among mankind. Now that it is established that it is possible for Jesus to have pre-existed. it should not be said that that verse proves that Jesus pre-existed. “The Word… did not just enter into the reality of humanity as it was originally intended by God but into the full seriousness of the corruption of the human image” (Barth. a Biblical Unitarian would say that the key word in that verse is became. “The Logos became flesh and made his dwelling among us. 89). John 1:1-3 John 1:4-5 John 1:6-8 John 1:9-13 John 1:14 John 1:15-18 – Logos – the Light – John the Baptist: Witness to the Light – the Light – Logos – John the Baptist’s Witness . This verse is saying that before this time. However. therefore. John 1:14 leaves the doors open for Jesus to pre-exist in a nonphysical. Therefore. They would say that Logos didn’t become Jesus until 1:14. the Logos did not exist in a fleshly physical form.it is describing the physical characteristics of Logos. with that said. 113). Jesus must not have existed before he became flesh. non-fleshly form who was not living among men.

or plan. the Greek word Logos was to be understood as ultimate purpose.14” Biblical Unitarians would emphasize that within the context of this passage. this paper will begin at the end of the prologue. in light of the phrase “became flesh and made his dwelling among us. to expand upon this idea. 14) refers to Jesus Christ. it can be safe to conclude that the Logos (in vs. Yet. wisdom.In order to understand the Logos being referred to in verses 1-3. Therefore. who or what is this “Logos” being mentioned? The Logos “became flesh and made his dwelling among us. Therefore. it begins by saying that John the Baptist testified “concerning him.” it becomes quite clear that Logos is referring to Jesus in that verse. the logical argument is that John the Baptist is testifying about the incarnate Logos— Jesus Christ. dealing with John 1:15-18. John 1:1-3 John 1:4-5 John 1:6-8 John 1:9-13 John 1:14 John 1:15-18 – Logos – the Light – John the Baptist: Witness to the Light – the Light – Logos – John the Baptist: Witness to the Logos Now. . “Jesus became ‘the Word in flesh’”. logic. Now the purpose of this point is not to prove that the Logos used in John 1:1 (and referred to in John 1:2-3) are Jesus but to prove that Logos in verse 14 is Jesus.15” Who is this him? Take a look at the verse before and notice that it is talking about the Logos in flesh. Even according to according to Appendix A from One God & One Lord (a book in support of the Unitarian view). First of all. the next question is.

Similarly. However. 14) and that in the following verse (vs.the Only Begotten (vs. it says how “the Only Begotten [referring to Jesus]18” has made the Father known. Logos is described as being the one “who came from the Father.” then it just makes the case that Jesus is God that much clearer. Now. there is debate whether the original Greek manuscripts contained the phrase “the Only Begotten God” or “the Only Begotten Son” (Appendix A). one can see even more clearly that John the Baptist was a witness to Jesus Christ. It is safe to conclude that John the Baptist was in fact a witness to the Logos. In addition. if the texts read “the Only Begotten Son. 14). If it said “the Only Begotten God. it says that “grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (vs. 15) John is testifying about Logos.and Jesus Christ. Here. Yet. 14). However. it would seem like one could come to a justifiable conclusion that John is testifying about Jesus.John 1:1-3 John 1:4-5 John 1:6-8 John 1:9-13 John 1:14 John 1:15-18 – Logos – the Light – John the Baptist: Witness to the Light – the Light – Logos = Jesus – John the Baptist: Witness to the Logos Having established that Logos is a reference to Jesus (vs. Logos is referred to as “the Only Begotten” (vs.of whom John the Baptist was a witness to (vs. . a connection can be made between the Logos (vs.” my point is still made— “the Only Begotten” is in fact referring to Jesus. one should notice the parallelism within these verses. 14) and Jesus Christ (vs. However. Later on. to further prove this point. 15-18).Jesus Christ.the Only Begotten. taking a look further on in chapter 1. it doesn’t matter for the sake of this argument. full of grace and truth” (vs. 17).the Only Begotten. 14). 17). It actually further establishes a link between the Logos that became flesh.

14)." that he is “our [Israel’s] God. However.” People can argue that God was a title given to YHWH as well as men.to Jesus Christ. As John the Baptist was baptizing people. .John testifies concerning him… saying “This was he of whom I said. it would be beneficial to look further ahead to use more scripture to support this theory. Jesus came to be baptized. It has also been proven that John the Baptist is a witness to the Logos. 40:3). 23) John the Baptist quotes Isaiah. “Look… this is the one I meant when I said.’” (vs.’” 1:15 Now.” the him being referred to is Jesus Christ AND the Logos. As previously established. ‘Make straight the way for the Lord. Now. John saw Jesus coming toward him and said. 40:3). it seems logical to discuss 1:19-28. What is interesting is that in this verse. where John makes a declaration of his mission. this would make a pretty strong case that Jesus is “the LORD (YHWH). ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me. This voice was supposed to “prepare the way for the LORD. while discussing John the Baptist’s role and how he viewed himself. ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me…’” 1:29-30 These verses seem to help conclude that when “John [testified] concerning him. John is clearly preparing the people for Jesus Christ. “I am the voice of one calling in the desert. equating himself as the “voice of one calling in the desert” (Isaiah 40:3). make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God” (Is. it says he is preparing the way for “the LORD (YHWH)… our God” (Is. John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet. it has already been established that these verses (15-18) are referring back to the Logos (vs. However.

if John the Baptist is synonymous— equivalent— to the voice… AND if the voice is preparing the way for “the LORD (YHWH)… [Israel’s] God”… AND if John is preparing the way for “Jesus Christ”… Then.Jesus Christ.” “Desert” and “wilderness” are synonymous. it seems like the logical conclusion would seem to be that Jesus is synonymous— equivalent— to “the LORD (YHWH)”— making a very strong case for the Trinitarian side. “our God” was referring back to “the LORD (YHWH). So. the fact is that within the passage of Isaiah.the only Begotten. what we have so far is… John 1:1-3 John 1:4-5 John 1:6-8 John 1:9-13 John 1:14 John 1:15-18 – Logos – the Light – John: Witness to the Light – the Light – Logos = Jesus (the Only Begotten) – John: Witness to the Logos = Jesus Christ (the only Begotten) Now. The phrases “prepare the way” and “make straight… a highway” are synonymous. “the LORD” and “our God” is synonymous as well. this last point is more of a supplementary tangent. relevant to the Trinitarian debate. However.however. I know and understand that a Biblical Unitarian would suggest that the “light” being referred to in these passages is actually . the next thing to be established is that “the light” in John 1:4-13 is also Jesus Christ. but not entirely relevant to the purpose of this analysis of the first chapter of John besides expanding on the already established point that John was a witness to the LOGOS. So.” Isaiah used parallelism to equate the lines “In the desert prepare the way for LORD” with “make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. but rather he was called a “witness to the light1:8”. The passage clarifies that John the Baptist “was not the light” himself. Therefore.

It can be said that it is a symbol/ metaphor for God. The plot of this book is dominated by Jesus.the Only Begotten” (John 1:14-18). one may argue that God was rejected by Israel. 318). especially in relation to the creation and sustaining of creation (Appendix A). His own family rejected HimJohn 7. However. from a Unitarian point of view. Jesus is the central figure in this book and a central figure in the picture of salvation as a whole. They can see that there is something special and significant about the light. but only if one is operating under the assumption that Jesus is God.God the Father. Religious leaders reject Him and denied his MessiahshipJohn 8 (Painter. The passage goes to on to say that “the world did not recognize him [the Light]… His own did not receive him. that is the first argument as to why “the light1:8” is Jesus Christ. 213). they would see that he was a reject. to make this clearer. However. Take a look at John 1:10ff. it makes sense that in . The stories after John 4 (apart from John 20:1-18) “have all been overlaid with the theme of rejection” (Painter. Some of his disciples deserted HimJohn 6. People did not recognize Him for who He was— the one true promised Messiah. Therefore. The Unitarian suggestion that “the light” refers simply to God does not do this passage justice. one must take a look at this passage through the book of John as a whole. Now. It would seem like a fair and justifiable argument to say that since John was a “witness testifying” about the Logos— Jesus Christ— the Only Begotten— in verses 14ff that when it says that John the Baptist came as “a witness to testify concerning the light1:7” it would be safe to say that “the light” is yet another metaphor/ symbol for Jesus Christ.to Jesus Christ. that is an insufficient argument. Now. Now. it has just been established that John the Baptist a witness to “the Logos. 1:10-11” If one takes a good enough look into the life of Jesus.

so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness. fitting right into 1:10-11. Furthermore.” And. they still would not believe in him (John 12:37). John closes with two passages that truly help bring this into clearer focus.12:35-36” In 12:46. as he closes this section. This comment is directed towards Jesus earthly ministry. the source of divine generosity to those who walk in darkness” (Gruenler. 85).John’s introduction he mentions Jesus rejection— it is a way to foreshadow the rest of the book. if you are to look at chapters 2-12 (the majority of his ministry). so that you may become sons of light. “the world did not recognize him [the light]. 68). he begins by saying: Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence. He came to that which was his own. Jesus also says “I have come into the world as a light. He is the “legitimate object of belief. Simply stating that the light is a reference to God is not a sufficient argument to prove that Jesus is not the light being alluded to here. First of all. When talking about why he must die.” The second passage deals more directly with the “light” concept. it is impossible not to notice the constant struggles Jesus encountered through out this period. especially in light of the fact that a Trinitarian could still agree with that statement. as if to form a conclusion to this portion of Jesus life and ministry. where it says. this is only a re-iteration of Jesus claim from back in John 8:12 (also 9:5) where Jesus said. but his own did not receive him. Walk while you have the light before the darkness overtakes you… Put your trust in the light while you have it. In fact. The passage says the world did not . “I am the light of the world. Jesus says “You are going to have the light just a little while longer.” Jesus brings the focus onto himself “as the personal embodiment of light to a dark world” (Gruenler. Jesus calls himself the light. and eventually leave his disciples.

to further the connection between the Light and Jesus. The following occasion John even directs some of his disciples towards Christ. John 1:1-3 John 1:4-5 John 1:6-8 John 1:9-13 John 1:14 John 1:15-18 – Logos – the Light – John: Witness to the Light – the Light = Jesus Christ – Logos = Jesus (the Only Begotten) – John: Witness to the Logos = Jesus Christ (the only Begotten) The next passage to deal with is John 1:6-8: John the Baptist is the Witness to the Light. it will help by looking at the greater context of John. so it seems that it is safe to assume that the Light John the Baptist is a witness to is Jesus. However. it has just been established that the light in 1:9-13 is actually Jesus Christ. chapter 1. Because John saw it necessary to point out how Jesus claimed to be the light (on multiple occasions) and because John 1 is an introduction and a prologue to the rest of the book.“recognize him”1:10 or “receive him”1:11. the him being the Light—not some reflection of the light or the ambassador or emissary for the light. it seems fitting to conclude that the light being referred to in John 1:10-13 is in fact Jesus Christ. and to prove that Jesus is the Light that John the Baptist is a witness to. but the light itself (Appendix A). . Jesus comes to be baptized and John directs the crowds attention towards Jesus. it becomes rather clear that John is pointing to Christ. Now. In final two stories of the prologue. In John 3:22ff. It becomes rather evident that the Light John the Baptist was a witness to is Jesus. John the Baptist points people to Christ.

Up until this point. A biblical Unitarian would whole-heartedly argue that John 1:1-3 is in no way referring . referring to himself as the light. The Unitarian sources referenced in this paper have not refuted a Christological understanding of the Light in 1:4-5.: Witness to the Light = Jesus Christ – the Light = Jesus Christ – Logos = Jesus (the Only Begotten) – John: Witness to the Logos = Jesus Christ (the only Begotten) Now.John 1:1-3 John 1:4-5 John 1:6-8 John 1:9-13 John 1:14 John 1:15-18 – Logos – the Light – John. Now. This is probably due to the fact that on three occasions (John 8 and John 122x’s) Jesus specifically discusses the light and darkness motifs.: Witness to the Light = Jesus Christ – the Light = Jesus Christ – Logos = Jesus (the Only Begotten) – John: Witness to the Logos = Jesus Christ (the only Begotten) The next section of this passage to be addressed is 1:4-5— the other Light passage. the only major dispute the Unitarian side would have with the conclusions reached is with the section dealing with John 1:9-13 and the Light. John 1:1-3 will be the final section addressed. John 1:1-3 John 1:4-5 John 1:6-8 John 1:9-13 John 1:14 John 1:15-18 – Logos – the Light = Jesus Christ – John. it would seem as though the logical conclusion is that the Light in 1:4-5 is also an allusion for Christ. Can John 1:1-3 be used as a proof text for the Deity of Christ? The first question to deal with is whether or not this section is dealing with Christ. however. in this section lies the heart of the debate. having worked backwards through John’s prologue. having worked through the two previous sections and concluding that the Light referenced was an allusion to Christ.

The Logos of 1:1 is Jesus Christ.to Jesus Christ (Appendix A). there is a pattern here. the passage seems to be dealing with Jesus Christ. Jesus is the light that shines in the darkness. Often. John introduces a theme/symbol in the beginning of his prologue. Furthermore. 24). Symbols and motifs are key parts of the writer’s story. even though his name is not mentioned until 1:17. and then begins to allude to who the Logos is symbolic of. However. Jesus is the life. “the author obviously has Jesus Christ in view. Jesus is alluded to with a couple of metaphors: Jesus is the Light and Jesus is the Word. building onto it through out. looking at the passage from a literary standpoint. All expositors agree on this. revealing a little more as they go. Zahn and Schlatter and also Eduard Thurneysen have all emphasized this very strongly in their interpretations” (Barth. the logical conclusion is that the Logos from 1:1 is in fact the same Logos from 1:14. Therefore. since the rest of the prologue seems to be Christ-centered. and there appears to be no clear transition of subjects. and by the end of it it is clear that Jesus is the Logos. they actually build on to this symbol through out the story. as one can notice from the passage breakdown from above. One thing most literature classes (and Bible Study methods classes) teach is to look for motifs and symbols in writings. In the whole development of 1:1-18. From 1:4 through 1:18. . The He is referring to Him [Jesus Christ]. For him Jesus is the Logos. a Unitarian argument holds no grounds. with this in mind. To say simply that the Logos could not have been Jesus in 1:1-2 because it didn’t become Jesus until 1:14 is not treating the text fairly from a literary standpoint. It serves as a literary device to that helps the reader become more involved with the story. the writer does not always reveal what certain things are immediately after introducing them. Therefore. there is no reason why John can’t be doing the same.

however. 11). A Biblical Unitarian would suggests that in those first few verses. it would be a pointless discussion! There is such a variety of options to choose from. a revelation. One of their major arguments deals with the significant use of the phrase “ho logos. the fact is. Now. it would require an incredible amount of research that would lead to no . they still have objections with the Trinitarian interpretations of the passage. The word Logos is used over 300 times in the New Testament. and Christian thought (Kenney. something said. However. it is tempting to discuss in depth the Greek and Hebrew concepts. 23)? The fact is the Greek word Logos is used in a variety of ways. Greek. a teaching. a question. popular philosophy? If so where from (Barth. Egyptian. a reason. and the list goes on (Appendix A). The point is that Logos has numerous uses other than just being translated as The Word. especially because those would have been the predominant ones. purpose. Logos is the “plan. Jewish. Logos can be used as a statement.” meaning the Word. It is found in ancient Babylonian. The question is this: Is John borrowing this concept from some common. Roman. and wisdom of God. the Logos concept can be found in a variety of cultures and philosophies.” dismissing Jesus as the possible proper interpretation of that symbolic word (Appendix A).John 1:1-3 John 1:4-5 John 1:6-8 John 1:9-13 John 1:14 John 1:15-18 – Logos = Jesus Christ – the Light = Jesus Christ – John: Witness to the Light = Jesus Christ – the Light = Jesus Christ – Logos = Jesus (the Only Begotten) – John: Witness to the Logos = Jesus Christ (the only Begotten) Even though Unitarians don’t think the passage is about Jesus.

107). 107). ‘God’ is a just and probably the most accurate understanding of the Greek word theos. The He is referring to Him [Jesus Christ]. 24). allow John decide how he uses the metaphoric/ symbolic phrase: the Logos. 24). Theos is the Greek noun most commonly translated as God. Hence. the answer to whether or not John 1:1-3 can be proof text for the deity of Christ is: Yes! John “obviously has Jesus Christ in view. he used it with such freedom that the origin is virtually unidentifiable (Barth.conclusion. 271). allowing John to use the Logos in which ever way he likes (Barth.” A Unitarian would claim that the word translated as ‘God’ can just as correctly be translated ‘divine’ (Appendix A). Barth suggests sticking strictly to the text of John. Therefore. For him Jesus is the Logos. Jesus is the life. Rather. However. The second major objection a Unitarian would have is with John 1:1c. Zahn and Schlatter and also Eduard Thurneysen have all emphasized this very strongly in their interpretations” (Barth. but “he invested it with his own meaning. which becomes evident in this prologue” (Walvoord. . It would be “totally wrong to translate… John 1:1 as ‘and the Word was divine’” (Zodhiates. Jesus is the light that shines in the darkness. the Greek words for ‘God’ and ‘divine’ are different but similar. John chose this term because his readers were familiar with it. rather than ruling that the Logos could be Jesus and just assuming that it must be some other principle or concept borrowed from some other pagan philosophy. the verse is translated “and the Word was God. If John did borrow the concept from another philosophy. In most modern Bibles. 24). which is an adjective and Greek for divine (Zodhiates. All expositors agree on this. then there is Theios. Therefore. It would be nearly impossible to figure out which one (if any) John was borrowing from.

16). The logic of their position is as follows: if only God is eternal. Clement understood the Logos of vs. Now. Over the course of those two weeks I was able to have numerous conversations with him discussing the topic of Jesus’ Deity. 23). the reason I chose this topic was because of an encounter I had with a man who called himself a Biblical Unitarian (he emphasized Biblical because he did not want to be confused with a Unitarian Universalist). then clearly. this passage affirms that Jesus Christ is in fact God (in some mysterious way). John 1:2 seems to sum up the first two statements. and even to the pre-existent logos. Thus. who… stood at the very pinnacle of the divine hierarchy. He challenged some of the very basic assumptions I had on this subject. Now. 22). Barth… Boismard… Robertson… Brown… Bultmann… Lindars… and Schnackenburg. 14 to “refer not only to the logos incarnate.. I realized that I had been spoon-fed a lot of “knowledge” but didn’t really understand it.g. By the end of the first week I was feeling very overwhelmed and uninformed on the subject. and the Word is eternal. the Word is God” (Kenney. Then follows a “statement of relationship in the realm of preexistence”— and the Word was with God1:1b (Kenney. John 1:1 and 1:14. so he was a smart guy that also knew his Greek. saying that “He [the Logos] was with God in the beginning. Clement claims. I met him at the two-week long training for my summer mission trip. 39-40). The last is “a statement regarding the intrinsic identity of the Word” — and the Word was God1:1c (Kenney.).The passage begins with an affirmation of Jesus pre-existence—In the beginning was the Word1:1a (Kenney. this man had done seven years at Abilene Christian University. 23). . actually refer to the identical being” (Pagel.” It is in John 1:1 that “many confidently conclude that the eternity of the Word is… affirmed (e. but also to the logos as a creator and prophetic revealer.

With that said. the challenge for me is to now transfer this basic intellectual understanding from my head to the heart. I was having trouble find what I really needed. I am not trying to make a theology about God… or Jesus for that matter. Not that knowing why or how is always an important or critical thing. I am not trying to go in depth on the biblical themes in John 1. This paper has helped me to come to the conclusion that Jesus Christ is God. It is a good thing for Christians to think through some of their basic assumptions and try to figure out how those came about. . but it does have its place. claiming that they have bad hermeneutics or exegesis without explaining why— which is pretty much what I saw in a scholarly debate (The Trinity: Truth or Tragedy). I was firstly trying to prove that this passage is in fact about Jesus. after enough searching I was able to find some useful sources. Many of the questions were debating what the Bible said but how I interpreted it and where those interpretations came from. However. Nor does it help when an evangelical just attacks the Unitarian. so that I could eventually come to some theological conclusions about the character of Christ. It was hard because for many of those I couldn’t give an answer why. Now. the creator and sustainer of all life. It doesn’t help when evangelicals just say that the passage is about Jesus without any proof and then the Unitarian side gives proof after proof logically explaining why it actually isn’t Jesus.forcing me to figure out why I operated under certain assumptions. Most evangelical scholarship talking about John 1 just assumes that it is about Jesus. as I began to research. Therefore. I chose this topic and this passage because I wanted to challenge myself to better understand why this passage supported Jesus’ deity.

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