The forms of the Hebrew and Greek words are English-transliterated throughout.
In the beginning was the Word [LOGOS], and the Word [LOGOS] was with God [TON THEON], and the Word [LOGOS] was God [THEOS]. The same was in the beginning with God [TON THEON].
John 1:1,2 — transliterations taken the Westcott & Hort Interlinear, as found in the Bible Students Library DVD.
Was John in his words of John 1:1,2 saying that Jesus is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? Since Jesus idenfitied his Father as the only true God whom he had been with before the beginning of the world of mankind, it should be obvious that by using the word THEOS of the LOGOS, that John was not saying that the LOGOS was the only true Supreme Being who sent the LOGOS into the world of mankind. (John 1:10,14; 10:36; 17:1,3,5; 1 John 4:9) This “God” who raised Jesus up as the prophet like Moses is identified in Acts 3:13-26 as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob of Exodus 3:14,15 (See Deuteronomy 18:15-20). The default reasoning should be to understand that the Logos is not “God” whom the Logos was with.
John, by his emphasis twice that the LOGOS was “with” TON THEON, in effect, shows that his usage of THEOS regarding the the LOGOS was not intended to be understood in the same manner as it is applied to the only true God who sent the LOGOS into the world. Additionally, by putting this in the past, “the LOGOS *was* THEOS, John is agreeing with Jesus’ statement that this glory that he had with the only true God before the world of mankind was made, was something that Jesus did not have while he was in the days of his flesh (Hebrews 5:7), else why would he ask for this glory to be given to him again? — John 17:1,3,5.
See our studies:
Did Jesus Really Say That the Father is the Only True God?
Jesus’ Two Glories
Nor is it, as we have demonstrated elsewhere, enough to say that since the Greek word THEOS is used of Jesus, that this would mean that Jesus is either the only true God, or that he is a false god (See our study:True God Versus False God = False Dichotomy). This is most often, however, the assumption the trinitarian makes, and then, assuming such to be true, he usually will call upon the spirit of human imagination so as imagine and assume that the first instance of THEOS [TON THEON above] must not mean the triune God, but only one person of the triune God, and then he imagines that it must mean the first person of the triune God. Similarly, regarding THEOS as applied to the LOGOS, he most often will imagine and assume that it means, not the triune God, but rather only one person of the triune God, and then further imagine and assume that it means the “second person” of the triune God. — See our study on “Trinitarian Assumptions”
Rather than adding to the scriptures a fable of three persons in one God, we should look at John’s words in harmony with the rest of the scriptures, and note how the Hebrews used forms of the Hebrew word transliterated as EL (God), and the corresponding word in Greek, transliterated as THEOS, as they are used of others than the only true God. Jesus himself presents this alternative usage of the word “theos”, when he uses the plural form of this word (theoi) in John 10:34,35:
John 10:34 – Jesus answered them, “Isn’t it written in your law, ‘I said, you are gods?’
John 10:35 – If he called them gods, to whom the word [LOGOS] of God came (and the Scripture can’t be broken),
Jesus’ reference here is to Psalm 82, which details God’s chastisement of the sons of Most High, whom God Himself refers to by the Hebrew words for “god”, el and elohim, and to whom Jesus said the Logos of God came. Was Jesus referring to these sons of God as false gods? No, for that would have actually have been pointless, and even also a self-contradiction, since it would make these sons of the Most High not be sons of the Most High but rather sons of wrath. (Ephesians 2:2,3) Jesus is pointing out that those spirit-begotten sons of God to whom he came are also referred to as gods, which is the record of the scriptures that cannot be disputed, thus there was no reason for those Jewish leaders to be upset at his claim to be the Son of God.
Who Are the Gods?
But the trinitarian may ask: “But how can these be called gods, except that they be so illegimately, since there is only one true God?” By examining the Hebraic usage given above we can see how others may be legitimately referred to as “gods”, and yet not be one true God, the one true Supreme Being is God without receiving might, power from any outside source. This is only so because of the way the Hebrews used the word forms that are used of “God”, as revealed in the scriptures. The basic Hebraic meaning of the Hebrew word for “God” is might, strength. The word may designate either might or strength in general, or it may designate the one source of all might and strength. (1 Corinthians 8:6) All Hebrew forms of the word for “God” are derived from the simple form, EL, Strong’s Hebrew #410. One may see the meanings of this word at:
http://studylight.org/lex/heb/view.cgi?number=410 (There is also a listing of all the scriptures wherein this word is used, and how it is translated, both by the King James Version, and the New American Standard.)
Many translations have recognized this usage, but it is not readily apparent to most readers of these translations. For instance, when considering forms of the Hebrew word *EL* (forms of Strong’s Hebrew #410), which are most often rendered “God”, the King James translators recognize the usage of this word in its basic meaning many times. Carefully note the following texts from the King James Version, in which English translations of the Hebrew word El (and its variations) are in denoted by *..*: “It is in the *power* of my hand.” (Genesis 31:29) “There shall be no *might* in thine hand.” (Deuteronomy 28:32) “Neither is it in our *power*.” (Nehemiah 5:5) “Like the *great* mountains.” (Psalm 36:6) “In the *power* of thine hand to do it.” (Proverbs 3:27) “Who among the sons of the *mighty*.” (Psalm 89:6) “God standeth in the congregation of the *mighty*.” (Psalm 82:1) “Who is like unto thee, O Lord [Yahweh] among the *Gods* [mighty ones or ruling ones]?” (Exodus 15:11) “Give unto the Lord [Yahweh] of ye *mighty*.” (Psalm 29:1) “The *mighty* God even the Lord [Yahweh].” (Psalm 50:1) “The *strong* among the mighty shall speak.” — Ezekiel 32:21.
Likewise, the forms of the Hebrew word “elohim” (Strong’s Hebrew #430, with is actually a form of #410) can mean “mighty” or “great” as can be seen by the way the KJV translators have rendered it in various verses. Again, the word(s) that are used to express the Hebrew word “elohim” are denoted by **: “a *mighty* prince” (Genesis 23:6) “And Rachel said, With *great* wrestlings have I wrestled with my sister, and I have prevailed: and she called his name Naphtali.” (Genesis 30:8) “It was a very great trembling.” (1 Samuel 14:15) “Now Nineveh was an *exceeding* [false god?] great city of three days’ journey.” — Jonah 3:3.
Many scholars recognize theos as applied to the LOGOS in John 1:1 is that of a noun being used as adjective. Applying this principle, then, the phrase could be rendered as “the Logos was mighty”, since it is obvious that the Logos is not the only true God who sent the Logos into the world of mankind. Taking THEOS as being applied as a noun, then it could be rendered, “a mighty one”. Jesus *was* (past tense) indeed “mighty”, a mighty spirit being with the only true God before the world of mankind was made, and before he became flesh in a body that the only true God prepared for him. — Hebrews 10:5.
One trinitarian has claimed that in John 1:1,2 the word “God” is ‘interchangeable throughout.’ While we can see how a oneness believer, or perhaps in a Unitarian believer, might conclude such, it is incongruent with the “orthodox” trinitarian dogma to say that the Son, identified by trinitarians as the LOGOS in John 1:1,2, as being the Father. If the application of the word “GOD” is interchangeable throughtout, then the logical conclusion from such a reasoning would be that the Son is the Father whom he is said to be with before the world of mankind had been made. (John 1:10; 17:1,3,5) Trinitarians, however, maintain that the Son is not the Father, nor is the Father the Son.
Thus, most trinitarian scholars will deny that John was saying the the LOGOS was the the One whom the LOGOS was with, because the One whom the Logos was with is identified as the Father. (John 17:1,3,5) If the LOGOS had been TON THEON whom the LOGOS was with, then, this would mean that Jesus was his Father before coming into the world of mankind, since Jesus was with his Father before the beginning of the world of mankind. Nevertheless, many trinitarians scholars advance the idea that John was indeed saying that Jesus was “God” in the qualitative sense as supposedly having all the attributes of “God”, including being uncreated and being the Supreme Being. This, of course, is basically pure supposition that has to be added to and read into what John wrote, and such leads one to add more and more philosophy to many other scriptures in order to get those scriptures to appear to harmonize with the added-on philosophy that Jesus is Yahweh, in order to avoid the simplicity of Christ (2 Corinthians 11:3) as the Son of the Living God. — Matthew 16:16; John 6:69.
James White, while he is convinced that Jesus is a person of the One God whom the Bible identifies as the God of Jesus, states concerning John 1:1,2:
What he [John] wishes to emphasize here is the personal existence of the Logos in some sense of distinction from “God” (i.e., the Father). The Logos is not the Father nor vice-versa – there are two persons under discussion here.
Hence, the term “God” is the predicate nominative, and it functions just as “love” did in 1 John 4:8 – it tells us something about the Logos – and that is, that the nature of the Logos is the nature of God, just as the nature of God in 1 John 4:8 was that of love. Now, John does emphasize the term “God” by placing it first in the clause – this is not just a “divine nature” as in something like the angels have – rather, it is truly the nature of Deity that is in view here (hence my translation as “Deity”). Dr. Kenneth Wuest, long time professor of Greek at Moody Bible Institute rendered the phrase, “And the Word was as to His essence absolute Deity.”
The provision of the above and the link provideddoes not mean that we agree with everything Mr. White states. Indeed, we disagree with most of his conclusions. We do wish to point out that, in effect, James White denies that THEOS, applied to the LOGOS, is interchangeable with TON THEON, applied to the Father, whom the LOGOS was with.
Oddly, enough, many, perhaps most, Bible Students would agree with most of the exact statements of White as given above, but would not see in any of this that John was saying that the LOGOS is the Most High Yahweh, or that John was using THEOS as “diety” any a sense other than as applied to angels, or that the LOGOS is a person of the Most High Yahweh, as Mr. White presents the matter. The conclusion that THEOS as meaning deity would mean that Jesus is Yahweh has to be imagined beyond what John wrote. While we are sure that Mr. Wuest uses the term “absolute Deity” as meaning having the nature of being the Supreme Being, we do not see the scriptural need to read such an assumption into the word THEOS as applied to the LOGOS.
God, by means of his holy spirit, reveals through the scriptures the simple truth that Yahweh (Jehovah) is the only true God, the God and Father of the Lord Jesus. (1 Corinthians 8:6; Ephesians 1:3; 1 Peter 1:3) Jesus has One who is the Supreme Being over him; Jesus is not his Supreme Being whom he worships, prays to, and who sent him, and whose will he carried out in willful obedience. — Deuteronomy 18:15-19; Matthew 4:4 (Deuteronomy 8:3; Luke 4:4); Matthew 4:7 (Deuteronomy 6:16); Matthew 4:10 (Exodus 20:3-5; 34:14; Deuteronomy 6:13,14; 10:20; Luke 4:8); Matthew 22:29-40; Matthew 26:42; Matthew 27:46; Mark 10:6 (Genesis 1:27; Genesis 2:7,20-23); Mark 14:36; 15:34; Luke 22:42; John 4:3; 5:30; 6:38; 17:1,3; 20:17; Romans 15:6; 2 Corinthians 1:3; 11:31; Ephesians 1:3,17; Hebrews 1:9; 10:7; 1 Peter 1:3; Revelation 2:7; 3:2,12.
The most simple and straightforward way of viewing THEOS as applied to the LOGOS in John 1:1 is by applying the Hebraic usage of the title to a person or thing that is not Yahweh, that is, in the sense of being mighty or powerful, since it is obvious that John was not saying that the LOGOS was TON THEON whom the LOGOS was with, thus, in keeping with the rest of the scriptures, the LOGOS was mighty (as one who receives power and might from the source of all — 1 Corinthians 8:6). The idea that John was saying that Jesus is Yahweh, the God of Jesus, has to be added to and read into what John said. One does not have to make use of the spirit of human imagination so as to add a tremendous amount of extra-Biblical philosophy. However, the simple, straightfowardview as we have expressed above is in complete harmony with the entire Bible. Especially, it is in harmony with the atonement philosophy as revealed in the scriptures, whereas the trinitarian dogma would have it that Jesus is a still a man of flesh, thus denying that Jesus actually sacrificed his flesh, his human body, for us.
This study was originally published on May 29, 2012; updated and republished on May 15, 2014.