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John 1:1

Explanation of Grammar and lots of translations of John 1:1     

Barclay, W. The Daily Study Bible- The Gospel of John vol.1 “III. [Revised Edition ISBN 0-664-21304-9: Finally John says that “The Word was God”. There is no doubt that this is a difficult saying for us to understand, and it is difficult because Greek, in which John wrote, had a different way of saying things from the way in which English speaks. When the Greek uses a noun it almost always uses the definite article with it. The Greek for God is ‘theos’, and the definite article is ‘ho’. When Greek speaks about God it does not simply say ‘theos’; it says ‘ho theos’. Now, when Greek does not use the definite article with a noun that noun becomes much more like an adjective; it describes the character, the quality of the person. John did not say that the Word was ‘ho theos’; that would have been to say that the Word was identical with God; he says that the Word was ‘theos’- without the definite article- which means that the Word was, as we might say, of the very same character and quality and essence and being as God. When John said ‘The Word was God’ he was n o t saying that Jesus is identical with God, he was saying that Jesus is so perfectly the same as God in mind, in heart, in being that in Jesus we perfectly see what God is like”

1.                 Goodspeed's An American Translation, 1939, "the Word was divine

2.                 Revised Version-Improved and Corrected, "the word was a god."

3.                  Prof. Felix Just, S.J. - Loyola Marymount University, "and god[-ly/-like] was the Word."

4.                 Concordant Version (Knoch) "God was the Word"

5.                 C.C. Torrey, The Four Gospels, Second Edition, 1947, "the Word was god

6.                 New English Bible, 1961, "what God was,the Word was"

7.                 Moffatt's The Bible, 1972, "the Logos was divine"

8.                 International English Bible-Extreme New Testament, 2001, "the Word was God*[ftn. or Deity, Divine, which is a better translation, because the Greek definite article is not present before this Greek word]

9.                 Reijnier Rooleeuw, M.D. -The New Testament of Our Lord Jesus Christ, translated from the Greek, 1694, "and the Word was a god"

10.             The NET Bible, "and the Word was fully God."

11.             Simple English Bible, "and the Message was Deity"

12.             Hermann Heinfetter, A Literal Translation of the New Testament,1863, [A]s a god the Command was"

13.             Abner Kneeland-The New Testament in Greek and English, 1822, "The Word was a God"

14.             Robert Young, LL.D. (Concise Commentary on the Holy Bible [Grand Rapids: Baker, n.d.], 54). 1885, "[A]nd a God (i.e. a Divine Being) was the Word"

15.             Belsham N.T. 1809 “the Word was a god”

16.             Leicester Ambrose, The Final Theology, Volume 1, New York, New York; M.B. Sawyer and Company, 1879, "And the logos was a god"

17.             Charles A.L. Totten, The Gospel of History, 1900, "the Word was Deistic [=The Word was Godly]

18.             J.N. Jannaris, Zeitschrift fur die Newtestameutlich Wissencraft, (German periodical) 1901, [A]nd was a god"

19.             International Bible Translators N.T. 1981 “In the beginning there was the Message. The Message was with God. The Message was deity.”

20.             CEV, "the Word was truly God."

21.             Samuel Clarke, M.A., D.D., rector of St. James, Westminster, A Paraphrase on the Gospel of John, London "[A] Divine Person."

22.             Joseph Priestley, LL.D., F.R.S. (in A Familiar Illustration of Certain Passages of Scripture Relating to The Power of Man to do the Will of God, Original Sin, Election and Reprobation, The Divinity of Christ; And, Atonement for Sin by the Death of Christ [Philadelphia: Thomas Dobson, 1794], 37). "a God"

23.             Lant Carpenter, LL.D (in Unitarianism in the Gospels [London: C. Stower, 1809], 156). "a God"

24.             Andrews Norton, D.D. (in A Statement of Reasons For Not Believing the Doctrines of Trinitarians [Cambridge: Brown, Shattuck, and Company, 1833], 74). "a god"

25.             Paul Wernle, Professor Extraordinary of Modern Church History at the University of Basil (in The Beginnings of Christianity, vol. 1, The Rise of Religion [1903], 16). "a God"

26.             21st Century NT "At the beginning of Creation, there dwelt with God a mighty spirit, the Marshal, who produced all things in their order."

27.             21st Century Literal Free "and the [Marshal] [Word] was a god."

28.             George William Horner, The Coptic Version of the New Testament, 1911, [A]nd (a) God was the word"

29.             Ernest Findlay Scott, The Literature of the New Testament, New York, Columbia University Press, 1932, "[A]nd the Word was of divine nature"

30.             James L. Tomanec, The New Testament of our Lord and Savior Jesus Anointed, 1958, [T]he Word was a God"

31.             Philip Harner, JBL, Vol. 92, 1974, "The Word had the same nature as God"

32.             Maximilian Zerwich S.J./Mary Grosvenor, 1974, "The Word was divine"

33.             Siegfried Schulz, Das Evangelium nach Johannes, 1975, "And a god (or, of a divine kind) was the Word"

34.             Translator's NT, 1973, "The Word was with God and shared his nature ...with footnote, "There is a distinction in the Greek here between 'with God' and 'God.' In the first instance, the article is used and this makes the reference specific. In the second instance there is not article, and it is difficult to believe that the omission is not significant. In effect it gives an adjectival quality to the second use of Theos (God) so that the phrae means 'The Word was divine'."

35.             William Barclay's The New Testament, 1976, "the nature of the Word was the same as the nature of God"

36.             Johannes Schneider, Das Evangelium nach Johannes, 1978, "and godlike sort was the Logos

37.             Schonfield's The Original New Testament, 1985, "the Word was divine

38.             Revised English Bible, 1989, "what God was, the Word was

39.             Cotton Patch Version, 1970, and the Idea and God were One

40.             Scholar's Version-The Five Gospels, 1993, "The Divine word and wisdom was there with God, and it was what God was

41.             J. Madsen, New Testament A Rendering , 1994, "the Word was a divine Being"

42.             Jurgen Becker, Das Evangelium nach Johannes, 1979, "a God/god was the Logos/logos"

43.             Curt Stage, The New Testament, 1907, "The Word/word was itself a divine Being/being."

44.             Bohmer, 1910, "It was strongly linked to God, yes itself divine Being/being"

45.             Das Neue Testament, by Ludwig Thimme, 1919, "God of Kind/kind was the Word/word"

46.             Baumgarten et al, 1920, "God (of Kind/kind) was the Logos/logos"

47.             Holzmann, 1926, "ein Gott war der Gedanke" [a God/god was the Thought/thought]

48.             Friedriche Rittelmeyer, 1938, "itself a God/god was the Word/word"

49.             Lyder Brun (Norw. professor of NT theology), 1945, "the Word was of divine kind"

50.             Fredrich Pfaefflin, The New Testament, 1949, "was of divine Kind/kind"

51.             Albrecht, 1957, "godlike Being/being had the Word/word"

52.             Smit, 1960, "the word of the world was a divine being"

53.             Menge, 1961, "God(=godlike Being/being) was the Word/word"

54.             Haenchen, 1980, "God (of Kind/kind) was the Logos/logos" [as mentioned inWilliam Loader's The Christology of the Fourth Gospel, p. 155 cf. p.260]

55.             Die Bibel in heutigem Deutsch, 1982, "He was with God and in all like God"

56.             Haenchen (tr. By R. Funk), 1984, "divine (of the category divinity)was the Logos"

57.             Johannes Schulz, 1987, "a God/god (or: God/god of Kind/kind) was the Word/word." [As mentioned inWilliam Loader's The Christology of the Fourth Gospel, p. 155 cf. p.260]

58.             William Temple, Archbishop of York, Readings in St. John's Gospel, London, Macmillan & Co.,1933, "And the Word was divine."

59.             John Crellius, Latin form of German, The 2 Books of John Crellius Fancus, Touching One God the Father, 1631, "The Word of Speech was a God"

60.             Greek Orthodox /Arabic Calendar, incorporating portions of the 4 Gospels, Greek Orthodox Patriarchy or Beirut, May, 1983, "the word was with Allah[God] and the word was a god"

61.             Ervin Edward Stringfellow (Prof. of NT Language and Literature/Drake University, 1943, "And the Word was Divine"

62.             Robert Harvey, D.D., Professor of New Testament Language and Literature, Westminster College, Cambridge, in The Historic Jesus in the New Testament, London, Student Movement Christian Press1931 "and the Logos was divine (a divine being)"

63.             Jesuit John L. McKenzie, 1965, wrote in his Dictionary of the Bible: "Jn 1:1 should rigorously be translated . . . 'the word was a divine being.'

64.             Dymond, E.C. New Testament, 1962 (original manuscript) "In the beginning was the creative purpose of God. It was with God and was fully expressive of God [just as wisdom was with God before creation]."


[The foregoing was adapted from a website I have since lost the reference to.  I did clean up the layout and added additional resources, but I owe most of the foregoing to someone I cannot give proper attribution to.  If you know of this website, please email it to me at info@answeringantimormons.com and I will update the posting and give proper credit.]

** In previous versions I had inserted a quotation I attributed to "Buzzard/Hunting", which I have since been informed was not their work.  I have no idea where I got it from, so for a piece of poor scholarly attribution on my part, and for erroneously attributing it to Buzzard-Hunting, I apologize.

The following discussion of the grammar of John 1:1 is excellent, even if somewhat brief.  It can be found at: 


What about John 1:1 in the NWT?

Well, I will let Greek Scholar Jason BeDuhn from the Northern Arizona
University answer this one:

"The Greek phrase is theos en ho logos, which translated word for word
is "a god was the word."

Greek has only a definite article, like our the, it does not have an
indefeinite article, like our a or an. If a noun is definite, it has the
definite article ho. If a noun is indefinite, no article is used. In the
phrase from John 1:1, ho logos is "the word." If it was written simply
logos, without the definite article ho, we would have to translate it as
"a word". So we are not really "inserting" an indefinite article when we
translate Greek nouns without the definite article into English, we are
simply obeying rules of English grammar that tell us that we cannot say
"Snoopy is dog," but must say "Snoopy is a dog."

Now in English we simply say "God"; we do not say "The God." But in
Greek, when you mean to refer to the one supreme God, instead of one of the many other beings that were called "gods," you would have to say "The God": ho theos. Even a monotheistic Christian, who beleives there is only one God and no others, would be forced to say in Greek "The God," as John and Paul and the other writers of the New Testament normally do. If you leave off the article in a phrase like John 1:1, then you are saying "a god." (There are some exceptions to this rule: Greek has what are called noun cases, which means the nouns change form depending on how they are used in a sentence. So, if you want to say "of God," which is theou, you don't need the article. But in the nominative case, which is the one in John 1:1, you have to have the article.)

So what does John mean by saying "the word was a god"? He is classifying Jesus in a specific category of beings. There are plants and animals and humans and gods, and so on. By calling the Word "a god," John wants to tell his readers that the Word(which becomes Jesus when it takes flesh) belongs to the divine class of things. Notice the word order: "a god was the word." We can't say it like this in English, but you can in Greek.

The subject can be after the verb and the object before the verb, the
opposite of how we do it in English (subject-verb-object). Research has shown that when ancient Greek writers put a object-noun first in a
sentence like John 1:1 (a be-verb sentence: x is y), without the
definite article, they are telling us that the subject belongs to the
class represented by the object-noun: :"The car is a Volkswagen." In
English we would accomplish the same thing by using what we call
predicate adjectives. "John is a smart person" = "John is smart." So we
would tend to say "The word was divine," rather than "The word was a
god." That is how I would translate this phrase. "The word was a god" is more literal, and an improvement over "The word was God," but it raises more problems, since to a modern reader it implies polytheism.

No one in John's day would have understood the phrase to mean "The word was God" - the language does not convey that sense, and conceptually it is difficult to grasp such an idea, especially since that author has just said that the word was with God. Someone is not with himself, he is with some other. John clearly differentiates between God from the Word. The latter becomes flesh and is seen; the former cannot be seen. What is the Word? John says it was the agent through whom God made the world. He starts his gospel "In the beginning..." to remind us of Genesis 1. How does God create in Genesis? He speaks words that make things come into existence. So the Word is God's creative power and plan and activity. It is not God himself, but it is not really totally separate from God either. It occupies a kind of ambiguous status. That is why a monotheist like John can get away with calling it "a god" or "divine" without becoming a polytheist. This divine thing does not act on its own, however, does take on a kind of distinct identity, and in becoming flesh brings God's will and plan right down face to face with humans.

I hope this helps.

Best wishes

Jason Beduhn
Northern Arizona University
Department of Humanities Arts and Religion




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