“No matter how far back we may try to push our imagination, we can never reach a point at which we could say of the Divine Word, as Arius did, ‘There was once when he was not.’”
One of the most theologically in-depth passages in all Scripture is John 1:1. This verse is a Christian gem. It’s a verse you could quickly coast over, yet it’s stunning how much truth is embedded in such a few words.
This verse says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The trigger word is Word. It’s a translation of the Greek word logos and serves as a title referring to Jesus. The Logos is God’s quintessential self-unveiling to humankind in the Person of Jesus Christ. How does John 1:1 help us understand that Jesus, the Word, is divine?
First, John 1:1 reveals that the Word was eternal. John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word.” The word was is in the imperfect tense, indicating a continued existence. So we can unpack it as follows. The Word, the eternal logos, Jesus Christ, was already in the beginning before the beginning became a beginning. Before time began, the Word was already existing—eternally existing. He was there before all of creation was here.
Second, John 1:1 calls the Word “God.” Now John takes us deeper into the theology of the eternal logos by attributing deity to Jesus Christ. In the final part of John 1:1 he writes, “and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Jesus was not only with God, but He is God. This is one of those verses in the Bible that helps us see the plurality within the Godhead. We believe there is one God revealed in three separate Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
This is important, especially when dealing with Jehovah’s Witnesses who misconstrue John 1:1 in their New World Translation. Their version reads, “And the word was a god.” Jehovah’s Witnesses translate John 1:1 this way because there is no definite article in the Greek before the final word for God in verse one. Jehovah’s Witnesses hope to get around Jesus’s deity by translating John 1:1 the way they do. Now, it’s not that they’re slipping into full-born polytheism by claiming he was “a god,” but they want to say something like, “He was godlike.” Jehovah’s Witnesses are monotheists. To them, Jesus was the first created being.
How can we reply to a Jehovah’s Witness? It’s not necessary to translate Greek nouns lacking an article as indefinite. Even Jehovah’s Witnesses aren’t consistent here. Rather, they use the indefinite article when it’s convenient to fit their theology. If they were consistent in their New World Translation, they’d have to utilize a before God in several other spots, even within John 1. For example, what do John 1:6, 1:12, 1:13, and 1:18 have in common? They’re all missing a definite article in the Greek before the word God. If Jehovah’s Witnesses were to translate these verses using the indefinite article, here’s how they would read:
• “There came a man who was sent from a God” (John 1:6).
• “He gave the right to become Children of a God” (John 1:12).
• “Who were born…of a God” (John 1:13).
• “No one has ever seen a God” (John 1:18).
As you can see, this would be a theological game changer. Jehovah’s Witnesses aren’t facing the facts. And the fact is, Jesus is divine. He’s God in the flesh. Here’s a clear example of where cultic apologetics are won or lost in the Greek. The original languages don’t reveal a Jesus who is a god; rather, they reveal a Jesus who is God. It’s not the article (necessarily) that determines the translation of the word. It’s the context. Once Jesus becomes anything less than fully God and fully man, we’ve become a cult. Next time you talk to a Jehovah’s Witness, remember, words matter, especially when talking about the Word.
Thought to Ponder
The battle for truth is often won or lost in the original languages.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1).
Question to Consider
How well does your church equip its members to understand the importance of theology?
One Minute Apologist Video
Bobby Conway, “How Do Jehovah’s Witnesses Interpret John 1:1?” www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q5x2KGF7XbU.