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Author Topic: John 1:1 in Greek  (Read 825 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: October 20, 2010, 12:22:45 PM »

I am sure that many of you aware that in John 1:1, in the original Greek,  when the text states, "And the Word was God," there is no defitine article before the word "God" (theos) but in the same verse there is a definite article before the word "God" when it refers to God the Father. Now some Jehovah's witnesses will argue that the passage should then be translated "The Word was a god". How does a Trinitarian Christian answer this?
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« Reply #1 on: October 20, 2010, 01:37:30 PM »

Here are some comprehensive articles that could be helpful:

http://www.answering-islam.org/authors/shamoun/jesus_jw.html

http://answering-islam.org/Shamoun/john1_1_eb.htm

http://www.answering-islam.org/Responses/Al-Kadhi/r01.2.2.06s2.html

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« Reply #2 on: October 20, 2010, 01:53:54 PM »

Thank you.
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« Reply #3 on: October 20, 2010, 02:26:32 PM »

I am sure that many of you aware that in John 1:1, in the original Greek,  when the text states, "And the Word was God," there is no defitine article before the word "God" (theos) but in the same verse there is a definite article before the word "God" when it refers to God the Father. Now some Jehovah's witnesses will argue that the passage should then be translated "The Word was a god". How does a Trinitarian Christian answer this?


It is a possible translation. The sentence is grammatically ambiguous. The best way to differentiate in strictly scientific terms is to compare with the earliest translations to know what the understanding of its contemporaries was.

In the Vulgat we have:

 In principio erat Verbum,
et Verbum erat apud Deum,
et Deus erat Verbum.

In the Vetus Latina we have:

1 In principio erat
      uerbum et uerbum erat apud
      de̅um
      et ds̅ erat uerbum

As poor as my Latin is, it seems to me that the Latin translations evidence that the common understanding of the sentence is that "The Word was God." I say that because in Portuguese, which is a Latin-derived language, what we have is "o Verbo era Deus" which seems close enough and would translate into English in the traditional way.

Another way to distinguish it, is to see how commentators interpreted it, as meaning (a) or (b). Let's see:

HILARY; You will say, that a word is the sound of the voice, the enunciation of a thing, the expression of a thought: this Word was in the beginning with God, because the utterance of thought is eternal, when He who thinks is eternal. But how was that in the beginning, which exists no time either before, or after, I doubt even whether in time at all? For speech is neither in existence before one speaks, nor after; in the very act of speaking it vanishes; for by the time a speech is ended, that from which it began does not exist. But even if the first sentence, in the beginning was the Word, was through your inattention lost upon you, why dispute you about the next; and the Word was with God? Did you hear it said, “In God,” so that you should understand this Word to be only the expression of hidden thoughts? Or did John say with by mistake, and was not aware of the distinction between being in, and being with, when he said, that what was in the beginning, was not in God, but with God? Hear then the nature and name of the Word; and the Word was God. No more then of the sound of the voice, of the expression of the thought. The Word here is a Substance, not a sound; a Nature, not an expression; God, not a nonentity.

HILARY; But the title is absolute, and free from the offense of an extraneous subject. To Moses it is said, I have given you for a god to Pharaoh: but is not the reason for the name added, when it is said, to Pharaoh? Moses is given for a god to Pharaoh, when he is feared, when he is entreated, when he punishes, when he heals. And it is one thing to be given for a God, another thing to be God. I remember too another application of the name in the Psalms, I have said, you are gods. But there too it is implied that the title was but bestowed; and the introduction of, I said, makes it rather the phrase of the Speaker, than the name of the thing. But when I hear the Word was God, I not only hear the Word said to be, but perceive It proved to be, God.

BASIL; Thus cutting off the cavils of blasphemers, and those who ask what the Word is, he replies, and the Word was God.

THEOPHYL. Or combine it thus: From the Word being with God, it follows plainly that there are two Persons. But these two are of one Nature; and therefore it proceeds, In the Word was God: to show that Father and Son are of One Nature, being of One Godhead.

ORIGEN; We must add too, that the Word illuminates the Prophets with Divine wisdom, in that He comes to them; but that with God He ever is, because He is God. For which reason he placed and the Word was with God, before and the Word was God.

CHRYS. Not asserting, as Plato does, one to be intelligence, the other soul; for the Divine Nature is very different from this... But you say, the Father is called God with the addition of the article, the Son without it. What say you then, when the Apostle writes, The great God and our Savior Jesus Christ; and again, Who is over all, God; and Grace be unto you and peace from God our Father; without the article? Besides, too, it were superfluous here, to affix what had been affixed just before. So that it does not follow, though the article is not affixed to the Son, that He is therefore an inferior God.


So, from translation and comments, which are interpretations after all, we know which of the senses in that ambiguous sense is the traditional one.

« Last Edit: October 20, 2010, 02:31:51 PM by Fabio Leite » Logged

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« Reply #4 on: October 20, 2010, 02:34:13 PM »

It is a possible translation. The sentence is grammatically ambiguous. The best way to differentiate in strictly scientific terms is to compare with the earliest translations to know what the understanding of its contemporaries was.

In the Vulgat we have:

 In principio erat Verbum,
et Verbum erat apud Deum,
et Deus erat Verbum.

In the Vetus Latina we have:

1 In principio erat
      uerbum et uerbum erat apud
      de̅um
      et ds̅ erat uerbum

As poor as my Latin is, it seems to me that the Latin translations evidence that the common understanding of the sentence is that "The Word was God."
I'm not sure that Latin a good choice for comparison on this point. Latin does not use either definite or indefinite articles.

What are some of the other earliest languages into which the NT was translated?
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« Reply #5 on: October 20, 2010, 02:48:36 PM »

I am sure that many of you aware that in John 1:1, in the original Greek,  when the text states, "And the Word was God," there is no defitine article before the word "God" (theos) but in the same verse there is a definite article before the word "God" when it refers to God the Father. Now some Jehovah's witnesses will argue that the passage should then be translated "The Word was a god". How does a Trinitarian Christian answer this?


First, context. Rather than looking at one verse in isolation, you might want to remind the JWs of the context of the verse in the whole Gospel of John and the whole New Testament. For example, the Epistle to the Hebrews seems to rule out their interpretation that θεός w/o def. article refers to an angel. Also, "before Abraham was, I am" etc.

Secondly, in this case, the lack of a definite article before θεός serves to identify θεός as a predicate nominative (rather than the subject of the sentence [predicate nominative is when you answer the phone, someone asks, 'is Papist there?', and you say, 'this is he': 'he' is in the nominative case, but the subject of the sentence (also nominative) is 'this'.]) The subject of the sentence is ho logos, hence it takes the definite article.

Theos in all likelihood comes first (though it is not the subject) to emphasize it! In other words, to prove the exact opposite point the JWs want to prove!

However, if the Evangelist had written kai ho theos ēn ho logos, it would have meant '[the] God was the Word', instead of 'the Word was God'. This seems to imply only one hypostasis in the Godhead (modalism):
Jehovah's Witnesses and John 1:1[/URL]"]If the Greek article occurred with both Word and God in John 1:1, the implication would be that they are one and the same person, absolutely identical. But John affirmed that "the Word was with (the) God" (the definite article preceding each noun), and in so writing, he indicated his belief that they are distinct and separate personalities. Then John next stated that the Word was God, i.e., of the same family or essence that characterizes the Creator. Or, in other words, that both are of the same nature, and that nature is the highest in existence, namely divine….

It seems useful to me to think of ho theos with the article as referring to the hypostasis of the Father (as in the Trisagion, where Agios ho theos is usually taken to refer to the Father), ho logos with the article as referring to the hypostasis of the Word/Son, and theos without the article as referring to the Divine ουσία, or 'essence', which is common to both.
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« Reply #6 on: October 20, 2010, 03:03:37 PM »

I am sure that many of you aware that in John 1:1, in the original Greek,  when the text states, "And the Word was God," there is no defitine article before the word "God" (theos) but in the same verse there is a definite article before the word "God" when it refers to God the Father. Now some Jehovah's witnesses will argue that the passage should then be translated "The Word was a god". How does a Trinitarian Christian answer this?


Can't be correct because in a literal translation the word god come first and than logos. So it would read: And God is the logos would be the literal translation of και θεος ην ο λογος There is certainly no way of deriving The Word was a god from that. laugh It would have to read The god was a word.
doesn't make sense now does it.
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« Reply #7 on: October 20, 2010, 03:08:07 PM »

It is a possible translation. The sentence is grammatically ambiguous. The best way to differentiate in strictly scientific terms is to compare with the earliest translations to know what the understanding of its contemporaries was.

In the Vulgat we have:

 In principio erat Verbum,
et Verbum erat apud Deum,
et Deus erat Verbum.

In the Vetus Latina we have:

1 In principio erat
      uerbum et uerbum erat apud
      de̅um
      et ds̅ erat uerbum

As poor as my Latin is, it seems to me that the Latin translations evidence that the common understanding of the sentence is that "The Word was God."
I'm not sure that Latin a good choice for comparison on this point. Latin does not use either definite or indefinite articles.

What are some of the other earliest languages into which the NT was translated?

Not sure, but I think it was Latin. Smiley
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« Reply #8 on: October 20, 2010, 03:12:33 PM »

Theos in all likelihood comes first (though it is not the subject) to emphasize it! In other words, to prove the exact opposite point the JWs want to prove!

Or maybe St. John was dictating to Master Yoda. "Hmm...yes.... God, the Word was!" Cheesy

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nsKG8GDXD0I
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« Reply #9 on: October 20, 2010, 03:42:25 PM »

Theos in all likelihood comes first (though it is not the subject) to emphasize it! In other words, to prove the exact opposite point the JWs want to prove!

Or maybe St. John was dictating to Master Yoda. "Hmm...yes.... God, the Word was!" Cheesy

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nsKG8GDXD0I
laugh laugh laugh

BTW,

I would agree it is a possible translation if the sentence is considered only grammatically and in isolation, but I would argue it one of the worst translations you could cone up with.

The fact is indefinite and definite articles do not mean what JWs think they mean in the first place. As I understand it, the definite article in Greek, as in English, is derived from the demonstrative (this, that, etc.). Hence, 'the book' in Greek usually means something like 'this/that specific instance of "book"'. In other words, "definite" means just that: a definite case, not a general concept, category or idea. A clearly defined particular.

Lack of the definite article in Greek means we are no longer talking about a defined, specific case, but it does not mean the same thing as an English indefinite article:

we are actually used to thinking of 'a, an' as meaning something pretty close to what I said above about the definite article, that is, a specific instance as opposed to a general category. For example, it is possible to say 'not virtue, a virtue', in which case it is clear that 'a' means something like 'a specific case as opposed to a general category', or 'a part instead of a whole'. The big difference between this usage of the indefinite article and the definite article is whether the 'specific instance' is clearly identified from among the other possible specific instances. In the case of the indefinite article, it is not (I am not talking about the whole of virtue, but I could be talking about courage or temperance or justice, etc.).

Fundamentally 'a, an' means something like 'any' (in-definite), which if you think about it, means something like 'I-don't-know-which specific instance of a general category'. In other words, the English indefinite article does contain the idea of particularity, but undefined particularity.

The Greek zero article does not necessarily convey particularity, defined or undefined, but could mean something more like category or Plato's "form". When Scripture says ho theos agapē estin (no def. Article before 'love'), it does not mean 'God is a love' or 'God is some particular love', but 'God is love'.

To make a long story short, an indefinite article is very often not a good translation for a zero article.

On the other hand, the understanding of the definite article as referring demonstratively to a defined specific instance of a thing fits nicely with the Christian idea of an hypostasis being a unique, particular, concrete reality. Likewise, the lack of the article fits nicely with ουσία as "thinghood" (Sachs) or 'essence'. 
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« Reply #10 on: October 21, 2010, 11:45:00 AM »

I am sure that many of you aware that in John 1:1, in the original Greek,  when the text states, "And the Word was God," there is no defitine article before the word "God" (theos) but in the same verse there is a definite article before the word "God" when it refers to God the Father. Now some Jehovah's witnesses will argue that the passage should then be translated "The Word was a god". How does a Trinitarian Christian answer this?


Since JW's don't believe the word was even a god, what's the difference? Wink

They believe Jesus was the archangel Michael, angels are not "gods" even in their theological views so it just seems like linguistic hairsplitting a point that is in the end irrelevant to their argument.

I have read and heard that it is a viable translation of John 1:1 to say that the word was a god. But context is everything. What does John mean by this? Well one needs to read Philo to see what 1st century Jews meant by Logos . . . whatever one deduces from the religious context of the time, it's very clear that niether John or Philo meant that the Logos was Michael the "angel", if one accepts the 1st century meaning of the word "angel" that is. In the Old Testament, "angel" was often a placeholder for an appearance of YHWH Himself, "the angel of the Lord (YHWH), so in an older understanding angel meant literally YHWH, not angels in the sense we understand them. So even if what JW's say is somehow close to true, that Jesus was an angel, do they mean "angel of YHWH" as in the OT? if so then it still means Jesus was God. Not the archangel Michael. Margaret Barker has done fantastic scholarly work on this subject about what the term "angel" meant during 1st Temple times and how early Christianity was holding onto an "older" form of Judaism which understand that YHWH was the "son" of Elohim or El Elyon (the father), and that YHWH = the Logos and the Logos became Incarnate. Her work is mind twistingly excellent, but not for everybody, especially if one isn't comfortable with Biblical criticism or process theology. (or the idea that ancient Israel may not have been as monotheistic as we were taught in Sunday school) However since I'm into that sort of stuff I like her, a lot and she really shows  where and how the early Church could be both Jewish and "proto-Trinatarian" at the same time. The idea of a "multiple" Gods wasn't as foreign to Israel as once was thought, and so Trinitarianism was just a natural assumption especially for the peasant class in Judea who had kept a living memory of the older ideas that the strict monotheists like the Sadduccees tended to suppress.

This all seems radical but it's really not and she's a good writer. She even has a book out how Christian Liturgy, especially the Eastern Liturgy (not knocking the Western liturgy just saying this is her thesis) is sort of a "resurrection" of Solomon's temple Liturgy.

http://www.margaretbarker.com/


Fascinating stuff but not for everyone. However it completely refutes any JW's claim that Jesus is Michael and makes a strong case for some form of "tri-theism" existing WAY before the time of Jesus.

NP
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« Reply #11 on: October 21, 2010, 12:24:37 PM »

Wow. You guys really know your Greek. Thanks.
One other argument that I came up with is that when St. Thomas the Apostles recognizes the risen Christ, when he calls him "my God", the definite article is included, so that the quote, literally translated is "The Lord of me, and the God of me!".
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