John 1:1 “. . . and the Word was God”

A person who goes by “patrobin” over at a Muslim blog (Paul Williams) asked:

“Where does John 1:1 say Jesus is God?”


in the third clause,

“In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God. “

 John 1:1

If one only has a beginning knowledge of Greek, it is very dangerous. The grammar and Greek syntax of John 1:1 determines the right theology. The doctrine of the Deity of Christ and the eternality of the Son is based on Scripture, not the Council of Nicaea. The Council of Nicaea is based on Scripture, and derives secondary authority from the only infallible authority – the Scriptures.

The predicate nominative issue is the key interpretive issue, more important than the definite article issue.

The third clause and predicate nominative issue:

and the Word was God. “

καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος.
literal word order: “
And God was the Word. 

Daniel Wallace has a good word on this issue:

“We know that “the Word” is the subject because it has the definite article, and we translate it accordingly: “and the Word was God.”
Two questions, both of them of theological import, should come to mind:
1) Why was θεὸς (Theos) thrown forward? And
2) why does it lack the article?

In brief, its emphatic position stresses its essence or quality: “What God was, the Word was” is how one translation brings out this force. Its lack of a definite article keeps us from identifying the person of the Word ( Jesus Christ) with the person of “God” (the Father). That is to say, the word order tells us that Jesus Christ has all the divine attributes that the Father has; lack of the article tells us that Jesus Christ is not the Father. John’s wording here is beautifully compact! It is, in fact, one of the most elegantly terse theological statements one could ever find. As Martin Luther said, the lack of an article is against Sabellianism [Modalism]; the word order is against Arianism.

To state it another way, look at how the different Greek constructions would be rendered:

καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν ὁ θεὸς = “and the Word was the God” ( ie, the Father, Sabellianism, [or Modalism])

καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν θεὸς = “and the Word was a god” (Arianism) [also Jehovah’s Witness theology]

καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος “and the Word was God” (orthodoxy) [sound, Biblical doctrine)

Jesus Christ is God and has all the attributes that the Father has. But He is not the first person of the Trinity. [the Son is not the Father] All this is concisely affirmed in καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος. “ 
Basics of Biblical Greek, William D. Mounce, Zondervan, 1993, p. 28-29. (Quoting Daniel Wallace) (Daniel Wallace goes much more in depth on John 1:1 in respect to the grammatical issues discussed here, in his Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, pages 41, 257-259 and 266-269.

So, here we have the principle of Sola Scriptura as the basis for all sound doctrine and theology. The first four Ecumenical councils were right, on the theological issues related to who Christ is, the Deity of Christ, the Trinity, the humanity of Christ (the “canons” are not necessarily correct doctrinally) – the theology was right only because they got the Bible right. We don’t need Popes or any idea of an “infallible church council”.  There was no “Pope” in the sense of “bishop of Rome over all other bishops” at that time.  The Scriptures themselves teach us sound doctrine, and the good and right theological decisions in the Ecumenical councils derive their rightness from Scripture itself. Only Scripture is infallible. Here we see the Greek grammar and syntax teaching us the distinction between nature and person. God revealed the doctrine of the Trinity based on the Scriptures alone; Sola Scriptura stands.

Some of this is from a larger article a few years ago at another blog, where Paul Williams, a Muslim, agreed that the Greek grammar meant the traditional view – that the 3rd clause taught the Deity of Christ.


About Ken Temple

I am a follower of Jesus Christ. I am a sinner who has been saved by the grace of God alone (Ephesians 2:8-9), through faith alone (Galatians 2:16; Romans 3:28; 4:1-16), in Christ alone (John 14:6). But a true faith does not stay alone, it should result in change, fruit, good works, and deeper levels of repentance and hatred of my own sins of selfishness and pride. I am not better than you! I still make mistakes and sin, but the Lord is working on me, conforming me to His character. (Romans 8:28-29; 2 Corinthians 3:16-18) When I do sin, I hate the sin as it is an affront to God, and seek His forgiveness in repentance. (Mark 1:15; 2 Corinthians 7:7-10; Colossians 3:5-16 ) Praise God for His love for sinners (Romans 5:8), shown by the voluntary coming of Christ and His freely laying down His life for us (John 10:18), becoming flesh/human (John 1:1-5; 1:14; Philippians 2:5-8), dying for sins of people from all nations, tribes, and cultures (Revelation 5:9), on the cross, in history, rising from the dead (Romans 10:9-10; Matthew 28, Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24; John 20-21; 1 Corinthians chapter 15). His resurrection from the dead proved that Jesus is the Messiah, the eternal Son of God, the word of God from eternity past; and that He was all the gospels say He was and that He is truth and the life and the way to salvation. (John 14:6)
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