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John 1:1 – Jesus is not “a” god as Jehovah's Witnesses teach
by Bill Wong

 

 

Is Jesus Christ “a” god or is He divine/God?

 

Some who believe that the Lord Jesus is not deity, but a created being, say instead of being called God (deity – a quality He has because He is God’s son), He is called “a” god.

 

This is how John 1:1 reads in all but one Bible translation, where the Word (the Lord Jesus) is described as “was God” (speaking of quality, that He is deity):

 

John 1:

 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.        (NKJV)

 

 

But in the New World Translation of the Jehovah’s Witnesses (Watchtower Society), John 1:1 reads in this manner:

 

John 1:

 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.       (NWT)

 

 

The reader will notice immediately that where the Word is called God as His father is God in all Bibles, the New World Translation inserts the indefinite article ‘a’ and says the Word “was ‘a’ god”.

Why such a difference?

 

The New Testament was written in Greek. However, the Greek language only has a definite article ‘the’ and does not have an indefinite article ‘a’. That means any insertion of the article ‘a’ would be done during translation to English which was exactly what happened in the NWT.

 

The insertion of an indefinite article ‘a’ in the English translation is unwarranted and incorrect. Here are four reasons:

 

 

1)

 

The Greek language already addresses the issue of the absences of an indefinite article (does not exist in Greek) and of a definite article (‘the’ which points to identity) in a sentence/clause, and how it affects the meaning of words. This is called an anarthrous construction (no articles in the sentence/clause structure).  

 

In Greek, where a noun that is not preceded by a definite article ‘the’, the noun can be used like an adjective to express the quality (God) of the subject (the Word). Hence, the Word was God (deity, like God His father):

 

“The articular construction emphasizes identity; the anarthrous construction emphasizes character.”

- H.E. Dana and Julius Mantey, ‘A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament’, page 140.

 

"Sometimes with a noun which the context proves to be definite the article is not used. This places stress upon the qualitative aspect of the noun rather than its mere identity. An object of thought may be conceived of from two points of view: as to identity or quality. To convey the first point of view the Greek uses the article; for the second the anarthrous construction is used.”

- H. E. Dana and Julius R. Mantey, ‘A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament’, page 149.

 

NOTE: The Watchtower Society referenced Mantey’s work and misquoted it to support their position that the Word was “a” god. Once known, Mantey refuted their position and misuse of his work and even wrote a letter to the Watchtower Society to retract it and correct themselves, but it never happened.

 

 

The Greek actually states this:

 

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with ‘the’ God, and God was the Word”.

 

The first use of the word ‘God’ is preceded by the definite article “the” which points to identity. ‘The’ God is Jesus’ father God.

 

The second use of the word ‘God’ does not have any articles associated with it, so it signifies quality (essence, nature). This second use of the word ‘God’ is the predicate and precedes the subject ‘the Word’. This further indicates that the word ‘God’ here emphasizes quality and description, not identity, and therefore again proves as incorrect the insertion of an indefinite article ‘a’. Jesus is God in nature, but He is not the same person as ‘the’ God, His father.

 

It should also be noted that though Greek does not have the indefinite article ‘a’, it can still show an indefinite expression by using the Greek word ‘tis’. The apostle John used the definite article ‘the’ to clearly identify God, the father of Jesus. If John wanted to avoid any confusion that the Word was not divine, but was really just “a” god, he could have used the indefinite pronoun ‘tis’ to do so – but he did not.

 

Some examples (‘tis’ translated as “a certain…”):

 

John 4:

46   So Jesus came again into Cana of Galilee, where he made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman, whose son was sick at Capernaum.   (AKJV)

 

John 5:

5   And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years.   (AKJV)

 

John 11:

1   Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha.   (AKJV)

 

 

So the Greek language is very explicit in declaring that “the Word was God” (divine, sharing the quality or nature of ‘the God’) and cannot possibly be translated as “the Word was ‘a’ god”.

 

 

 

2)

 

The Jehovah’s Witness insistence of the validity of inserting an indefinite article ‘a’ before a word that does not have an article (anarthrous construction) falls flat and is not followed in other places. It is selective only for John 1:1. In the same Gospel of John chapter 1, the indefinite article ‘a’ is not inserted in the New World Translation where the words ‘God’ are present (or any other words that do not have an article for that matter). For the word ‘beginning’ in verses 1 and 2 which do not have articles, the New World Translation actually puts the definite article ‘the’, in contradiction to their own principle of using an indefinite article ‘a’ for an anarthrous construction. These examples are highlighted in brackets [ ] where the indefinite article ‘a’ “should” be according to their translation philosophy:

 

John 1:

1 In [the, should be ‘a’] beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.

2 This one was in [the, should be ‘a’] beginning with God.

3 All things came into existence through him, and apart from him not even one thing came into existence.

   What has come into existence

4 by means of him was [a] life, and the life was the light of men.

5 And the light is shining in the darkness, but the darkness has not overpowered it.

6 There arose a man that was sent forth as a representative of [a] God: his name was John.

7 This [man] came for a witness, in order to bear witness about the light, that people of all sorts might believe through him.

8 He was not that light, but he was meant to bear witness about that light.

9 The true light that gives light to every sort of man was about to come into the world.

10 He was in the world, and the world came into existence through him, but the world did not know him.

11 He came to his own home, but his own people did not take him in.

12 However, as many as did receive him, to them he gave authority to become [a] God’s children,

    because they were exercising faith in his name;

13 and they were born, not from blood or from a fleshly will or from man’s will, but from [a] God.

14 So the Word became flesh and resided among us, and we had a view of his glory, a glory such as belongs to an only-begotten

    son from a father; and he was full of undeserved kindness and truth.

15 (John bore witness about him, yes, he actually cried out—this was the one who said [it]—saying: “The one coming behind me

    has advanced in front of me, because he existed before me.”)

16 For we all received from out of his fullness, even undeserved kindness upon undeserved kindness.

17 Because the Law was given through Moses, the undeserved kindness and the truth came to be through Jesus Christ.

18 No man has seen [a] God at any time; the only-begotten god who is in the bosom [position]

    with the Father is the one that has explained him.

    (NWT)

 

 

 

3)

 

Context will dictate what is actually meant.

 

Is John 1 really saying the Word is merely a god – a mighty one (Hebrew ‘elohim’)? Men, like judges and kings, are called gods in the Bible. It is very redundant and unnecessary that the Bible must point out the fact that the one who created all things is a mighty one; there is no need to tell us that when mere men are called the same for being far, far less than the creator! No, the Bible is pointing out that the Word was God – deity.

 

We see this in the rest of chapter one. Is it a god or God – deity, who is being described? John chapter 1 declares the absolute deity of Jesus Christ.

 

The apostle John is recalling Genesis 1:1 and the creation account. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” becomes the Word is the creator who was there in the beginning with God and the Word was God (deity). The Word already existed in the beginning:

 

John 1:

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

2        The same was in the beginning with God.

3        All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.   (AKJV)

 

 

The Word was life and light:

 

John 1:

4        In him was life; and the life was the light of men.

5        And the light shines in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

9        That was the true Light, which lights every man that comes into the world.   (AKJV)

 

 

Only the Word, the only-begotten son – deity itself, can reveal/declare our father, God.

 

John 1:

18   No man has seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him.   (AKJV)

 

 

Only, deity itself which is perfection, can make atonement for sin:

 

John 1:

29   The next day John sees Jesus coming to him, and said, Behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world.   (AKJV)

 

 

There are many baals (Hebrew for ‘master’) and many elohim. Are we really saying the only-begotten son of God is one of these just like any other?

 

We must remember that only the Lord Jesus is called the image of His father (2 Corinthians 4:4; Colossians 1:15) and whoever sees Him, sees the father (John 14:7-9; Hebrews 1:3). These descriptions are not applicable to a mere mighty one.   John 1:1 is telling us that Jesus is God (the quality of being God – deity).

 

And so we must understand that when God says “Let us make man in our image” and we know it is the Lord Jesus who made everything, including man, the “us” in Genesis must mean Our Heavenly Father and His son, and not the angels which the Bible never says is in the image of God.

 

 

 

4)

 

The presence of the declaration that Jesus is the Word and “a” god – even in lower-case, in John 1:1 is highly questionable. For what could the reason possibly be for God to even use the word ‘god’ here if not to say His Word is a divine just as He is? To say otherwise is to say that God is a God of confusion, because:

 

A. There is no need to even mention the Word is supposedly “a” god. To do so and not mean His Word is divine, is for God to waste words (and every word of God is true and sharp) and to needlessly introduce confusion. The grammar and context as briefly discussed in item #s 1-3 above show that the quality and nature of God is in view: the Word was God (deity).

 

B. We must remember that there are only capital (one size) letters in New Testament Greek – so it is even more erroneous to say the Word was ‘a’ god (lower-case ‘g’), and not the Word was God (upper-case ‘G’).

 

Greek is an inflected language which means a word changes form based on how they function grammatically in a sentence (they can change to indicate gender, number, case, etc.). This means the two instances of the word ‘god’ in John 1:1 are the exact identical word, but different forms used based on their function in the sentence: ‘theon’ – with the God; ‘theos’ – God was the Word. The stem ‘theo’ remains the same. For example, English is limited in inflection, and we have ‘lunch’ (singular) and ‘lunches’ (plural); ‘lunch’ is the stem.

 

So the English language actually hides the illogical nature and error of the Jehovah Witness position even more. The use of upper and lower case ‘g’ can only be done in English to fool people into believing there is a difference between the two words ‘god’ in John 1:1, but there is no difference at all. In the sentence, where it says ‘the’ God and the Word was ‘a’ God, it is still the same word ‘God’ (not one ‘g’ and one ‘G’)!

 

So in true Greek grammatical usage, the illogical argument of the Jehovah’s Witnesses does not demote Jesus to the level of “a” god as they believe (that Jesus is just one of many gods), but its conclusion is actually the opposite. Both times the word ‘God’ is used it is the same word, but inflected as Greek grammar dictates based on the way they are used in the sentence.

 

This means that if the word ‘God’ in “the Word was with God’’ refers to God, the father of Jesus, then the word ‘God’ in “the Word was God” does the exact same thing and also refers to God, the father of Jesus. This undeniably shows that it is again referring to God and is saying the Word was divine/God, just like the heavenly father is.

 

To continue to support their erroneous assertion that the Word was “a” god, the Jehovah’s Witnesses must use the word ‘god’ in the same way both times, and so must use the first word ‘God’ which refers to Jesus’ father God to say He is just “a” god, too. However, they cannot do this, because the definite article ‘the’ already points to the Jesus’ father as ‘the God’. This means the pair of ‘god’ words can only be used to point to God, the father of Jesus. So yet again, the Greek language blocks off any attempts to make Jesus “a” god, and shows the truth that the Word was God.

 

It is the English language that falls short and “allows” the Jehovah’s Witnesses to hide behind an upper-case ‘G’ God and a lower-case ‘g’ god and make it look like it refers to two different things. But the Greek declares this is impossible in various ways which we have briefly touched upon.

 

 

 

The conclusion we come to is that the apostle John wrote exactly what he intended to convey: that the Lord Jesus Christ is God/deity. The Greek language declares this truth without any doubt, showing in various ways how it is grammatically impossible to translate it to read: “the Word was ‘a’ god”.

 

Do we truly understand what it means to say Jesus is the Word of God? The Word is the Greek word ‘logos’ which signifies the divine expression of God and what is within God and all that He is. God’s Word is His Word. It is a part of Him. It represents all that He is. If God is deity, than His Word which comes forth from Him is deity as well.

 

The Bible truth tells us Jesus is the exact image of God. How can one be an exact image of someone who is deity, unless the image is also deity?

 

No, the Lord Jesus is the splitting image of His father. This means if God is deity, than His son is deity as well. This is the testimony of the Word of God.