A Critical Study of the Translation of “Theos” in John 1:1c

The 3rd clause in John 1:1, “Kai Theos en ho logos” or “and the word was God” is confused by some people since there is no article in “Theos”. It does function as adjective so it must be translated to “divine” and not “God”. Others say it is not the true God because there is no definite article. These opinions lack strong proof and simply opinions supported by wrong doctrines

Is it true that if “theos” has no Article, it functions as an adjective and translated to “divine” and not “God”?

If a definite predicative noun precedes the finite verb “to be” it never has an article.

If we see John 8:54 in Greek, we will read, “Apekrithei Yeisous, Ean ego doxazo emauton, ‘ei dox mou oden estin. estin ‘o pateir mou ‘o doxazon me, ‘on ‘umeis legete ‘oti theos ‘eimon estin.”

In English, we can read the following:

Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, he of whom you say, ‘He is our God (john 8:54)”

And, we will read “Theos heimon estin“ without any article before the Greek word, “Theos”.

By the way, here are the definite articles:definite-articles
 

 

 

If we notice “theos” in John 8:54 comes before the verb and lacks the article. The Greek word “Estin” is the verb.

Is it correct to translate the Greek word, “THEOS” into “Divine” since it has no definite article?

According to a New Testament scholar in his book, “The Gospel According to John” in page 117:

“A long string of writers has argued that because theos, ‘God’, here has no article, John is not referring to God as a specific being, but to mere qualities of ‘God-ness’. The Word, they say, able word in Greek for ‘divine’ (namely theios). “

According to an expert in Biblical Greek, this is what is written in his book:

“On the one hand, Carson’s critique is correct in that “divine” is too weak.”(The Greek Article (A functional Grammar of o-items in the Greek New Testament with Special Emphasis on the Greek Article, Page 239).

In Greek, God means “Theos” while Divine is “Theios”.

“EI” in Theios is a diphthong: note the circumflex accent over “I”. The “I” is with the vowel “E” as a unit, both part of the first syllable. “OS” is the ending, the second syllable.

What about the logic that “the word was God” should be “the logos was divine” like: “the time is gold” wherein time is not really gold but simply being compared to gold as time is precious?

This argument is not acceptable: Gold here is not an adjective. It is a noun used metaphorically.

According to a New Testament scholar F.F. Bruce in his book, The Gospel of John in page 31:

“The structure of the third clause in verse 1, theos en ho logos, demands the translation ‘The Word was God’. Since logos has the article preceding it, it is marked out as the subject. The fact that theos is the first word after the conjunction kai (‘and’) shows that the main emphasis of the clause lies on it.”

Let us ask Dr. Daniel Wallace about the word “Theos” translated as divine.

We can read this in his grammar textbook.

“In this second translation, “divine” is acceptable only if it is a term that can be applied only to true deity.”(Greek Grammar beyond the Basics, Page 269)

We can read in John 1:6 the Greek word, “theou” which has no article but it was not translated to “divine”. We can read in John 20:17 “theon mou” which has no article. Yet, we will see it was not translated to “divine”. If we follow the logic of others that it has no “article”, God the Father in this verse is not a “true God”. And because of this logic, it only proves Jesus is God since in John 20:28, there is a definite article: “ho theos mou”.

How about Genesis 23:6 where the Hebrew word, “NSI ELOHIM” functions as adjective if translated to English?

In the Hebrew bible (Genesis 23:6), we can read “NSI ELOHIM” and translated into the English bible like New King James Version and it became “Mighty Prince”.

“Hear us, my lord: You are a mighty prince among us; bury your dead in the choicest of our burial places. None of us will withhold from you his burial place, that you may bury your dead.”(Genesis 23:6, New King James Version)

This is our answer.

John 1:1 is Greek, while Genesis 23:6 is Hebrew; so the rules of syntax are somewhat different. Greek syntax works different than Hebrew syntax.

1. Greek and Hebrew are in two different families of languages and their grammars do not match.
2. Hebrew has no tenses, just “aspects.” Greek does.
3. Hebrew has no neuter gender. Greek does.
4. Hebrew has construct chains. Greek does not but uses more elaborate case system.

The anti-Trinitarians are trying to confuse the issue by appealing to Hebrew syntax as a way to refute a point of Greek syntax.

That would be like suggesting a point in Spanish syntax could illumine an issue in French syntax—mixing apples and oranges.

The question about the syntax in John 1:1 is Greek, so the only kind of syntactical parallels that will count must be in Greek.

If the issue for you is John 1:1, you will need to find a parallel example in Greek to help you.

If we look at the English translation of Septuagint, it is different from the translation of NKJV.

“but hear us; thou art in the midst of us a king from God; bury thy dead in our choice sepulchres, for not one of us will by any means withhold his sepulchre from thee, so that thou shouldest not bury thy dead there.” (Genesis 23:6, English Translation of the Greek Septuagint Bible)

We can see the difference because of the word “God” and the Septuagint is written in Greek like the original text of the New Testament.

How about the statement of Robert Strachan in his book, The Fourth Gospel, Its Significance and Environment?

“The closing words of v.1 should be translated, ‘the Logos was divine’. Here the word theos has no article, thus giving it the significance of an adjective.”(The Fourth Gospel, Its Significance and Environment, Page 99).

In the book of scholar Murray J. Harris (The New Testament Use of Theos in Reference to Jesus), this is what is written:

“Strachan is not, of course, suggesting that an author’s choice not to use the article with a noun virtually converts that noun into an adjective. But it remains doubtful whether even an adjectival significance may attach to an anarthrous substantive. Especially where there exists and adjective corresponding to the substantive, the anarthrous noun should not be deemed adjectival. “(The New Testament Use of Theos in Reference to Jesus by Murray J. Harris, Page 63-64)

Does Strachan believe Christ is God?

We can read this in one edition of his book in page 232.

“My Lord and My God. This expression of the Divinity of Jesus is the fruit of experience, and not a mere expression of intellectual assent. What is it here that so deepens Thomas’s experience and produces such faith?” (The Fourth Gospel: Its Significance and Environment, Page 232)

So, even Strachan believes Christ is God. Other people just misquote his book to support wrong teachings.

What if we study Aramaic Peshitta in John 1:1? Will it function as adjective like the word, “alaha” without an article?

The peshitta word for God is “Alaha”.

If “Alaha” has no article, can we translate this to Divine?

If we read from the right going to the left, this is how it is:

“breesheeth eethawhy hwa miltha, whoo miltha, eethawhy hwa lwath alaha, walaha eethawhy hwa hoo miltha”

We can read from here the word, “Walaha” which means “and God”(The conjunction we- means and.)

Is this an adjective as what other ministers preach?

Alaha is a noun.

To translate it as an adjective is motivated by theological concerns.

What if there is no definite article in “Alaha” of Aramaic peshitta? Will this be a noun?

Alaha is a noun, whether used in the absolute state or in the determined state.

What about the basis of some ministers that the translation of the 3rd clause should not be God but Divine?

The Aramaic word for divine is “Alahaya”.

How about the translation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, “and the word was a god”? Is it correct to put an “a” and transform this into a small letter, “g” in the word, God?

Remember there is no indefinite article in Greek so this cannot be, “and the word was a god”.

Here is what we can read in the Biblical Exegesis of New Testament Greek: James by Craig Price, in page 1:

“Greek has no indefinite article.”

The Jehovah’s Witnesses insists the small letter “g” was used in “god” since there is small “theos” and big “Theos”.

Is there a difference?

Capital vs. small letter is an ignorant (i.e., they don’t know [Greek]) argument There is nothing correct about that argument. There are, however, Greek uncials (capitals) and minuscules (lower case), but any manuscript would be written totally in uncials (in the early centuries) or totally in minuscules (after about the ninth century), but never mixed. So the argument is ignorant.

There is no indefinite article in Greek, but nor were “God” and “god” distinguished by use/non-use of a capital letter. The only way to distinguish in Greek between “the Word was God” and “God was the Word” was to write God without an article if the meaning were “the Word was God.”

Julius Mantey, a noted New Testament scholar wrote to the Jehovah’s Witnesses since they quoted his book, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament to justify their translation of John 1:1.Julis-mantey

Does John 1:1b Prove Christ is not God since “Ton Theon” refers to God The Father?

According to anti-Trinitarians, John 1:1 proves logos do not mean God because the verse mentions “TON THEON”.

It means the Father and there could not be two Gods.

However, this analysis is wrong since anti-Trinitarians do not understand the Greek syntax.

According to the Greek Grammar Text Book of Dana and Mantey in Page 140:

“Pros ton theon points to Christ’s fellowship with the person of the Father; Theos hen ho logos emphasizes Christ’s participation in the essence of the divine nature.” (A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament by Dana and Mantey, Page 140)

The analysis of others about “Theon” is it is the true God in John 1:1 and not “Theos”.

The difference in the ending is simply a matter of grammar: theon is accusative because of the preposition; theos is nominative because of the verb “to be.” Theos means the same thing in both cases.

God here (theon) is not a direct object, but God here is the object of a preposition.
The greek, ton theon-the God, with the definite article implying that John has a specific person in mind.

John’s uses of the preposition pros ‘with’ is significant. It implies that the Father and the Son had an intimate as well as eternal relationship.

This is the analysis of a noted New Testament scholar, F.F. Bruce:
“Moreover, the Word shares the very nature of God, for ‘the Word was God’”(F.F. Bruce, The Gospel of John, Page 31)

According to Philip Comfort, another NT scholar:

“This is explicitly asserted in several passages, many of which are found in John’s writings it is john who tells us that “the Word was God.” Not only was the Word with God from eternity, he was himself God from eternity.”(Encountering the Manuscripts, Page 226)

 

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