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Translation and Interpretation of John 1:1
The following e-mails are commenting on the Analytical-Literal Translation (ALT). The e-mailers' comments are in black and enclosed in "greater than" and "lesser than" signs. My comments are in red.
ALT: John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with [or, in communion with] God, and the Word was God [or, was as to His essence God].
Why not "...and God was the Word"?
You are correct that the word order in the Greek text is "and God was the Word." However, in Greek, when two nouns occur in a sentence, and one has the article ("the Word") and one does not ("God"), the one with the article is the subject, and the one without is the direct object. In English we use word order to make this distinction. So "the Word" must come first to show it is the subject, and "God" last to show it is the direct object.
The reason "God" is first in the Greek text is to emphasize it. Rather than showing grammatical distinctions, Greek uses word order to show emphasis. In this case, the emphasis is on the nature of the Word, rather than the Person. Hence the alternative reading in brackets.
In one of the Letters of Paul (I don't remember which one; I'm sure you must know) he talks about the Holy Spirit saying: "The Lord (deity) is the Spirit."
Can't we say: "The Lord/God is the Word" also? I don't mean as a translation of John 1:1c but as belief. I mean, what is the difference between saying "the Word is God" and "God is the Word" (the Lord is the Spirit and the Spirit is the Lord).
The verse you are thinking of is 2Cor 3:17. And in that case both "Lord" and "Spirit" have the article. So you are correct: it could be "The Lord is the Spirit" or "The Spirit is the Lord." In this case, it is the identity or Person of the Spirit that is being referred to.
However, in John 1:1, John is being pretty clear is his intent. He begins by saying "In the beginning was the Word (with the article), and the Word (with the article) was with the God (with the article), and the Word (with the article) was God (without the article).
So to paraphrase and expand: the Person of the Word was "In the beginning." The Person of the Word was with the Person of God (in this case, the Father), and the Person of the Word was of the essence of God.
John's use or non use of the article is masterful. By using the article in the first two phrases he is showing the distinction of Persons between the Word and God the Father. By the use of the article with "Word" in the last phrase, but not with "God" he is showing us that the Person of the Word has the same nature as God.
So both Modalism (or Oneness theology) and Arianism (the theology of JWs) are disproved by the use or non use of the articles in this verse.
All of this is to say, the way I have rendered this verse in the ALT is an attempt to bring out these nuances of the Greek into the English translation, especially with the bracketed, alternative translations.
John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with [or, in communion with] God, and the Word was God [or, was as to His essence God].
>This is my last e-mail on John 1:1 since you've explained almost everything for me. The Lord is the Spirit and the Spirit is the Lord God is the Spirit and the Spirit is God. Forgetting for a moment John 1:1, can't we also say: "The Lord is the Word and the Word is the Lord
God is the Word and the Word is God?"<
Outside of the context of John 1:1, yes that would accurate theology.
>>John's use or non use of the article is masterful. By using the article in the first two phrases he is showing >that distinction of Persons between the Word and God the Father. By the use of the article with "Word" in the last phrase, but not with "God" he is showing us that the Person of the Word has the same nature as God.<<
>Thank you for this beautiful explanation.<
>How would you define "person"? (in a sentence or two)
Thank you, Gary for your help.
Not an easy question as any definition will be deficient in some way. But I would say the following might do: A self-conscious being capable of thought, will, and interaction with others.
>Gary, thank you for your time and simple explanations.
>Concerning your new article titled "Translation and Interpretation of John 1:1" located in your section on "Comments on the ALT", I read this comment by someone, "How would you define "person"? (in a sentence or two)". You answered, "Not an easy question as any definition will be deficient in some way. But I would say the following might do: A self-conscious being capable of thought, will, and interaction with others. "
I think your phrasing "self-conscious BEING" is a bit inaccurate and misleading. If the Divine Person Jesus, the 2nd person of the Trinity is another Being, then that would teach polytheism since historically the Trinity had been defined as: God is One in Being (or substance/essense) and Three in Person. I'm sure you know all this. Maybe it was just a slip. I too have difficulty defining the word "person" when being used in reference to the Trinity. But as I understand it, Being refers to WHAT something is and Person to WHO. Hence God is one What and three Whos. So maybe person can be defined as an individual center of consciousness distinct from other centers of consciousnesses ( : (admittedly oddly phrased too).<
If you take being = essence, then you would be correct; being would not be a good term to use. A possibility might be to substitute "entity" for being. But "entity" brings up the connotation of ETs, so that's not quite right either! Your suggest is as good as any I've seen.
>Thanks for your great website. It fills a void out there in cyberspace. God Bless you.
Thank you for the comments and the kind remarks.
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