Posted By Thomas Perez. June 17, 2012 at 8:41pm. Copyright 2012.
A. The Hellenization of Theos
Ancient Semitic languages are more pure than the Greek. The Hellenized Roman Empire had adopted the Greek pantheon of deities. Both Greek and Roman culture were polytheistic and they had numerous deities, but they used one basic root word to describe a deity in general. This word was theos or theotes, albeit the word was commonly applied to rulers (magistrates).
Both Greek and Roman societies embodied secular leadership with their deities. Great men and women (those of high status and influence) were viewed as gods and goddesses. Platonic philosophy blended nicely with the anthropomorphism of pagan deities. Those whom they subjugated worshiped conquering kings. Sages were elevated to god status by virtue of the knowledge (gnosis) and were considered divine luminaries and part of the greater Demiurge.
1. The Greek Word Theós
The Greek word Theós (2316) in the NT is translated as “God.” In the polytheism of the Greeks, Theós is denoted “a god or deity,” (e.g. Acts 14:11; 19:26; 28:6; 1 Corinthians 8:5; Galatians 4:8).
To distinguish the one true God from pagan deities, the majority of Greek texts precede the noun Theós with the definite article “ho’ (meaning “the, this, that”). Of course, to simply say “the God” does not prove he is, in reality, the supreme deity. For example, in 2 Corinthians 4:4 the Greek text reads, “ho Theós” but refers to Satan, calling him, “…the god of this world.”
However, if the Greek text “ho Theós” read, “the God of this people Israel” as in the context of Acts 13:17, it would clearly identify Him as the one and only true God. Also, if God’s attributes are used in connection with “ho Theós,” then this would also be a way to distinguish the true God from pagan deities in the NT. Some of His attribute are His monism, (Mark 12:29; 1 Timothy 2:5; self-existence, (John 5:26); unchallengeable, (James 1:17); eternal, (Romans 1:20); creative power, (Acts 17:26-28) and so on.
Theós is used with the definite article and without (an anarthrous noun). The English may or may not have need of the article in translation. But that point cuts no figure in the Greek idiom. For example, in Acts 27:23 “the God (toú Theoú) whose I am,” the article toú points out the special God whose Paul is, and is to be preserved in English. In the very next verse (ho Theós) we in English do not need the article” (A. T. Robertson, Gram. of Greek, NT, p. 758).
In the following titles God is described by certain of His attributes; the God of glory, Acts 7:2; of peace, Romans 15:33; 16:20; Philippians 4:9; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; Hebrews 13:20; of love and peace, 2 Corinthians 13:11; of patience and comfort, Romans 15:5; of all comfort, 2 Corinthians 1:3; of hope, Romans 15:13; of all grace, 1 Peter 5:10. These describe Him, not as in distinction from other persons, but as the source of all these blessings; hence the employment of the definite article. In such phrases as “the God of a person,” (e.g. – Matthew 22:32), the expression marks the relationship in which the person stands to God and God to him.
2. The Establishment (Note: I will, for sake of this section, cease using the vernacular word ‘God’ But will continue to do so for clarity purpose‘s after)
As indicted in the citations as pertaining to the word, ‘God’ we have come to realize that the vernacular term for the word ‘God’ is not cognitive with what is Wisdom – as in the Logos & what is Good.
In accordance with the exposition of matters posed above, the begotten entity of the Logos can be accounted for existentially by the un-begotten entity of the Logos as follows: There is a Logos, because there is a Being (in this instance many would insert the them ‘God’) but remember we are staying away from the term for the sake of this article.
This Logos who naturally begets Him eternally out of His own substance and essence; and if there is no Supreme Being, there can be no Logos. But if there is admittedly the Supreme Being; therefore there is also an only begotten Son and Logos of ‘Being,’ because it is naturally impossible for the first principle to exist without the First consequence, on account of which it is characterized as a First principle.
The un-begotten and uncaused entity of the Logos, on the other hand, is in turn accounted for logically and demonstratively by the Begotten entity of the Logos as follows: There is a Being, the First and Un-caused principle of beings; because there is a Logos who declares, and by His own existence, proves the un-caused existence of the Being.
If there were no Logos, the Being could not be the first un-caused principle of beings, without having the first and immediate consequence of His own primary existence. Indeed, if there were no Logos, there could be no knowledge of the existence of the Almighty Being, without a Logos existing to declare and prove the existence of the Almighty Being.
If the Almighty possessed no Logos, or reason called the Word, He would not know of His own existence; for the Logos is the idea of the Almighty, whereby He knows that He is the Almighty One, the First and Un-caused principle, both perfect and self-sufficient.
For this reason, if the existence of the Logos be denied, along with it must be denied all awareness and knowledge that the Being has concerning Himself, and the very existence this Being too, since a Being having no idea and knowledge of His own existence is not even a true self existing Being.
Therefore, the Logos satisfactorily accounts for the existence of this Being, and the begotten entity of the Logos/Being exsits just as necessarily as the un-begotten entity of the Almighty; and if the Almighty necessarily exists there necessarily co-exists His only begotten Son/Logos, without whom the Almighty loses His divinity and is not the Almighty Being at all.
In light of the aforementioned concerning the Logos, consider this question; Is it possible for the Father to annihilate the Son and Spirit? Presumably, the dilemma is that if we answer negatively, then the Son must be God himself, who alone exists necessarily, or at least the Son must be divine in an “absolute” sense. On the other hand, if we answer affirmatively, then we compromise the divinity of the Son and render Him a mere creature, as it will be possible for the Son to not exist—his existence will not be inevitable.
Moreover, the Divine Logos demands the Goodness inherited in the Being’s nature. This goodness is demonstrated on many levels. For it is written the Logos, the Good, the Love (YHVH, Jehovah, Allah) love’s righteousness, but rejoiceth not in iniquity. Here sectarianism is justified. The Logos (“discourse” or “reason”) is expressed within their respective cultures. It is here that it is most justifiable that the Logos is the Great I’ am, YHVH, Jehovah, Allah, -“the [sole] deity, God”, the Father of ALL, as seen in the Incarnation of the Word.
B. The Tricky Part
The phraseology of the ‘Word’ and related terms in earlier Jewish tradition prepared the way for its use here to denote Jesus as revealer of the unseen Being/God (see Wisdom 9:1-4, 9, 17-18; Ecclesiasticus 24:1-12). The Jewish-Alexandrian theologian and philosopher Philo wrote extensively about the Logos in ways that are reminiscent of New Testament theology. For instance, his teaching that “the Logos of the living God is the bond of everything, holding all things together and binding all the parts, and prevents them from being dissolved and separated”
1. The Lack of a Definite Article in Greek?
A common confusion in John 1:1 comes from the fact that in Greek there is no definite article in front of the word ‘God’ (‘Theos’) in the phrase ‘and the Word was God’. The confusion arises from an assumption that if there is no definite article in the Greek, then it must have an indefinite meaning and thus should be translated with the indefinite article “a”. Based on this understanding, some argue that this phrase in John 1:1 should be translated “the word was a god,” rather than “the word was God.”
It is important at this point to understand that the Greek language has a definite article (‘the’), but does not have an indefinite article (‘a’ or ‘an’). In certain instances, when the Greek omits a definite article, it may be appropriate to insert an indefinite article for the sake of the English translation and understanding. But we cannot assume that this is always appropriate. Greek does not operate in the same way as English does in regard to the use of the words ‘the’ and ‘a’. In many instances in which English would not include the word ‘the’, the Greek text includes it. (We don’t see it in the English translations because it would sound non-sensible in our language.) And in many cases where the Greek omits the definite article, the English translation requires it to convey the correct meaning of the Greek.
Therefore it cannot be assumed that if the definite article is absent, then an indefinite article should be inserted. For example:
2. When Comparing the Use of the Word “God” and the Definite Article In John Chapter One
In the first chapter of John, the word ‘God’ (‘theos’ in Greek) is used 12 times. In almost half of these instances (five times) it does not have the definite article. One would be hard pressed to find a translation that suggests that these other instances without the definite article should be translated as ‘a god’. That is, the lack of a definite article does not mean that the noun is indefinite. Clearly the meaning of these instances is the Only True “God”, even though no definite article is used. But if one wanted to be consistent with how some have proposed to translate John 1:1 as ‘a god’, that same rule would have to be followed here.
Take for example the word ‘God’ in John 1:6. The definite article is lacking here, just as it is in verse one in the phrase ‘the Word was God’. If the lack of a definite article means there should be an indefinite article, then this passage should be translated something as follows. ‘There was a man sent from a god’. The meaning here is obscured if not altogether changed since it is clear that the writer means to convey the fact that this man was sent from the True Living God, not from a false god.
As another example, see John 1:18. Being consistent with the other instance of the absence of the definite article, the verse would be translated as, ‘No one has ever seen a god; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.’ Again the meaning is distorted by this translation since John is saying that no one has ever seen the Only True Living God. (cf. Exodus 33:20 and Deuteronomy 4:12).
In fact, if the over-generalization of ‘lack of definite article makes an indefinite meaning’ is applied to other words in the first few verses of John 1, the following phrases would be found:
1:1,2 ‘a beginning’ rather than ‘the beginning’
1:4 ‘a life’ rather than ‘life’
1:6 ‘from a god’ as noted above
1:6 ‘a John’ rather than ‘John’
Thus if an implied indefinite article (‘a’) is assumed to be present in every place where no definite article (‘the’) appears in Greek, it can often change the intended meaning of a passage.
These are clear instances that exemplify the fact that Greek cannot be translated according to some imposed English equivalent. The use of the definite article in the two languages has separate meanings and uses altogether.
Furthermore, even though the Greek language does not have an ‘indefinite article’ like we think of in English, there is a way in Greek for the writer to indicate the indefinite idea and thus avoid confusion. This is done in Greek by using the Greek indefinite pronoun ‘tis’.
In John 1:1 there is no definite article in front of the word ‘God’ in the phrase, ‘and the Word was God’. However, in this instance, it cannot just be assumed that the word ‘God’ is meant to be ‘indefinite’, and therefore an indefinite article used in the English translation. Because the first use of the word ‘God’ in John 1:1 (‘the Word was with God’) clearly refers to the Only True God, the Eternal Pre-existent Creator, more than likely John would have used a different Greek construction than he did if he had meant for this next phrase (‘and the Word was God’) to refer to a ‘lesser’ god, and did not want us to confuse this with the True God he had just mentioned. If John meant to avoid confusion, when making such a definitive statement, he could have done so by using this ‘indefinite pronoun’ (‘tis’) as an adjective. This would have made it clear that the Word was ‘a certain god’, but not the one he was just referring to. For examples of this, see the verses Mark 14:51, Luke 8:27, Luke 1:5, and Luke 11:1 (among many, many other examples). So, it seems that by the Greek grammatical structure in this statement, John is indicating that the Word (Jesus Christ – John 1:14) is the same essence and nature as God the Father.
(For a more thorough explanation of the function and use of the Greek article (and meaning of its absence), see ‘Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics’, by Daniel Wallace. He includes fifty pages – entitled ‘The Article, Part I’ – which is a more complete treatment of the subject that many grammar books present and explains all the general uses of the article. He actually has a ‘Part II’ which discusses some special issues with the article. Fifteen pages of this second section apply directly to understanding this passage in John 1:1. It is highly recommended for those who really desire an honest and thorough understanding of this passage.)
3. The Predicate Coming Before the Subject
Also, this phrase in John 1:1 is an example of a predicate nominative coming first in the sentence, before the subject. (Sentences like this one that use a linking verb require the noun in the predicate part of the sentence to be in the nominative case. Thus the phrase ‘predicate nominative’.) The subject of this clause is ‘the Word’ and the predicate is ‘God’. In Greek, the word ‘God’ comes before the word ‘Word’. According to normal Greek usage (Colwell’s Rule), the word ‘God’ should not have a definite article. Oftentimes, emphasis is shown in Greek by placing a word out of its normal, expected word order. Special emphasis is shown when the predicate comes first in the sentence. In other words, contrary to the thought that ‘since there is no definite article used here it could belittle the fact of the Word being God’, the fact that the word ‘God’ is used first in the sentence actually shows some emphasis that this Logos (Word) was in fact God in its nature. However, since it does not have the definite article, it does indicate that this Word was not the same ‘person’ as the Father God, but has the same ‘essence’ and ‘nature’.
4. The Context of All of the Apostle John’s Writings
It is also necessary to see this statement in context of the rest of John’s writings. When comparing this with other statements about who the person and nature of Jesus Christ really is, it adds to what is already made clear by the Greek grammar. See for instance: John 8:56-59 (cf. Exo. 3:13-14); 10:28-33; 14:6-11; 1 John 5:20; (also John 8:23; 3:12-13; 5:17-18). These verses also indicate that, in John’s understanding and thus the Bible’s clear statements, Jesus Christ is the same essence and nature as God the Father, but distinct in their person-hood.
5. Consulting With Well Respected Greek Scholars and Grammarians
For a further explanation and clarification about these items, it is helpful to consult with many of the well respected Greek scholars and expositors. Personally I have never come across any objective, well respected Greek grammarian that has come up with different conclusions that what has been presented here. Many of them go into much more detail than I have in these few short paragraphs. See for instance the writings of Daniel Wallace (‘Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics’), A.T. Robertson (both his ‘Grammar’ and ‘Word Pictures’), R.C.H. Lenski (in his commentary on the Gospel of John), Henry Alford (‘Greek Testament’), J.A. Bengel (‘Word Studies), Albert Barnes (‘Barnes’ Notes’), B.F. Westcott, and F.L. Godet, (and many others).