John 1:1, an Exegesis                                                                                      by Jack Kettler


“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1)


John 1:1 is a cornerstone of Christian theology, as it introduces the concept of the “Word” (Greek: Logos) as a divine entity that coexisted with God from the very beginning. Breaking it down grammatically and biblically, one finds:


1.      “In the beginning” - This phrase echoes the opening of Genesis, suggesting a cosmic, timeless context. It implies that the Word existed before the creation of the world.

2.      “Was” - The verb “was” (Greek: ἦν, eimi) is in the imperfect tense, indicating continuous existence. It emphasizes the eternal nature of the Word.

3.      "The Word"- The Greek term “Logos” (λόγος) is rich in meaning. It can refer to the spoken word, reason, or an underlying principle or logic. John's Gospel refers to the preexistent Christ, who embodies God's wisdom and creative power.

4.      “With God” - The preposition “with” (Greek: πρός, pros) suggests a close, intimate relationship between the Word and God. It implies a distinction of persons within the Godhead, yet a unity of essence.

5.      “And the Word was God”- This phrase affirms the Word's deity. The absence of the definite article before “God” (Greek: θεός, theos) is grammatically significant. It suggests that the Word shares the same divine nature as God without implying that the Word is a separate god.


Biblically, this verse establishes Jesus as the pre-existent, divine Word who became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14). It sets the stage for the rest of the Gospel, which proclaims Jesus as the incarnate Son of God, the source of life and light, and the Savior of the world.


The Arian Heresy:


The Arian heresy refers to a theological controversy that arose in the early Christian Church, named after its most prominent proponent, Arius, a presbyter from Alexandria in the early 4th century. At the heart of the controversy was the nature of the relationship between God the Father and Jesus Christ.


Arius taught that Jesus Christ, the Son, was not co-eternal with God the Father. He argued that the Son was created by the Father, and therefore, there was a time when the Son did not exist. In Arius' view, the Son was a created being, divine in nature but not equal to the Father.


This view starkly contrasted with the traditional Christian belief, which held that the Son was co-eternal with the Father and fully divine, a belief encapsulated in the doctrine of the Trinity. The Arian heresy was condemned as a heresy at the First Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, where the Council Fathers affirmed the full divinity of the Son and formulated the Nicene Creed, which states that the Son is “of one substance with the Father.”


The Arian controversy had significant implications for the development of Christian theology. It forced the Church to clarify and define its understanding of the Trinity and the nature of Christ, leading to the formulation of doctrines that are still central to Christian theology today.


A modern-day example of Arianism:


The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, commonly known as the Jehovah's Witnesses, interprets John 1:1 as “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.” This interpretation is based on a particular reading of the Greek text and has been a point of significant theological debate.


Biblical scholars have criticized this interpretation for several reasons:


1.      Greek Grammar: The Watchtower's translation hinges on the absence of the definite article “the” (Greek: ὁ, ho) before “God” (Greek: θεός, theos) in the phrase “the Word was God.” However, Greek grammar does not require the definite article to denote a definite noun. The absence of the article here is more likely a stylistic choice to emphasize the nature of the Word rather than to diminish its divinity.

2.      Contextual Analysis: The Watchtower's interpretation ignores the broader context of John's Gospel, which consistently presents Jesus as divine. For example, John 20:28, where Thomas calls Jesus “My Lord and my God,” and John 10:30, where Jesus states, “I and the Father are one.”

3.      Historical Context: The early Christian Church universally accepted Christ's deity. The Jehovah's Witnesses' interpretation is a relatively recent development, first appearing in their New World Translation of the Bible in 1950.

4.      Biblical Theology: The doctrine of the Trinity, which holds that the Father, the Son (Jesus), and the Holy Spirit are three distinct persons in one divine essence, is a central tenet of orthodox Christianity. The Watchtower's interpretation contradicts this doctrine by suggesting that Jesus is a lesser deity, or “a god,” rather than being fully divine.


In conclusion, the Watchtower's interpretation of John 1:1 is not accepted among biblical scholars and theologians. It is seen as a misinterpretation that stems from a particular theological perspective rather than a careful reading of the Greek text and its broader biblical context.


Additionally, the Granville Sharp Rule, named after the English theologian and scholar Granville Sharp, is a grammatical principle applied to the translation of New Testament Greek. It is used to determine the relationship between two nouns in a sentence when they are connected by the conjunction “and” (Greek: καί, kai”). The rule states that when two singular common nouns are used to describe a person, and those two nouns are joined by the conjunction “and,” and the definite article (Greek: ὁ, ho”) precedes the first noun, but not the second, then both nouns refer to the same person.


This rule is significant in New Testament studies, particularly in discussions regarding the deity of Christ. It has been applied to several verses, notably Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1, to argue that Jesus is explicitly referred to as “God” in these texts. For example, in Titus 2:13, the phrase “the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ” is translated from Greek as “τοῦ μεγάλου Θεοῦ καὶ Σωτῆρος ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ.” According to the Granville Sharp Rule, since “God” and “Savior” are both preceded by the definite article “the” (in the genitive case), they refer to the same person, Jesus Christ, who is thus identified as “God” and “Savior.”


What a number of Greek scholars think about The New World Translation of John 1:1:


Dr. J. R. Mantey (who is quoted on pages 1158-1159) of the Jehovah's Witnesses own Kingdom Interlinear Translation):

“A shocking mistranslation.” “Obsolete and incorrect.” “It is neither scholarly nor reasonable to translate John 1:1 'The Word was a god.'”

“But of all the scholars in the world, so far as we know, none have translated this verse as Jehovah’s Witnesses have done.”

“I have never read any New Testament so badly translated as the Kingdom Interlinear of the Greek Scriptures…. It is a distortion–not a translation.”

“The translators of the New World Translation are ‘diabolical deceivers.’”


Dr. Bruce M. Metzger of Princeton (Professor of New Testament Language and Literature):

“A frightful mistranslation.” “Erroneous” and “pernicious” “reprehensible” “If the Jehovah's Witnesses take this translation seriously, they are polytheists.”


Dr. Samuel J. Mikolaski of Zurich, Switzerland:

“This anarthrous (used without the article) construction does not mean what the indefinite article 'a' means in English. It is monstrous to translate the phrase 'the Word was a god.'”


Dr. Paul L. Kaufman of Portland, Oregon:

“The Jehovah's Witnesses people evidence an abysmal ignorance of the basic tenets of Greek grammar in their mistranslation of John 1:1.”


Dr. Charles L. Feinberg of La Mirada, California:

“I can assure you that the rendering which the Jehovah's Witnesses give John 1:1 is not held by any reputable Greek scholar.”


Dr. James L. Boyer of Winona Lake, Indiana:


“I have never heard of, or read of any Greek Scholar who would have agreed to the interpretation of this verse insisted upon by the Jehovah's Witnesses...I have never encountered one of them who had any knowledge of the Greek language.”


Dr. William Barclay of the University of Glasgow, Scotland:

“The deliberate distortion of truth by this sect is seen in their New Testament translations. John 1:1 is translated: '...the Word was a god,' a translation which is grammatically impossible...It is abundantly clear that a sect which can translate the New Testament like that is intellectually dishonest."


Dr. F. F. Bruce of the University of Manchester, England:

“Much is made by Arian amateur grammarians of the omission of the definite article with 'God' in the phrase 'And the Word was God.' Such an omission is common with nouns in a predicative construction...'a god' would be totally indefensible.”


Dr. Ernest C. Colwell of the University of Chicago:

“A definite predicate nominative has the article when it follows the verb; it does not have the article when it precedes the verb...this statement cannot be regarded as strange in the prologue of the gospel which reaches its climax in the confession of Thomas. 'My Lord and my God.' - John 20:28”


Dr. Phillip B. Harner of Heidelberg College:

“The verb preceding an anarthrous predicate would probably mean that the LOGOS was 'a god' or a divine being of some kind, belonging to the general category of THEOS but as a distinct being from HO THEOS. In the form that John actually uses, the word “THEOS” is placed at the beginning for emphasis.”


Dr. J. Johnson of California State University, Long Beach:

“No justification whatsoever for translating THEOS EN HO LOGOS as 'the Word was a god.' There is no syntactical parallel to Acts 28:6 where there is a statement in indirect discourse; John 1:1 is direct....I am neither a Christian nor a trinitarian.”


Dr. Eugene A. Nida, head of the Translations Department, American Bible Society:

“With regard to John 1:1, there is of course a complication simply because the New World Translation was apparently done by persons who did not take seriously the syntax of the Greek.” [Responsible for the Good News Bible - The committee worked under him.]


Dr. B. F. Wescott (whose Greek text - not the English part - is used in the Kingdom Interlinear Translation):

“The predicate (God) stands emphatically first, as in IV.24. It is necessarily without the article...No idea of inferiority of nature is suggested by the form of expression, which simply affirms the true deity of the the third clause 'the Word' is declared to be 'God' and so included in the unity of the Godhead.”


The above study was Groked and perfected with Grammarly AI.


“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)


Mr. Kettler, a respected author and theologian, has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife, Marea, are active members of the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler's extensive work includes 18 books defending the Reformed Faith, which are available for order online at Amazon.