John 1:1

John 1:1 contains the phrase “Theov en ho logos,” which is a copulative phrase. A copulative phrase equates two nouns by means of a “to be” verb. The trouble with these phrases is trying to figure out how they should be interpreted; they may be translated in one of two ways.
The first way is to translate them as reversible and identical. The phrase “Jesus is the Christ” is identical because the phrase is reversible: “Jesus is the Christ” means the same thing as “The Christ is Jesus.” There is an exact and identical equation between Jesus and the Christ; the two are exactly one another.
The second way is to translate the one noun as an instance of the other noun. “Jesus is a man” would be an example of this phrase. Note that this phrase is not reversible; “Jesus is a man” does not mean the same thing as “A man is Jesus.” There is more to each noun than simply the other.
If the phrase is determined to be irreversible, then, especially in Greek where word order is much more fluid, one must figure out which noun represents the instance, and which the category. In Greek, this is done through definiteness. A definite noun is normally denoted by the presence of an article. So, in the phrase “Theov en ho logos,” logos is definite because it is attached to the article ho. A noun with an article is always definite. So, it is commonly said that, in an irreversible copulative phrase, if one noun has an article and the other does not, then the noun with the article is definite and therefore the instance of the other noun, which represents the category. So, the phrase “Theov en ho logos” would be translated “The Word was a god” which obviously poses some problems for Trinitarians like myself. I believe that the difficulty is not crucial, however.
To begin with, although, in Greek, a noun with an article is always definite, a noun without an article is not necessarily indefinite. (Richard A. Young Intermediate new Testament Greek pg. 56) There are instances where a definite noun might not take an article.
One of these instances is represented by the “Colwell Rule” (Young, 65); the Colwell rule states that when a definite noun follows the verb in a copulative phrase, it must have an article; but it does not necessarily have to have an article when it precedes the verb. Some have used this rule, incorrectly, to “prove” that John 1:1 attests to Christ’s divinity by saying that since Theon precedes the verb, it must be definite. Strictly speaking, however, Colwell’s rule does not support this. Colwell’s rule does not “prove” that Theon is definite; what it does do is prove that Theon could be definite even without the article. So to argue that a Trinitarian translation of John 1:1 is invalid because Theon is anarthrous is, quite simply, mistaken.
From here, we must use context to direct us in our interpretation. First, I would point out that every other use of the word Theos (or Theov, or Theou, etc.) in this passage is a clear reference to the one God, Yahweh. It is not contextually faithful to take one specific instance of a word and redefine it in a way inconsistent with its usage elsewhere unless there is some clear textual clue to do so. There is no such clue here.
Secondly, I must ask, if John was indeed trying to communicate a proto-Trinitarian theology, how would he have constructed this phrase? “Ton Theon en ho logos” must be translated “The word was God; and The God was the Word;” in other words God is exactly and identical to the Word. This is not Trinitarian theology. In Trinitarian doctrine Jesus Christ is God, but so is the Father and the Spirit; so, John absolutely could not have placed an article in front of Theon if he wanted to communicate something of a Trinitarian idea. John needed to identify Jesus with God in such a way that allowed the idea of God to include more than just Jesus. He did this by leaving “Theon” anarthrous. A faithful translation, therefore, need not simply be “the Word was a God;” but might also be “the Word was fully God, but there was more to God than only the Word.” John’s Greek construction was the only phrasing possible for conveying Trinitarian ideas - ideas which represented a completely new category of human language unaccounted for by existing grammar.
Third, there are two possible non-trinitarian translations for this passage: "The Word was a god," and "The Word was divine (or God-like)." If John was simply trying to say that Jesus was divine, but not God or a god, then why didn't he say so? An attribution of divinity to Christ calls for an adjective. There is an adjective in Greek that means divine, it is Theios. Why didn't John say "Theion en ho logon" instead of "Theon en ho logon"? Theos is a noun, it means God or god. Why would John have used Theos unless he was not simply saying Jesus had divine characteristics, but that he was God or a god?
Fourth, although Greek mythological thought might certainly make room for polytheism; 1st century A.D. Jewish thought most certainly did not. It is true that earlier Hebrew thought may have been decidedly henotheistic (accepting the existence of many gods while worshiping exclusively one), Isaiah 45:5 reveals that by the time of the Babylonian Captivity, Hebrew prophets were clearly teaching monotheism.  I don't know of any serious theologians, outside Mormonism, that would actually suggest that John is suggesting polytheism. Polytheism goes completely against the grain of the entire Biblical text and is, quite simply, logically and Biblically unacceptable.Therefore, to put not simply henotheism but polytheism into the words of a Jew without some clear indication to do so is to ignore the theological tradition of the author.
So then, taking the textual, cultural, and theological milieu of this passage into consideration, I believe that a Trinitarian interpretation is the only translation that fully accounts for this text’s background. It is the only contextually faithful translation of this passage is Trinitarian.

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