John 1:1 and the Holy Trinity

by Mike Ratliff

1 εν αρχη ην ο λογος και ο λογος ην προς τον θεον και θεος ην ο λογος John 1:1 (Greek NT: Scrivener 1894 TR)

1 εν αρχη ην ο λογος και ο λογος ην προς τον θεον και θεος ην ο λογος John 1:1 (Tischendorf New Testament)

1 εν αρχη ην ο λογος και ο λογος ην προς τον θεον και θεος ην ο λογος  John 1:1 (Wescott and Hort New Testament)

1 Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος. John 1:1 (NA28)

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God , and God was the Word. John 1:1 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

Carefully examine the four Greek examples I placed at the top of this post. The first one is from the Textus Receptus, which is the Greek behind the KJV. The next two are from the middle of the 19th century with Tichendorf’s New Testament predating Wescott and Hort’s by about 9 years or so. The last example is of the Nestle-Aland 28th Edition, which is what I use here. I pray that you noticed that there is no differences in the text other than the NA28 used a capital eplison at the beginning of the verse and the rest did not.

Here is the Greek text from the NA28. Let’s look at this closely, “Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος.”

The first two words are Ἐν ἀρχῇ (en archē), which we translate as “In the beginning.” The noun ἀρχῇ means both “beginning” and “ruler.” This double meaning in Greek is derived from the idea that something long ago put the world into motion and established the rules by which the world itself is obligated to obey. This philosophy explains why ἀρχῇ is used in the New Testament to denote both the beginning of something and the person or thing that exercises authority over others. In this context (John 1:1) as well as in John 1:2; 1 John 1:1; 2:7, 13, 14, 24) John is talking about the beginning. What is he telling us? This “in the beginning” is referring to the beginning of the time-space-material universe.

The next three words are ἦν ὁ λόγος, or literally, “was the Word.” The verb ἦν is the imperfect, indicative, active of εἰμί (eimi). This verb refers to continuous or linear action in the past. We also have the word λόγος preceded by the definite article ὁ, which is the same thing as referring to the Stature of Liberty in New York by calling it “THE” Statue of Liberty. Here we have the same thing. John is referring ὁ λόγος not some generic λόγος. What is ὁ λόγος? This is “the Word.” John borrowed the use of the term Word not only from the vocabulary of the Old Testament but also from Greek Philosophy, in which the term was essentially impersonal, signifying the rational principle of “divine reason.,” “mind.” or even “wisdom.” However, John imbued the term entirely with Old Testament and Christian meaning. For example in Genesis 1:3 God’s Word brought the world into being. Then in Psalm 33:6; 107:20; and Proverbs 8:27 we have God’s Word as His powerful self-expression in creation, wisdom, revelation, and salvation. John took all of this and made it refer to a person, our Lord Jesus Christ.

The next phrase is καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, which literally says, “and the Word was with [the] God.” I do a great deal of translation and I often ignore the definite article τὸν in the text when it precedes God or “Lord” et cetera. If you read the literal translation with it in place and without it, the meaning does not change. In any case, it is imperative that we understand what John is telling us in the phrase. The Word was πρὸς God. The Word, as the second person of the Trinity, was in intimate fellowship with God the Father throughout all eternity. Yet, although the Word enjoyed the splendors of heaven and eternity with the Father, He willingly gave up His heavenly status, taking the form of a man, and became subject to the death of the Cross. Think of our word studies from John 9 through John 17 I have done in the past as our Lord dialogued with those who opposed His ministry then as it came to an end, He started explaining things to His disciples. What did He repeat over and over again? He was sent from the Father and the Father loved Him and He loved the Father and the Father gave Him all who believed and those who believed were loved by both of them, et cetera. Those passages were full of that love and working together and how often did our Lord talk about sending the Helper, the Holy Spirit after His Resurrection. There we have the Trinity. Of course those who do not believe in the Doctrine of the Trinity refuse to see that and call the Trinity a man-made doctrine. Tell that to John. Tell that to Jesus.

The last phrase in v1 is καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος, which literally says, “and God was the Word.” The word construction emphasizes that the Word had all the essence or attributes of deity. Jesus the Messiah was fully God. Even in His incarnation when He emptied Himself, He did not cease to be God, but took on a genuine human nature and body and voluntarily refrained from the independent exercise of the attributes of deity.

Now, John specifically told us in the very first verse of His account of the Gospel that Jesus Christ is the Word and the Word was with God in the Beginning and the Word is God. That word construction makes it clear that there are two beings being discussed here, not one and as I said earlier, Jesus talked about the Holy Spirit coming in the very same passages where He talked about how He and the Father had worked together to save His people. If you still have issues with this then read John 9-17 as you ask God to show you the truth.

Soli Deo Gloria!

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