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Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Word Was With God

In support of my friend Seeker of Truth over at As Bereans Did, I am posting about Jesus' preexistence. I'd like to look closely at John 1: 1.

(JOHN 1:1) [Greek] en archê ên ho logos kai ho logos ên pros ton theon kai theos ên ho logos
(JOHN 1: 1) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

This document will explore, in depth, the meanings of the Greek words used in John 1: 1, and their English translation and usage. It will look at the verse in three parts: part 1 – in the beginning was the Word, part 2 – and the Word was with God, and finally part 3 – and the Word was God. This is going to be a word-study, so it may be a bit heady. I tried to make it as plain and easy to understand as possible.

I seek to show how at the time of the first creation the Logos already existed. And at that time, the Logos was toward, or to, or in an active and involved relationship with God – which can be none other than God Almighty the Father. And at the time of creation the Word was God – not THE God or A God.. just 'God' (Elohim, if you will). We will also see how the ‘Jesus as created being’ doctrine has no support here.

PART 1: In the beginning was the Word

[Gr] en archê ên ho logos
[En] In the very beginning of all creation the Word already was. 

To read over this statement quickly, one gets the sense that at the time of the beginning, the word was there. In the English, it takes an additional leap of logic to consider the Word already was there BEFORE the beginning. But this is exactly what this statement says in the Greek. Let’s look at it word by word, phrase by phrase.


Strong's Greek 1722 
Thayer Definition:
1) in, by, with etc.
Part of Speech: preposition

'En' denotes a specific point in time. We now consider the exact timing of whatever comes after it.


Strong's Greek 746
Thayer Definition:
1) beginning, origin
2) the person or thing that commences, the first person or thing in a series, the leader
3) that by which anything begins to be, the origin, the active cause
4) the extremity of a thing
4a) of the corners of a sail
5) the first place, principality, rule, magistracy
5a) of angels and demons
Part of Speech: noun feminine

'Arche', in this sentence, is the beginning of the creation. Whatever came first – angels, water, air, energy, etc. – is not important (if you must know, we can assume this is angelic, since later in the chapter the logos is shown as having created all that was created). What is important here is the timing. ‘Arche’ is the beginning, and “en arche” is the specific moment of the start of all creation. Although the Greek doesn’t say “the” before arche, “in the beginning” is translated well enough since it is implied that this is the very farthest beginning possible.

For further background about the idea of 'arche' as Greek culture during John's time may have known it:
In the ancient Greek philosophy, arche is the beginning or the first principle of the world.
The idea of an arche was first philosophized by Thales of Melitus, who claimed that the first principle of all things is water. His theory was supported by the observation of moisture throughout the world and coincided with his theory that the earth floated on water.
Thales' theory was refuted by his successor and pupil, Anaximander. Anaximander noted that water could not be the arche because it could not give rise to its opposite, fire. Anaximander claimed that none of the elements (earth, fire, air, water) could be arche for the same reason. Instead, he proposed the existence of the apeiron, an indefinite substance from which all things are born and to which all things will return. [energy?]
Anaximenes, Anaximander's pupil, advanced yet another theory. He returns to the elemental theory, but this time posits air, rather than water, as the arche. Anaximenes suggests that all is made from air through either rarefication or condensation (probably meaning thinning and thickening). Rarefied, air becomes fire; condensed, it becomes first wind, then cloud, water, earth, and stone in order.


Strong's Greek 2258
Thayer Definition:
1) I was, etc.
Part of Speech: verb

Notice this is a different 'en' than before.

“En” is a timeless word, it doesn’t state or point to a specific time at all, it simply shows that previous to whenever we are referring to something was. And the time we refer to is ‘in the beginning’, “en arche”. So, previous to the very beginning, something already was.

John refers to the Word in this manner all the way up to verse 14 where the Word “was made” [ginomai] is used. Being timeless, no matter how hard we try, we cannot conclude there ever was a time when the Logos was not in existence. This information is not available. Even so, this one ‘became’ incarnate flesh at a definite point - yet how long this one “was” before that point is not given (nor either can it be given).


Strong's Greek 3588
ὁ / ἡ / τό
ho / hē / to
Thayer Definition:
1) the definite article, “the” in its masculine, feminine or neuter gender
2) the demonstrative pronoun
Part of Speech: definite article or demonstrative pronoun in all their inflections. The specific part of speech is dependent upon the context

‘Ho’ means “the”; ‘ho’ is masculine.


Strong's Greek 3056
Thayer Definition:
1) of speech
1a) a word, uttered by a living voice, embodies a conception or idea
1b) what someone has said
1b1) a word
1b2) the sayings of God
1b3) decree, mandate or order
1b4) of the moral precepts given by God
1b5) Old Testament prophecy given by the prophets
1b6) what is declared, a thought, declaration, aphorism, a weighty saying, a dictum, a maxim
1c) discourse
1c1) the act of speaking, speech
1c2) the faculty of speech, skill and practice in speaking
1c3) a kind or style of speaking
1c4) a continuous speaking discourse - instruction
1d) doctrine, teaching
1e) anything reported in speech; a narration, narrative
1f) matter under discussion, thing spoken of, affair, a matter in dispute, case, suit at law
1g) the thing spoken of or talked about; event, deed
2) its use as respect to the MIND alone
2a) reason, the mental faculty of thinking, meditating, reasoning, calculating
2b) account, i.e. regard, consideration
2c) account, i.e. reckoning, score
2d) account, i.e. answer or explanation in reference to judgment
2e) relation, i.e. with whom as judge we stand in relation
2e1) reason would
2f) reason, cause, ground
3) In John, denotes the essential Word of God, Jesus Christ, the personal wisdom and power in union with God, his minister in creation and government of the universe, the cause of all the world’s life both physical and ethical, which for the procurement of man’s salvation put on human nature in the person of Jesus the Messiah, the second person in the Godhead, and shone forth conspicuously from His words and deeds.
Part of Speech: noun masculine

The 'Logos' – universally accepted to be Jesus the Christ; the representative, the expression, the messenger, the spokesman – the Logos.

When we read ‘en archê ên ho logos’, we read that at the very moment of the beginning of creation, the Logos already existed.

PART 2: and the Word was with God

kai ho logos ên pros ton theon
And [at the beginning of creation] the Word [already was] in a relationship with God.


Strong's Greek 2532
Thayer Definition:
1) and, also, even, indeed, but
Part of Speech: conjunction

'Kai' simply means “and”

Using the words from Part 1, we can see “kai ho logos en” means “and the Word was”. Again the Word “was”. The Word was from some unspecifiable eternity in existence. If we use the context of the beginning of the sentence as a reference point, we can conclude that ‘at the beginning of creation, and for some unspecified length of time before that, the Word was’… something.

"pros ton"

Strong's Greek 4314
Thayer Definition:
1) to the advantage of
2) at, near, by
3) to, towards, with, with regard to
Part of Speech: preposition
A Related Word by Thayer’s/Strong’s Number: a strengthened form of G4253

Christ has always given men direction toward God in all He did. Similar to the prefix ‘pro’, it means ‘in support of’ (like pro-life, for example). And it denotes an active, involved relationship is in place.

Some try to take the word “pros” and apply a definition to it meaning “out of” or “away from”. They say the Logos is simply the spoken word of God Almighty, and it went out from Him from the beginning. This is demonstrably false. Unfortunately, in the "against God" claim we only see the only word ‘pros’. But the phrase is actually “pros ton”.
In the Greek, even when "pros ton" means "against" it still means "towards". Why? Because, the idea is to be face to face against something. Even if you are against something, you are still facing or pointing in its direction.

‘Pros’ has 35 different English translations; almost all indicate movement toward someone or something. Now, notice some things about the phrase ‘pros ton’. The phrase ‘pros ton’ appears 13 times in the New Testament - 3 times it is translated “with”, 10 times “to”, “unto”, “toward”, and “against” (but to be against someone, you are still moving toward them).

(ACTS 4: 24) toward God
(ACTS 12: 5) unto God
(REV. 13: 6) against God

In translating the phrase ‘pros ton’ in a manner denoting direction away from, certain ones have injected their own philosophy into the phrase where it has no place. It cannot mean such a thing.

Finally, the phrase is translated “with”, but the Greek doesn’t say ‘with’ (although ‘with’ isn’t exactly wrong, it is very weak). The Logos wasn’t near or in association, but He was ‘toward’, ‘to’, or ‘in a relationship with’. The use of “with” is most likely a product of the translator’s belief in the Trinity doctrine.

In the very beginning of creation, the Word already was in a relationship with, or pointing us to… something.


Strong's Greek 2316
Thayer Definition:
1) a god or goddess, a general name of deities or divinities
2) the Godhead, trinity
2a) God the Father, the first person in the trinity
2b) Christ, the second person of the trinity
2c) Holy Spirit, the third person in the trinity
3) spoken of the only and true God
3a) refers to the things of God
3b) his counsels, interests, things due to him
4) whatever can in any respect be likened unto God, or resemble him in any way
4a) God’s representative or viceregent
4a1) of magistrates and judges
Part of Speech: noun masculine

‘Theos’ means “god”. Not THE God, or any specific god for that matter, just ‘god’. Two main words are translated “God” throughout the New Testament: kurios and theos. So the Word was in an active relationship with whom? God. Which God? The Bible makes that clear elsewhere – God the Father; THE God. Jesus was timelessly ‘with’ God Almighty. Meaning from time without beginning the Word was in a relationship with the Almighty God, facing the Almighty God, pointing us to the Almighty God. 

This has the benefit of showing the distinction of the two beings. They are not the same, yet they were always together.

When we read “kai ho logos ên pros ton theon”, we read “and from the very beginning of creation the Word already was in a relationship with the Almighty God, pointing toward the Almighty God”.

PART 3: and the Word was God

kai theos ên ho logos
And [at the very beginning of creation] the Word was already God.

Now, since all of these words have been defined and discussed in parts 1 and 2, we need not define them further. Except there is yet something to notice here. “Ho” is the article whose English translation is “the”. Notice the word “theos” has no such definite article. It is “anarthrous”, meaning it has no article.

The lack of an article before theos and the presence of one before logos clearly shows logos as being the subject, therefore John is not introducing the Almighty God (who later is shown to be the Father), but he introduces the Logos. The Father is not the subject in parts 1 or 2 either. We can conclude the Word is being spoken of throughout this sentence.

In a move that simply had to be intentional, John leaves out the article. This does not have the side-effect of dismissing the Trinity doctrine, as I once believed. In a proper understanding of the Trintiy doctrine, the two are distinct, yet one. Even so, it doesn't handily prove the Trinity doctrine either.
It does handily dispose of the ‘Jesus as a created being’ doctrine (arianism) by claiming the Word was eternally God.

The lack of article displays that theos shows the nature of logos, not his identity. Since logos is theos, Jesus is clearly God. Not THE God, not even A God, but simply God. 'Elohim', if you will.

John calls Jesus ‘theos’, as he calls the Father ‘theos’. This is not the same as the Greek word “theion” (notice the I in theion), which would indicate a divine nature, that is to say what the logos consists of. To describe what something consists of we would have to use the word ‘hypostasis’. But the word is “theos”, which would indicate He IS God. And the phrase doesn’t use an adjective, so it doesn’t imply Christ was ‘like’ God. He is God.

There is also the presence of the word “was”, ‘en’, again. This is just as timeless as always. From even before the beginning of creation, the Word was God.

When we read “theos en ho logos”, we read “the Word [subject] was [timeless, from before the beginning of creation] God [theos – not THE theos, or even A theos, just theos].”


We’ve seen how at the time of creation (whether angelic or physical is unimportant) the Logos already existed. And at that time, the Logos was toward, or to, or in an active and involved relationship with God – which can be none other than God Almighty the Father. And at the time of creation the Word was God.
We have also seen how the ‘Jesus as created being’ doctrine are shown to have no support here.

A summary transliteration of John 1 and verse 1:

"At the very time of the beginning of the very first creation the Word already existed, and at that time the Word was already in fellowship with God Almighty, and at that time the Word was already God."

Helpful reference:


Anonymous said...

In the interest of complete balance, I quote Wikipedia on Strong's Concordance:

"Strong's Concordance is not a translation of the Bible nor is it intended as a translation tool. The use of Strong's numbers is not a substitute for professional translation of the Bible from Hebrew and Greek into English by those with formal training in ancient languages and the literature of the cultures in which the Bible was written.

Since Strong's Concordance identifies the original words in Hebrew and Greek, Strong's Numbers are sometimes misinterpreted by those without adequate training to change the Bible from its accurate meaning simply by taking the words out of cultural context. The use of Strong's numbers does not consider figures of speech, metaphors, idioms, common phrases, cultural references, references to historical events, or alternate meanings used by those of the time period to express their thoughts in their own language at the time. As such, professionals and amateurs alike must consult a number of contextual tools to reconstruct these cultural backgrounds. Many scholarly Greek and Hebrew Lexicons (e.g., Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Lexicon, Thayer's Greek Dictionary, and Vine's Bible Dictionary) also use Strong's numbers for cross-referencing, encouraging hermeneutical approaches to study."


xHWA said...

Good thing I knew that and used a diversity of sources then, eh? ;)

Anonymous said...

Yup, excellent that you knew that, glad to hear it! :-)

I am personally still working my way through the Nag Hammadi. I try to go back to the canonicals, but I find it very difficult, given the literalism that I read therein.

I tried going back through John, but no luck. Ah well. Back to the NHL. (The National Hockey League that is.) ;-)