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Monday, October 27, 2008

Who is the Antichrist

Definition: Antichrist means against or instead of Christ. The term applies to all who deny what the Bible says about Jesus Christ, all who oppose his Kingdom, and all who mistreat his followers. It also includes individuals, organizations, and nations that falsely claim to represent Christ or that improperly ascribe to themselves the role of Messiah.

Does the Bible refer to only one antichrist? 1 John 2:18: “Young children, it is the last hour, and, just as you have heard that antichrist is coming, even now there have come to be many antichrists; from which fact we gain the knowledge that it is the last hour.” 2 John 7: “Many deceivers have gone forth into the world, persons not confessing Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist.” (Notice that the “many antichrists” of 1 John 2:18 are here referred to collectively as “the antichrist.”)

Is the coming of the antichrist reserved for some future time? 1 John 4:3: “Every inspired expression that does not confess Jesus does not originate with God. Furthermore, this is the antichrist’s inspired expression which you have heard was coming, and now it is already in the world.” (That was written near the end of the first century C.E.) 1 John 2:18: “Even now there have come to be many antichrists; from which fact we gain the knowledge that it is the last hour.” (By “last hour” John evidently meant the end of the apostolic period. The other apostles had died, and John himself was very old.)

Some of those identified as antichrist— Persons who deny that Jesus is truly the Messi 1 John 2:22: “Who is the liar if it is not the one that denies that Jesus is the Christ [or, Messiah, anointed one]? This is the antichrist.”

All who deny that Jesus is the unique Son of God 1 John 2:22: “This is the antichrist, the one that denies the Father and the Son.” Compare John 10:36; Luke 9:35.

Apostates 1 John 2:18, 19: “There have come to be many antichrists . . . They went out from us, but they were not of our sort.”

Those who oppose Christ’s true followers John 15:20, 21: “If they have persecuted me, they will persecute you also . . . But they will do all these things against you on account of my name.”

Individuals and nations that oppose Christ as King or that themselves falsely claim the Messianic role Ps. 2:2: “The kings of earth take their stand and high officials themselves have massed together as one against Jehovah and against his anointed one [Christ, or Messiah].” See also Revelation 17:3, 12-14; 19:11-21. Matt. 24:24: “False Christs and false prophets will arise and will give great signs and wonders so as to mislead, if possible, even the chosen ones.”

- Reasoning from the Scriptures, 1985 (1989) WTB&TS

What characteristics identify apostates as distinct from true Christians?

An apostasy among professed Christians was foretold by the apostle Paul at 2Thessalonians 2:3. He specifically mentioned certain apostates, such as Hymenaeus, Alexander, and Philetus. (1Ti 1:19, 20; 2Ti 2:16-19) Among the varied causes of apostasy set forth in apostolic warnings were: lack of faith (Heb 3:12), lack of endurance in the face of persecution (Heb 10:32-39), abandonment of right moral standards (2Pe 2:15-22), the heeding of the “counterfeit words” of false teachers and “misleading inspired utterances” (2Pe 2:1-3; 1Ti 4:1-3; 2Ti 2:16-19; compare Pr 11:9), and trying “to be declared righteous by means of law” (Ga 5:2-4). While still making profession of faith in God’s Word, apostates may forsake his service by treating lightly the preaching and teaching work that he assigned to followers of Jesus Christ. (Lu 6:46; Mt 24:14; 28:19, 20) They may also claim to serve God but reject his representatives, his visible organization, and then turn to ‘beating’ their former associates to hinder their work. (Jude 8, 11; Nu 16:19-21; Mt 24:45-51) Apostates often seek to make others their followers. (Ac 20:30; 2Pe 2:1, 3) Such ones willfully abandoning the Christian congregation thereby become part of the “antichrist.” (1Jo 2:18, 19) As with the apostate Israelites, destruction is likewise foretold for apostates from the Christian congregation.—2Pe 2:1; Heb 6:4-8

During the period of persecution that the early Christian congregation experienced at the hands of the Roman Empire, professed Christians were at times induced to deny their Christian discipleship, and those who did so were required to signify their apostasy by making an incense offering before some pagan god or by openly blaspheming the name of Christ.

It is evident that there is a distinction between a ‘falling’ due to weakness and the ‘falling away’ that constitutes apostasy. The latter implies a definite and willful withdrawal from the path of righteousness. (1Jo 3:4-8; 5:16, 17) Whatever its apparent basis, whether intellectual, moral, or spiritual, it constitutes a rebellion against God and a rejection of his Word of truth.—2Th 2:3, 4


The Bible’s Viewpoint Who Is the Antichrist?


IF YOU were warned that a dangerous criminal was seen heading toward your neighborhood, what would you do? You would likely search out accurate details about his appearance and methods. You would be on the alert.

A similar situation exists today. We have been warned by the apostle John’s words: “Every inspired expression that does not confess Jesus does not originate with God. Furthermore, this is the antichrist’s inspired expression which you have heard was coming, and now it is already in the world.” (1 John 4:3) Is there such an antichrist, an enemy of God and deceiver of men, now threatening the well-being of all humanity?

John used the term “antichrist” five times in two of his epistles. It refers to an entity that opposes what the Bible teaches about Jesus Christ and includes impostors who present themselves as Christ or as sent by him. The Bible gives reliable information about the antichrist. But as sometimes happens with felons, unfounded reports regarding this enigmatic entity have received more notice than the truth.

A Case of Mistaken Identity

Since the days of the apostle John, men have claimed that John’s words about an antichrist designate one specific individual. People have proposed various candidates. Centuries ago many thought that Roman Emperor Nero was the antichrist. Later, the flood of hatred and terror let loose by Adolf Hitler convinced many that he was the antichrist. The term was even applied to German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. Yet others believe that the antichrist is still to come and that he will appear as a shrewd, ruthless politician who is out to rule the world. They believe that the wild beast of Revelation chapter 13 is a specific reference to the antichrist mentioned by John. They say that its mark of 666 will somehow identify this future champion of wickedness.

Those promoting these ideas assume that John pointed to just one antichrist. But what do his words show? Consider 1 John 2:18: “Just as you have heard that antichrist is coming, even now there have come to be many antichrists.” Yes, “many antichrists,” not one, were responsible for the spiritually troubled situation back in the first century. Today there are, not one, but many antichrists who form the antichrist class. Collectively, they have heaped spiritual ruin upon mankind. (2 Timothy 3:1-5, 13) Who make up the antichrist?

Let us look at the wild beast of Revelation chapter 13 as a possibility. The apostle John wrote: “The wild beast that I saw was like a leopard, but its feet were as those of a bear, and its mouth was as a lion’s mouth.” (Revelation 13:2) What do these elements signify?

Bible scholars have noted a connection between Revelation chapter 13 and Daniel chapter 7. God gave Daniel a vision of figurative beasts, including a leopard, a bear, and a lion. (Daniel 7:2-6) What meaning did God’s prophet assign to them? He wrote that those wild animals symbolized earthly kings, or governments. (Daniel 7:17) So we can logically conclude that the wild beast of Revelation represents human governments. Since these governments oppose God’s Kingdom, they constitute a part of the antichrist.

Who Else Make Up the Antichrist?

When the Christ, the Son of God, walked the earth, he had many enemies. Although he is now beyond physical reach, he has modern-day opponents. Note who are included among them.

The apostle John stated: “Who is the liar if it is not the one that denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one that denies the Father and the Son.” (1 John 2:22) Apostates and leaders of false worship twist the clear teachings of Jesus into knots of religious deceit. Such ones reject Bible truth and spread lies in the name of God and Christ. They deny the true relationship of the Father and the Son by their Trinity doctrine. Therefore, they too are a part of the antichrist.

Jesus forewarned his disciples at Luke 21:12: “People will lay their hands upon you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons . . . for the sake of my name.” Since the first century, true Christians have endured savage persecution. (2 Timothy 3:12) Fomenters of such treatment work against Christ. They too are a component of the antichrist.

“He that is not on my side is against me, and he that does not gather with me scatters.” (Luke 11:23) Here Jesus proclaims that all who oppose him and the divine purposes he supports fall into the category of the antichrist. What end awaits these?

What Awaits Antichrists?

“[God] will destroy those speaking a lie. A man of bloodshed and deception Jehovah detests,” says Psalm 5:6. Does this apply to antichrists? Yes. The apostle John wrote: “Many deceivers have gone forth into the world, persons not confessing Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist.” (2 John 7) For their lies and deception, Almighty God will bring ruin upon antichrists.

As the time of executing that sentence draws near, true Christians must not allow anti-Christian deceit and pressure, especially from apostates, to weaken their faith. John’s warning is urgent: “Look out for yourselves, that you do not lose the things we have worked to produce, but that you may obtain a full reward.”—2 John 8.

- August 8, 2001 Awake, WTB&TS

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Last Days

Definition: The Bible uses the expression “last days” to refer to the concluding time period leading up to a divinely appointed execution that marks the end of a system of things. The Jewish system with its worship built around the temple in Jerusalem experienced its last days from 33 to 70 C.E. What occurred then was pictorial of what would be experienced in a greatly intensified way and on a global scale at a time when all nations would be facing the execution of judgment decreed by God. The present wicked system of things, which extends worldwide, entered its last days in 1914, and some of the generation alive then will also be on hand to witness its complete end in the “great tribulation.”

What indicates that we today are living in “the last days”?

The Bible describes events and conditions that mark this significant time period. “The sign” is a composite one made up of many evidences; thus its fulfillment requires that all aspects of the sign be clearly in evidence during one generation. The various aspects of the sign are recorded at Matthew chapters 24, 25, Mark 13, and Luke 21; there are further details at 2 Timothy 3:1-5, 2 Peter 3:3, 4, and Revelation 6:1-8. By way of illustration, we will consider a few outstanding portions of the sign.

“Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom” (Matt. 24:7)

War has marred life on the earth for thousands of years. International wars and wars within nations have been fought. But beginning in 1914 the first world war was fought. This was not merely a conflict between two armies on the battlefield. For the first time, all the major powers were at war. Entire nations—including civilian populations—were mobilized to support the war effort. It is estimated that by the end of the war 93 percent of the population of the world was involved.

As foretold at Revelation 6:4, ‘peace was taken away from the earth.’ Thus the world has continued to be in a state of upheaval ever since 1914. World War II was fought from 1939 to 1945. According to retired Admiral Gene La Rocque, as of 1982 there had been another 270 wars since 1945. Upwards of 100 million persons have been slaughtered in warfare during this century. Also, according to the 1982 edition of World Military and Social Expenditures, there were in that year 100 million people engaged directly or indirectly in military activities.

Is more required in order to fulfill this aspect of the prophecy? There are tens of thousands of nuclear weapons deployed for immediate use. Leading scientists have said that if the nations were to use even a fraction of their nuclear arsenals, civilization and possibly the entire human species would be destroyed. But that is not the outcome to which Bible prophecy points.

“There will be food shortages . . . in one place after another” (Matt. 24:7)

There have been many famines in human history. To what extent has the 20th century been afflicted by them? World war led to widespread starvation in Europe and Asia. Africa has been stricken by drought, resulting in extensive food shortages. Late in 1980 the Food and Agriculture Organization estimated that 450 million people were hungry to the point of starvation, and up to a billion did not have enough to eat. Of these, some 40 million a year actually die—in some years as many as 50 million—because of the shortage of food.

Is anything different about these food shortages? Revelation 6:6 indicated that a small quantity of such staples as wheat or barley would be selling for a day’s wage (a denarius; see Matthew 20:2) but that supplies of such items as olive oil and wine used by people who are well-to-do would not be harmed. So apparently many would suffer shortage while others could still get what they wanted. This situation is no longer local, but global. In 1981 The New York Times reported: “The improvement in living standards and the growing demand for food around the world have put pressure on food prices, making it harder for the poorest countries to import their food needs.” In many lands the production of food, even with the aid of modern science, has not been able to keep pace with the increase in total population. Modern food experts see no real solution to the problem.

“There will be great earthquakes” (Luke 21:11)

It is true that there were major quakes in centuries past; furthermore, with their sensitive equipment scientists now detect more than a million quakes a year. But no special instruments are needed for people to know when there is a great earthquake.

Has there actually been a significant number of major earthquakes since 1914? With data obtained from the National Geophysical Data Center in Boulder, Colorado, supplemented by a number of standard reference works, a tabulation was made in 1984 that included only earthquakes that measured 7.5 or more on the Richter scale, or that resulted in destruction of five million dollars (U.S.) or more in property, or that caused 100 or more deaths. It was calculated that there had been 856 of such earthquakes during the 2,000 years before 1914. The same tabulation showed that in just 69 years following 1914 there were 605 of such quakes. That means that, in comparison with the previous 2,000 years, the average per year has been 20 times as great since 1914.

“In one place after another pestilences” (Luke 21:11)

At the close of the first world war the Spanish flu swept around the globe, claiming upwards of 20 million lives and at a rate unparalleled in the history of disease. Despite advances in medical science, a heavy toll is exacted every year by cancer, heart disease, numerous sexually transmitted diseases, multiple sclerosis, malaria, river blindness, and Chagas’ disease.

‘Increased lawlessness accompanied by a cooling off of love on the part of the greater number’ (Matt. 24:11, 12)

A leading criminologist says: “The one thing that hits you in the eye when you look at crime on the world scale is a pervasive and persistent increase everywhere. Such exceptions as there are stand out in splendid isolation, and may soon be swamped in the rising tide.” (The Growth of Crime, New York, 1977, Sir Leon Radzinowicz and Joan King, pp. 4, 5) The increase is real; it is not merely a matter of better reporting. It is true, past generations had criminals too, but never before has crime been as pervasive as it is now. Persons who are up in years know that from personal experience.

The lawlessness referred to in the prophecy includes contempt for the known laws of God, a placing of self instead of God at the center of one’s life. As a result of this attitude, divorce rates are skyrocketing, sex outside of marriage and homosexuality are widely accepted, and tens of millions of abortions are performed every year. Such lawlessness is associated (in Matthew 24:11, 12) with the influence of false prophets, those who set aside God’s Word in favor of their own teachings. Heeding their philosophies instead of holding to the Bible contributes toward a loveless world. (1 John 4:8) Read the description of it at 2 Timothy 3:1-5.

“Men become faint out of fear and expectation of the things coming upon the inhabited earth” (Luke 21:25, 26)

“The fact is that today the biggest single emotion which dominates our lives is fear,” said U.S. News & World Report. (October 11, 1965, p. 144) “Never before has mankind been as fearful as at present,” reported the German magazine Hörzu.—No. 25, June 20, 1980, p. 22.

Many factors contribute to this global atmosphere of fear: violent crime, unemployment, economic instability because so many nations are hopelessly in debt, worldwide pollution of the environment, lack of strong and loving family ties, and the overwhelming feeling that mankind is in imminent danger of nuclear annihilation. Luke 21:25 mentions ‘signs in sun, moon, and stars, and roaring of the seas’ in connection with the anguish felt by the nations. The rising of the sun often causes, not happy anticipation, but fear of what the day may bring; when the moon and stars shine, fear of crime makes people stay behind locked doors. In the 20th century, but not before, planes and missiles have been used to send destruction streaking down from the heavens. Submarines carrying deadly loads of missiles prowl the seas, just one such submarine being equipped to annihilate 160 cities. No wonder the nations are in anguish!

‘Christ’s true followers to be objects of hatred by all nations on account of his name’ (Matt. 24:9)

This persecution is not because of political meddling but ‘on account of the name of Jesus Christ,’ because his followers adhere to him as Jehovah’s Messianic King, because of their obeying Christ ahead of any earthly ruler, because of their loyally adhering to his Kingdom and not becoming involved in the affairs of human governments. As modern-day history testifies, that has been the experience of Jehovah’s Witnesses in all parts of the earth.

‘This good news of the kingdom preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness’ (Matt. 24:14)

The message that would be preached is that God’s Kingdom in the hands of Jesus Christ has begun to rule in the heavens, that soon it will put an end to the entire wicked system of things, that under its rule mankind will be brought to perfection and earth will become a paradise. That good news is being preached today in over 200 lands and island groups, to the most distant parts of the earth. Jehovah’s Witnesses devote hundreds of millions of hours to this activity each year, making repeated house-to-house visits so that everyone possible is given the opportunity to hear.

To what do all these events of “the last days” point?

Luke 21:31, 32: “When you see these things occurring, know that the kingdom of God is near [that is, the time when it will destroy the present wicked world and itself take full charge of earth’s affairs]. Truly I say to you, This generation will by no means pass away until all things occur.” (The “generation” that was alive at the beginning of fulfillment of the sign in 1914 is now well along in years. The time remaining must be very short. World conditions give every indication that this is the case.)

Why do Jehovah’s Witnesses say that it was in 1914 that “the last days” began?

The year 1914 is marked by Bible prophecy. For details regarding the chronology, The correctness of the date is shown by the fact that world conditions foretold to mark this time period have come to pass since 1914 exactly as foretold. The facts set out above illustrate this.

How do secular historians view the year 1914?

“Looking back from the vantage point of the present we see clearly today that the outbreak of World War I ushered in a twentieth-century ‘Time of Troubles’—in the expressive term of the British historian Arnold Toynbee—from which our civilization has by no means yet emerged. Directly or indirectly all the convulsions of the last half century stem back to 1914.”—The Fall of the Dynasties: The Collapse of the Old Order (New York, 1963), Edmond Taylor, p. 16.

“People of the World War II generation, my generation, will always think of their conflict as the great modern watershed of change. . . . We should be allowed our vanity, our personal rendezvous with history. But we should know that, in social terms, a far more decisive change came with World War I. It was then that political and social systems, centuries in the building, came apart—sometimes in a matter of weeks. And others were permanently transformed. It was in World War I that the age-old certainties were lost. . . . World War II continued, enlarged and affirmed this change. In social terms World War II was the last battle of World War I.”—The Age of Uncertainty (Boston, 1977), John K. Galbraith, p. 133.

“Half a century has gone by, yet the mark that the tragedy of the Great War [World War I, which started in 1914] left on the body and soul of the nations has not faded . . . The physical and moral magnitude of this ordeal was such that nothing left was the same as before. Society in its entirety: systems of government, national borders, laws, armed forces, interstate relations, but also ideologies, family life, fortunes, positions, personal relations—everything was changed from top to bottom. . . . Humanity finally lost its balance, never to recover it to this day.”—General Charles de Gaulle, speaking in 1968 (Le Monde, Nov. 12, 1968, p. 9).

Will anyone at all be alive on earth after the end of the present world system?

Definitely yes. The end of the present global system will come, not as a result of indiscriminate slaughter in nuclear war, but in a great tribulation that includes “the war of the great day of God the Almighty.” (Rev. 16:14, 16) That war will not destroy the earth, nor will it bring all mankind to ruin.

Matt. 24:21, 22: “Then there will be great tribulation such as has not occurred since the world’s beginning until now, no, nor will occur again. In fact, unless those days were cut short, no flesh would be saved; but on account of the chosen ones those days will be cut short.” (So some “flesh,” some of humankind, will survive.)

Prov. 2:21, 22: “The upright are the ones that will reside in the earth, and the blameless are the ones that will be left over in it. As regards the wicked, they will be cut off from the very earth; and as for the treacherous, they will be torn away from it.”

Ps. 37:29, 34: “The righteous themselves will possess the earth, and they will reside forever upon it. Hope in Jehovah and keep his way, and he will exalt you to take possession of the earth. When the wicked ones are cut off, you will see it.”

Why does God allow so much time to pass before destroying the wicked?

2 Pet. 3:9: “Jehovah is not slow respecting his promise, as some people consider slowness, but he is patient with you because he does not desire any to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance.”

Mark 13:10: “In all the nations the good news has to be preached first.”

Matt. 25:31, 32, 46: “When the Son of man [Jesus Christ] arrives in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit down on his glorious throne. And all the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And these [who fail to recognize Christ’s spiritual brothers as representatives of the King himself] will depart into everlasting cutting-off, but the righteous ones into everlasting life.”

- Reasoning from the Scriptures, WTB&TS

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Holy Trinity

Even though, as Trinitarians acknowledge, neither the word “Trinity” nor a statement of the Trinitarian dogma is found in the Bible, are the concepts that are embodied in that dogma found there?

Additional Reading:

John 1:1, 2:

RS reads: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” (KJ, Dy, JB, NAB use similar wording.) However, NW reads: “In the beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god. This one was in the beginning with God.”

Which translation of John 1:1, 2 agrees with the context? John 1:18 says: “No one has ever seen God.” Verse 14 clearly says that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us . . . we have beheld his glory.” Also, verses 1, 2 say that in the beginning he was “with God.” Can one be with someone and at the same time be that person? At John 17:3, Jesus addresses the Father as “the only true God”; so, Jesus as “a god” merely reflects his Father’s divine qualities.—Heb. 1:3.

Is the rendering “a god” consistent with the rules of Greek grammar? Some reference books argue strongly that the Greek text must be translated, “The Word was God.” But not all agree. In his article “Qualitative Anarthrous Predicate Nouns: Mark 15:39 and John 1:1,” Philip B. Harner said that such clauses as the one in John 1:1, “with an anarthrous predicate preceding the verb, are primarily qualitative in meaning. They indicate that the logos has the nature of theos.” He suggests: “Perhaps the clause could be translated, ‘the Word had the same nature as God.’” (Journal of Biblical Literature, 1973, pp. 85, 87) Thus, in this text, the fact that the word the‧os′ in its second occurrence is without the definite article (ho) and is placed before the verb in the sentence in Greek is significant. Interestingly, translators that insist on rendering John 1:1, “The Word was God,” do not hesitate to use the indefinite article (a, an) in their rendering of other passages where a singular anarthrous predicate noun occurs before the verb. Thus at John 6:70, JB and KJ both refer to Judas Iscariot as “a devil,” and at John 9:17 they describe Jesus as “a prophet.”

John J. McKenzie, S.J., in his Dictionary of the Bible, says: “Jn 1:1 should rigorously be translated ‘the word was with the God [= the Father], and the word was a divine being.’”—(Brackets are his. Published with nihil obstat and imprimatur.) (New York, 1965), p. 317.

In harmony with the above, AT reads: “the Word was divine”; Mo, “the Logos was divine”; NTIV, “the word was a god.” In his German translation Ludwig Thimme expresses it in this way: “God of a sort the Word was.” Referring to the Word (who became Jesus Christ) as “a god” is consistent with the use of that term in the rest of the Scriptures. For example, at Psalm 82:1-6 human judges in Israel were referred to as “gods” (Hebrew, ’elo‧him′; Greek, the‧oi′, at John 10:34) because they were representatives of Jehovah and were to speak his law.


"The Word Was God"

Additional Reading:

AT JOHN 1:1 the King James Version reads: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Trinitarians claim that this means that "the Word" (Greek, ho lo'gos) who came to earth as Jesus Christ was Almighty God himself.

Someone who is "with" another person cannot also be that other person

Note, however, that here again the context lays the groundwork for accurate understanding. Even the King James Version says, "The Word was with God." (Italics ours.) Someone who is "with" another person cannot be the same as that other person. In agreement with this, the Journal of Biblical Literature, edited by Jesuit Joseph A. Fitzmyer, notes that if the latter part of John 1:1 were interpreted to mean "the" God, this "would then contradict the preceding clause," which says that the Word was with God.

Notice, too, how other translations render this part of the verse:

1808: "and the word was a god." The New Testament in an Improved Version, Upon the Basis of Archbishop Newcome's New Translation: With a Corrected Text.

1864: "and a god was the word." The Emphatic Diaglott, interlinear reading, by Benjamin Wilson.

1928: "and the Word was a divine being." La Bible du Centenaire, L'Evangile selon Jean, by Maurice Goguel.

1935: "and the Word was divine." The Bible—An American Translation, by J. M. P. Smith and E. J. Goodspeed.

1946: "and of a divine kind was the Word." Das Neue Testament, by Ludwig Thimme.

1950: "and the Word was a god." New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures.

1958: "and the Word was a God." The New Testament, by James L. Tomanek.

1975: "and a god (or, of a divine kind) was the Word." Das Evangelium nach Johannes, by Siegfried Schulz.

1978: "and godlike kind was the Logos." Das Evangelium nach Johannes, by Johannes Schneider.
At John 1:1 there are two occurrences of the Greek noun the·os' (god). The first occurrence refers to Almighty God, with whom the Word was ("and the Word [lo'gos] was with God [a form of the·os']"). This first the·os' is preceded by the word ton (the), a form of the Greek definite article that points to a distinct identity, in this case Almighty God ("and the Word was with [the] God").

On the other hand, there is no article before the second the·os' at John 1:1. So a literal translation would read, "and god was the Word." Yet we have seen that many translations render this second the·os' (a predicate noun) as "divine," "godlike," or "a god." On what authority do they do this?

The Koine Greek language had a definite article ("the"), but it did not have an indefinite article ("a" or "an"). So when a predicate noun is not preceded by the definite article, it may be indefinite, depending on the context.

The Journal of Biblical Literature says that expressions "with an anarthrous [no article] predicate preceding the verb, are primarily qualitative in meaning." As the Journal notes, this indicates that the lo'gos can be likened to a god. It also says of John 1:1: "The qualitative force of the predicate is so prominent that the noun [the·os'] cannot be regarded as definite."

So John 1:1 highlights the quality of the Word, that he was "divine," "godlike," "a god," but not Almighty God. This harmonizes with the rest of the Bible, which shows that Jesus, here called "the Word" in his role as God's Spokesman, was an obedient subordinate sent to earth by his Superior, Almighty God.

There are many other Bible verses in which almost all translators in other languages consistently insert the article "a" when translating Greek sentences with the same structure. For example, at Mark 6:49, when the disciples saw Jesus walking on water, the King James Version says: "They supposed it had been a spirit." In the Koine Greek, there is no "a" before "spirit." But almost all translations in other languages add an "a" in order to make the rendering fit the context. In the same way, since John 1:1 shows that the Word was with God, he could not be God but was "a god," or "divine."

Joseph Henry Thayer, a theologian and scholar who worked on the American Standard Version, stated simply: "The Logos was divine, not the divine Being himself." And Jesuit John L. McKenzie wrote in his Dictionary of the Bible: "Jn 1:1 should rigorously be translated . . . 'the word was a divine being.'"

Violating a Rule?

SOME claim, however, that such renderings violate a rule of Koine Greek grammar published by Greek scholar E. C. Colwell back in 1933. He asserted that in Greek a predicate noun "has the [definite] article when it follows the verb; it does not have the [definite] article when it precedes the verb." By this he meant that a predicate noun preceding the verb should be understood as though it did have the definite article ("the") in front of it. At John 1:1 the second noun (the·os'), the predicate, precedes the verb—"and [the·os'] was the Word." So, Colwell claimed, John 1:1 should read "and [the] God was the Word."

But consider just two examples found at John 8:44. There Jesus says of the Devil: "That one was a manslayer" and "he is a liar." Just as at John 1:1, the predicate nouns ("manslayer" and "liar") precede the verbs ("was" and "is") in the Greek. There is no indefinite article in front of either noun because there was no indefinite article in Koine Greek. But most translations insert the word "a" because Greek grammar and the context require it.—See also Mark 11:32; John 4:19; 6:70; 9:17; 10:1; 12:6.

Colwell had to acknowledge this regarding the predicate noun, for he said: "It is indefinite ["a" or "an"] in this position only when the context demands it." So even he admits that when the context requires it, translators may insert an indefinite article in front of the noun in this type of sentence structure.

Does the context require an indefinite article at John 1:1? Yes, for the testimony of the entire Bible is that Jesus is not Almighty God. Thus, not Colwell's questionable rule of grammar, but context should guide the translator in such cases. And it is apparent from the many translations that insert the indefinite article "a" at John 1:1 and in other places that many scholars disagree with such an artificial rule, and so does God's Word.


"and the Word was divine."

As it might be thought that what Dr BeDuhn has written regarding how best to render QEOS EN HO LOGOS as "the Word was divine" and this somehow undermines the rendering of "the Word was a god" and even obviates the Witnesses 'use' of Dr BeDuhn regarding the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, the following may prove helpful to explain a little more this scholars reasons for his preference in both translation _and_ understanding. Dr BeDuhn himself has written:

"It is true that the most formal, literal translation of the words in John 1:1c would be "and the Word was a god." The grammatical rules involved in this passage weigh very heavily against the more commonly seen, traditional translation, "and the Word was God." However, translation is not only about rendering a passage word-for-word. It involves also consideration of broader syntax and the meaning of a passage as a whole.

"The grammatical construction used here can be called the qualitative or categorical use of the indefinite. Basically, that means x belongs to the category y, or "x is a y." The examples I used in a letter now widely circulated are "Snoopy is a dog"; "The car is a Volkswagen"; and "John is a smart person." The common translation "The Word was God" is as erroneous for this construction as it would be to say in English "Snoopy is dog"; "The car is Volkswagen"; or "John is smart person." The indefinite article is mandatory because we are talking about a member of a class or category.

"Sometimes in English we can accomplish the same syntactical function by using a predicate adjective in place of the indefinite noun phrase. In the examples I gave above, this only works with "John is a smart person," which means the same thing as "John is smart." What Harner calls the qualitative sense is the same as what I call the categorical sense. In the many examples throughout the New Testament of the same grammatical construct as found in John 1:1c, the indefinite noun used is always a class or category to which the subject is said to belong. But in several of these examples, the category is used to suggest the quality the subject has, as in the many "a son of x" expressions found in the New Testament.

"Because of this evidence, we cannot rule out the possibility that for John quality was the center of focus rather than category"" Being honest to the original Greek, we cannot narrow the range of acceptable translation of John 1:1c any further than to say it is EITHER "And the Word was a god" OR "And the Word was divine." I can, if pressed, explain at length why these two translations amount to the same thing FOR JOHN. But I also recognize that they leave open interpretation to a range of possible understandings. I am afraid I cannot do anything about that. If I were to say that the NWT translation is the only possible one, I would be committing the same offense as those who have said that "And the Word was God" is the only possible translation. The whole point of my work is to get us past these false assertions, and follow the original Greek, and follow it only as far as it takes us.

"What I can say is that "And the Word was God" is extremely difficult to justify, because it goes against the plain grammar of the passage. Either of the other two translations are acceptable, because the Greek allows them, while it does not obviously allow the traditional translation. What your correspondent needs to understand, in dealing with others on this question, is that the wording "The Word was divine" agrees 100% in meaning with "The Word was a god" and only 50% with "And the Word was God." What must be given up from the latter wording is the absolute identity between Word and God that the traditional translation tried to impose. John clearly did not intend to make such an absolute identification, and that is precisely why he very carefully manipulates his word in the passage to rule it out. But, yes, John is putting the Word into the "god" or "divine" category, and that is as true if the wording is "a god" or "divine."

"Remember, the Word is not a human person, and John does not use "god" for the Word to say he is talking about a prophet or a leader or an important person. The Word is a superhuman (hence "divine") essence or being, very intimately connected to The God. How intimately? In what way connected? In what precise relationship? The answers to those questions are much more involved, and must be based on a reading of the Gospel of John as a whole, where John works very hard to make it all clear. And yes, there will be disagreements about how to understand this larger picture John is trying to convey.

"Of course, if your correspondent is using what I have written in arguments with people who favor the traditional translation, they are likely to seize upon my acceptance of "The Word was divine" as somehow a defense of their view. That is also something that cannot be helped. The idea of a Trinity developed over the centuries after the Gospel of John was written precisely as one solution to the questions raised by John's wording. The JWs have a different solution to those same questions. I am not in a position to arbitrate such historical interpretations of the text. I think John went as far as he felt inspired to go in his understanding of things, and I do not fault him for not going further and for not answering all of the additional questions people have been able to raise since his time.

"The bottom line is that "The Word was a god" is exactly what the Greek says. "The Word was divine" is a possible meaning of this Greek phrasing. "The Word was God" is almost certainly ruled out by the phrasing John uses, and it is not equivalent to "The Word was divine" because without any justification in the original Greek it narrows the meaning from a quality or category (god/divine) to an individual (God)."

Jason BeDuhn:
Associate Professor of Religious Studies, and Chair
Department of Humanities, Arts, and Religion
Northern Arizona University.