Anonymous asked in Society & CultureReligion & Spirituality · 1 decade ago

Jehovah Witnesses : How do we know to translate John 1:1 as "the Word was a god" instead of "the Word was God"


BeDuhn's book is a good one. The appendix shows where the NWT is inconsistent with its own translation policy. p174

There are other Greek scholars who disagree with him in regard to John 1:1

22 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    Several bibles translate John 1:1 in a manner compatible with the phrase "the Word was a god". The bible plainly teaches that Jesus is a god (John 1:1; Isaiah 9:6; John 1:18). This biblical concept does not trouble any Christian, whether he be trinitarian or nontrinitarian. Yet, for centuries, trinitarians have tended to reject any alternate translation of John 1:1.

    Trinitarians must recognize that it was three or four hundred years after Christ's impalement that a minority of self-described "Christians" decided that Jesus was the only god, God Almighty (Jehovah). By the time the King James Version translated John 1:1 into English as "the Word was God", the year was 1611. How interesting it would be to see a translation from Greek (which contained no indefinite article "a") into English (with its indefinite articles "a", "an") performed by early Christians, perhaps the children or grandchildren of those who walked with the apostles!

    We do have such a translation, but into the Coptic language, which uses indefinite articles as English does. How do the Coptic manuscripts word John 1:1?

    "...and the Word was a God."

    The bible makes perfect sense when it is being read honestly. John 1:1 is perfectly harmonious with the rest of the bible, which teaches plainly that Jesus Christ the Son is a distinct person from Jehovah God the Father. The Scriptures teach that the Almighty created Jesus as His firstborn son.

    (Colossians 1:15) the firstborn of all creation

    (Mark 10:18) Jesus said to him: 'Why do you call me good? Nobody is good, except one, God.

    (Revelation 3:14) the Amen says, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation by God

    (Philippians 2:5-6) Christ Jesus, who, although he was existing in God's form, gave no consideration to a seizure, namely, that he should be equal to God

    (John 8:42) Neither have I come of my own initiative at all, but that One sent me forth

    (John 12:49) I have not spoken out of my own impulse, but the Father himself who sent me has given me a commandment as to what to tell and what to speak

    (John 14:28) I am going my way to the Father, because the Father is greater than I am

    (1 Corinthians 15:28) But when all things will have been subjected to him, then the Son himself will also subject himself to the One who subjected all things to him

    (Matthew 20:23) this sitting down at my right hand and at my left is not mine to give, but it belongs to those for whom it has been prepared by my Father

    (1 Corinthians 11:3) I want you to know that the head of every man is the Christ; turn the head of the Christ is God

    (John 20:17) I am ascending to my Father and your Father and to my God and your God.

    (Deuteronomy 6:4) Jehovah our God is one Jehovah

    (1 Corinthians 8:4-6) There is no God but one. For even though there are those who are called "gods," whether in heaven or on earth, just as there are many "gods" and many "lords," there is actually to us one God the Father, out of whom all things are, and we for him

    Thanks again for an opportunity to share what the bible actually says about the distinct persons of Jesus Christ the Son and Jehovah God the Father!

    Learn more!

    Incidentally, the bible quite explicitly calls Jesus a "god"; human judges, angels, and even Satan are also referred to as "gods" in the bible (see below). Yet Jehovah is "the one true God" in the sense that He has no rival among any of these. Jesus the Son is clearly no rival to God the Father!

    (Psalm 86:8,10) There is none like you among the gods, O Jehovah... You are God, you alone.

    (1 Corinthians 8:4-6) There is no God but one. For even though there are those who are called "gods," whether in heaven or on earth, just as there are many "gods" and many "lords," there is actually to us one God the Father, out of whom all things are, and we for him

    (Exodus 22:20) One who sacrifices to any gods but Jehovah alone is to be devoted to destruction.

    The bible speaks of honoring Christ Jesus and doing obeisance to him, but only Jehovah the Father merits worshipful "exclusive devotion".

    (Exodus 20:2,5) I am Jehovah your God... I Jehovah your God am a God exacting exclusive devotion

    (Philippians 2:5,6) Christ Jesus, who, although he was existing in God’s form, gave no consideration to a seizure, namely, that he should be equal to God

    The bible does not use the term "god" only in reference to Almighty Jehovah.

    (1 Corinthians 8:5) there are those who are called “gods,” whether in heaven or on earth

    Jesus as "a god": (John 1:1; Isaiah 9:6; John 1:18)

    Angels as 'gods': (Psalm 82:1)

    Satan as 'a god': (2 Corinthians 4:4)

    Human judges as "gods": (Psalm 82:6-8) “I myself have said, ‘You are gods, And all of you are sons of the Most High. Surely you will die just as men do... Do rise up, O God, do judge the earth

  • 1 decade ago

    I would like to add an example based on "I Speak Truth's" response above.

    It is noteworthy that when in a discussion of the translation of John 1:1c, and the fact that where the King James Version, as well as many others, insert the indefinite article where there is no definite article in the Greek, and examples are shown of this, that fact is completely ignored. Could it because there is no real answer, without admitting that “a god” as rendered by the NWT et al is in fact the proper translation?

    Following is a list of instances in the gospels of Mark and John where various translators have rendered singular anarthrous predicate nouns occurring before the verb with an indefinite article to denote the indefinite and qualitative status of the subject nouns: (My apologies for the poor formatting.)


    .............NWT .............. KJV AT ..NIV ......RSV .....TEV

    6:49 an apparition a spirit a ghost a ghost a ghost a ghost

    11:32 a prophet ..a prophet a prophet a prophet a real prophet a prophet


    4:19 a prophet a prophet a prophet a prophet a prophet a prophet

    6:70 a slanderer a devil an informer a devil a devil a devil

    8:44 a manslayer a murderer a murderer a murderer a murderer a murderer

    8:44 a liar a liar a liar a liar a liar a liar

    9:17 a prophet a prophet a prophet a prophet a prophet a prophet

    10:1 a thief a thief a thief a thief a thief a thief

    10:13 a hired man an hireling a hired man a hired hand a hireling a hired man

    10:33 a man a man a mere man a mere man a man a man

    12:6 a thief a thief a thief a thief a thief a thief

    Another Scripture in the Greek is of the exact same grammatical construct as John 1:1. In most translations it is rendered as it is in both the NWT as well as the KJV. That Scripture, from the KJV, is Acts 28:4: “And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt ►►this man is a murderer◄◄, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live.”

    In the Greek, the ►►highlighted part◄◄ reads “murderer is the man” just as John 1:1c reads “god was the Word.” All translations I have seen render this as “a murderer” and no one says anything, but when the NWT and others render John 1:1c as “a god” they make a big deal of this. Can you spell h*y*p*o*c*r*i*s*y?

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Jew4Messiah has said all that needs to be said on the translation of John 1:1. All I will add is that the NWT is a copy of Westcott & Hort's translation - with several significant alterations, John 1:1 being the most spectacular. It is significant that the team of JW's who were responsible for producing the NWT are not named - their "credentials" as Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic scholars is therefore questionable, to say the least.

  • 1 decade ago

    If you study the Bible intently, and carefully, the whole Bible, you will learn that Jesus is not God Almighty, then you will understand why several translators have correctly said..."a god", "divine", etc. To say that "The Word was God" is incorrect, since Jesus is not God. When a verse such as this is not consistent with the true meaning of the entire rest of the text, then it is translated in a way that is consistent. And by the way, there are many more than just the NWT that don't say "was God".

    Please read the following article if you really want some information...

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  • 1 decade ago

    I agree with cordsoforion and there is also another interesting point when you go to the greek texts,and then to the King James Version the word rendered as a, in the KJV is missing in John1:1)Yet when you look to see other verses with that same word in other verses, it is there in those other verses, that i think is very interesting, in a scripture that is often used by trinitarians to try to prove the trinity, not only that point is true, but it also shows something else about the KJV,which is hailed by many as the most accurate translation, that it is a translation that has indeed been changed to suit trinitarian needs, why else would the word rendered as a be missing in John1:1 and yet be rendered in other verses as a, strange, or is it? But there are other translations that do not exclude the word rendered as a just as the KJV does but do render the word a like the NWtranslation by Jehovah's Witnesses.

  • WhatIf
    Lv 4
    1 decade ago

    You may wish to get "Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament" by Julius Mantey if you are interested in learning more about the Greek language.

    Note that Dr Mantey has been quoted by the Watchtower in the past, but he challenged them on being misquoted.

    He does not support their NWT translation. I believe he called it a distortion instead of a translation.

    Read their version if you want, but how who knows how did their translating and what their qualifications were

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Since the majority of us are not Ancient Greek Scholars, we have to depend on those who are. One such is Jason David BeDuhn who wrote "Truth in Translation: Accuracy and Bias in English Translations of the New Testament" He compared nine English Translations. The King James (KJV), The Amplified Bible(AB), The Living Bible (LB), The New American Bible (NAB), The New American Standard Bible (NASB), The New International Version (NIV), The New World Translation (NW), The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) and Today's English Version (TEV).

    His remarks on John 1: 1.. Chapter 11: A Discussion of John 1:1 "Surpisingly, only one, the NW (New World Translation), adheres to the literal meaning of the Greek, and translates "a god." "Translators of the KJV, NRSV, NIV, NAB, NASB, AB, TEV, and the LB all approached the text at John 1:1 already believing certain things about the Word...and made sure that the translations came out in accordance with their beliefs....Ironically, some of these same scholars are quick to charge the NW translation with "doctrinal bias" for translating the verse literally, free of KJV influence, following the sense of the Greek. It may very well be that the NW translators came to the task of translating John 1:1 with as much bias as the other translators did. If just so happens that their bias corresponds in this case to a more accurate translation of the Greek" "Some early Christians maintained their monotheism by believing that the one God simply took on a human form and came to earth --in effect, God the Father was born and crucified as Jesus. They are entitled to their belief, but it cannot be derived legitimately from the Gospel according to John. "John himself has not formulated a Trinity concept in his Gospel." "All that we can ask is that a translation be an accurate starting point for exposition and interpertation. Only the (N)ew (W)orld translation achieves that, as provocative as it sounds to the modern reader. The other translations cut off the exploration of the verse's meaning before it has even begun."

    John David BeDuhn is the Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. He holds a B.A. in Religious Studies from the University of Illinois, Urbana, a M.T.S. in New Testament and Christians Origins from Harvard Divinity School and a Ph.D. in Comparative Study of Religions from Indiana University

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    According to the bible in John 3:16 God sent his son, which one? according to the bible all angels are sons of God (Job 1:6, 2:1 and 38:4-7) the same bible call gods to all angels (Psalms 82:1-6) God has a first of that group of sons the only created directly by God with nobody as a helper or assistantship (Colossians 1:15-17) Jesus became his helper (Proverbs 8:22-30) Jesus is a god and Jehovah is a god , but the the second is the almighty God father of Jesus (Luke 1:32 and psalms 83:18) in the greek text John was written in some way using the word "god" in capital letter and noncapitalized letter the second time it is written but the translators render in another way to fit the agenda of Catholic Church, they need the trinity to support the worship of Mary.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Why don't you go buy an Interlinear Greek Translation of the New Testament at any Bible Book Store, yourself. See how many ways that John spelled the descriptive title "god" in all his writings. Take note that he never uses the same spelling in reference to The Word and to Jehovah. He does use the same spelling in reference to The Word, Satan, and Men as what? "God" or "a god"? Is Satan also God? Also, not he never refers to the Holy Spirit as God. In fact no where does it say that.

    Look for yourself, if you're not afraid, just as JWs do, and instead of taking the word of some supposed expert who gets paid well for his opinion.

    While you're at it, you might also look into all the Bibles, for hundreds of years before the NWT also says "a god". Or, do you only rely on one Bible, Authorized by the Church of England, and from which their Bishop last November got the idea that children born with defects should not be allowed to live?

  • lillie
    Lv 6
    1 decade ago

    Which translation of John 1:1,2 agrees with the context?

    John 1:18 says:"No one has ever seen God."Verse 14 cleary 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 - Heb1:3.

    In his article "Qualitative Anarthrous Predicate Nouns:Mark15:39 and John 1:1",Phillip 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 theos' 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".

    It is not only the NW translation that recognises that John 1:1 is not hinting at a Trinity.

    Source(s): reasoning from the scriptures
  • 1 decade ago

    The Greek word for "word" here is "logos".....which when translated can mean 2 things:

    1) The one who governs the whole universe

    2) The unspoken word (human reason)

    John used this particular word "logos" so that 2 different audiences (Jews & Greeks) could understand this to mean "God"

    Therefore, the word logos means God as well.

    The Word was God....NOT a god. That would imply 2 gods...which goes against everything that Wathtower Witnesses believe in.

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