Below is the written account of the video above with a little more details.
“And the word was a god.”
Who did not encounter this rendering of John 1:1? Perhaps there is no devoted Christian who never heard this bold interpretation of καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος.
Whether you want it or not a big group of people strongly believe that θεὸς in this phrase should be translated as “a god.” The main argument behind such interpretation is that the word θεὸς does not have the definite article in comparison to τὸν θεόν (the God) which appear in the same verse. Thus, θεὸς = a god.
On the surface it looks very logical, at the same time, it has a flaw which cannot be denied even by the supporters of this view. And the flaw is that the term θεὸς (without the def. article) often refers to the Father in the New Testament. So this notion that θεὸς could be translated as a god could be tested by checking all the references to it in the Scripture (New Testament and Septuagint (LXX)).
Fortunately, we don’t need to do such an extensive research. First, we could narrow it by studying only one author and his writings: in our case it’s John. We could see how he uses the term in his gospel, Apocalypse and three letters. Then, we could narrow it to the same book: the gospel of John to see how the term is used in the same document. In our case, we are very fortunate to stay within the same chapter to find out the answer to our question.
The word θεὸς (without the def. article) appears in John 1 five times.
Let’s examine them.
Beside John 1:1 we have it in:
John 1:6 Ἐγένετο ἄνθρωπος, ἀπεσταλμένος παρὰ θεοῦ, ὄνομα αὐτῷ Ἰωάνης·
John 1:12 τέκνα θεοῦ… ἀλλ᾿ ἐκ θεοῦ
John 1:18 θεὸν οὐδεὶς ἑώρακεν πώποτε·
In all three verses the term lacks the definite article and yet refers to God (the Father). In my 20 years of reading the Bible I am yet to encounter a translation rendering these verses as “a god.” Let’s examine them closer.
In John 1:6 the phrase ἀπεσταλμένος παρὰ θεοῦ means “sent from God.” The context tells us that this God is the Father who sent John the Baptist to testify about the light (Jesus). And yet, the word doesn’t have the definite article.
Verse 12 tells us that those who accepted Jesus received the right to become children of God (τέκνα θεοῦ), who were born not of the flesh but of God. Interesting enough, we never translate this verse as children of a god, or born from a god.
The reason for this is twofold:
- The similar terms appear throughout the scripture with or without the def. article interchangeably. Compare τέκνα τοῦ θεοῦ (John 11:52, 1Jn. 3:10, 1Jn.5:2, Rom.8:21 and 9:8) and τέκνα θεοῦ (1Jn. 3:1; Rom 8:16, Phil. 2:15).
- Same could be said about the concept of being born of God. See πᾶν τὸ γεγεννημένον ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ (whosoever born of God) 1Jn.3:9; 5:1, 4 and others.
This shows that in this context the scripture uses the word θεὸς with and without the def. article interchangeably and is always translated as God.
Finally, John 1:18 θεὸν οὐδεὶς ἑώρακεν πώποτε· removes all doubts.
The literal translation of this is “no one has ever seen God.” It’s impossible to see God and stay alive. It refers to Yahweh, the supreme God. Yet, it doesn’t have the def. article! Moreover, the text continues that Jesus, who dwelled in the bosom of the Father, he revealed that “invisible God.” The context clearly points to the Father and thus rightly translated as God, even though the word θεὸς again has no def. article.
Observing these texts from the same chapter we can conclude that the term θεὸς is used several times without the article and yet clearly refers to the supreme God and not the secondary deity, a god. Thus, the idea behind John 1:1 rendering θεὸς as a god on the basis of absence of the definite article is untenable. It doesn’t have any scriptural support.
John clearly uses the term θεὸς (with and without the def. article) interchangeably throughout his writings.
Based of this: the Word was God.