John 1:1c --- An Experiment

From: Rolf Furuli (
Date: Fri Sep 05 1997 - 16:37:08 EDT

D. Anthony Storm wrote,

<<<<I have taken great interest in the thread on John 1:1, and in the way
contributors have proffered their ideas. I have a proposal that may help to
clarify matters. What if we had been commissioned to write the following in
Koine Greek. How would we do so as concisely and unambiguously as possible
(without over-amplication)?

    1) and the Word was God.

    2) and the Word was a god (or a God)

    3) and the Word was divine.

Since it is very difficult to interpret the passage, we may wish to consider
whether any ambiguities are caused by a) our ignorance of Greek idiom, b)
John's intended use of ambiguity, or c) John's clumsiness. That is, could
John have made any of these meanings clear without ambiguity, if he had
wanted to and had possessed the necessary skills to do so?

How would you experts translate these three clauses into Greek?

Dear Anthony,

Your suggestion is certainly a path worth exploring to throw light on John
1:1c. P.B. Harner did just that in his article "Qualitative Anarthrous
Predicate Nouns: Mark 15:39 and John 1:1" in JBL 1973:75-87. You will find
his suggestions in the article.
 There are, however, several problems connected with the approach. There
may be several Greek constructions which could be translated by each of
your clauses, and in addition John was not a native Greek. I think your
point a) also is important. We may be ignorant of the fine nuances of New
Testament Greek because we lack living informants.

A more profitable approach, not far from your suggestion,could have been to
seek constructions in John and elsewhere which are similar to John 1:1, and
see if they could throw light light on the problems. This was what I tried
when I compared 1:1 and 1:18. All this, however, is "secondary" evidence.

So I think the best we can do is to concentrate on the primary evidence,
the restricted linguistic context consisting of the three clauses in 1:1,
and by help of its grammar, syntax and semantics try to find John`s meaning.


Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo


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