Re: Jn.1:1b word order

From: Wes Williams (
Date: Tue Feb 10 1998 - 10:08:13 EST

Paul S. Dixon wrote:

> On Tue, 10 Feb 1998 12:24:28 +0100 Rolf Furuli <> writes:
> >A schematic review of earlier discussions:
> >
> >(1)The words KAI QEOS HN hO LOGOS can be translated "correctly" at
> >least in three ways: (A) "and the Word was God", (B) "and the Word was
> >divine", and (C) "and the word was a god". None of these violate any
> >grammatical or syntactical rule.
> The upshot of my thesis was to demonstrate that in the vast majority of
> similar constructions (precopulative anarthrous predicate nominative) in
> John's Gospel, the significance was qualitativeness (94% of occurrences).
> If statistics mean anything, then we probably should not expect the
> force to be that of (C) above.

William Loader in "The Christology of the Fourth Gospel" makes a fine summary
with respect to word order and various translation. He writes on pp. 155-156:

The Word was 'God'
... The word was QEOS must not be isolated and made into a simple equation:
the Word was God. Grammatically this is a possible translation, but not the
only one. The statement's meaning, and so its translation must be determined
by its context. It could also be translated: 'the Word was a god' or 'the
Word was divine'. Grammatical considerations alone fail to decide the
question, since all three translations can be defended on grammatical

The Word was a God?
The other two translations fit the context more smoothly at one level. ... It
is true on the most natural reading of the text, that there are two beings
here: God and a second who was QEOS but htis second is related to God in a
manner which shows that God is the absolute over against which the second is
defined. They are not presented as two equal gods.

The Word was divine?
... The order of 1:1c and the lack of the article may be idiomatic in
relation to the use of predicate nouns, as Colwell suggests, or it may, in
addition, reflect an emphasis on quality shared without exact reciprocity.
This would suggest that the focus here lies not on the person, but on the
quality or nature of the Word. ...

What was 'Was'?
But what does 'nature' or 'quality' mean in this context? The NEB translates,
'what God was, the Word was.' It still leaves open the question: and what and
how was that? Brown is right in pointing out that we are dealing with the
language of doxology here. Can we go beyond Bultmann's statement that here is
a paradox? Is, as Haenchen argues, the anarthrous QEOS another indication of
subordination of the Son to the Father in the Gospel? ...
But our task must be to interpret as far as possible their meaning within the
Gospel without reading back into the text later attempts at a solution.

The nature of the relationship of Son and Father must rest on more than 1:1
and its grammatical interpretation. The term, QEOS, is applied similarly to
Jesus in 1:18 and comes in the confession of Thomas in 20:28. But the issue
is much wider than the use of QEOS even in the prologue and presents itself
as a repeated focus of contention, as the Son makes claims and the Jews make
counterclaims accusing him of ditheism, an accusation constantly repudiated.
But we return first to the prologue as presupposition and prelude to the
Gosel. ...

Loader then goes on to consider Logos Wisdom tradition and logos-QEOS Son in
the prologue.

Wes Williams

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Sat Apr 20 2002 - 15:39:02 EDT