re: john 1:1

From: Steven Craig Miller (
Date: Tue Jan 11 2000 - 13:12:51 EST

<x-flowed>(I was unable to determine who wrote the following.)

<< What is the translation of John 1:1 by the experts? >>

I would suggest three major translation possibilities. For those who take
the Johannine LOGOS as referring to an individual being, John 1:1c could
mean that (i) this LOGOS "was God"; or that (ii) this LOGOS was merely
like God (i.e. "was divine"). (iii) For those who take the Johannine LOGOS
as an instrumental force (of some sort or another), the debate between "was
God" versus "was divine" is more or less resolves itself in favor of "was
divine" (even if one prefers the translation "was God").

In my opinion, none of these interpretations have anything to do with Greek
grammar as such. Allow me to illustrate my point. Take the statement:
"Achilles is a lion." What does it mean? If "Achilles" is merely the name
of a large heavily-built cat with a tawny body and a tufted tail, then all
this statement means is that "Achilles" is the name of a lion. But if
"Achilles" in the above statement refers to a human person, then what does
this statement mean? Could it mean that the person Achilles looks like "a
large heavily-built cat with a tawny body and a tufted tail"? Most likely
not, the most likely interpretation of the statement "Achilles is a lion"
would be that the person Achilles is courageous, or fights as ferocious as
a lion. The statement would then be merely a poetic metaphor. None of this
analysis has much to do with grammar and/or syntax, but rather context and
exegesis. The same is true, IMO, for understanding John 1:1. Greek grammar
and/or syntax by itself cannot rule out any of the three possible suggested
understandings of this passage.

IMO the best interpretation is that the Johannine LOGOS refers to (some
sort of) an instrumental force. The traditional interpretation has been
that the Johannine LOGOS refers to an individual being who should be
identified as Jesus. But in my opinion, this is mistaken since John makes
it clear that he does not identify Jesus as God's LOGOS. For example, the
Johannine Jesus says: "I do know him [God] and I keep his word" (Jn 8:55).
If for John, God's LOGOS was Jesus, how could the Johannine Jesus keep it?
Another example, the Johannine Jesus says: "Whoever does not love me does
not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the
Father who sent me" (Jn 14:24). Again, the Johannine Jesus speaks as if
God's LOGOS is different from himself! The difference in interpretations of
John 1:1c & 1:14 is rooted in the fact that some take God's LOGOS as an
individual, while others (such as myself) take God's LOGOS in the Johannine
prologue as an instrumental force. IMO my interpretation does better at
interpreting John 1:1 & 14 in light of the whole of John's gospel.

-Steven Craig Miller
Alton, Illinois (USA)
Disclaimer: "I'm just a simple house-husband (with no post-grad degree),
what do I know?"

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