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Continuing on John Chapter one

 

By Sami Zaatari

 

[Part one] [Part two]

 

 

 

 

We resume our discussion John chapter one, we have already taken care of John 1:1, we shall now proceed to the next verses that come after John 1:1.

 

Let us deal with John 1:3 which reads:

 

All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made. (KJV)

Christians who believe in the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus conclude from this verse that all things were made by Jesus, and nothing was made without him, meaning he is the creator of all which makes him God. This interpretation stems from the Christian's first miss-interpretation of John 1:1, Christians first wrongly assume in John 1:1 that the word is solely referring to Jesus, and the Christians then also rely on a wrong translation.

 

Due to those problems the Christians are then left with the wrong interpretation of John 1:3. However so here is the correct response:

 

1. Trinitarians use this verse to show that Christ made the world and its contents. However, that is not the case. What we have learned from the study of John 1:1 above will be helpful in properly interpreting this verse.

 

John 1:1-3
(1) In the beginning was the Word [the wisdom, plan or purpose of God], and the Word was with God, and
the Word was divine.
(2) The same was in the beginning with God.
(3) All things were made by it [the Word]; and without it was not anything made that was made.

 

2. The pronoun in verse 3 can legitimately be translated as “it.” It does not have to be translated as “him,” and it does not have to refer to a “person” in any way. A primary reason why people get the idea that “the Word” is a person is that the pronoun “he” is used with it. The Greek text does, of course, have the masculine pronoun, because like many languages, including Spanish, French, German, Latin, Hebrew, etc., the Greek language assigns a gender to all nouns, and the gender of the pronoun must agree with the gender of the noun. In French, for example, a table is feminine, la table, while a desk is masculine, le bureau, and feminine and masculine pronouns are required to agree with the gender of the noun. In translating from French to English, however, we would never translate “the table, she,” or “the desk, he.” And we would never insist that a table or desk was somehow a person just because it had a masculine or feminine pronoun. We would use the English designation “it” for the table and the desk, in spite of the fact that in the original language the table and desk have a masculine or feminine gender.

 

This is true in the translation of any language that assigns a gender to nouns. In Spanish, a car is masculine, el carro, while a bicycle is feminine, la bicicleta. Again, no English translator would translate “the car, he,” or “the bicycle, she.” People translating Spanish into English use the word “it” when referring to a car or bicycle. For another example, a Greek feminine noun is “anchor” (agkura), and literally it would demand a feminine pronoun. Yet no English translator would write “I accidentally dropped the anchor, and she fell through the bottom of the boat.” We would write, “it” fell through the bottom of the boat. In Greek, “wind” (anemos) is masculine, but we would not translate it into English that way. We would say, “The wind was blowing so hard it blew the trash cans over,” not “the wind, he blew the trash cans over.” When translating from another language into English, we have to use the English language properly. Students who are studying Greek, Hebrew, Spanish, French, German, etc., quickly discover that one of the difficult things about learning the language is memorizing the gender of each noun—something we do not have in the English language.

 

Greek is a language that assigns gender to nouns. For example, in Greek, “word” is masculine while “spirit” is neuter. All languages that assign gender to nouns demand that pronouns referring to the noun have the same gender as the noun. Once we clearly understand that the gender of a pronoun is determined by the gender of the noun, we can see why one cannot build a doctrine on the gender of a noun and its agreeing pronoun. No student of the Bible should take the position that “the Word” is somehow a masculine person based on its pronoun any more than he would take the position that a book was a feminine person or a desk was a masculine person because that is the gender assigned to those nouns in French. Indeed, if one tried to build a theology based on the gender of the noun in the language, great confusion would result.

In doctrinal discussions about the holy spirit some people assert that it is a person because the Bible has “he” and “him” in verses that refer to it. So, for example, John 14:16,17 reads:

 

John 14:16 and 17
(16) And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—
(17) the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.

 

In the Greek language, “spirit” is neuter and thus is associated with the neuter pronoun, “it.” So, for example, verse 17 above should be literally translated as: “The world cannot accept it (the spirit), because it neither sees it nor knows it. But you know it, for it lives with you and will be in you.” Any Analytical Lexicon will confirm that the pronouns in this verse that refer to spirit are neuter, not masculine.

 

If the pronouns in the Greek text are neuter, why do the translators translate them as “he” and “him?” The answer to that question is that translators realize that when you are dealing with a language that assigns genders to nouns, it is the context and general understanding of the subject at hand that determines how the pronouns are to be translated into English as we have seen in the above examples (desk, bicycle, car, wind, etc.). It is amazing to us that Trinitarian translators know that the same neuter pronoun can be converted to an English masculine pronoun (e.g., “it” becomes “he”) but are evidently not as willing to see that a Greek masculine pronoun could be translated as an English neuter pronoun (e.g., “he becomes “it”), if the subject matter and context warrant it. Linguistically, both conversions could be completely legitimate. But any change depends, not on the gender assigned by the Greek language, but rather on the subject matter being discussed. For example, the logos is God’s plan and should be an it,” and “holy spirit,” when used as God’s gift, should also be translated into English as an “it.” To the un-indoctrinated mind, plans and gifts are obviously not “persons.”

 

Trinitarian Christians believe “the Holy Spirit” is a masculine being and translate the pronouns that refer to it as “he” in spite of the fact that the noun is neuter and call for an “it,” not a “he” in Greek. Similarly, even though the masculine noun calls for the masculine pronoun in the Greek language, it would still not be translated into English as the masculine pronoun, “he,” unless it could be shown from the context that the subject was actually a male; i.e., a man, a male animal, or God (who represents Himself as masculine in the Bible). So the question to answer when dealing with “the Word,” “the Comforter” and “the holy spirit” is not, “What gender are the noun and associated pronoun in the Greek language?” Rather, we need to ask, “Do those words refer to a masculine person that would require a “he” in English, or do they refer to a “thing” that would require the pronoun “it”?” When “holy spirit” is referring to the power of God in action or God’s gift, it is properly an “it.” The same is true for the “comforter.” (For a much more exhaustive treatment of the subject of holy spirit see, The Gift of Holy Spirit <http://www.biblicalunitarian.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=46> available from Christian Educational Services <http://www.biblicalunitarian.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=201>.

In Hebrew, “spirit” is feminine and must have feminine pronouns, while in Greek, “spirit” is neuter and takes neuter pronouns. Thus, a person trying to build a theology on the basis of the gender of the noun and pronoun would find himself in an interesting situation trying to explain how it could be that “the spirit” of God somehow changed genders as the New Testament was written.

 

Because the translators of the Bible have almost always been Trinitarians, and since “the Word” has almost always been erroneously identified with the person of Christ, the pronouns referring to the logos in verse 3 have almost always been translated as “him.” However, if in fact the logos is the plan, purpose, wisdom and reason of God, then the Greek pronoun should be translated into the English as “it.” To demand that “the Word” is a masculine person and therefore a third part of a three-part Godhead because the pronouns used when referring to it are masculine, is poor scholarship.

 

3. Viewed in light of the above translation, the opening of the Gospel of John reveals wonderful truth, and is also a powerful polemic against primary heresies of the day. We have already seen (under John 1:1 <http://www.biblicalunitarian.com/modules.php?name=Content&pa=showpage&pid=85>) that Gnostics were teaching that, in the hierarchy of gods, the god Elohim and the god Christ were actually opposed to each other. Also active at the time John was written were the Docetists, who were teaching that Christ was a spirit being and only appeared to be flesh. The opening of John’s Gospel shows that in the beginning there was only one God, not many gods. It also shows that this God had reason, wisdom, a plan or purpose within Himself, which became flesh in Jesus Christ. Thus, God and Christ are not at cross purposes as some were saying, and Christ was not a spirit being as others were saying.

The opening of John reveals this simple truth in a beautiful way: “In the beginning there was one God, who had reason, purpose and a plan, which was, by its very nature and origin, divine. It was through and on account of this reason, plan and purpose that everything was made. Nothing was made outside its scope. Then, this plan became flesh in the person of Jesus Christ and tabernacled among us.” Understanding the opening of John this way fits with the whole of Scripture and is entirely acceptable from a translation standpoint.

 

So as you can see, John 1:3 is not referring to Jesus, rather it is referring to God's word, and that is true, everything was created by God's word, he says be and it is, as the Quran tells us:

 

002.117
YUSUFALI: To Him is due the primal origin of the heavens and the earth: When He decreeth a matter, He saith to it: "Be," and it is.

016.040
YUSUFALI: For to anything which We have willed, We but say the word, "Be", and it is.

040.068
YUSUFALI: It is He Who gives Life and Death; and when He decides upon an affair, He says to it, "Be", and it is.

So as you can see from the Quran, Allah creates everything through his word, he just says be and it is. This is the case with John 1:3, through God's word everything was created.

 

So let us now post John 1:1-3 all togethor with what it really means:

 

John 1:1-3 (KJV)
(1) In the beginning was the word [logos], and the word was with God, and the word was God.
(2) The same was in the beginning with God.
(3) All things were made by [dia] him, and without him was not anything made that was made.

 

In the beginning was the word, which is God's word, his plan will and action,  and through his word he created Jesus, and his will and plan for Jesus was to be a prophet to the children of Israel, and to kill the dajjal.

 

The word was a god, not THE GOD, this simply means that the word Jesus was a great man, a leader and a prophet, to the Jews men of high honor were called god's but not in the literal sense. Moses was called a god to the Pharoh in the Torah.

 

The word of God was with God since the beginning, which is true, since God always knows what he will do, he does not get new ideas, he is all-knowing. This is what Muslims say the Quran is Allah's eternal speech; Allah's words are not created.

 

And finally from John 1:3, all things are made through God's word, he says be and it is.

 

So so far everything is simple and very easy to understand.

 

John 1:10 is also brought up to support Jesus' divinity, here is the explanation:

 

John 1:10
He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. (KJV)

 

1. This verse is a reference to the Father, not to Christ. A study of the context reveals that this section opens in verse 6 by telling us, “There came a man who was sent by God.” We are told, “God is light,” and that God’s light shown through Jesus Christ and made him “the light of the world.” Though God was in the world in many ways, including through His Son, the world did not recognize him. He came unto his own by sending his exact image, Jesus Christ, to them, but even then they did not receive God, in that they rejected His emissary. The fact that the world did not receive Him is made more profound in the context as Scripture reveals how earnestly God reached out to them—He made his plan and purpose flesh and shined His light through Christ to reach the world—but they did not receive Him, even though He was offering them the “right to become children of God” (v. 12).

2. Some scholars make the phrase, “the world was made by him,” a reference to the new creation only (see Col. 1:15-20 <http://www.biblicalunitarian.com/modules.php?name=Content&pa=showpage&pid=128>, Heb. 1:2 <http://www.biblicalunitarian.com/modules.php?name=Content&pa=showpage&pid=137>, and Heb. 1:10 <http://www.biblicalunitarian.com/modules.php?name=Content&pa=showpage&pid=139>), but we see it as a double entendre referring to both the original and the new creations (see #7 under John 1:1 <http://www.biblicalunitarian.com/modules.php?name=Content&pa=showpage&pid=85>, and Chapter 9 <http://www.biblicalunitarian.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=61>).

 

Also John 1:14 :

 

John 1:14a
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. (NIV)

 

1. The “Word” is the wisdom, plan or purpose of God (see John 1:1) and the Word “became flesh” as Jesus Christ. Thus, Jesus Christ was “the Word in the flesh,” which is shortened to “the Word” for ease of speaking. Scripture is also the Word, but it is the Word in writing. Everyone agrees that the “Word” in writing had a beginning. So did the “Word” in the flesh. In fact, the Greek text of Matthew 1:18 says that very clearly: “Now the beginning of Jesus Christ was in this manner.” Some ancient scribes were so uncomfortable with the idea of Jesus having a “beginning” that they tried to alter the Greek text to read “birth” and not “beginning,” but they were unsuccessful. The modern Greek texts all read “beginning” (genesis) in Matthew 1:18. “Birth” is considered an acceptable translation of “genesis,” since the beginning of some things is birth, and so most translations read “birth” in Matthew 1:18. Nevertheless, the proper understanding of Matthew 1:18 is the “beginning” (genesis) of Jesus Christ.

 

In the beginning, God had a plan, a purpose, which “became flesh” when Jesus was conceived. To make John 1:14 support the Trinity, there must first be proof that Jesus existed before he was born and was called “the Word.” We do not believe that such proof exists. There is a large body of evidence, however, that Jesus was foreknown by God, and that the “the Word” refers to God’s plan or purpose. We contend that the meaning of the verse is straightforward. God had a plan (the Word) and that plan became flesh when Jesus was conceived. Thus, Jesus became “the Word in the flesh.”

 

 

2. It is quite fair to ask why John would say, “the Word became flesh,” a statement that seems so obvious to us. Of course Jesus Christ was flesh. He was born, grew, ate and slept, and Scripture calls him a man. However, what is clear to us now was not at all clear in the early centuries of the Christian era. In our notes on John 1:1 <http://www.biblicalunitarian.com/modules.php?name=Content&pa=showpage&pid=85>, we explain that the Bible must be understood in the context of the culture in which it was written. At the time of John’s writing, the “Docetic” movement was gaining disciples inside Christianity (“Docetic” comes from the Greek word for “to seem” or “to appear”). Docetic Christians believed Jesus was actually a spirit being, or god, who only “appeared” to be human. Some Docetists did not believe Jesus even actually ate or drank, but only pretended to do so. Furthermore, some Jews thought that Jesus was an angel. In theological literature, theologians today call this “angel-Christology.” John 1:14 was not written to show that Jesus was somehow pre-existent and then became flesh. It was to show that God’s plan for salvation “became flesh,” i.e., Jesus was not a spirit, god or angelic being, but rather a flesh-and-blood man. A very similar thing is said in 1 John 4:2, that if you do not believe Jesus has come in the flesh, you are not of God.

 

John 1:15 is also used to support the Trinity and Divinity of Christ, here is the explanation:

 

John 1:15
John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ “ (NIV)

 

This verse is occasionally used to support the Trinity because it is assumed that for Jesus to come “before” John he would have had to exist before John. While it is true that the Greek word “before” (protos) can mean “before in time,” it can just as easily be “first,” “chief,” “leader,” etc. The “first” and great commandment was not the first given in time, but the first in rank. There are many examples of this in Scripture, including: Matt. 20:27; 22:38; Mark 6:21; 10:44; Luke 11:26. John the Baptist recognized that Jesus was above him in rank, and said so plainly.

 

And finally John 1:18 :

 

“The glory of the only begotten one”

This term “only begotten” in the phrase “only begotten Son” in John 1:18 (KJV) is traditionally understood to refer to his virgin birth, when he was first “begotten.” [37] However, it is widely recognized in scholarly circles that “only begotten” is a mistranslation of the Greek word monogenes. [38] “Unique” is a profoundly appropriate term to characterize Jesus Christ, the Son of God. His uniqueness begins with the voluminous prophetic utterances about his coming. No other human being has ever been so specifically described and anticipated. Then his virgin birth is indeed another aspect of his uniqueness. Adam was created directly by God, not through the agency of a woman. Others received a child by God’s promise, but through the normal process of sexual intercourse. No other human being, even Adam, was ever directly conceived by God Himself, yet carried in a woman’s body.

 

No man ever walked the earth with such commanding presence and authority, nor did as many miracles. No man walked in such moral perfection nor was treated so unjustly. No man showed so much compassion for his fellow man, nor risked his own life and reputation more for the sake of helping those who were downcast and troubled. No man ever represented God so perfectly, and yet died in a manner that seemed to say that he had been cursed of God. Men have been miraculously raised from the dead, but only one has died and been raised with an entirely new and immortal body <http://www.truthortradition.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=310>. And, finally, no man has ever sat where he sits, presiding over the angels <http://www.truthortradition.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=438> at the right hand of God <http://www.biblicalunitarian.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=44> Himself.

Jesus Christ was the only begotten Son of God, and, as we have already seen, that sonship was clearly declared when he was “born” from the dead <http://www.biblicalunitarian.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=233>. That monogenes also reflects the post-resurrection glory of Jesus Christ is evident from the qualifying phrase of John 1:18—“who is at the Father’s side.” In other words, Jesus is pictured as being at the Father’s side, providing a capstone to the prologue and sealing it with the stamp of his exalted glory. This leads us to the conclusion that from the very first verse the prologue of John has overtones of Christ’s present state of being at the right hand of God. Thus, the prologue of John fits with the remainder of the New Testament, including those passages that describe Christ in his post-resurrection glory.

 

To show the relationship of the language of John, and especially the prologue, to other passages in the New Testament that define the post-resurrection identity of Jesus Christ, we have created the following table <http://www.truthortradition.com/bu/butwhataboutjohn1-1table.html>. In it we have attempted to correlate the appropriate phrases that address a similar idea. Though it may be incomplete, the general affinity of the themes of these passages can be easily seen, and helps us to harmonize some of the language which, taken by itself, might lead to the erroneous conclusion that Jesus Christ is God, an eternal being, “essential deity,” etc., as Trinitarians propose.

 

AND

 

John 1:18
No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him. (KJV)

 

1. As it is written in the KJV, there is no Trinitarian inference in the verse.

 

2. There are versions such as the NIV and NASB, however, that are translated from a different textual family than the King James Version, and they read “God” instead of “Son.”

 

NIV: “No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.”

 

NASB: “No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.”

 

The NIV and NASB represent theologians who believe that the original text read “ho monogenes theos” = “the unique, or only begotten God,” while the KJV is representative of theologians who believe that the original text was “ho monogenes huios” = “the only begotten Son.” The Greek texts vary, but there are good reasons for believing that the original reading is represented in versions such as the KJV. Although it is true that the earliest Greek manuscripts contain the reading “theos,” every one of those texts is of the Alexandrian text type. Virtually every other reading of the other textual traditions, including the Western, Byzantine, Caesarean and secondary Alexandrian texts, read huios, “Son.” The two famous textual scholars, Westcott and Hort, known for their defense of the Alexandrian text type, consider John 1:18 to be one of the few places in the New Testament where it is not correct.

 

A large number of the Church Fathers, such as Irenaeus, Clement and Tertullian, quoted the verse with “Son,” and not “God.” This is especially weighty when one considers that Tertullian argued aggressively for the incarnation and is credited with being the one who developed the concept of “one God in three persons.” If Tertullian had had a text that read “God” in John 1:18, he certainly would have quoted it, but instead he always quoted texts that read “Son.”

 

It is difficult to conceive of what “only begotten God” would have meant in the Jewish culture. There is no use of the phrase anywhere else in the Bible. In contrast, the phrase “only begotten Son” is used three other times by John (3:16 and 18; 1 John 4:9 - KJV). To a Jew, any reference to a “unique God” would have usually referred to the Father. Although the Jews of John’s day would have had a problem with “only begotten God,” Christians of the second century and beyond, with their increasingly paradoxical understanding of Christology and the nature of God, would have been much more easily able to accept such a doctrine.

 

The reason that the text was changed from “Son” to “God” was to provide “extra evidence” for the existence of the Trinity. By the second century, an intense debate about whether or not Jesus was God raged in Alexandria, Egypt, the place where all the texts that read “God” originated. The stakes were high in these debates, and excommunication, banishment or worse could be the lot of the “loser.” Changing a text or two to in order to “help” in a debate was a tactic proven to have occurred. An examination of all the evidence shows that it is probable that “the only begotten son” is the original reading of John 1:18. For a much more detailed accounting of why the word “Son” should be favored over the word “God,” see The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, by Bart Ehrman (Oxford University Press, New York, 1993, pp. 78-82).

 

3. Even if the original text reads “God” and not “Son,” that still does not prove the Trinity. The word “God” has a wider application in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek than it does in English. It can be used of men who have divine authority (See John 10:33 <http://www.biblicalunitarian.com/modules.php?name=Content&pa=showpage&pid=103> and Heb. 1:8 <http://www.biblicalunitarian.com/modules.php?name=Content&pa=showpage&pid=138>). There is no “Trinitarian Formula” in this verse that forces a Trinitarian interpretation.

 

In light of all these explanations, we can conclude that John 1:1-18 does not prove a Trinity, nor does it show a divinity of Christ, the verses actually once again show the opposite that Jesus is not God, rather he is a creation and that all things are created by God through his word.

 

I have quoted well known Christians, who know their material, and are not know as heretics, so therefore to attack the credibility of these explanations would be desperate and weak.

 

In conclusion I say that Trinitarians should stop believing in a Trinity, and they stop believing that Jesus is God.