The Triune God
|"In the begining was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." John 1:1
The Primary issue in Dealing with The Trinity is not the logic of its mathematics, but the Deity of Christ. The doctrine itself came into being as a means of explaining how it is that Christians, following Judaism, are to have but one God, and yet worshiped Christ! The Doctrine of the Trinity is merely a Theological explanation of data in New Testament concerning the nature of Christ and his relationship to God the Father.
There is no verse that says "there is a Trinity." This is a term that was coined later. In fact the whole concept is a theologians answer to certain theological problems; a theological construct. But it is a construct based upon a great deal of data found in the Scritpures.No NT Writing brings out the deity of Chrsit like the Gospel of John. The whole fabric of the work is structured to reflect its prologue:
(John 1:1) "In The Beginning Was the Word, and the Word Was With God and The Word Was God, the Same Was With God in The Beginning."
Even though many scholars think that this prologue was tacked on after the initial composition, it is clear from what Helmutt Koester says in Ancient Christian Gospels that the whole book represents three major redaction's, and much more debate and minor adjustments. Koster concludes that the Gospel of John reflects the debate of an entire community which close knitt, to whom their Gospel was extremely important, and which debated the work for many years. Thus the prologue might represent the conclusion of the community, after many years of debate, the work itself has been redacted to show this conclusion played out in the life and work of it true founder, Jesus Christ. The deity of Christ is woven into the very fabric of the work.
From the beginning prologue, "the word was God," to the end of the book where Jesus breaths the Holy Spirit into the Apostles (presumably in preparation for Pentecost) Jesus' role as Messiah, son of God, expression of God, revelation of God, seen unfolding right up to and including his resurrection.
As Helmutt Koster says, The Prologue is an anti-Gnostic, anti-Sophia preamble. It is offering an alternative to the mythologoical Gnsotic figure of Widsom ("Sophia"). This is curicial because Sophia, as the female personification of Wisdom, is linked to God in Proverbs and even more strongly in the Wisdom of Ben Sirach an apocryphal work which dates to about 186 BC. The term "logos" is used interchangeably in that document with the Aramaic term memra. Thus when John says "in the beginning was the word" he is using the term logos in the way that Jewish heterodox sources of the intertestamental period used it, as an expression of God himself, God's presence (see Trinity page 4 "The Triune God in Hebrew Thought?). John is writing a biography of the Logos. Wisdom cannot have a biography, she is merely a veggie personified ideal, but the Logos can have a biography because he became a flesh and blood person (as opposed to Gnostic thinking which saw flesh as evil and Jesus' earthly nature as illusory). John tells us in no uncertain terms, "The word became flesh and dwelt among us."
The Meaning of Logos
I wont spend much time belaboring the definition of logos here, since I deal whith it at length on the page about Triune God in Hebrew Thought? But it should be said that the Christadelphian deditions of an idea in the mind of God, or "plan," a mere expression of an idea embodied in an ordinary man is not the point John is making and that is bad understanding of the word.
The word "logos" or "word" in Greek can be used in any sense in which we English speakers would use the term "word" (including as rhama would also be used). In the context of Greek Philosophy it indicated an organizing principle, the concept which constructs the world; for the Hebrews it meant the presence of God, an emanation through various sapheroths, and the self revealing presence, God revealing himself downward to earth. This the two uses (Greek and Hebrew) have in common. As ordering principle of the world, Logos also meant, for the Greeks, revelation, or an idea being revealed. This is the closest sense to its use in John. The Revelation of God to humanity is Jesus Christ, the embodiment of the God's self revealing presence.
agod." Thus they make Christ into a vice president God, God, jr. Rather than an expression of the embodiment of God himself, which is what John is saying. The problem is that the actual Greek does not use the definite article "the" so when this happens in Greek usually one should translate it as "a," as in "a tree," "a fire hydrant," "a dog," "a God." The problem is, there are exceptions and this is celery one such exception. In this passage the definite article before the term "God," "o Theos," "the God" means refurs to the creator, the totality of God, not merely a God but God himself. The lack of the defintate article, coming as it does "in the beginning the word was with God and the Words was God," or literally "God was the word" (actually says that) indicates that the quality of deity is the point; the word was divine. Hence one might translate, "in the beginning was the word, the word was with God and the word was divine" or "deity." The quality is what is stated here. But as the Jews found it abhorrent to speak of more than one deity, they obviously meant that the word was an aspect of God himself, since they would not say "the word was also divine in addition to the deity of God." Here is some more on the grammar of that passage:
This means, of course, that in Jn 1:1c hO LOGOS is the subject and QEOS is the predicate nominative.
Hall Harris, Ph.D.Bible Net
"En Arke ahn. In the beginning, the logos" already was, i.e., already existed. Before the created order as we know it existed, the Word already existed. And h\n can certainly convey eternal pre-existence, in contrast to ejgevneto (1:3). There is a possibility of a Johannine double meaning here, since (as already mentioned) ajrch'/ can also refer to the "first cause." [Tertullian makes reference to the double meaning of ajrch'/ in the LXX of Genesis 1:1 in his Argument against Hermogenes (xix).]
pros ton Theon ..The preposition prov" implies not just proximity, but intimate personal relationship. Marcus Dods states, "Pros" implies not merely existence alongside of but personal intercourse. It means more than metav or parav, and is regularly employed in expressing the presence of one person with another"["The Gospel of St. John," in The Expositor's Greek Testament (London, 1897) 684]. See also Mk. 6:3, Mt. 13:56, Mk. 9:19, Gal. 1:18, 2 John 12. A. T. Robertson says: "the literal idea comes out well, 'face to face with God'" [A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the light of Historical Research (Nashville: Broadman, 1934) 623, 625].
QeoV" h\n oJ lovgo" See 203 [Intermediate Greek] class notes for the significance of anarthrous pre-copulative predicate nominatives and a discussion of Colwell's Rule. From a technical standpoint, I think it is probably preferable to see something of a qualitative aspect to anarthrous qeov". NEB has a helpful translation: "What God was, the Word was," meaning the Word was fully deity in essence. In modern English "the Word was divine" does not quite catch the meaning; "the Word was fully God" would be more likely to convey the meaning to the average English reader. "
2) Colwell's Rule
Colwell's rule. Written in 1933 (Journal of Biblical Literature 51:12-21), this rule actually proved nothing about the meaning of THEOS in John 1.1c. But many thought that it did. Essentially, the rule says, "Definite predicate nominatives preceding the verb are usually with the article." The problem is that 'definie' is already predetermined by the context; it's part of the assumption, not the proof. But many scholars for the next 40 years assumed the converse of the rule. They assumed that the rule was "Anarthrous predicate nominatives preceding the verb are usually definite." Some went so far as to say 'always definite.' The logical fallacy of the converse is this: Just because there are clouds in the sky whenever it's raining does not mean that it's raining whenever there are clouds in the sky. And the empirical fallacy--that is, after actually looking at the data--is that 80% of all preverbal anarthrous PNs are qualitative rather than definite (so Philip Harner, JBL 91 ). There is more that can be said--in particular, the findings of P. S. Dixon (Dallas Seminary thesis, 1975), Don Hartley (DTS thesis, 1997), and my own findings presented at the Evangelical Theological Society last year (1999), but it would take too long to explain those. One needs to carefully nuance the discussion. I spend an hour in my second year Greek class explaining what's going on in John 1.1
3) Major Scholars and Translaters who agree "a god" is a bad translation
Dr. Samuel J. Mikolaski of Zurich, Switzerland:
"This anarthrous (used without the article) construction does not mean whatthe indefinite article 'a' means in English. It is monstrous to translate the phrase 'the Word was a god.'"
Dr. Paul L. Kaufman of Portland, Oregon:
"The Jehovah's Witnesses people evidence an abysmal ignorance of the basic tenets of Greek grammar in their mistranslation of John 1:1."
Dr. Charles L. Feinberg of La Mirada, California:
"I can assure you that the rendering which the Jehovah's Witnesses give John1:1 is not held by any reputable Greek scholar."
Dr. James L. Boyer of Winona Lake, Indiana:
"I have never heard of, or read of any Greek Scholar who would have agreedto the interpretation of this verse insisted upon by the Jehovah'sWitnesses...I have never encountered one of them who had any knowledge ofthe Greek language."
Dr. Walter R. Martin (who did not teach Greek but has studied the language):
"The translation...'a god' instead of 'God' is erroneous and unsupported byany good Greek scholarship, ancient or contemporary and is a translationrejected by all recognized scholars of the Greek language may of whom arenot even Christians, and cannot fairly be said to be biased in favor of theorthodox contention."
Dr. William Barclay of the University of Glasgow, Scotland:
"The deliberate distortion of truth by this sect is seen in their Newtestament translations. John 1:1 is translated: '...the Word was a god,' atranslation which is grammatically impossible...It is abundantly clear thata sect which can translate the New Testament like that is intellectuallydishonest."
Dr. F. F. Bruce of the University of Manchester, England:
"Much is made by Arian amateur grammarians of the omission of the definitearticle with 'God' in the phrase 'And the Word was God.' Such an omission iscommon with nouns in a predicative construction...'a god' would be totallyindefensible." [Barclay and Bruce are generally regarded as Great Britain'sleading Greek scholars. Both have New Testament translations in print!]
Dr. Ernest C. Colwell of the University of Chicago:
"A definite predicate nominative has the article when it follows the verb;it does not have the article when it precedes the verb...this statementcannot be regarded as strange in the prologue of the gospel which reachesits climax in the confession of Thomas. 'My Lord and my God.' - John 20:28"
Dr. Phillip B. Harner of Heidelberg College:
"The verb preceding an anarthrous predicate, would probably mean that theLOGOS was 'a god' or a divine being of some kind, belonging to the generalcategory of THEOS but as a distinct being from HO THEOS. In the form thatJohn actually uses, the word "THEOS" is places at the beginning foremphasis."
Dr. J. Johnson of California State University, Long Beach:
"No justification whatsoever for translating THEOS EN HO LOGOS as 'the Word was a god.' There is no syntactical parallel to Acts 28:6 where there is a statement in indirect discourse; John 1:1 is direct....I am neither a
Christian nor a trinitarian."
Dr. Eugene A. Nida, head of Translations Department, American Bible Society:
"With regard to John 1:1, there is of course a complication simply because
the New World Translation was apparently done by persons who did not take seriously the syntax of the Greek." [Responsible for the Good News Bible -The committee worked under him.]
Dr. B. F. Wescott (whose Greek text - not the English part - is used in the Kingdom Interlinear Translation):
"The predicate (God) stands emphatically first, as in IV.24. It isnecessarily without the article...No idea of inferiority of nature issuggested by the form of expression, which simply affirms the true deity of the Word...in the third clause 'the Word' is declared to be 'God' and soincluded in the unity of the Godhead."
Dr. J. J. Griesbach (whose Greek text - not the English part - is used inthe Emphatic Diaglott):
"So numerous and clear are the arguments and testimonies of Scriptures infavour of the true Deity of Christ, that I can hardly imagine how, upon theadmission of the Divine authority of Scripture, and with regard to fairrules of interpretation, this doctrine can by any man be called in doubt.Especially the passage, John 1:1-3, is so clear and so superior to allexception, that by no daring efforts of either commentators or critics canit be snatched out of the hands of the defenders of the truth."
The Prologue as a whole and fist chapter
1:18 Also tells us that the Logos was divine, and that the logos was the revelation of God. this fits with the defition given above, Lgos as Memra God's self revealing presence.1:18 says, "No one has ever seen God, but God the onlybegotten son has made him known." Or RSV: "The only Son who is in the Bosom of the father has made him known." This is a true translation right from the Greek.monogenaise theos, ho on ace ton kalpon tou patros ekinos exagostato. That "monogenaise theos" means the only begotton God. Litterally it says That God, the one only begotton [Jesus it means]the one in the bosom of the father, that one decliared him.[meaning God that it refurrs to when it says the Word was with God] It litterally and clealry says Jesus was God and he revealed God to us.Monogenaise theos, the only begtten God. That is just what it says!
The prologue as a whole is telling us that the Logos was the expression of God's self revealing presence, and that it manifested itself in flesh in history as a man. This is seen effortlessly and seamlessly when we go from discussing the logos to Jesus himself, after the statement in 1:14 "the word became flesh and dwealt among us." That flesh is Jesus Christ and all one need do to see this is follow the passage.
This word for "became flesh" is sqeouodzamin which means litterallly "pitiched his tent." It is the same word in the LXX used for the tabernacle. Just as God lived among the Israelites in the Tabernacle, so Jesus was the manifesation of God in the Fleshly tabernacle, the "tent" of the body. The body as tent is also a Greek cocept which Paul alludes to in Corinthians.
Fromt there the notion of Christ's deity is woven throughout the text. All the diaolgoues collapse and make no sense without it. There is no reason for them to seek to stone him without his claims to be God. There is no motifation for the drama or the crucifiction without that claim. The claims Jesus makes of himself will be followed in page II of this argument.
johanine Theology and Triune God part 2