QUESTION: There are some who teach that the Lord Jesus was not equal with God the Father. They claim that the English translation of John 1:1 from the original Greek should read “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.” Most translations of this verse read “the Word was God.” Which is correct?
ANSWER: I am not an authority on the Greek language, but I have been helped greatly by those scholars who are. The Greek word for God, theos, often appears with the definite article “the” to indicate a specific identity. John was inspired by the Holy Spirit to leave out the definite article in John 1:1 to show that Jesus is “God” in His nature and essence, just like the Father. If John would have written instead that “the Word was ‘the’ God” it would have identified that Jesus alone is God.
Some of those who deny the deity of Christ continue to insist that Greek grammar requires the translation to be rendered “a god.” However, not only are they wrong, but they are also very inconsistent in regards to this issue. The Greek New Testament has 282 references to God without the use of the definite article. Those who use “a god” in John 1:1 translate the same phrase as simply “God” in 94 percent of the other 281 instances. If they were to be consistent, then each of these other references should also read “a god.” This same construction appears twenty times in the gospel of John alone. Of these, five occur in John 1, and only in verse 1 do they translate it as “a god.” Consistency would demand, for example, that they translate verse 6 as “There was a man sent from a god, whose name was John” and verse 18 as “No one has seen a god at any time.”
In addition, this false rendering raises another difficulty. If Jesus is “a god,” then there must be other gods. Yet Scripture is clear that there is only one true God, revealed to us in three distinct persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
Another attempt is made to subvert the deity of Jesus through further mis-translation of the first chapter of John. Denying the truth of verse 2, that Jesus was eternally existent “in the beginning with God,” they suggest that verse 3 should read, “All other things were made by Him; and without Him was not any other thing made that was made.” By adding the word “other” into this and other passages (like Colossians 1:16,17) referring to Christ as the creator of all things, the false doctrine is propagated which says that the Son created “all other things” after first being created by the Father.
Not only is there no basis in the original Greek for adding the word “other” to these verses, there is also ample Biblical evidence to point to the eternal existence of the Son, “whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2). Isaiah declared that even though Messiah’s life on earth would have a beginning: “Unto us a child is born,” His rightful Name is “The everlasting Father” (Isaiah 9:6).
These are but further attempts of the enemy of men’s souls to twist the clear testimony of the Word of God regarding our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, “as they do also the other Scriptures, unto their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:16).
—John D. McNeil