August 1, 2011

λόγος II: A Brief Greek Primer

To start off I should show from the Scripture itself or by internal evidence how we know that “the Word” is Jesus Christ. I will show that it is Jesus/God Himself that is the referent to “the Word” or the Person/Thing to which this linguistic expression refers. There is a lot going on in the first verse of John solely from a syntactic view point and I will try to explain it as clearly as possible. The nominative article “the” or “ο” is attached to the subject or nominative noun “λογος / logos” or “Word”. In the same clause the referent is also a nominative in the form of “θεος” or “God” without a definite article. It is clear what John is attempting to illustrate using these nominative cases in John 1:1. (See example below)

Greek: “...και θεος ην ο λογο” or literally “and God was the Word” (Aland et al, 312)
English: “…and the Word was God” ~John 1:1c (NIV)

It should also be noted that in this clause the emphasis is on Christ’s deity since the predicate theos / θεος precedes the subject “λογος / logos” giving it paramount importance in the clause…purposely placing the emphasis on God, who is the Word, who is Christ (Hendriksen 71, Rienecker et al 217). In Greek writing syntax, if a writer wanted to bring focus/importance on an idea it was placed at the start of a sentence or clause.

As aforementioned the word theos/ θεος also appears in the clause but it appears without a direct article which has the effect of emphasizing its quality. Not having an article it is to be viewed in conjunction with the other nominative in the clause. To view them this way is effectively see them as either the same, or they are identical in nature or type/quality (Barrett 129). “The Word” is of the same type or same nature as God. But…and this is a big but, in verse 1 although we can see that the Word was divine and had enjoyed a relationship or extreme closeness with the Father…it was not the Father per se. The “Word” in verse 1 is delineated from the Father by the word “πρός” (Barrett 129, Hendriksen 71, Morris 78). John leaves open the possibility that there is more to God than the Word (i.e.: The Spirit) as we will see next. Interestingly, if we then look at the second clause in John 1:1b where it says, “and the Word was with God” we can also deduce that whatever the Word is…it is with God in a close proximal relationship or as the Greek plainly states “ο λογος ην προς τον θεον” or literally “the Word was toward (face-to-face) the God” (Hendriksen 70). This is a description in Greek that amounts to saying the Word/Jesus was in the closest possible relationship to God (the Father). This is powerful wordage to illustrate Jesus’ relationship with the Father.

If we look ahead thirteen verses to John 1:14 we see an even specific reference to the Word that is used with tactical precision and this verse helps us narrow down to a person in the Trinity and it is again delineated from the Father. It shows that whatever the Word is, He became flesh and was begotten of the Father. After seeing all of these theological clues it is obvious when John says flesh he is referring to God the Son or the Incarnate Jesus Christ. Nothing else properly meets the description. It couldn’t even be the Holy Spirit because the Spirit is not flesh.

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us...” ~John 1:14

If this is not Jesus, who else could it possibly be that fits these set of criterion? My conclusion: No one but Jesus Christ! As we can see directly from the Bible, John uses the Word to refer to Jesus as these verses show the Son of God in an enigmatic but identifiable form. John is not plainspoken but for a reader to see anything else here other than Jesus is a misinterpretation of the Greek or willful denial (Blomberg 210). The Word is also clarified in verse 14 as being a Christological title (Barrett 126, Cullmann 249)

So now that we know the “who” the real question becomes – Why? Why did John write in this manner? This will require us to unpack some of the culture and history of John’s time. What was John was trying to say when he portrayed Jesus as the Word? It appears that this passage penned by John is partial fallout from Christianity having come from or having been birthed from Judaism (Barclay 26). Since Christianity had Jewish roots it is not surprising that we would see Jewish ideas bleed over into this new belief system. It was not just Jewish ideas either but ideas from the Hellenized (Greek) culture that surrounded the start-up of 1st century Christianity. I will list the most prominent ideas that were being imposed on Christ and subsequent Christianity that would’ve had enough effect on John to warrant having Him refer to Jesus in this manner.

Okay, everyone can breathe now. The densest part of the Greek explanation is now over. This had to be done so that the readers understood that John was using certain syntactical devices (combinations and orders of words) to communicate an idea deliberately. I need to explain it thoroughly enough so that those reading realized I was not trying to purposely confuse them by making it too hard to understand. It will suffice to say that John uses every tool available to him to assure his idea(s) gets across. Hopefully I will not need to bludgeon you over the head with anything this jam-packed again. Hopefully you haven't blown a fuse reading it like I did writing it. :) If you think it was hard reading it, imagine how hard it was for me to write it and still have it make sense.

BTW, you can go show this series on John 1:1 (particularly this post) to your Jehovah's Witnesses friends (if you have any) or you can show it to the next group of them the show up hammering on your door to "evangelize" you. Or you could go to all their houses and tell them one of the places their Bible is wrong (lol, just kidding). You will then have a perfectly good explanation to refute their purposely mistranslated New World Translation where it reads "and the word was a god" in John 1:1c. Please note the Proper noun is removed and that there was no article "a" in the Greek but it was added errantly here. By doing this they have effectively removed the deity from Christ in a single addition of a letter and removal of a capitalized letter. They added it to make their bible conform to their errant theology and doctrine that Jesus was a created being. Tsk-tsk tut-tut JW's! To take anything away from or add to Scripture is a no-no (Deuteronomy 4:2, 12:32; Proverbs 30:5-6; Galatians 1:6-12; Revelation 22:18-19).

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