Much has been made by Jehovah's Witnesses and other groups of the absence of the article in John 1:1: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was A God," is the preferred translation of such cults. There are good grammatical reasons to reject this translation and interpretation, but Arthur Wainwright (The Trinity in the New Testament, currently in print from Wipf & Stock) provides some additional contextual reasons. He points out that "THEOS is used with or without the article indiscriminately in the New Testament. In the Prologue to the Fourth Gospel it never has the article except in verses 1 and 2. In verses 5, 12, 13, and 18 it appears without the article" (p. 60).
So if the anarthrous form means "a God," then, if one is interested in consistency, these other verses should also be translated as "a God." Thus, John was a man "sent from a God" (v 6), and we become "children of a God" (v 12) through the will of "a God" (v 13). And "no one has seen a God at any time" (v. 18).
How does the New World Translation do? Verse 6 is translated, "There arose a man that was sent forth as a representative of God: his name was John." Verse 12-13 is, "However, as many as did receive him, to them he gave authority to become Godís children, because they were exercising faith in his name; and they were born, not from blood or from a fleshly will or from manís will, but from God." And verse 18 is, "No man has seen God at any time; the only-begotten god who is in the bosom [position] with the Father is the one that has explained him. " In short, the translation of John 1 is, shall we say, something short of consistent.
posted by Peter J. Leithart on Tuesday, November 30, 2004 at 12:27 PM
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