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How Monotheism and the "a god" rendering of the anarthrous QEOS at John 1:1 is theologically(biblically) sound.

On the other pages discussing John 1:1 on this site we have found that the Greek of John 1:1c, namely, KAI QEOS HN hO LOGOS, can be rendered as " and the Word was a god" and that this is grammatically possible, even grammatically preferable. However, those trinitarians who admit as much argue against it on the grounds that such a rendering conflicts with the belief of monotheism. This is a theological argument. The belief that there is only one who is QEOS, "God," and this one is the true God, so that, if Jesus is QEOS and yet is not a 'false god' he must of necessity be that one true God and not "a god."
The following will allow the inspired holy scriptures and other relevant writings to show that biblical monotheism and the "a god" rendering of QEOS at John 1:1 is biblically sound.

We will 'set the scene' by firstly quoting William Loader who made these remarks on the three ways John 1:1c can be translated:

The Word was 'God'
The gospel begins with the words, 'In the beginning was the Word and the Word was God and the Word was theos ('God').' 'The Word was theos' must not be isolated and made into a simple equation: the Word was God. Grammatically this is a possible translation, but not the only one. The statement's meaning, and so it's translation, must be determined from it's context. It could also be translated: 'the Word was a god' or 'the Word was divine'. Grammatical considerations alone fail to decide the question, since all three translations can be defended on grammatical grounds.

The Word was God?
Against the first of these interpretations ('the Word was God' )is the fact that the author has just said that the Word was 'with' God. ...Nor is it likely that the author intends in his opening statement to make a gradual approach to what he wishes to say, so that 'the Word was with God' is merely a step along the way to the statement, 'the Word was God.' For it is precisely 'the Word was with God' which is repeated in 1:2,

The Word was a God?
The other two translations fit the context more smoothly at one level. Yet their evaluation cannot take place without our making assumptions about the author's wider frame of reference. In particular it is unlikely, given his context within the Christian community and it's roots in Judaism, that he would mean that there is more than one God....It is true on the more natural reading of the text, that there are two beings here: God and a second who was theos but this second is related to God in a manner which shows that God is the absolute over and against which the second is defined. They are not presented as two equal gods.

The Word was divine?
This leads us to consider the third translation, 'divine', the equivalent of theios, suggested already by Origen, and represented often by the phrase 'Gott von Art' or 'God of a kind'. Should the author be concerned to say that the Word was divine, why did he write theos and not the more usual adjective, theios. The order of 1:1c and the lack of the article may be idiomatic in relation to the use of predicate nouns, as Colwell suggests, or it may, in addition, reflect an emphasis on quality shared without exact reciprocity. This would suggest that the focus here lies not on the person, but on the quality or nature of the Word....."-The Christology of the Fourth Gospel-Structures and Issues, Verlag Peter Lang, p.156.

Notice that the stumbling block Loader has with the translation of John1:1c as "the Word was god," is that of the "context within the Christian community and it's roots in Judaism, that he would mean that there is more than one God." What he means in essence is that it does not seem to 'marry' with the idea or belief in Monotheism.

However, note what another writer on this passage of scripture has said and see if there is any real conflict with a rendering that says the "Word was a god," and 'monotheism:

"[In]John 1:1, however, [we are told] of something that was inexistence already in time primeval; astonishingly, it is not "God." ...The thereby elevated to such heights that it almost becomes offensive. The expression is made tolerable only by virtue of the continuation in "and the Logos was in the presence of God," viz', in intimate, personal union with God.

"In order to avoid misunderstanding here, it may be inserted here that [theos] and [ho theos] ("god, divine" and "the God) were not the same thing in this period. Philo has therefore written: the [logos] means only [theos ("divine") and not [ho theos] ("God") since the logos is not God in the strict sense. Philo was not thinking of giving up Jewish monotheism. In similar fashion, Origen, too, interprets: the Evangelist does not say that the logos is "God," but only that the logos is "divine." In fact, for the author of the hymn, as for the Evangelist, only the Father was "God" (ho theos; cf 17:3); "the Son" was subordinate to him(cf.14:28). But that is only hinted at in this passage because here the emphasis is on the proximity of the one to the other: the Logos was in "the presence of God," that is, in intimate, personal fellowship with him....

"The Logos therefore was not a substitute for God in the beginning, but lives in and out of this fellowship(1:18;4:34). But precisely for this reason, viz., that he alone had this primeval union with "God," does he take on added significance. Verse 1c expresses this meaning more strongly: "and divine (belonging to the category divinity) was the Logos."...Bultman objects to this interpretation: one cannot speak of God (in the Christian sense) in the plural. On the contrary, in the period in which the hymn took it's rise, it was quite possible in Jewish and Christian monotheism to speak of divine beings that existed alongside and under God but were not identical with him. Phil 2:6-10 proves that. In that passage Paul depicts just such a divine being, who later became man in Jesus Christ, and before whom every knee will one day bow. But it should be noted that the Son will eventually return all authority to the Father(1Cor.15:28), so that his glory may be complete. Thus, both in Philippians and John 1:1 it is not a matter of a dialectical relationship between two-in-one, but a personal union of two entities, and to that personal union corresponds the church's rejection of patripassianism".- E.Haenchen, A Commentary on the Gospel of John, Chapter 1-6, pp.109-110.(emphasis ours)

Regarding Haenchen's comment above "...In fact, for the author of the hymn, as for the Evangelist, only the Father was "God" (ho theos; cf 17:3);.." Hans Kung comments on John 17.3 " this late, fourth Gospel, we still have the statements like: 'And this is eternal life, that they may know the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent'.... Here is a clear distinction between God and Jesus Christ."- Judaism, p.382, SCM Press, 1995 English edition.

It is to be noted from the above that someone other than "the God," could bear the title or rather the term "god," [Greek theos or QEOS] and not contradict or conflict with the notion of monotheism at that time. We have to realise that such terms as 'monotheism,' 'polytheism' and 'henotheism' are relatively modern descriptive terms. Polytheism is the belief and religious worship of more than one god. Each god has a 'sphere' of their own. Jehovah's Witnesses are not polytheists. Henotheism is the belief in and worship of one god without denying the existence of others who also can receive religious worship. Jehovah's Witnesses are not henotheists. Monotheism has been defined as the belief in and religious worship of one God only. Jehovah's Witnesses are then monotheists as they hold to this. According to the Bible's monotheism the rendering "and the Word was a god" would not teach polytheism nor henotheism as the Bible does not say that the "Word," Jesus Christ should receive religious worship, that is, worship as the one true god. Can this be proved from the scriptures? As well as the remarks by Haenchen re Philippians 2:6ff- Yes.

At this point though we would like to interject an interesting comment from the book A Christian Theology of the Old Testament by George A.F.Knight (SCM Press, London, 1959) where the author writes:

"Again, the Person of God must have been in some sense present in the human Moses. God explains to that hesitant and doubting creature: 'See, I have made thee 'elohim to Pharaoh'!(Ex.7.1, P). Moreover, we can define this last occurrence of the word 'elohim with more precision because in the parallel passage from the pen of J we find 'I will be with thy mouth'(Ex.4.12). In other words, Moses was meant to become the instrument of the living Word of God, perhaps even its vehicle.
A good example of the close relationship that obtains between God and his angels, on the other hand, is to be found in Ps.82.1-6. There we discover the following words: 'Elohim stand(s) in the congregation of 'el; in the midst of elohim he judges', and again 'I have said, ye are elohim, and all of you are sons of elyon'.

Following this he writes:

"Scholars today are being led to the conclusion that there is no means of explaining the phenomenon of Moses without conceding that he was a truly a monotheist as was Amos centuries later. But such a belief cannot be postulated of the majority of the leaders of Israel in the period between these two prophetic figures. Men in that period were rather what we would call today, henotheists, and not monotheists."

We think that in this author is incorrect to think that some of the OT figures between Moses and Amos were "henotheists" for he, like some trinitarians today, with their incorrect charge that the theology of the Witnesses is henotheistic rather than monotheistic, is based on a mis-understanding of what is biblical monotheism, which is being explained on this page, in that biblical monotheism is where only one god is the true god and should be worshipped but that there are other beings under and dependent on this one who are rightly called and even "are gods"(Ps.82.6)but do not receive worship. But also of interest is the parallel that this author shows with Moses being God's mouth-piece and also called a "god"(Ex.4.12; 7.1)and the pre-existent Jesus as God's "Word" (God's 'mouth-piece') and also called "theos" ("god") in John 1.1. This agree with what one will read below when we quote Jack T. Sanders Schismatics, Sectarians, Dissisdents, Deviants: The First One Hundred Years of Jewish-Christian Relations. Please remember this point here when you come to our quoting this work. This shows the background of John's prologue and has a bearing on how we might understand the Word being theos like Moses.

That the Bible clearly states that there is only one God and that others could be called "gods" is borne out from the following scriptures:

One God, Jehovah (YHWH):Gen.5:22, 24; 6:2, 4, 11; 17:18; 20:6; Ex.2:23; 3:1, 6, 11, 12, 13; De.4:35, 39; 7:9; Jos.14:6; 22:34; 1Ki.8:60; 12:22; 13:4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 11, 12, 14, 21, 26, 29, 31; Job 1:6; 2:1,10; Eze.31:9; Da.1:2, 9, 17. etc.

Angels=gods: Psalm 8:5,"Yet Thou hast made him little less than heavenly beings [Heb: elohim] and Thou hast crowned him with glory and honor."-New Berkely Version.

Psalms 8:5 LXX, "Thou madest him a little less than angels, thou hast crowned him with glory and honour."-Brenton. The writer of Hebrews quotes Ps.8:5 at 2:7,9 and shows this to be the correct translation.

Psalms 138.1: "...In front of other gods I shall make melody to you."

C. C. Broyles remarks on this verse: "It is possible the expression, before the "gods," can refer to human "judges"...., but it is more likely we should understand this term in the same sense as it is used in Psalm 82...., namely as "heavenly beings" (i.e., angels.)"-New International Biblical Commentary, Psalms, Hendrickson, 1999. In The Jewish Study Bible Featuring The Jewish Publication Society Tanakh Translation we read: "I...sing a hymn to You before the divine beings." In a marginal note its remarks: "Before the divine beings, the divine council(82.1; 89.7-8; 95.3)." Hence, "angels" the LXX translates here with aggelos, also the Latin Vulgate similarly, are "gods, " that is, "heavenly beings, " divine beings." This is the sense that angels, spirits like Jehovah and within His heavenly "council" are "gods." They are not rival "gods" as the foreign "gods," or any "strange god" (Isaiah 43.12) of the nations surrounding Jehovah God were and they are not "gods" that were due worship (which the "gods" of the nations were) which only the one true "God" ("god" in a unique sense, way, "god" absolutely, hence "God" in English) should be. Hence, there is no conflict with angels being "gods" and the concept of there being only "one God."

(We would like to make clear at this point something about lexicons that some might refer to when looking up the meaning of Hebrew (and Greek) words.
For instance, the Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew-English Lexicon under its entry for the Hebrew word elohim gives for Psalms 8:5 "angels." However, this does not mean that this lexicon is informing us that the meaning of elohim here is "angels"! No! This lexicon, and others, is informing its readers that at this place the referent of the word elohim is "angels." "Angels" is not a meaning of elohim!
This can be shown by considering John 10.34, 35 which has Jesus quoting from Psalms 82.1, 6 where "elohim" ocurrs. Now, when we turn to Ps.82 verses 1 and 6 in the New American Standard Bible we read: "...He judges in the midst of the rulers"-v.1. Also, verse 6: "I said, "You are gods." But in a marginal note for verse 1 its says for "rulers": "Lit[erally] gods" Yes, although they rendered "elohim" here as "rulers" one could just as well render it as "gods" and indeed, the marginal note says that "literally" the word elohim here means "gods" and they so call these "rulers" "gods" in verse 6 which is a translation of the same word they rendered as "rulers", namely elohim! Yes, this translation choose to offer, as a substitute, the referent of the word, in this case, "rulers" in verse 1 rather than the literal meaning which they rightly informs us is "gods" in both the marginal note and their actual translation of the same word in verse 6. Yes, the "rulers" there are "gods" themselves. The New Revised Standard Version renders elohim here in vss 1 and 6 as "gods" and this shows that the "rulers" (NAS) are "gods." (NRSV) But they are not 'false gods'. This should show those who when looking up elohim in the Brown-Driver-Briggs_Gesenius Hebrew-English Lexicon and see under 1.a rulers, judges,........Ps 82.1, 6" that this lexicon is giving the referents of the word not its meaning and that "literal" (NAS note) meaning is "gods." This is shown by the NAS translation and marginal readings and comparing with the New Revised Standard Version above quoted. But this can also be seen by looking at where Jesus quoted from this Psalm. He did so at John 10. 34, 35 where we can read: "Jesus answered them, "Has it not been written in your Law, 'I said, you are gods'? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came....." The word translated here as "gods" is the plural of theos (the first one is in the nominative the second in the accusative hence the different inflections) and so this also shows that "elohim" in Psalms.82.1, 6 means "gods." Yes, the word rendered as "rulers" by the New American Standard Bible means "gods" not "rulers." The "rulers" is what is denoted by the word elohim, not its meaning, or 'core sense.' So, the question for some who might misunderstand what some lexicons are doing should ask themselves that if this is so with elohim at Ps.82.1, 6 , yet the Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew-English Lexicon does not give "gods" here at Psalms 82.1, 6 as its 'meaning' might it also be the case that this lexicon here does not give its meaning (its "literal" meaning as the New American Standard Bible's marginal note informs us and the New Revised Standard Version's actual translation) but rather its referent at this place? Yes! As both the New American Standard renderings and marginal notes, the translation of the New Revised Standard Version and the Greek of John 10.34, 35 informs us. So, likewise, when we see in the Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hrebrew-Lexicon under its entry for elohim "1.c "angels" this lexicon is not saying that the meaning of elohim is "angels" but that "angels " is the referent for the word(or expression "bene ha elohim" "sons of gods) in certain scripture places and gives as an example Psalm 97.7. However, in 1.b it does say: "divine ones, superhuman being including God and angels Ps. 8.6.....". Here we see that in Psalm 8.6 the "angels" are "divine ones." This really is saying that, like "God" the angels are themselves "gods." The meaning of elohim, when used as a simple plural means "gods." When used of "God" it is as an 'intensive plural' to denote the supreme "God" Jehovah.)

Robert Bowman (Why You Should Believe in the Trinity, "Are Angels God?", p.51ff) denies that at Psalms 8:5 the elohim or "gods," "godlike ones" are angels but elohim in this text is in fact God. However, we would defer our readers to the following:

The New Century Bible Commentary, Psalms(1-72):

"5. little less than God [Revised Standard Version]: a problem is caused by the Hebrew elohim which may mean 'God' (so it was understood by Aq[uila], Sym[machus], Theod[otion] or 'angels'(so LXX, T[argums], S[yriac Version], V[ulgate]). The latter alternative is more likely, because the Psalmist had been at pains to stress the infinite greatness of God and the comparative insignificance of man. The first alternative would have the effect of practically contradicting the essence of verses 3-4, and therefore the comparison must be between man and the heavenly beings or God's messengers who surround his throne (cf. 1 Kings 22:19; Job 1:6; Ps.82:1, 86:8, 89:6(M[asoretic] T[ext]).-p.103(by A. A. Anderson, Reprint of March 1992, Errdmans Pub. Co, Grand Rapids, Michigan, ISBN 0-8028-1865-X)-italics ours.

and the

New International Biblical Commentary, Psalms:

"8:5 / Than the heavenly beings [New International Version]: The M[asoretic] T[ext] reads me-elohim, which in most contexts should be translated "from/than God," as noted in the NIV margin. The LXX reads par aggelous, "than angels." This is the version quoted in Heb.2:7. The LXX need not reflect a paraphrase because an expression denoting angels in the H[e]b[rew] Bible is "sons of elohim"(Gen.6:2, 4; Job 1:6; 2:1; 387). In Ps.82:1, 6 elohim by itself appears to denote such spiritual beings."-p73(Craig C. Broyles:, 1999, Hendrickson Publishers, ISBN 1-56563-220-6)

Hence, The Psalms: A New Translation. Translated From the Hebrew and Arranged for Singing to the Psalmody of Joseph Gelineau, Fontana Books, 2nd impression, December 1963 and The Psalms: A New Translation For Worship, Collins Liturgical Publications (by and for the Anglican Church), 1977 reads here:

"Yet you have made him little less than a god;" -italics ours.

As does the Revised English Bible of 1989. The New Revised Standard Version has "gods."

The above contradicts Bowman (ibid, pp.52, 53) who asserts that the LXX (Septuagint) translation of elohim as "angels" is a "paraphrase" and "introduc[es] a new understanding of [the Hebrew of Ps.8:5]." The above shows this to be an argument based upon flawed or false grounds! The fact is that "angels" in the Hebrew scriptures, including here at Psalms 8:5, are elohim or "gods."

The New American Bible reads here:

"You have made him a little less than the angels,.." with a footnote that says: "8.6:The angels: in Hebrew, elohim, which is the ordinary word for "God" or "the gods"; hence, some translate, " a little less than godlike." Cf Pss 45,7; 58,2; 82,1; 97,7. But the ancient versions generally understood the term as referring to the heavenly spirits. Cf Ps 138,1." At Ps 138:1 in this same Bible version we read: " the presence of the angels I will sing your praise" with a footnote that explains: "The angels: in Hebrew, elohim, which is the word for "God," "gods," and sometimes "godlike beings," such as the angels."

Yes! The Bible shows that "Yahweh is thought of as supreme in a heavenly assembly of divine beings. (cf. note on [Ps]82)"-G.W.Anderson in Peake's Commentary on the Bible, M.Black/H.H.Rowley editors, Thomas Nelson, May 1962, p.442. Italics ours

Bowman(ibid.p.52)also tries to argue that because, as he thinks, that Psalms 8:5 is "parallel" to Genesis' "in the image of God"(Gen.1:26-28) when it says "a little lower than elohim," both in reference to man and, hence, elohim here means "God" and not "gods" or "godlike ones." We do not see how this is necessarily so! Why are they "parallel"? True, there are common thoughts in Psalm 8 and the Genesis account. Yet could not man be made in the "image of God" and yet also be greatly lower than God and yet still "a little lower" than angels? Yes! However, Holt, cutting through all this, correctly observes: "Some have argued that the correct understanding of Psalms 8:5 is 'man was made a little lower than God(i.e., Almighty God)'. We have a difficult time accepting this because it hardly seems that man is 'a little lower than God." This is also out of harmony with Hebrews 2:7, which reads, "What is man that you should keep him in mind, or [the] son of man that you take care of him? You made him a little lower than angels." This verse is referring to the perfect man Jesus Christ yet it says he was lower than angels. So how can imperfect men be just a little lower than God?"-Jesus: God or the Son of God, p.54, ftnote 44)

(On the back cover of Bowman's book we read: "The choice is between believing in the true God as he has revealed himself, mystery and all, or believing in a God who is relatively simple to understand but bears little resemblance to the true God. Trinitarians are willing to live with a God that they can't fully comprehend." We would retort by saying that the choice is between believing in the true God as he has revealed himself, relatively simple to understand and comprehensible or a mysterious incomprehensible God whom bears little resemblance to the True God. 'Unitarians' are willing to live with a God that they can comprehend, know. Cp. John 4:22)

Genesis 6:2,4; Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7-"sons of God." Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar says about the use of "ben" ["son"]. "There is another use of ben-["son of"] or benei ["sons of"] to denote membership of a guild or society (or of a tribe, or any definite class). Thus benei Elohim ["sons of God"] or benei ha-Elohim [son of The God] Genesis 6:2, 4, Job 1:6, 2:1, 38:7 (compare also benei Elim Psalms 29:1, 89:7) properly means not sons of god(s), but beings of the class of elohim [gods] or Elim." p.418. The Lexicon for the Old Testament by Koehler and Baumgartner, on p.134, ed.of 1951 agrees," BENEI ELOHIM(individual) divine beings, gods." And on p.51,"BENEI HA-ELOHIM the (single) gods Genesis 6:2; Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7."

In Old Testament Quotations in the New Testament, one can read an interesting comment on p 59, where the authors show that in Psalms 97:7 and 138:1 angels are called elohim (the LXX has "angels" both places). This seems to suggests then that their opinion was that the word elohim could refer to, be applied to angels, as we also maintain.(1983, by G.L.Archer and G.Chirichigno) This is certainly the opinion of the already quoted New International Biblical Commentary: Psalms by Broyes. He writes in reference to 138:1-3: "It is possible the expression, before the "gods," can refer to human judges....,but it is more likely we should understand this term in the same sense as it is used in Psalm 82..., namely as heavenly beings(i.e., angels.).p.481

We might also quote from a web page critical of the beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses and which has a bearing on this page's subject matter, namely, biblical monotheism.

"Nehemiah 9:6 in the New World Translation, the Jehovah's Witnesses own translation of the bible says “You are Jehovah alone; you yourself have made the heavens, [even] the heaven of the heavens, and all their army, the earth and all that is upon it, the seas and all that is in them; and you are preserving all of them alive; and the army of the heavens are bowing down to you."
If Jehovah is alone and made the heavens himself then Jesus must be one with Jehovah!"

In reply we would remark:

We would ask if anyone has noticed already a mistake in the above explanation of Nehemiah 9:6? It does not say "Jehovah is alone" but that "You are Jehovah alone." This means that there is no other that is called Jehovah, no other that is the true God and no other can rival him as the rightful Sovereign of the Universe. Jehovah is not "alone." Surrounding Him and his throne the Bible describes heavenly creatures that have intimate contact with him. These are the "sons of God." Jehovah has a family of spirit creatures with him in the spiritual heavens. He is certainly not alone! The Bible teaches that there is only one God. This is monotheism. But today there is the common but erroneous conception that Biblical monotheism means that only One can be called "God" - Hebrew "elohim," Greek "theos." However, even this following quote shows this to be wrong.

"It is often said that, in its highest reaches of religious thought, the Old Testament expresses belief in God in terms of 'ethical monotheism'. But it must be remembered that monotheism, for the Old Testament prophets, had a connotation very different in many respects from that which it has in modern thought. It is false to assume that the Old Testament writers, however exalted their conception of the Godhead might be, conceived of God as alone in isolated majesty over against men, the creatures of his will. There is ample evidence to show that this conception of monotheism was held in conjunction with a belief in a spiritual world peopled with super-natural and superhuman beings who, in some ways, shared the nature, though not the being of God" (Russell, D.S. The Method and Message of Jewish Apocalyptic. 235).

Men = gods; Psalms 82:1,6; "God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgement:"-v.1; "I say, "You are gods, children of the Most High, all of you."-v.6 NRSV. At John 10:34-36 Jesus quotes Ps.82; "Jesus answered, "Is it not written in your law, 'I said, you are gods'? If those to whom the word of God came were called 'gods'-and the scripture cannot be annulled-can you say that the one whom the Father has sanctified and sent into the world is blaspheming because I said, 'I am God's Son'?" Clearly, Jesus showed that those who were called elohim there were in fact 'gods,' with a positive understanding. Any other understanding would destroy the force of Jesus' use of that scripture!

Jesus himself quotes from Psalm 82:6: "Is it not written in your Law, 'I said: "You are gods"'? If he called 'gods' those against whom the word of God came..."-John 10:34, 35.

Some however believe that the "gods" of Pslam 82.1, 6 are the "angels."

And we would agree with G. R. Beasley-Murray who comments on these words of Jesus:

"It is plain from the course of the argument, as well as from usual Jewish assumptions in quoting the Bible, that the second line is assumed along with the first (the whole passage was well known to the hearers, for its meaning was frequently discussed). A single clear idea is in mind as Jesus cites this scripture: In the "Law" (i.e., the OT, of which the Law is the chief part : cf. 12:34; 15:25), the term "god" is applied to others than God himself; if those addressed by God in this passage can be called gods (and sons of God), how much more can he whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world be so termed?"-Word Biblical Commentary, Volume 36(2nd edition), John, Thomas Nelson Publishers, p.175.-italics ours.

Yes! Jesus was not only claiming that he was "God's Son"(10:25, 29) but was also claiming, by quoting the above Psalm, that he was entitled to the designation "god." This is how the Jewish hearers of Jesus words understood him for did they not say that they picked up stones to stone him "because [Jesus], although being a man, make yourself a god."? -NWT. See also the New English Bible. Jesus' words following this charge shows that this translation in the correct one. By claiming that he was "God's Son" he was claiming not that he was "God" but "a god" and so the Jews rightly understood him but incorrectly thought this was "blasphemy". Hence we would also agree with the following: "Once more the Jews attempt to stone Jesus as a blasphemer who makes a claim of divinity which no man is permitted to do(33). Jesus points out to them that even within their Scriptures, whose validity is permanent and beyond dispute, men in the persons of the judges receive from God Himself the title gods (Ps. lxxxii.6). They were entitled to be so designated, for they represented, however imperfectly, the divine will in so far as they were called upon to administer God's word. In the light of this verse from the Psalms, Jesus cannot therefore be legitimately denounced as a blasphemer for calling Himself by what is nominally the lesser title Son of God(36). It is, to be sure, only nominally a lesser title, for the judges as well as the law-givers and prophets of the old dispensation, as is pointed out in verse 35, were those unto whom the word of God came, while Jesus is Himself sent by God, the very Word of God made flesh."-The Gospel According to John, An Introduction and Commentary by Prof. R. V. G. Tasker, Tyndale Press, 1964 printing, 134, 135. What must be accepted from the above however is that others other than God Himself could be designated as god (Gk: QEOS or Heb: elohim) and so the translation of "and the Word was a god" cannot be disputed on theological grounds.

The New Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew and English Lexicon (coded to Strong's): "430...a. rulers, judges, either as divine representatives at sacred places or as reflecting divine majesty and power...Ex 21:6..22:7,8...82:1,6..."

Exodus 7:1; "The LORD said to Moses, "See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet."

Jack T. Sanders comments on Moses being called "like God" and comparing this with John's christology and calling Jesus THEOS:

"The closest analogy to the use of the word (or title) 'god' for Jesus, however, is the use of such a term for Moses. Already Ex. 7.1 says that God makes Moses god to Pharaoh; and even before that Ex. 4.16 makes nearly the same claim (le lohim, 'as god') of Moses in his relation to Aaron. Consequently, Philo does not hesitate to call Moses god, and in quite an unrestricted sense: For [Moses] was called god and king of the whole people, for he was said to enter the dark cloud wherein was God' (Life Mos. 1.158). The coincidences between this god-predication of Moses and the Fourth Gospel's god-predication of Jesus are these: (1) Jesus is emphatically likened to Moses in the Johannine tradition (John 1.17); (2) Jesus in Johannine tradition also entered into darkness (John 1:5); (3) it is clear that by calling Moses god, Philo does not actually equate Moses with the supreme God, just as it is clear that the Johannine Christians, by calling Jesus god, do not actually equate him with the supreme God, inasmuch as Jesus is in Johannine tradition otherwise Son of God and the revealer sent from heaven. Beyond Philo, the divine appellation adheres to Moses when Josephus calls him a theios aner ('divine man', AJ 3.180). One may suspect, on the basis of this evidence, that there was some connection between the equation of Jesus with God in the Fourth Gospel and the comparison of Jesus to Moses."-Schismatics, Sectarians, Dissisdents, Deviants: The First One Hundred Years of Jewish-Christian Relations, SCM Press, 1993, pages 93, 94.

Yes! Just as Moses could be called "god" likewise Jesus could be called "god" and not be "equated with the supreme God." When we see John's writings giving Jesus the appellation theos(1:1, 18; 10:33; 20:28)he was using it just the way that Moses had been understood as being 'god." Neither did the Jews think of Moses as "God" and nor did the Jewish-Christians think that Jesus was "God."

In the book The God of the Gospel of John one reads:

"In his study of the language used in the imperial cult, Price shows the wide and diverse semantic field of theos in Graeco-Roman culture. Essentially, the term was used to designate a wide variety of (1) heavenly beings (in both Greek and Semitic language); (2) figures of exceptional power or status, such as kings; and (3) figures to whom one wished to show reverence. Those persons long accustomed to the view that Judaism could be distinguished from neighbouring religions by its "radical monotheism" will undoubtedly suspect that while Price's analysis will hold for pagan religion, it will not hold for Judaism and Jewish texts. Yet there are sources from Second Temple Judaism that use theos, elim, and elohim of other beings than the one God, but not in an unlimited sense and not without qualification. Those limitations and qualifications are instructive for understanding precisely the meaning of these terms."-Marianne Meye Thompson, 2001 Wm Eerdmans Publishing Co, p.20, 21. "Price" refers to "God's and Emperors," p.79.)

In John 1.1 do we see the Word's being described as theos with "limitations and qualifications"? Yes. John qualifies the Word being theos by his showing that the Word was "with" ho theos, that is with the god, "God." That is, the Word, while being predicated with the word theos, was not "God."

Hence, just as the Jewish writer Philo, a monotheist, could write of Moses when expanding on the passage in Exodus 7.1:

"For, since God judged him worthy to appear as a partner of His own possessions, He gave into his hands the whole world as a portion well fitted for His heir...Was not the joy of [Moses'] partnership with the Father and Maker of all magnified also by the honour of being deemed worthy to bear the same title? For he was named god and king of the whole nation"(Mos.1.155-158; Prob.42-44), that the Logos of God was a "god" even a "second god" and also argues that the articular and anarticular uses of God in Genesis 31.13LXX [ego eimi ho theos ho ophtheis soi en topo thou] distinguishes whom theos is applied to in that the articular theos denotes the one who is "properly called God," by which he means "He that is truly God, " the Word is "improperly so called,"(Somn. 1.229-230)

....likewise the apostle John, a Jewish writer and monotheist, could do so too and he does in John 1.1,2 when he distinguishes and contrasts the "Word," that is, God's spokesperson or prophet, from "God," (with his use of pros "with, " showing a relationship between one that is ho theos "God" and another, and by his articular and anarticular uses of theos). We ought not to forget that the words of of Deuteronomy 18.18 originally made in reference to Moses was applied to Jesus. "A prophet I shall raise up for them from the midst of their brothers, like you; and I shall indeed put my words in his mouth, and he will certainly speak to them all that I shall command him." Hence, in this tight unit of language John himself has been careful to qualify and limit the term theos when he next applies it to the "Word." Also, John a little further on in this same prologue to his gospel tells us the Word is monogenes theos(v.18), that is, the Word is an "only begotten god." Once again, John himself qualifies and limits the Word's being theos. Here then in John 1.1c John's anarthrous theos applied to the Word has the semantic "god" not "God."
Even in the Midrash we have Moses being described as God and as a personal description. In Exod. Rab.8.1(on Exodus 7.1)one reads :

"Yet God called Moses by his own name, as it says: "Behold, I have made thee as a God unto Pharaoh." God said to Moses: "The wicked Pharaoh made himself out to be a God," as it says: "My river is mine own, and I have made it for myself"(Ezek.xxix,3); let him, therefore, see thee[Moses] and say: "This is God."-italics ours.

The use of HN "was" (the imperfect of EIMI the "be" verb) in John 1.1c is not one where John has used it standing alone without any qualification. Any appeal to this verb here then is entirely missing the context where John takes great care in so qualifying and limiting in what way the Word was theos. John then could state "theos hn ho logos" (literally "god was the word) without violating monotheism and without confusing the Word's being theos with the theos he was "with" but which English translation such as "and the Word was God" does. We have in Psalms 82.6 "God"(v.1) stating "I myself have said, 'You are(a "be" verb supplied by the English translator to make it grammatically correct) gods (elohim, plural),..." Jesus refers to this scripture at John 10.34 and the Greek here is "ego eipi theoi este," literally translated "I said gods you-are" which in English is "I said you are (the 'be' verb') gods (theoi, plural)." This is exactly what we have in John 1.1c where John under inspiration writes that the Word "was (the "be" verb") a god (theos, singular). If someone argues that these ones Jesus refers to (John 10.34 from Ps.82.6)are only functioning as gods then they would in effect destroy the force of Jesus' argument for he used this scripture where certain beings are called "gods" to show that he was not wrong to claim nor was he "blaspheming" (the charge of the Jews-v.33)he was "God's Son."(v.35) If the ones he refers to are only "functionally gods" then this would mean all that Jesus could and did claim was that he was only functionally, not literally or really, God's Son! This would be absurd even for trinitarians/evangelicals!
However, the above shows that John could write "You are gods" and "the Word was a god" and neither one would be conflicting with the bible's monotheism at that time
. (William Temple in his Readings in St. John's Gospel writes on John 10.32ff: "The Psalmist (Psalm lxxxii) had attributed divinity to those who held office as judges by divine appointment. Here is One whom the Father hallowed for His work and sent into the world; the same principle applies. Thus the Lord suggests that His union with the Father is no more than a perfect form of a relationship open to others and in a certain measure achieved by some."-p.173,174). The "angels" however are "gods" by nature for being spirit creatures, being created by Jehovah Himself with far greater power and knowledge than fleshly humans are therefore super-human, do have the necessary "attributes" to be "gods" and not just "functionally" but really.

A 1st century Jewish author, hence, monotheistic author, could write then, if he had occasion to, "In the beginning [of something] Moses was and was with God and was a god" because before stating that Moses was "a god" the writer has made mention of the one true God whom Moses is not but is "with." Hence, this sentence would not be conflicting with biblical monotheism. Nor does what John wrote in 1.1 in regard to the Word being "theos," that is, his being a "god," conflict with biblical monotheism. (For discussions related to this that shows such statements could be made even though OT statements are made such as Deuteronomy 32:39 and Isaiah 43.10 , click on each)

In the book previously quoted, The God of the Gospel of John, the author goes on the quote A. A. Harvey Jesus and the Constraints of History, p.156, 157:

"Again, in eastern portions of the Roman empire, there was less reservation in paying divine honors to persons such as the emperor, even during their lifetime. Harvey also distinguishes between calling a figure "god" by virtue of that individuals distinctive or exceptional powers and the worshipping of that figure, and this distinction certainly applies in the [Jewish ]texts that we have discussed in which figures such as Moses, Joseph, or Melchizedek are designated or called "god." Calling a figure "god" does not compromise commitment to monotheism; worshipping that figure does."-italics ours.

Thompson further writes:

"In Judaism [contra to that in pagan religions], the situation is rather different, where a marked distinction exists between the one God, God Most High, and all created beings. To name one of these created beings "God" will therefore mean this being or figure must be interpreted not in reference to a shared attribute of "divinity," but rather in reference and relationship to the one figure so designated, the one true God."-p.42-italics ours.

Do we see this in John 1.1, 2? Again the answer is yes. The Word's being theos is not a reference to a sharing in the "divinity" of "God, God Most High," whom the Word has been distinguished from, but here in John the Word's being theos is in a context where the Word as theos is "in reference and relationship to the one figure...the one true God" [the ho theos the Word was "with" at v.1a]. The "reference and relationship" of the Word to the "one true God" is also shown in that John tells us that "all things" came into existence through the Word, hence the author of these "all things" is "God" (the ho theos) not the "Word" the latter being God's agent in creating these "all things"-v.2. Hence, when John says the Word is "a god" in the context of John 1.1,2 this does not "compromise commitment to monotheism."

Yet further on Thompson says:

"Yet the very application of "god" to figures or entities other than the Most High God raises the question of the unity of God, as well as the relationship of God to the other heavenly beings or powers. So, for example, in Jewish sources of the first century, titles such as "God of gods" posit the supremacy of YHWH to other gods. Ancient Israelite and Jewish monotheism clearly did not preclude belief in other heavenly beings, such as angels and spirits, but there is no contradiction between a plethora of supernatural beings and the unity of God so long as these beings are understood to be dependent upon and answerable to God. It is not their mere existence, but rather the suggestion of their autonomy, that threatens monotheism."-pp.52, 53-italics ours.

Applying these facts, which we agree they are a true presentation of the above mentioned OT figures, to not only John 1.1ff but to the whole of this gospel do we see evidence of Jesus being independent or autonomous of God? No. Jesus is wholly and utterly "dependent upon and answerable to God." See for instance John 3.24, 35; 4: 34; 5.19, 30; 6.37, 38; 8: 27. I Cor.15.28; Rev.3.12. We would ask our readers to open the Bible at these places now and read what they say and see that Jesus was "dependent and answerable to [his] God." Hence, once again, if one is to translate John 1.1c as "and the Word was a god" and the context there shows, to re-quote William Loader from the top of this page that "there are two beings here: God and a second who was theos but this second is related to God in a manner which shows that God is the absolute over and against which the second is defined. They are not presented as two equal gods" then this translation does not "threaten monotheism" but is in fact quite in harmony with biblical monotheism.

In the Quram Literature we see that the terms elim, elohim and bene elohim are used for God's angels.(1 QM 12:4-5; 15.14.) Michael, a principal angel, an individual being, is raised up as ruler of the heavenly world and is called el or elohim(1QM 17:7; cf. 11QMelch 24-25)so that there was then an open-ness to using such terms for principal angels, individual mighty beings even though in the OT literature we have such statements made by Jehovah that "besides me there is no God [Heb. elohim]" so that the meaning in the latter did not rule out applying the term in a personal way to another being not "God" without any conflict with monotheism. This also shows that there may be one that is only elohim/QEOS, hence in English rendered by "God," but only in a unique sense so that others can be a "god" or "gods" again with no conflict with monotheism which is not only the recognition of one being who is "God" (elohim/QEOS) but that only this one is to be worshipped. John then, writing in the 1st century could use the Greek word QEOS for another in a personal way who is not Jehovah God. This is exactly what the author Thompson has been used to show to be the case from the quotations we have used from her book. The Oxford Companion to the Bible says under its entry "Angels": "In Israel's early traditions, God was perceived as administrating the cosmos with a retinue of divine assistants. The members of this divine council were identified as "sons of God" and "morning stars" (Job 1.6; 38.7), "gods"(Ps.82) or the "host of heaven"(Neh.9.6; cf. Rev.1.20), and they functioned as God's vicegerents and administrators in a hierarchical bureaucracy over the world (Deut. 32.8 [LXX]; cf. 4.19; 29.26). Where Israel's polytheistic neighbours perceived these beings as simply a part of the pantheon, the Bible depicts them as subordinate and in no way comparable to the God of Israel."-pp.27, 28. This shows also that when we read such statements in Isaiah that "beside [Jehovah] there is no God (or "god")" this is not to indicate that none can be said to be "gods" whom are "subordinate" and not being compared to the "one God" (as the angels are); but in the context of this part of Isaiah these statements are a polemic against those "gods," the "strange gods" of the "polytheistic neighbours" of Israel that were not "subordinate" to the "one God" and were considered by their worshippers to be "comparable" to Israel's God. Hence it would be a gross mistake to take certain statements from Isaiah(43.10; 44.6; 45.5) to deny that the "subordinate" angels who are not "compared" with Jehovah can be "gods" themselves as the scriptures in fact testify they are.

It is quite clearly the case then, that the Bible's monotheism is teaching that only one can be called "God" in the absolute, un-derived sense, ('The Divine Being') while still acknowledging others as "god/s," as "divine beings," in a secondary, derived sense. Either as representatives or reflections (by their very nature of being elohim/theoi) of the true God. There are, of course Bible references to those who are 'false' gods as well. The translation then, "and the Word was a god" in the New World Translation and others:

"...does no injustice to Greek grammar. Nor does it conflict with the worship of the One whom the resurrected Jesus Christ called "my God" and whom Jesus himself is subjected.-John 20:17; Rev.3:2, 12; 1 Cor.11:3; 15:18."-The Watchtower, 1975, p.704.-italics ours.

So, biblical monotheism, should be defined not by the beliefs that agree with Trinitarianism but by the Bible itself. Nor should it be defined by the very word monotheism , as some are apt to do, as this is only a recently coined word derived from the word mono( from Greek monos, alone, single), meaning "one" and theism( from theos "god" + -ism) "the belief in a god/God." The Bible writers did not use the word. But when they spoke or wrote of God they often spoke or wrote of him as the "one God," the "true God" or the "only God." (See John 5:43,44; 17.3; 1 Cor.8.6; Ephesians 4.6; 1 Thess.1.9,10; Jude 25) And in every instance these phrases occur it refers to the Father only, never the Son, never the holy spirit, never to all three together. This is the Bible's monotheism, only the Father is "God." Not some tri-une being of 'Father, Son and Holy Spirit'. The Bible's monotheism then is the worship of only one that is the true God, the Father, and the acceptance that others, such as the Son, the angels and certain men, can rightly be considered "gods," "divine beings" in a different secondary, derived, qualified and limited sense and hence not to be worshipped.

It ought to be mentioned that most trinitarians/evangelicals who are up-to-date with their Greek studies will admit that the anarthrous predicate nominative QEOS in John 1.1c is describing something about the subject, the Word and not being used to identify it. This is really an admittance, whether they realize it or not, that a person or being can be described as QEOS ( with the semantic of "god") with out any conflict with their adherence to monotheism, the belief and worship of "one God." The reason for this is simple. If the noun QEOS is being used by the writer to describe something about the subject then it cannot be translated with a proper name or noun but a common noun. Now, in an English simple sentence (subject-verb-predicate), "the Word was God", "God" is a proper name or noun. It identifies. (As it refers to a unique god.) So this translation trinitarians/evangelicals ought to admit requires some 'explaining'! But in all honesty it really does identify not describe the Word! But the common noun "god" does not identify but describes. Hence, the translation "and the Word was a god" plainly and clearly, and with no explaining necessary, tells us something about the Word...exactly what those who are up-to-date with their Greek studies on anarthrous pre-verbal predicate nominatives (also being count nouns as QEOS is) in the Greek NT admit are meant to do! So, what is stopping all translations in translating the Greek here simply and correctly? They, trinitarians/evangelicals, don't want yet another scripture that has a history of being proffered as a 'proof text' for the deity (read Deity) of the Son of God, Jesus, to be taken away from them. We hope at least our readers who have gotten to this place on this page will have come to realize this and the real motive against the "was a god" translation.

The rendering of John 1:1c as "and the Word was a god" in the New World Translation, and other translations, is therefore not only grammatically correct, acceptable and better than the traditional "and the Word was God" translation (foistered upon us all by the KJV which was and still is the translation that commands great respect and hence is followed by many modern translations such as the NIV, the NRSV etc) but also contextually the better as well as being theologically (biblically) sound.

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